Thinking Out Loud

February 15, 2013

The Wartburg Watch

The Wartburg Watch

Over the years I’ve linked to articles at The Wartburg Watch (TWW) but only in the last few weeks am I developing a deeper appreciation for the site itself. This article constitutes some highlights from things I looked at this week.

The earliest post from March 2009, sets out the purpose:

Are you sitting in your church thinking that something is amiss? Do you think you are the only one who feels this way? Did you try to express your concerns to your pastor?  Did he claim you are the only one who has come to him regarding this matter? Did he seem annoyed that you are questioning him? Did he make you feel like you had done something unbiblical by speaking with him?

Well, join the club! You are not alone. There are HUGE changes occurring in evangelical circles, and they are drawing national media attention. Time magazine just published an article on “The New Calvinism” in its March 23, 2009 issue.  There are new websites and blogs written by average churchgoers who are very deeply troubled by these trends. A rise in authoritarianism and far reaching church discipline are having a detrimental impact on many congregations.  When a little old lady is perp-walked out of her church for simply asking why the church she has attended for 50 years no longer has deacons, you can rest assured that something is terribly wrong in Christendom. We’ll link to the 911 call in an upcoming post.

Wartburg Watch is primarily the work of two people, Darlene Parsons and Wanda Martin, or as they’re known at TWW, Dee and Deb.  They define their goal “is to shine a light into the darkness, exposing hypocrisy, heresy, and arrogance while also examining trends that affect the faith in the public square.  Truth and transparency are of utmost importance to us.”

And the name?

“Remember where Prince Frederick hid Martin Luther when Pope Leo wanted him killed? It was Wartburg Castle. It was here that Luther translated the New Testament into German. This coincided with the invention of the Gutenberg Press. Luther’s writings dominated most of the publications from this press. We believe the Internet is today’s Gutenberg Press.”

I suppose if you’re going to reference Luther, references to the Wittenberg Door (spelled rightly or wrongly) were already taken.

TWW has a huge following. It’s not unusual for an individual article to generate 300 or even 400 comments. (Thinking Out Loud readers, please take note!)

A look at TWW’s home page on Wednesday yielded some interesting stories…

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When Sherwood Pictures emerged as a powerhouse in Christian film, my wife lamented that the role of women in these pictures was secondary if not tertiary. There’s always the aspect of men being strong leaders in their homes and not allowing other things to distract from their commitment to spouse and children, but the films (Facing the Giants, Courageous, Fireproof) are about men (police, firefighter, football players) and the popularity of the movies with women is largely due to the opportunity of being able to go to a Christian film with their husbands knowing the men will enjoy the (sports, suspense, law enforcement) content.

TWW connects the dots between the Kendrick brothers of Sherwood Pictures to an independent film festival, and the Vision Forum, part of Vision Forum Ministries, a conservative, fundamentalist organization which, according to TWW advances:  militant fecundity (no birth control of any kind), patriarchy, what’s called ‘the Quiverfull movment’ (large families), homeschooling, stay at home daughters, no college education for daughters, hyper-Calvinism, young earth creationism.  TWW documents the Kendrick brothers as having an association with the Vision Forum going back to 2009.

It would explain some things, wouldn’t it?

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In between the articles about Bill Gothard, Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, Calvary Chapel and even Michael W. Smith (don’t worry it reflects on him positively), is this a little gem of a piece which shows that TWW isn’t just about hard-hitting Christian scandal stories.

The title sums it up: Why a Father and Daughter Changed Their Opinions About Abortion. Not your average Wartburg Watch article; but I’m so glad I read it.

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C. J. Mahaney and Larry Tomczak, together again after all these years, but not for the best of reasons. In the 1970s, the two were frequent speakers at the early Jesus Music outdoor youth festivals, founded Take and Give Ministries and a church in Washington, DC known as Gathering of Believers. The church would go on to become the genesis of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM). For whatever other reasons they parted, doctrinally, Mahaney embraced — and was embraced by — the New Reformed movement, while Tomczak is decidedly charismatic.

But they share the home page links on TWW because of lawsuits and accusations.  Mahaney is central to stories of the entire SGM movement unraveling, while Tomczak is accused of spanking and depriving a female of food.

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In a world where everybody vents their anger issues and doctrinal preferences online, TWW is a balanced and thoughtful look at the things that take place in the life of the (capital C) Church. It offers original reporting and commentary on a variety of topics such as you do not see elsewhere.

Thanks, Dee and Deb for the hours of work you pour into The Wartburg Watch.

October 5, 2012

If You’re Gay But Not Happy

It’s been a year since I ran the letter which appears below, a letter occasioned by the suicide of a young gay teen. It’s not a perfect letter, but I felt it needed to appear again. What follows is something that really matters.

I’ve written other comments here about how I interpret the present social climate, and I don’t believe the issue is black and white, therefore I avoid words like right and wrong. That may disturb some of my more conservative readers, but their perspective might be different if the issue had literally come home.

This was also written in response to a couple of blogs by gay Christian teens that I was following a year ago when I wrote it. It expresses my heartfelt hope for their future and my desire to see their faith grow.

Dear __________,

Somehow I found your blog today. I’m from a different part of the world, and a different generation, but I want you to know that there is no mistaking your pain, and I could feel that pain in your writing and I care very deeply for you.

High School can be a terrible environment. People commit verbal and physical abuse easily, and even the kid with the greatest degree of conformity can unwittingly become the target of the week. The bullies act out on their own insecurities, perhaps even insecurities as to their own sexual identity, though you don’t dare suggest that out loud.Your life is a story that’s being written page-by-page, day-by-day. Only you get to choose the ending. I know you’re going through a period of depression, but your story doesn’t have to have a tragic ending. It doesn’t have to go the way you think it does. Your story can have an ending where you conquer, where you rise above the circumstances and perhaps even get to change some of the circumstances. You can write new chapters where things move in a different direction, where you can look back and say, ‘It didn’t get better overnight, but here’s a scene that was the beginning of where it got better.’

You should also know there are now alternative high schools where people are more accepting of your present sexual orientation. You might want to seriously look into that. Your parents would have probably helped you with college and university costs, they just need to be convinced that in your case you need that help sooner. But you might be able to find something closer to home if you live in a larger city. There are many ways to get that high school diploma.

I said present sexual orientation, not because I want to get into that discussion, but because you’re still fairly young, and like I said, there are always new chapters being written. On the one hand, I recognize that you know your feelings better than anyone, so the people who say, ‘This is just a phase he’s going through,’ aren’t being honest about how things are. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t want you to believe the lie that says, ‘This is who I am.’ Your sexual identity isn’t 100% of who you are, what you can accomplish and the person you can become. If you write on a piece of paper, ‘I am gay;’ write it in pencil, not in pen. You might actually some day need the eraser. I say that not because I’m doubting the reality of who you are now, but simply because, as a young teen, you are still a work in progress.

I should probably end by telling you that part of the reason I’m taking the time to write this is because I believe in a God that loves all people and therefore doesn’t hate anyone. I’ve seen other blogs written by young teens who are gay but have a deep faith, and are trying to follow Jesus in every aspect of their life. They pray, they read the Bible, and they try to find ways to serve others in Christ’s name. They are making a difference in their world. I have no doubt about that, but of course, also being gay, they remain a bit of a mystery to some of my friends and even me at times. I think God’s capable of sorting that, and I invite you to reach out to him in prayer, because I believe that He alone is the only source capable of helping you through the pain. I believe if you take one step toward him, he will come running to you.

Paul.


*see comments

May 29, 2012

Gay and Christian: The Issue of the Week, Month, Year, Decade

Last year at this time, the Christian blogosphere was still working through the aftermath of Rob Bell’s almost-denial of the existence of hell; but when the decade as a whole is analyzed, it will be the issue of homosexuality that has generated the most heat.

This time around, unlike at his non-blog, Southern Baptist prez Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr. was unable to turn off comments, which probably number around 7,100 as you read this.

At CNN’s Belief Blog, Mohler deals with the issue, “If the Levitical laws still apply why do we eat shellfish?”  As someone who was treated to a rare lobster dinner on Saturday night, I have a personal stake in this issue.  Mohler’s response is to direct inquiries to Acts 10, where Peter is told, ““What God has made clean, do not call common.” (vs 15)  But he says this is limited to the kosher food laws.

Some people then ask, “What about slavery and polygamy?” In the first place, the New Testament never commands slavery, and it prizes freedom and human dignity. For this reason, the abolitionist movement was largely led by Christians, armed with Christian conviction.

The Old Testament did allow for polygamy, though it normalizes heterosexual monogamy. In the New Testament, Jesus made clear that marriage was always meant to be one man and one woman.

“Have you not read that He who created them made them male and female?” Jesus asked in Matthew. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” For this reason, Christians have opposed polygamy on biblical grounds.

In other words, Mohler believes that this New Testament passage affirms marriage as being between a man and a woman.  (A right the LGBT has lobbied for aggressively, but an issue that really forms a small subset of the greater issue of behavior and practice.)

Mohler speaks with the authority of his office, but I’m not sure his words would convince someone better versed in a gay-and-Christian apologetic.

Or, as it turns out, even those outside the gay movement like Fred Clark at the blog Slacktivist

I should note here that Mohler’s interpretation of Peter’s vision is widely held and quite popular among American Christians. (I wrote about this earlier in “The Abominable Shellfish: Why some Christians hate gays but love bacon.”)

But while popular, this view utterly contradicts Peter’s own interpretation of his vision. If Mohler is right, then Peter was wrong. If Peter was right, then Mohler is wrong.

For Peter, his rooftop vision wasn’t about kosher dietary laws — it was about people. He says this explicitly: “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”

That’s a very different conclusion from the one Mohler draws. Mohler says this story — this scripture — is about purity laws. Peter says this story is about God’s commandment that no people should be excluded as impure.

I’m going to have to side with Peter on this one. Peter was right. Mohler is wrong.

Mohler’s case for his interpretation of Peter’s vision only looks plausible if you extract a tiny portion of the story from the rest of the chapter, but if you read all of Acts 10, you’ll see that the story doesn’t allow that.

Consider, for example, the purpose of Peter’s vision. It wasn’t sent because Red Lobster was about to bring back “endless shrimp,” but because of the people who were about to knock on Peter’s door. The author of Acts makes sure we don’t miss that point, writing: “While Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the [impure, uncircumcised, bacon-loving Gentile] men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate.”

But Matt Kennedy at the blog Stand Firm challenges Clark’s interpretation:

Fred wants to set Peter’s recognition that the holiness code no longer stands between Jew and Gentile because God has made all things clean in Jesus against the vision in which Peter was told that God has made all things clean. The “tiny portion” of Acts 10 that Fred wants us not to pay attention to is the vision itself – the part where God declares the unclean animals clean; the part where God sets aside the first to establish the second (Hebrews 10:9). The holiness code is the reason Peter would not have gone to Cornelius’ house before the vision. The removal of that code is precisely what leads him to say yes and go with his visitors.

Like most revisionist activists the Slacktivist is a selective reader. He loves the part where Peter affirms that (in Fred’s words) “no people should be excluded as impure” because he thinks that orthodox Christians believe that homosexual people are “impure” but the part about the removal of holiness code is terribly inconvenient so he simply pretends that the obvious connection between the two isn’t there and trusts that his readers have as much interest in actually reading the bible for themselves as episcopal bishops do.

(Personally, I think the last sentence clause was a really cheap shot.)

I would have preferred for Kennedy to articulate the nuances of his argument a little differently, I find the clarity of Clark’s thesis — including an earlier stating of it back in 2004 — more appealing.

But in so doing, I’m not awarding victory in this matter to Clark.  I just think that whatever Mohler and Kennedy are on to, they’re taking a muddy path to get there.

Which is why I keep coming back to an entirely different setting for the debate that I believe would provide more understanding for people on both sides of the issue.

While comments are welcome here, greater discussion value might be found at the blogs linked.

Image: Red Lobster (where else?)

May 23, 2012

Wednesday Link List


  • So let’s start with Ed Young’s Pastor Fashion blog. We’re being set up here, right? Mind you, the fashion blog and Ed’s regular blog contain the same spelling error:  Taking something to a whole other level, is whole, not hole. And that is him in the videos. So maybe this is serious. Besides, it’s not April 1st.
  • But we’re not being taken at the blog No Longer Quivering, which was one of several established to question the whole “Quiverful” movement, (Check a Bible concordance for context) not to mention Christianity itself.  Lately however, things have gotten even more complicated, as in this introduction to a 9-part post. (Note: the blog is in the middle of a move from Blogspot to Patheos.) How does a former (male) pastor move from repressing gender issues to a full-blown transition? (Did I say this one is complicated?)
  • With all the drug war violence in the news, six people weigh in on the subject of safety issues implicit in missions trips to Mexico.
  • And speaking of youth groups, Rachel Marie looks back realizing that something was seriously missing from body image pep talks.
  • If Christianity is nothing more than a “hell avoidance system,” then obviously it comes crashing down if there is no hell. That’s the subject of Hellbound – The Movie releasing in September.
  • On the world stage, two of the weekend’s religious news stories involved Twitter, in Pakistan and Kuwait.
  • 36 faculty have resigned from a Baptist college in George over its new lifestyle statement.
  • Podcast aficionados: Ravi Zacharias guested at John Ortberg’s church on the weekend. Sermon audio podcast is available.
  • Nominated for four Billboard Music Awards in April, the band Casting Crowns went on to take Best Christian Artist and Best Christian album on Sunday night. Not surprisingly, top Christian song was “Blessings” by Laura Story.
  • Know someone 15 or older who has left the church?  They may fall into the prodigal, nomad, or exile category.  Here are six things to consider which might minimize the exodus.
  • On the contrary, here’s a woman who left church around age 16, has lived that much lifetime again, but now finds herself missing God. John Shore responds.
  • Along that line, what about your friends who say they are Christ followers, but don’t like going to church?  This 3 min vid suggests they’re rejecting the wrong “church.”
  • Aaron Niequist has released the third in the series, A New Liturgy.  Also, here’s a link to another of Aaron’s projects, the song, “God’s Children.”  I love the line, “God of every class, from the greenest grass, to the underpass.”
  • From our leftover from April files, the creator of Veggie Tales is planning a new project and it’s not for kids.  Learn more about the Phil Vischer Show.
  • Lots of links from CT Inc. today. (I finally opened all those newsletters!) Here’s one by Carolyn Arends on the challenges of the term “literal interpretation.”
  • I had never actually seen the site Truthinator until Monday. It’s supposed to be “humor,” but after a few posts you realize you’ve never seen so much hate on a so-called Christian blog.
  • Looking for more reading? There’s eight great links from Saturday’s Weekend Link List.
  • Finally, if the t-shirt above isn’t exactly what you had in mind for a Father’s Day gift, if Dad thinks the local church choir sounds like a bunch of howling cats, the image below includes a link where you can buy a 8″ X 10″print of the choir in question for only $25.

May 20, 2012

Crystal Cathedral: A Screenshot is Worth a Thousand Words

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:57 am

I am always wary when churches — of all types and sizes — feel the need to conduct a survey of the membership. If the survey is to learn more about the spiritual state of the parishioners, that’s fine. But if it’s asking for opinions about the type of music or the ministry direction or whatever, then the leaders aren’t leading.

At the Crystal Cathedral however, things are currently in a bit of turmoil, so there are a handful of websites out there — each with a particular axe to grind — attempting to spread information and advocate for a particular future of the congregation that identifies with the big glass church in Anaheim.  Websites such as Penrod’s Pokes.

So here’s a couple of things to do with this.  First, if you think your church has problems, read what at least one person considers the issues at Hour of Power and Crystal Cathedral Ministries. Things may not seem so bad at your church home. Second, look closely; what do you think is really going on here?

April 1, 2012

Would/Should Your Church Accept Lottery Winnings?

I threw this question out in 2008 but there is now a stadium’s worth of new readers here on a regular basis, so I’m hoping for a better response.

The Mega Millions Lottery on the weekend drew a lot of attention to lotteries in general, with people interviewed prior to Friday night’s draw — which yielded three winning tickets — proclaiming the prize was simply too big and would necessitate some sharing or charitable giving.  But if the charity in question was your local church or Christian parachurch organization, would the money be accepted?  Should the money be accepted?

In the 2008 item, I quoted this story from that summer about a church which received a winning ticket anonymously and was set to receive $150,000 annually for 20 years.  The church’s immediate desire was to build a bigger church building.  Sigh!  But a little over three years later, their website shows the new building, and announces they are holding four Sunday services.

BTW, I also wrote on this topic in May of 2009.  At that point, I argued, as I still do, that there should be cap on lottery winnings.  Friday night’s $640,000,000 could just as easily been 2,000 prizes of $320,000; 4,000 prizes of $160,000 or even 8,000 prizes of $80,000.  To this writer, saying “There will be 8,000 prizes” has more attraction than saying, “There will only be one number drawn, and the odds are better of being struck by lightning than winning.”  But lottery experts say the gigantic prize is the big lure. Sorry, but people are stupid.

But we’ve gotten waaaaay off topic here.  If someone in your church won a lottery prize and wanted to donate some winnings to your church, should the church accept?  What about someone in the community at large who wants to share some of their winnings with the church?  What are your reasons/grounds for accepting or refusing?

February 8, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Yes, it's that giant drum kit from last week; only now we know it's at Breath of Worship church in Livingston County, NY and played by pastor Dr. Mark Temperato. See below.

Don’t just sit there; click something!

  • Like I said earlier this week, I don’t agree with everything James MacDonald does, but I love this quote in reference to T. D. Jakes, “I don’t think that throwing grenades in his lap as he seeks to ascend the hill of biblical orthodoxy represents the behavior ethic of Christ.”  The article is over MacDonald’s resignation from The Gospel Coalition.
  • An anonymous pastor clarifies once and for all that the kind of “church discipline” we read about in the recent Andrew story is Biblical but only where the person has not confessed their sin.  In the now well-traveled story, the Biblical injunction is being wrongly applied.
  • A 72-year old priest in St. Louis had a tendency to go off-script when he could adapt words from his sermon to better suit the theme of his prayers. But the “new English-language translation of the missal may have given bishops an opportunity to rein in freewheeling priests who have been praying in their own words for decades.”  So the Rev. William Rowe was fired.
  • For their final album, the David Crowder Band cracks the Christian charts in the #1 position, earning this writeup from Billboard Magazine.
  • Roast Pastor Department: “Only in the church will you find people who constantly disagree and argue with someone who has devoted their life to diligently studying the Scriptures.”  Read this great analysis of a problem that’s more widespread than you might think.
  • Okay, so the drum set pictured in last week’s WLL here is legit, and it is located in a church.  And the drummer is the pastor.  And the “Dr.” in Dr. Mark Temperato refers to not one, but three doctorates, presumably from School of Bible Theology Seminary and University in San Jacinto, CA. Try to look away, but you know you want to read this.
  • Here’s a story we missed last month: Australian tennis legend Margaret Court (as in tennis court; bet she’s never heard that one) is now a conservative Evangelical pastor with the expected conservative Evangelical view on marriage in general and gay marriage in particular.  But the location of the Australian Open is named after her.  So a movement started to try to rename the stadium, spearheaded by — just to confuse us in North America — someone named Phelps.
  • Christian Music:  The Canadian music and media site Your Music Zone has the announcement about a companion book to go with the song and CD Blessings by Laura Story.
  • Also at Your Music Zone the word that Downhere and Hawk Nelson are among contemporary gospel nominees for a Juno Award, the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy Award in the U.S.
  • Christian Publishing: The book Heaven is for Real has now spent longer — 53 weeks versus 52 — sitting atop a New York Times bestseller list than The Shack.
  • I never thought that reading a devotional piece about the hymn, Abide With Me, would turn up a reference to an interview with Chris Martin of Coldplay, but he’s quoted as saying, ” that of all the songs he had looked at, he found that 18th century ish hymns expressed joy and pain in the same song best.”  It’s interest to re-read the hymn’s words in that context.
  • You are expected to whisper in the library so you don’t disturb other patrons, but a man in Seattle is free to watch porn on the public library computers, in full view of another patrons seven-year old and ten-year old daughters.
  • A pastor leaves a sealed envelope in his desk addressed, “Read to [the congregation] in the event of my untimely death.” Then, two months ago, he is killed with his wife in a car crash. What words did he want his church to hear?
  • Jeff Bethke’s “religion” spoken word video finds an ally in David Bowden who says, I Believe in Scripture.  Meanwhile, James White takes 51 minutes to respond to a Muslim who responded to Bethke.
  • Reporters aren’t allowed at the National Prayer Breakfast, but the Washington Post reproduces the transcript of President Obama’s speech.
  • Lots of music links this week, here’s the new video from the band The City Harmonic, “I Have a Dream (Feels Like Home).”  Great song, guys!
  • Kent Shaffer crunches more numbers and comes up with a list of the top U.S. churches to watch and learn from; assuming you want to limit your study to the American church, and limit your role models to Evangelical megachurches.
  • With just a few months to go before the Olympics in England, churches are coordinating evangelistic efforts.
  • Tim Challies has started producing his own infographics; his Books of the Bible chart is a must-see.  Click a second time for a full-sized image; I guarantee some of you will be copying and forwarding this one.
  • If you still find yourself wanting more to read, here’s a link that will take you to Dan Kimball’s ever-growing series of Wednesday Weird Bible Verses.
  • We close today with a video from YouTube channel Get out the Box.

Join us tomorrow at Thinking out Loud for a non-interview with Todd Burpo, pastor and author of Heaven is for Real.

December 14, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Christmas List Lynx

Here’s this week’s list; remember to have your suggestions in by 8:00 PM on Mondays to make sure that they get considered.

  • North Point Community Church’s “Be Rich” campaign breaks all previous records for giving to local charities as reported at CBS News Atlanta.
  • For those of you who missed the last decade completely, the BBC re-traces the history of the WWJD slogan in light of its re-emergence in the Occupy Protests.
  • This week’s top music video release introduces recent Nashville resident, singer-songwriter Jesse Santoyo.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling means the end of churches meeting in schools in New York City and eventually, beyond.
  • Vital question for worship leaders — and others — at Zac Hicks’ blog: Is the Lord’s Supper a Funeral or a Feast? s
  • Churches in Santa Monica, California are almost completely shut out of the 21 spaces where they normally erect nativity scenes because of strategic planning by atheist groups.
  • If you’re into Bible translation issues, here are three academic presentations on video by NIV, ESV and HCSB representatives, and a Q&A and response video with all three, from Liberty University’s Bible Translation Symposium.
  • Lost files found: This has been bookmarked in my computer since February; it’s a short article by a Minneapolis author, Tyler Blanski who has a book with Zondervan forthcoming later in 2012.  This deals with rethinking sexuality or you could check out his blog.
  • Lost files found #2: Another February flashback, Perry Noble asks if there’s anything you’re holding on to that God wants you to let go.
  • From our Pastor True Confessions Department, Kevin Rogers gives his personal reasons for not practicing the spiritual discipline of fasting.
  • Video recently posted, but apparently dating back to 1989, here’s a cultural artifact guaranteed to make you smile. Or something.
  • A Kentucky pastor reports he has canceled a church vote banning interracial couples. But you get the impression this fight ain’t over.
  • This video is from last year, and we may have linked to it then, but I needed something seasonal, right? Enjoy The Digital Story of the Nativity.
  • Mark Galli says there’s a need right now for more chaplains and fewer leaders. Sample: “We find ourselves in an odd period of church history when many people have become so used to large, impersonal institutions that they want that in their church as well.” This discussion really swims against the current.
  • Another Christianity Today item: Anthony D. Baker surveys what’s going on in church life, particularly as it affects our children, and finds us doing all manner of things except actually teaching the gospel.
  • First there was Rachel Held Evans’ 2010 list of 13 things that make her “…A Lousy Evangelical,”  and now it’s Michael Camp’s 31 reasons why he “…Left Evangelicalism and Became a Progressive, Not a Liberal.”
  • Big Bang Theory Department: Scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider believe they have confirmed the existence of The God Particle.
  • Ever been in a group of people where someone outside the circle only asks the husbands the “What do you do for a living?” question? Michelle Garred guests at Eugene Cho‘s blog.
  • Sadly for some, this time of year is just an excuse to drink, even if they do so in the name of remembering ‘the reason for the season’ as this advent calendar found at Ironic Catholic indicates:

November 1, 2011

What War Looks Like at Church

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:15 am

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church had only ever known one pastor, Dr. James Kennedy; and he was certainly no slouch in the pulpit.  So when Tullian Tchividjian became the church’s only other pastor ever, nothing, not even the pedigree of being a grandson of Billy Graham could save him from the conflict that erupted in the early months.

Tullian was interviewed by Drew Dick at Leadership (a Christianity Today publication) and addressed that issue directly.  I should say the article is very positive, very redemptive, and very hopeful; but I wanted to include a few of the darker paragraphs here so that some of you would have a picture of what church conflict looks like:

…[I]t’s one thing to talk about war and another to be a soldier on the ground when the bullets are flying. It was hard. It was the first time in my life where I was leading a church where I knew many people didn’t like me…

It was tremendously uncomfortable coming to worship every Sunday morning during that time not knowing who liked you and who hated you. There were people in the choir who, when I would stand up to preach, would get up and walk out. People would sit in the front row and just stare me down as I preached. It was extremely uncomfortable. People would grab me in the hallway between services and say, “You’re ruining this church, and I’m going to do everything I can to stop you.” I would come out to my car and it would be keyed. Some people would stop at nothing to intimidate.

They put petitions on car windows during the worship service. They started an anonymous blog, which was very painful. Here we were trying to build consensus and there’s this anonymous blog fueling rumors and lies. The blog almost ruined my wife’s life. Anonymous letters were sent out to the entire congregation with accusations and character assassinations. It was absolutely terrible.

…The shelling got so bad I thought to myself this was a huge mistake. Two churches are ruined now. I could hardly eat, had trouble sleeping, and was continually battling nausea. I felt at the absolute end of myself…

Until reading those paragraphs, I thought the worst thing a pastor could endure was something I saw over twenty years ago:  Being spit on.  This pastor was totally covered in the stuff as the young man he was trying to minister to repeatedly spit in his face. 

Then I read these paragraphs and thought, Tullian should not have to have gone through that.

But if you read the entire article, he might say, ‘Maybe I did need to.’ 

So what’s the worst thing you’ve seen a pastor have to endure?  Do you think agree that it makes it twice as frustrating when a pastor’s greatest opposition comes from within the congregation?

HT: Darryl Dash, who later, coincidentally turned out to be today’s photo source.

October 6, 2011

Link List Themes Revisisted

Yesterday’s link list was posted just before 6:00 AM EST, and as of 11:00 PM EST, while there had been many page views representing hundreds of unique visitors, there wasn’t a single comment.  Actually, that’s pretty standard here, but this was a particularly ‘heavy’ list of stories and I’m wondering if people are missing the larger themes:

  • Tennessee teachers aren’t being told they can’t pray, but they can’t pray in public, as (my words now) they are in an advocacy role and would be setting some kind of example that apparently is a negative example.  Can you say, “slippery slope?”
  • A teen leading the charge for social change is told he’s not exactly doing “wrong” or “bad,” but he should focus on preaching the gospel.  Haven’t we spent the last several decades deriding those who preach the “social gospel;” and while so criticizing them from our lofty theological perch, we did absolutely nothing to deal with poverty and injustice. 
  • A pastor — who may have crossed a line with this — invites another pastor to a seminar where the purpose of the seminar is stated from the outset as being to discuss the things on which we disagree and perhaps tend to sweep under the doctrinal rug.  While it’s a bit on the edge, it would finally clarify once and for all if this other pastor’s position on the trinity is the deal-breaker some of us believe it to be.  But it will never happen at all if certain conservative reformers simply boycott the seminar.
  • Mexico’s proposal on marriage could be the germination of something that is, long term, more insidious than the adoption of same-sex marriage.  It makes marriage modular, reinforces serial monogamy perhaps, but with an air that is more reflective of polyamory.  With simple divorce, there was always an opt-out if it didn’t work; but with Mexico’s proposal, the termination of the marriage after 48 months is really the default setting.
  • Switzerland adopts anti-tolerance.  Again.  The message is clearly, this is our country, our customs; if you don’t like it, leave.  Without commenting further, I wonder where this — or a backlash against it — leaves both the Swiss and more tolerant North Americans in the next 10, 20 or 30 years?
  • Isn’t the Texas oil-change shop’s John 3:16 verbal coupon idea enough to set Christianity back about a century?  If you have to have a license to work on cars in Texas, they should also require a license before you can go public with wacky evangelism schemes.
  • Does it bother anyone that Cathleen Falsani wrote 200 pages about Justin Bieber’s faith without ever sitting down with either JB or his mom?  Sure she has seven pages containing 211 footnotes, but…

Anyway, these are the big picture items from yesterday.  IMHO anyway.  So are TOL readers simply passive on these things, or were you just too busy to catch the links?

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