Thinking Out Loud

May 28, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Our pastor drew this on Sunday morning. Any guesses? I know it cleared everything up for me.

Our pastor drew this on Sunday morning. Any guesses? I know it cleared up everything for me.

It appears that all my news gathering algorithms were no match for the slow news cycle of a Memorial Day weekend. Nonetheless, we have a great list for you, but our deal with PARSE is that you need to click through to their site and then select the story you want to see. Click anything below to link.

Got a suggestion for next week’s links? Find the contact page at Paul’s blog, Thinking Out Loud or via @PaulW1lk1nson and make some noise by noon on Monday.

Roger Bucklesby

September 14, 2013

The Making of the Wednesday Link List

Wednesday Link List SignPeople sometimes ask me how the Wednesday list of links to Christian news stories and articles comes together, so, in the spirit of Andy Stanley’s new book Deep and Wide, I’d like to share what’s in the secret sauce.

The fishing expedition begins late Saturday, as I generally need to wrap up everything by Monday night, since Tuesday finds me in an environment without any internet for most of the day. Now that the column has to be sent to Christianity Today on Tuesday morning, I really need everything done and the links all checked by around 10 PM Monday.

I don’t use Google Alerts. Instead, I have at least 1200 bookmarks in my computer of which most are related to blogging somehow.  In order of their importance here’s are rocks I turn over looking for interesting news events or opinion pieces:

  • Aggregators — These are websites like Alltop Church and Alltop Christian which list the five most recent pieces appearing on top Christian blogs; or lists of the Top Christian blogs, which are randomly scanned looking for writers that haven’t been featured recently.
  • Past Link Lists — Each month I give myself permission to go back one year, and see what writers who were featured that month are up to now.
  • Religious/Christian News Sources — I have about 35 of these including Religion News Service, Real Clear Religion, and the Gleanings page on Christianity Today. There are also news sites that specialize in certain types of stories, i.e. religious persecution, Canadian stories, etc.
  • Other Reliable Link Lists — Too many to list here, but since it’s Saturday, today includes checking out the Saturday Ramblings at Internet Monk, the Saturday Links for pastors at Dashhouse.com, and tomorrow, the Sunday Superlatives at Rachel Held Evans.  However, I assume many of my readers are reading those as well. Todd Rhodes also has good stories, and although I’m tempted to use this one every single week, I love Stuff Fundies Like.
  • Twitter — Since finally joining in February, my Twitter account has opened up a new world of possible sources, even though I am very much limiting the number of people I follow. (A situation being obviously reciprocated by my anemic number of followers.  Hint.)
  • Reader Submissions — I get two or three a week from readers — including two regular contributors — that wind up in the final edition.
  • Christian Bloggers — Last, but definitely not least, is the hundreds and hundreds of blogs bookmarked in my computer, which are scanned randomly.

In a part two to this, I’ll talk about why I think some of the news stories, as crazy as they are, actually matter.  In the meantime, enjoy the last ten lists at their new home at Out of Ur.

Disclaimer: A decent writer wouldn’t mix metaphors: “rocks I turn over,” versus “fishing expedition…” nor would he or she say a list appears “in order of importance” but then list the final one as “last but not least.”

July 24, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Greater New Light Baptist Church, Los Angeles

Welcome to another installment of random links from Thinking Out Loud.  If you’ve been on summer holidays, the list has become the victim of a corporate takeover. We’re now at Out of Ur on Wednesdays, the blog of Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today. We’ve asked our Chicago-based new bosses to aim for 8:00 AM EDT !!

Check the list also for an explanation as to the above Church photo, aka “Fruitcake as building material.” 

Finally, since Out of Ur is borrowing from us today, we thought we’d return the favor with a link to this post:

Ultimate Christian LogoTwentyonehundred Productions is the InterVarsity multi-media team. They post an infographic like this each week on their Facebook page.  Normally, that would be the end of things here, but since historically, the Wednesday Link List began or ended with a cartoon, I couldn’t resist stealing borrowing one more graphic from them…

Oh Yes He Did - Intervarsity Infographic

June 20, 2013

Thursday Link List

Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe chapel in Le Puy-en-Velay, France. Not exactly visitor friendly. My wife wants to know where the pastor's parking space is.

Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe chapel in Le Puy-en-Velay, France. Not exactly visitor friendly. Where the pastor’s parking space?

My dog ate my homework.

Seriously, I couldn’t think of anything original today. I keep having this bad habit of posting great stuff in the summer on Saturday and Sunday when nobody’s online reading; and then the well runs dry during the week…

Well, we could do this all week, but…

June 16, 2013

We Don’t…

Not AllowedAs someone who has spent a lifetime in and around Christian music, whenever I visit a church I often make my way to the front after the service and converse with the worship team, especially when I know one or two of the musicians.

A few weeks ago I did just that, and we started talking about songs that have the possibility of two parts being sung at the same time. Then we talked about ‘call and response’ songs where the worship leader sings a line and then the congregation repeats it. Then we talked about songs that parts for men and women.

At that point someone on the team said, “We don’t do men’s and women’s parts here.”

Days later, I was sharing this story with someone who knew exactly where I had been and they made an interesting comment, “I wonder how many times in the course of a week someone at that church begins a sentence with ‘We don’t?’

So true. So sad. Some Christian institutions have policy after policy; operating guidelines carved in stone for no particular reason. My feeling is, if you don’t have worship songs that offer something where women’s voices and men’s voices can highlight their unique giftedness, then next week would be a good week to start.

I hope the place where you worship isn’t characterized by a spirit of ‘We don’t…’

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

September 28, 2012

Giving Your Church What They Prefer Over What They Need

Matt Marino is an Episcopal Priest who spent 17 years with Young Life.  He dares to pose a question that’s being heard more and more recently,

What’s so uncool about cool churches?

[This is a teaser, you are strongly advised to click the link above and read the whole article, which has so far attracted over 100 comments.]

They ask for more and more, and we give it to them. And more and more the power of God is substituted for market-driven experience. In an effort to give people something “attractive” and “relevant” we embraced novel new methods in youth ministry, that 20 years later are having a powerful shaping effect on the entire church. Here are the marks of being market-driven; Which are hallmarks of your ministry?

  1. Segregation. We bought into the idea that youth should be segregated from the family and the rest of the church. It started with youth rooms, and then we moved to “youth services.” We ghettoized our children! (After all, we are cooler than the older people in “big church”. And parents? Who wants their parents in their youth group?)
  2. Big = effective. Big is (by definition) program driven: Less personal, lower commitment; a cultural and social thing as much as a spiritual thing...
  3. More programs attended = stronger disciples. The inventors of this idea, Willow Creek, in suburban Chicago, publicly repudiated this several years ago. They discovered that there was no correlation between the number of meetings attended and people’s spiritual maturity...
  4. Christian replacementism. We developed a Christian version of everything the world offers: Christian bands, novels, schools, soccer leagues, t-shirts. We created the perfect Christian bubble.
  5. Cultural “relevance” over transformation.We imitated our culture’s most successful gathering places in an effort to be “relevant.” Reflect on the Sunday “experience” at most Big-box churches:ure.
    • Concert hall (worship)
    • Comedy club (sermon)
    • Coffee house (foyer)
  6. Professionalization. If we do know an unbeliever, we don’t need to share Christ with them, we have pastors to do that. We invite them to something… to an “inviter” event… we invite them to our “Christian” subcult
  7. “McDonald’s-ization” vs. Contextualization:  It is no longer our own vision and passion. We purchase it as a package from today’s biggest going mega-church. It is almost like a “franchise fee” from Saddleback or The Resurgence.
  8. Attractional over missional. When our greatest value is butts in pews we embrace attractional models. Rather than embrace Paul’s Ephesians 4 model in which ministry gifts are given by God to “equip the saints” we have developed a top-down hierarchy aimed at filling buildings. This leaves us with Sunday “church” an experience for the unchurched, with God-centered worship of the Almighty relegated to the periphery and leading of the body of Christ to greater spiritual power and sanctification to untrained small group leaders.

continue reading the whole article here.

As I prepared this, I thought of point number eight in light of my ‘online’ church home, North Point. There are only two worship songs, and further worship is relegated to Thursday nights every other month. But even those nights simply mirror what happens on Sunday morning, which is itself an extension of the youth ministry model.

Some youth are not happen with the state of the church, and are seeking an entirely different model, as we wrote last week.  Other teens and twenty-somethings are simply leaving, as we noted two weeks ago. So there are issues that need to be addressed as to the sustainability of the present models within student ministry; but also larger implications for an entire assembly or congregation.

Among the comments at Matt’s article:

  • Being hip isn’t the problem you’re addressing, its the lack of content which plagues both cool (too much focus on preference for entertainment) and uncool (to much focus on preference for tradition)
  • What matters isn’t what the preacher wears, whether there is coffee, whether there is a rock band or an orchestra or just a piano, is the FRUIT.
  • “Guitar Praise — Just Like Guitar Hero, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “Praise Ponies — Just Like My Little Pony, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “Testamints — Just like Altoids, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “Christian Chirp — Just like Twitter, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “GodTube — Just like YouTube, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “Seek & Find” — Just like Google Search, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “Johnny Hammer — Just like Justin Beiber, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
  • Your biggest draw, which is providing a loving community where all kids can belong, is completely lost when your church preaches a bigoted message on homosexuality.
  • We assemble to worship, serve, please and praise God. It’s all about HIM! Not us. Smoke machines, guitars, pianos, lasers, and flashing lights? Why? Does this please God? Is it what he’s asked for? Or is it a ploy to bring more bodies in? Hey, I am all for trying to get more souls in the pews, but let’s do it in a way that doesn’t put make-up on God.
  • A good church cannot be determined by its “style” of worship. What is important? Shouldn’t a church be judged by things like its theology, its teaching, its mission, the fellowship and growth of its people, whether people come to God and become closer to God?

June 18, 2012

When Rejection is Perpetual

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:25 am

About a year ago I wrote a post about the fact that when it comes to how things appear on the socioeconomic ladder, my wife and I refuse to play the status game. We know that we’re excluded from certain social circles because we don’t drive the same cars, go to the same stage productions, or take our holidays in the same vacation hot spots.

But I also know that sometimes we’re excluded simply because we see the world differently, or hold views on church, or worship, or social justice which are different than everybody else. Have opinions. Will share.

Today, however, I want to write about another situation that can develop which is more systemic, and can affect people at all vertical levels and across horizontal spectra.

I’m talking about the situation that can develop where someone is an outsider.

Outsiders don’t experience overt rejection; they simply exist outside of defined groups. I understand this one best where it comes to blogging. Despite the growth of Thinking Out Loud over the past four years, I don’t fit neatly into the many Christian blog clusters out there, and would safely say that I am probably considered a bit of an outsider.

I sense it sometimes when I’m in proximity of established groups and subgroups; and I think that, because of our human longing to be accepted and to socialize, there are people for whom it matters more who experience marginalization more acutely.

A few weeks ago I attended an event where I noticed four couples gathered together who are a very well-defined group. Other people dance around them, so to speak, hoping to find a point of entry on the circle, and certainly their attempts at contact are not rebuffed,  but at the end of the day it’s always the same eight people. It’s a younger demographic than my own, but I’ll bet there are people who would love to be part of this micro-community, but would consider themselves outsiders where that group is concerned.

You can be an outsider in a ministry organization or in a community of Christian leaders; you can be in vocational ministry in a denomination but be considered an outsider; you can be a member of your church choir but exist somewhat on the periphery.

The difference between outright rejection and being an outsider is, to use the case of the church choir member as an example, you’re actually on the inside of the group, and yet your membership is almost secondary to being part of the nucleus of the group. You’re in because you met certain standards — you passed the audition — but you’re also in because you did not meet standards that would have constituted rejection. Instead, the exclusion is more subtle.

It’s like the Cheers TV show theme song. Outsiders score points for the first part of the chorus (“everybody knows your name”) but not the second (“and they’re always glad you came”) part of the chorus.

Now let me be very clear: Some people choose to be outsiders, and that’s a different situation altogether.

But those who consider themselves Christ-followers should try to smash down the walls of ‘outsider-ness’ at every opportunity. The questions that need to be asked are:

(a) Who is living out life on the periphery of sub-groups in our church that wish they could be more in the center of those group? and
(b) What are we doing as a church to facilitate more inclusion in various social clusters in our church?

June 16, 2012

VBS = Free Child Care

Filed under: children, Church, parenting — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:41 am

When Jon Acuff first published Stuff Christians Like (the book), part of the appeal was that a huge percentage of the material wasn’t available on the blog.  But lately he’s been posting some of the best nuggets from the book online, like this one about Using Vacation Bible School as free babysitting. Here’s the intro:

Denomination, schomenation, when our kids are out of school for the summer and we’ve suddenly got to fill eight weeks of time with activities, we Christians like to put aside our denominational differences and bounce our kids like Ping-Pong balls around the country to different Vacation Bible School programs…

Since some people read SCL just for the comments, and because this post was so timely, here’s a look at what some people said, in the order they appear among the 70-or-so responses currently posted:

  • My daughter made this statement about one church (she was 9 at the time): “I liked the snow cones, but a mean fat lady yelled at me for turning around in my seat. A boy pushed me and wanted to beat me up. They lost my color page and I didn’t get to bring it home. All the kids were SCREAMING (emphasis hers). I like regular church better than Jesus’s summer school. Overall I don’t think the snow cones were worth it.”
  • VBS is so culturalized down here that the local agnostics community group advertised ours in their … publication under “reliable, free childcare; 9 AM – 1 PM, June 4-8 at Meadow Baptist Church”
  • If you are using one of the pre-packaged VBS curriculum available for sale and your VBS is towards the end of the summer, a lot of children have been through it two or three times already. … Churches scramble to schedule their VBS right after school ends so their curriculum doesn’t seem stale.
  • VBS, how we parents love Thee. From the years of Psalty, to the Olympic themes every four years, from Flannelgraph to PowerPoint, you have embraced our children in your sticky-sweet, glittery bosom without fail.  The only flaw is when our turn is up to ‘volunteer’, then your vengeance is great to behold!
  • I’ll admit that we fall into the lame category of dropping off our kids at another church’s VBS. I might should mention that we’re the “pastor’s family” of the church who doesn’t do VBS – gasp, shock and could even be accused of going to hell for that considering there are approximately 218 “SKY” banners outside every church in our area. So we have two things against us: we are “the church who doesn’t do VBS” and we are “the drop off parents”. We totally drop the kids off and run in hopes that nobody will be able to identify us. And then we go have a date night. But please don’t tell.
  • It’s very common around here, and I think the mega-churches stagger their VBS weeks intentionally so that hoppers can be at their church. NO ONE wants to be the church that schedules the same week as MegaBaptist.Com-they not only have a bounce house, but a water slide, a ferris wheel, and probably a circus on the back lawn.
  • Free VBS? Our church charges $40 PER CHILD! With a $100 cap per family. VBS ain’t what it used to be…
  • I love the fact that people who never attend church use our VBS as free babysitting. May be the only interaction we have with them all year. Maybe in the Bible Belt everyone is associated with a church, but that’s not the case here. And yes, when my kids were little, I used another church’s VBS for babysitting while we moved into a new home.
  • When we moved to a new town, my mom put us in every VBS she could find so that we’d meet new people and she could get settled in the house without us underfoot.  I think I got saved 3 times that summer…
  • My church runs adult VBS congruently with the kids. At first I thought I would just sneak out, but after being caught I actually ENJOYED the adult VBS. Plus there is excellent food involved for the adults. So we learn while the kids learn. Who would have thought it?

Since I went the distance and stole borrowed comments as well as the story theme today, it seemed only fair to CLOSE comments here and encourage you to add yours to the discussion at Stuff Christians Like.

January 14, 2012

Wednesday Link List – Saturday Edition

Weekend List Lynx

The link list bucket is overflowing and needs to be emptied a few days early…

  • We’ll start out serious. Here’s a scorecard, so to speak, of how your persecuted brothers and sisters in other parts of the world made out over the holidays.  “Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching epidemic proportions…”  Read. Pray.
  • Stuff Fundies Like has a Sunday School curriculum done in the style of the Westminster Catechism. If you grew up in church this is a must-read, must-forward.
  • Another Baptist church dumps the NIV in favor of the Baptist-owned HCSB translation.  If it turns out that the majority of SBC churches switch to the Holman-published HCSB, then this whole affair was undermined by a massive conflict of interest.
  • Mars Hill’s Shane Hipps reflects on the departure of Rob Bell.  “I was aware of something stirring in him for some time.  While I wasn’t surprised, I was full of grief and joy.”
  • Because the people need to know, here’s Justin Bieber’s take on the subject of church attendance.  “…I focus more on praying and talking to Him. I don’t have to go to church.”
  • And in the same vein, here’s rapper Jefferson Bethke’s rap, Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus.  “Religion’s like spraying perfume on a casket.”
  • And going for the three-peat on this subject, here’s Matt Hafer’s take on why “good enough for church” just isn’t good enough.”People, without saying it out loud, seem to think that God exists in about 4 places.The church building…,funerals,hospitals, sporting events…”
  • Did you sponsor a child through Compassion or a similar organization?  For those who need motivation, here’s ten reasons to write your child.
  • For all the young moms and new moms in the audience: How does a mother in a large family create some time for God in the course of a day? Alyssa gives a great answer.
  • In one of the longest articles I’ve ever seen on Christianity Today online, Duanne Litfin writes about clothing; in particular, what we wear to church.  “…[W]e should not conclude too quickly that because God looks on the heart, what we wear to church doesn’t matter.”
  • Also at CT, an interview with David Crowder on the occasion of the band’s retirement after sixteen years, and David’s move to Atlanta. “There’s just so much life has passed among us, and the depth is really deep relationship feeling, friendship.”
  • The Wall Street Journal sits up and takes notice when Christian media company Salem Web Network surpasses one million Facebook friends. Be sure to read the last paragraph; you may interact with this corporation more than you realize.
  • And speaking of corporate culture, Shaun In The City thinks churches should rethink the concept of competition in ministry.  “In the end you end up with dozens (even hundreds & thousands) of organizations with similar missions, visions, and goals that are not only not speaking, but are often downright combative.  They miss collaborative opportunities and so much more because of this faulty way of thinking.”
  • Also on the topic of church, here’s a megachurch in Nigeria with a major staff shakeup involving the resignation of 200 pastors.
  • In an election year, we have to forgive our U.S. friends for forgetting that the rest of the world still exists. So we tend to ignore American politics here to balance things out, but this article accurately identifies the issues that the election brings to church in 2012.
  • Thanks this week for link leads goes to Todd Rhoades.

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