Thinking Out Loud

October 22, 2014

Wednesday Link List

John Calvin Pumpkin

Can you guess who that is in the pumpkin?  Details below.

Welcome to the World Series of Christian news and opinion stories. Two teams: People who are screaming to be heard, and people with stories they wish we didn’t know.

 We leave you with the many creative camera angles of The Phil Vischer Podcast. (Bonus points for naming the guests in the comment section.)

Phil Vischer Podcast YouTube

 

June 18, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday Link List 2

It’s summertime and you don’t need an Angler’s License to fish for Christian news and opinion pieces on the net.  You’ll also need to first click anything below to PARSE, the blog of Leadership Journal, and then click the item you wish to see.

Paul Wilkinson blogs at Thinking Out Loud, though his Christianity 201 readership appears to be growing about three times faster than T.O.L. this week. He has never been a messenger at an SBC conference, but he once delivered newspapers.

 

Typically, my youngest son includes his youth pastor as a reference on job applications; but for this summer job there is the terse admonition, “You may omit names of ministers of religion.”

Typically, my youngest son includes his youth pastor as a reference on job applications; but for this summer job there is the terse admonition, “You may omit names of ministers of religion.”

May 14, 2014

Wednesday Link List

not entirely dead to sin cartoon

from Church is Stranger Than Fiction by Mary Chambers an IVP book from 1990

If it’s Wednesday, it’s time for another list of things you may have missed from the Christian corner of the web.  Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE where the list officially resides. Then click the story you wish to read.

From CBD, for women who don’t have the joy of the Lord:

Joy of the Lord Lipstick

 

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

 

November 14, 2013

Christian Conferences: It’s a Man’s World

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:17 am

Rachel Held Evans 2Women of Faith events excepted, for the most part, if you attend a Christian conference, you’re going to find, on average 81% male speakers and 19% female speakers. But the 4% at a recent conference, was too much for Rachel Held Evans, who touched off debate on Twitter even as The Nines was in full swing.  You can read an overview of that here.

Yesterday, Jonathan Merritt, senior columnist for Religion News Service put the whole thing in perspective by running a lot of hard numbers. (It’s him we thank for the 81/19 ratio.) I won’t re-blog his entire list; but I will list a few of the conferences I am more familiar with.  Again this is a partial list; you can read all his data by clicking here.

Catalyst Conference – East (Atlanta, GA): Total speakers: 13 / Female speakers: 3

Cross Conference (Louisville, KY): Total speakers: 10 / Female speakers: 0

Desiring God Conference (Minneapolis, MN): Total speakers: 10 / Female speakers: 0Exponential Conference (Los Angeles, CA): Total speakers: 27 / Female speakers: 3

Global Leadership Summit (Chicago, IL): Total speakers: 13 / Female speakers: 2

Hillsong Conference (Los Angeles, CA): Total speakers: 6 / Female speakers: 2

Kidmin Children’s Ministry Conference (Chicago, IL): Total speakers: 7 / Female speakers: 3

Ligonier National Conference (Orlando, FL): Total speakers: 9 / Female speakers: 0

Love Does (Austin, TX): Total speakers: 11 / Female speakers: 3

Mosaix National Multi-Ethnic Church Conference (Nashville, TN): Total speakers: 50 / Female speakers: 6

National Worship Leaders Conference (Can Juan Capistrano, CA): Total speakers: 9 / Female speakers: 2

National Youth Workers Convention (San Diego, CA): Total speakers: 80 / Female speakers: 20

Orange Conference (Atlanta, GA): Total speakers: 10 / Female speakers: 2

Q (Los Angeles, CA): Total speakers: 35 / Female speakers: 13

Resurgence Conference (Seattle, WA): Total speakers: 6 / Female speakers: 0

Simply Youth Ministry Conference (Columbus, OH): Total speakers: 71 / Female speakers: 11

Story Conference (Chicago, IL): Total speakers: 18 / Female speakers: 5

Together For the Gospel Conference (Louisville, KY): Total speakers: 19 / Female speakers: 0

The Nines (Online): Total speakers: 110 / Female speakers: 4 (this is the conference that started the current discussion)

Thrive Conference (Granite Bay, CA): Total speakers: 6 / Female speakers: 0

Velocity (Cumming, GA): Total speakers: 32 / Female speakers: 3

Wild Goose Festival (Hot Springs, NC): Total speakers: 74 / Female speakers: 44

TOTAL
Total speakers: 805 / 
Female speakers: 159

This is not the complete list, and if you go to read this at source, each conference name is a link taking you to their webpage. Some of the conferences that have “0” women speakers are of the Reformed/Calvinist stripe. That lack of female participation may be the writing on the wall for that movement, at least in this writer’s humble opinion.

I can’t help but remember the story of Anne Graham Lotz:

Early in her ministry career, Bible teacher Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of world-renowned evangelist Billy Graham, was snubbed when a group of male pastors turned their chairs around to indicate their objection to being addressed by a female preacher.

She writes about this herself in a Washington Post Story

When I stood in the lectern at the convention center, many of the 800 church leaders present turned their chairs around and put their backs to me. When I concluded my message, I was shaking. I was hurt and surprised that godly men would find what I was doing so offensive that they would stage such a demonstration, especially when I was an invited guest. And I was confused. Had I stepped out of the Biblical role for a woman? While all agree that women are free to help in the kitchen, or in the nursery, or in a secretary’s chair, is it unacceptable for a woman to take a leadership or teaching position?

Is it any wonder her current (and bestselling) book is titled, Wounded By God’s People ?

February 20, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Cleveland City Mission

Who needs LinkedIn when you’re linked in here?  The picture, Gasoline Gospel is from Shorpy.com; captioned “August 1937. ‘Gas station and gospel mission in Cleveland, Ohio.’ In addition to Koolmotor ‘Gasolene,’ a long-defunct Cities Service brand, we also seem to have at least a couple of the major food groups represented here, as well as two verses from the New Testament. Photo by John Vachon.” Click the image to see the entire picture full size along with more glimpses into history.

  • Start with this one: 33 Ways to Know You Were a Youth Group Kid.
  • Nick Vujicic, born without arms and legs, is the father of a newborn baby boy
  • Got 19 minutes? Meet Atheism 2.0, an atheism for people who are attracted to the ritualistic side, the moralistic side, but can’t stand the doctrine.
  • First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas is just days away from the opening of its new $130 million facility. And don’t miss the three videos which rationalize that expense.
  • A sixteen-year old in Texas is suing her parents who are trying to coerce her to have an abortion she does not want. (See update in comments section.)
  • Rick Warren has shied away from TV and radio, but is launching a 30-minute daily radio show to air in the top 25 U.S. markets.
  • Early artwork has surfaced for the new Left Behind movie; which is actually a remake of the original (book one) story; this one with Nicolas Cage.
  • Also at Todd Rhoades’ blog: Should churches have Tweet seats
  • When a U.S. Lutheran pastor attended an interfaith prayer event following the Sandy Hook shooting, he violated denominational rules against ‘joint worship’ with people of other faiths. Now the LC-MS denomination is embarrassed by the reaction on social media.
  • Veteran Christian music artist Carman reveals to his Facebook followers that he has an incurable cancer.
  • Here’s info on an upcoming conference (April 11-13) in Virginia that I would love to be able to attend; presented by Missio Alliance, it’s titled The Future of the Gospel
  • Home-schooling is banned in Germany, so a family there fled to the U.S. for asylum which was granted in 2010. But now, the Department of Homeland Security is seeking the family’s deportation, which would lead to persecution back home.
  • There are some new posts at The Elephant’s Debt, a website devoted to issues of alleged financial improprieties involving James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel.
  • An alternative wording to The Lord’s Prayer — the Kiwi version, perhaps — you never know what you’ll find in used bookstores
  • Here’s what I wrote to my colleagues in the Christian book trade about the dwindling relationship between bloggers and publishers seeking book reviews.
  • And since we’re ending on a book theme, here’s the chart — including one title error, if you can spot it — of what people in my part of the world purchased in 2012:

Searchlight 2012 Chart

February 9, 2013

Festival Attending in a Security Obsessed World

Beruna Music Festival

So yesterday we remembered the Cornerstone Festival; part of the carefree days in the ’70s and ’80s when Christian music festivals sprang up in Midwest parks and Pennsylvania dairy farms. Ahh… simpler times.

Things have changed. I’ve never been to Kingdom Bound, a bit of trivia which my closer friends find amazing given my history with CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) mostly because the idea of a Christian festival in a theme park seems somewhat contradictory.  Two hot elements competing with each other: The bands and the rides.

But then there’s another issue. Back in the day — and you know you’re getting older when you start talking about ‘back in the day’ — the speakers and the musicians shared a somewhat equal billing. Even the most star-struck music fan could tell you about things the speakers said in the tents. At some festivals today, you’re lucky to get three speakers for every twenty music acts. Or less.

Which brings us to The Beruna Festival being held in July (19-20) on “The Flats at Molson Amphitheatre” in downtown Toronto; the first multi-day Christian event to be held there.  Well, almost downtown; the picture makes it look like the CN Tower and Air Canada Centre are directly in the background, when in fact they are a few miles further down the road. But you wouldn’t want the sound echoing off the high rise buildings anyway, nor the complaints from the condo owners.

Having nothing better to do on Tuesday night, I went poking around their website. The lineup is certainly good.  The pricing is probably somewhat normal for this type of event. The sponsors and event organizers are well respected.

But buried away on a FAQ page, you’re reminded that this is a venue used for general market events not Christian events; that this is 2013, not 1983. So no backpacks. No rigid liquid containers. No beach balls. Really? From all the outdoor concerts I’ve seen, I thought beach balls were required.

And then the one that broke the proverbial camel’s back. No SLR cameras.

What the festival is up with that?

My wife has been talking about getting a Canon SLR camera for some time now. But if we decided to attend this event in July — and we’re free that week and greatly admire some of the 22 bands and both of the speakers — she would be denied admittance.

“You mean I can’t take a SLR camera to the event?  Seriously?”

A camera with a removable lens is considered a professional camera, and professional cameras are not allowed. You might intimidate the people with smaller cameras.

And I’m sorry to say this, and perhaps it sounds rather petty, but with that, they lost me…

…Working with concert promoters for many years before I got married, the management and operating staff of the various venues we used were always impressed with the good behavior of the people who attended Christian events. In two words, they liked that there was “no trouble.” Over the years the promoters built up credibility equity, which meant they were afforded some grace, which they were then able to pass along to ticket buyers. (Neither grace nor customization of the rental package here; the beer vendors will be open though probably not quite doing business as usual.)

In a post-911 world, security at mass gatherings is essential. Purses and satchels do need to be checked. And refreshment vendors are counting on the dehydration of young people spending 12-hour days in the hot sun. And yes, it only takes one person to ruin it for everyone.

And I know that those in youth ministry see the value of these events for their students, and really want these events to be there as an option for the youth they work with.

But in the contract negotiations, I would be crusading hard against a one-size-fits-all approach which, for example, bans beach balls.  (Headline: Beach Ball Ban Baffles Blogger) Or a camera easily picked up for free with Sears points. If it’s that uptight an environment, it’s just too easy to lose the heart of the event. What’s next? Security staff at the megachurch? Oops! Too late. Maybe this is what happens when we get too big.

In a world of liability litigation, environmental impacts, and stricter safety standards for staging (Headline: Staging Safety Standards Set Stricter), it’s not as easy to find a Pennsylvania dairy farm willing to host tens of thousands of teens and twenty-somethings; but make no mistake; those dairy farms do exist and some of those dairy farmers are willing to give it a try.

Anytime soon would be good.

June 27, 2011

When Christian Leadership is Equated with Privilege

Several years ago I had a recurring gig as a guest speaker with a large international Christian organization.  I got to stay in the “Hospitality Suite,” which represented the finest accommodation this organization had to offer, and was literally treated like a king, which only served to make me want to do an exceptional job as a lecturer.  However, throughout each visit, I was acutely aware and increasingly uncomfortable with the fact that my situation was quite distanced from what the students I was teaching were experiencing in the dorms.

In the years that followed, I would see this played out many times, and find myself on both sides of the great divide.  I think because I’d experienced life in the guest suite, I sort of knew what to look for. I knew it was there; I knew how these things work.

For at least the past decade, I have not found myself staying in the hospitality area, or anything close to it.  Add in my wife’s years working with people who are decidedly economically disadvantaged, and I probably now have a low tolerance for exclusivity or elitism. I like my Christian organizations to operate on a level playing field, with liberty and justice for all.

…This week I got to see the inside of a recently opened facility which is dedicated to fostering Christian leadership.  It incorporates a number of architectural features designed for both form and function.  However, I wasn’t actually tracking the issue of who gets to use this particular place, or who doesn’t, until Mrs. W. pointed out that the facility is so very nice that it is unintentionally — at least we hope it is unintentional — sending the message that leadership equates with privilege.

Don’t get me wrong. I celebrate that the people in charge have put together something creative and unique. But then I read this description of where the users of this facility get to stay:

Each of the … units is equipped with a pair of duvet-covered twin beds, a mini-fridge, a coffeemaker, a kettle, a toaster, a microwave, and dishes, so guests can make themselves at home… All rooms have en suite bathrooms, and we provide all bath and bed linens… Rooms all have cozy throws, chess-sets, and rustic … decor… surrounding trees and lake views. The rooms all overlook a communal campfire where guests come together to roast marshmallows, tell stories, sing songs, or just simply unplug.

I recognize that the people who put this together have to compete with other conference facilities.  I recognize that they are committed to excellence. I recognize that they want their guests to have a memorable experience.  I recognize that — oh my goodness — in the dining area there is a four-slice toaster and a 32″ monitor at every table

If their guests are paying their own way for this, that’s fine.  If their guests’ seminar and conference costs are coming out of the regular budgets of Christian parachurch organizations or churches — representing peoples’ tithes and offerings — I have a problem with that.  If the organization’s internal use of the facility is such that it creates a two-tiered dichotomy between the leadership and the peons in the trenches, then I have a major problem with that.

The Bible I own teaches humility; teaches putting others ahead of yourself; teaches servant leadership. 

All other models are somewhat flawed.

~Paul Wilkinson

Image: From an article at Lamar Hernden’s blog, Are You 21st Century Servant Leadership Literate?

August 26, 2010

The Cultization of Calvinism

It happened again yesterday.

My son got a package in the mail from the Christian camp where he did a four-week leadership training course, containing a magazine and other resources.

John Piper was on the cover of the magazine, there were advertisements for Crossway Books and the ESV Study Bible, a couple of references to Mark Driscoll, a reference to the Together for the Gospel conference.  And many such clues that this was not really a mainstream Christian publication.

I’m okay with that.   I told him he should make an effort to read every article.   I’m glad the camp took the time and expense to send it to him, along with an encouraging personal letter from the two directors of his leadership course.   We actually worshiped in a Christian Reformed Church just two weeks ago.

But it was another reminder how there are different clusters of people, belief and thought; and how, just as Calvinists of previous generations were somewhat segregated by Dutch ethnicity, today New Calvinism has emerged as a dominant (especially online) cluster.

Some of you probably like the word cluster over the word cult, but in fact, any identifiable group fits the dictionary definition; the problem is that we’ve tended to use it in the last 30 years or so as an abbreviation of false cult, which is another matter entirely, usually involving unique books and writings considered to be divine, and often the presence of private compounds and Kool-Aid.   However, of the eight definitions of cult at dictionary.com, only #6 indicates “a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.”

The decision by the largest online Christian book distributor to set up a separate site just for people of Reformed doctrine is another example of this.  The company has massive buying power, and has a large share of the Christian book business, but surveys revealed it was seeing only a trickle of commerce from Calvinists because they preferred to buy from their own sites, where presumably materials are carefully filtered.   The larger company had no choice than to do that filtering.

But this is something that neither Charismatics nor Catholics have ever propelled them to do.    The Charismatic and Pentecostal world — as any visit to the Elijah List site will confirm — has its own authors and a large supply of its own worship music, distinct from the mainstream worship we hear on Christian radio.

But Calvinists are readers, and as the blogosphere indicates, many are also writers, though a good percentage of the bloggers employ more of a ‘cut and paste’ approach to content generation.   (With, I might add, a great overlap into another emerging subgroup, the Academics.   American prosperity has permitted large numbers of U.S. Christians to enjoy advanced and continuing education, but much of the writing, as Acts 18:15 and 2 Tim 2:14 reminds us can consist of quarreling about words which leads to strife.   See also this post.)   On the other hand, other brands (or cults!) of Christianity tend to be more about about doing which is why the internet has, just as one example, a critical shortage of Salvation Army bloggers, as I noted in back in May ’08.

But because of the fragmentation taking place, I suggested to the senior editor of Christian Retailing magazine that instead of just having Charismatic and Catholic specialty bestseller charts, they should also have a Calvinist or Reformed specialty list each month as well.   Really, if they’re going to do the former two, they might as well do the latter.    But what if he takes my advice?

The result would be distinctively Reformed shelves in Christian bookstores (which probably already exist in some) where Calvinists could browse the shelves untainted by titles which disagree with their views.   And what is the result of that?

The larger picture is that it takes Reformed people and Reformed literature out of mainstream Evangelicalism, and takes mainstream Evangelicalism out of the Reformed sphere of awareness.   It increases compartmentalization; a kind way of saying it advances what I’ve termed here the cultization of Calvinism, which, I would think from God’s perspective at least, is rather sad.

What is, in a discussion like this, the better part?

I believe one of the healthiest dynamics of Evangelicalism has been the cross-pollination that takes place through inter-denominational dialog (Br. – dialogue) and worship.    Instead of conferences where only one theological brand is raised, we need to encourage events in which a variety of voices are heard.   Instead of bloggers posting blogrolls where they are afraid to list someone who is outside their faith family, we need to be familiar with the much wider Christian blogosphere.    Instead of encouraging Christian young people to only read certain authors and one or two particular Bible translations, we need to encourage them to study the wider compendium of Christian thought.

Basically, we need to avoid situations where our personal preferences lead to being cut off from the larger, worldwide Body of Christ.

Paul Wilkinson

August 9, 2010

Letter From The Pastor (Redux)

To the members of our church…


After carefully weighing my options as your pastor, I have decided to devote all of this coming season to attending conferences in various places around the world.

During the past few years there has been an exponential increase in the number of such events, symposiums, conferences, etc. that are available to people in vocational ministry, to the point where there is now one each and every week. To be honest, to continue in effective ministry, I can’t afford to miss a single one.

While this means I will no longer be present in the office, I will continue to provide you with weekly video teaching. The largest and fastest-growing churches in the nation are multi-site congregations, and even in the ones where the pastor is actually in the room, it’s been shown that about 85% of the people are watching the screen anyway. As we move forward into the future, we need to recognize that this is the way preaching takes place across North America.

I thank you for your continued support of our church, and on a personal level, I am grateful for any Air Miles or Frequent Flyer Points you wish to donate.

For those wishing more personal contact, remember I can be reached on Facebook, Twitter, and several other social networking sites that haven’t been invented yet, but please remember that due to the high volume of incoming messages, I may not be able to get back to you as promptly as I would like.

Remember, at our church we care about each and every one of you.

Your Pastor.

Older Posts »

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