Thinking Out Loud

July 30, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Amish Gone Wild T-Shirt Design from Kaboodle dot com

By the look of it, this “internet” thing could be really big someday. Here’s this week’s highlights:

Remember, every time you share the link list on Twitter or Facebook, an angel gets its wings.

Paul Wilkinson hunts for devotional writing each day at C201, rants at Thinking Out Loud and tweets to a vast army of followers. (They keep leaving the “K” out after the number.)

July 23, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Born Again T-Shirt from Gardenfire

Each week, I get paid to write teasers for some great online resources, as well as some quirky ones.

Meow and Forever - T-shirt - Master's Table Blog

 

July 16, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Abraham Isaac Jacob postage stamps

Summertime and the linkin’ is easy…Our biggest collection ever with 40 bullets!

How Cats Ended Up With Nine Lives

While not curating the internet, Paul Wilkinson blogs at Thinking Out Loud and C201.

Rapture Survivor Card

June 25, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Church Organ - Air Conditioner Combo

While this is list number two-hundred-and-something at Thinking Out Loud — and probably about the 400th link list over all, it’s list #52 at PARSE. A year! Time flies when you’re having links. Since Leadership Journal owns this weekly piece, clicking anything below takes you to PARSE where you can then link to the item you wish to read first.

Thursday through Tuesday, Paul blogs at Thinking Out Loud, both writes and steals devotional material at Christianity 201, and provides hints of the following week’s link list on Twitter.

 

It's not every day that we see a Jaguar X16 with a Jesus fish in our part of the world. Mind you it's a gold fish, nicely framed and matted.

It’s not every day that we see a Jaguar X16 with a Jesus fish in our part of the world. Mind you it’s a gold fish, nicely framed and matted.

June 21, 2014

Welcome to our Church Family

coffee time

Michaela and Brett have been attending Neighborhood Community Church for three consecutive weeks now and are at the post-service coffee time in the facility’s large activity room.

BRETT: I’m gonna see if there’s seconds on this decaf.

MICHAELA: Sure, go ahead mine is still too hot to drink.  [Brett exits]

[A woman walks up to Michaela]

HANNAH: Hi, my name’s Hannah, I’ve noticed you’ve been here three weeks in a row and –

MICHAELA: Hi, I’m Michaela; yes we’ve been attending here while–

[Hannah reaches inside a large brown envelope and pulls out a keychain with a key and and a white business-card sized piece of cardboard attached to it.]

HANNAH: Well, here’s your keys to the church.

MICHAELA: (pauses, not sure what to say) My keys?

HANNAH: We want you to feel part of the family and if there’s anything you want to do to volunteer, we don’t want you sitting in the parking lot waiting for someone to arrive.

MICHAELA: Actually, the reason we’re coming here–

HANNAH: The four digit number on the card is your alarm code. Just make sure you enter by the back door or the front door; although the key opens other doors.

MICHAELA: (tries to give the keys back) I don’t think I can–

HANNAH: Oh it’s easy, as you walk in the box is beeping and you just type in the number.

MICHAELA: I don’t want to have to–

HANNAH: (sees someone in the distance) Oh, sorry, I gotta run.  [Exits]

MICHAELA: (to herself) Well that was weird.

The Pastor walks up to Michaela guiding a woman he wants to introduce.

PASTOR: It’s good to see you back again, Kayla.

MICHAELA: Actually it’s Michaela–

PASTOR: Right. Michaela and Jeff.

MICHAELA: No, he’s–

PASTOR: This is Sarah, she’s in charge of our–oh my, I see someone I’ve been trying to catch up with for weeks; excuse me.   [Exits]

SARAH: He’s too busy, that guy. Anyway, I noticed you signed up to attend the banquet on Saturday and wondered if you had any time in the morning to be part of our kitchen team to help us get started.

MICHAELA: That would be nice, we don’t have anything planned.

SARAH: Good. We need someone to start the potatoes. They need to be washed and peeled and cut, so we need that to take place early. Now, I noticed that Hannah gave you a key; we thought if the potato person started around 7:00 AM–

MICHAELA: Potato person?

SARAH: Yes, you’d be the first to arrive. The potato bag will be on the counter, there’s peelers in the top drawer to the left of the sink, and we’ll leave out a few big pots you can put them in.

MICHAELA: Well, I once did a 20-pound bag at church camp, so I suppose–

SARAH: Well these are 48-pound bags. Oh my! Is that Esther? This is her first Sunday back at church after her–well I’m not supposed to say am I?  [Exits]

MICHAELA: (calls after her) Wait! Bags?    [Brett returns]

BRETT: (holding a hot coffee and a large binder under his arm): Who was that? Did you find a set of keys? We should turn those in.

MICHAELA: It’s the keys to the church. I have to be here at 7:00 AM on Saturday to peel potatoes for the banquet, and I think I’m going to be working alone.

BRETT: They gave you keys to the church?

MICHAELA: Yes. I think we need to tell these people we’re only here for ten weeks while our place back home is getting renovated.

BRETT: Yeah, I tried that once a few minutes ago and it didn’t work.

MICHAELA: What’s with that binder?

BRETT: Oh, they found out what I work at, I’m now the chair of the finance committee.

[End]

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.”

June 16, 2014

Preaching to the Choir

 

preaching-to-choir_from fritzcartoons-dot-com

…the problem is not that some churches are seeker-sensitive, the problem is that MOST churches are seeker-hostile. The problem is not that some churches are emergent, the problem is that MANY churches are stagnant. The problem is not that some churches are led by false teachers, the problem is that SOME churches are so busy bashing other churches that they really don’t teach anything. The problem is not that some churches have grown to become mega-churches, the problem is that TOO MANY churches are dying, and can’t see the reason why.

The above is part of a response I made to a comment on my other blog last week. People keep throwing around terms like seeker-sensitive, but that whole discussion is so 1990. Furthermore, in 2007, the church that popularized the term “seeker sensitive” published the Reveal study which showed, as least as far as data at that time was concerned, that the spiritual needs of seekers had changed. Some critics went so far as to suggest that the entire philosophy had been a mistake which needed to be repented of, but to do so is to both overstate the situation, and rob Willow Creek of its unique history which contributed to its growth and the the growth of other similar churches.

The thing that does need to continue to be addressed however is the opposite of seeker sensitivity, which is best expressed in the not-so-new term, “preaching to the choir.”

We have no idea how often we do this, and we do this at the expense of opportunities to reach a much broader, wider portion of the general population. I believe we do this specifically in two different areas.

In terms of felt needs, we often miss the brokenness that people experience as a starting point. The Four Spiritual Laws begin with the premise that “man is sinful and separated from God,” but the average person is not aware of God, or knowledgeable about what constitutes sin. They only know that they have an addiction problem, or that their employer is laying off staff, or that their marriage is in trouble, or that they are lonely, etc. As many have observed, the church is often answering questions people are not asking.

In terms of vocabulary, we truly don’t have filters for the words we toss around which are so familiar to us, and yet so foreign to the average listener. Terminology must be clear, and where uniquely-Christian theological concepts have no other lexicon, those words must be fully explained.  Plain speech can still be profound.

In terms of primary message, we think that we are sufficiently countering the anti-this and anti-that perceptions the world has about Christian faith, but really, we can’t say “God really loves you” enough times, especially when there are people in the church who don’t truly know the love of God. Yes, there is balance in many things, and the love of God has to be offset with a communication of God’s justice and hatred of wrongdoing. But maybe that’s the thing that’s needed, sermons that begin “on the one hand,” and move to “on the other hand.”

In terms of form, I don’t think the average pastor can pull off Andy Stanley’s 45-minute sermon length. Many start out with a really engaging premise, but are unable to maintain the intensity after the first seven or eight minutes. It truly is all downhill from that point. In a world where you can make an impact in just 140-characters, concision is all important. I often tell people who ask me about writing, “Pretend you are placing a classified advertisement in the local newspaper and you are being charged $1 per word.” That will cause you to excise much unnecessary verbiage.

In terms of context, we really need to take the message to the streets, figuratively if not literally. I heard this many years ago: So much of what we think constitutes out-reach is actually in-drag. We want people on our turf, in our building, attending activities that take place in our expensive facilities. Rather, we ought to look for ways to salt the broader community through involvement and participation in non-church activities, clubs, sports, recreation, arts programs, forums, reading groups, etc. Furthermore, we need to be ones staging events that have a huge potential to attract people from the widest spectrum of our cities and towns. Better yet, we need to go where people already are, places they already gather.

The choir know the story just as they know the lyrics and tunes of the songs they sing. It’s time to spend the greater portion of our energies on people who have not yet come into the family of faith.

 

 

June 14, 2014

Elderly Need Ministry, Too

Tony Campolo has written an interesting piece this morning at Red Letter Christians, which I am re-blogging here with emphasis added.

The church I attend currently has five people listed on the roster of ministry staff.

  • Lead Pastor
  • Associate Pastor of Care and Discipleship (a former youth pastor, currently in the process of moving to a new church, whose focus was on twenty- and thirty-somethings)
  • Youth Pastor
  • Director of Children’s Ministries (not quite full time)
  • Children’s Outreach Director (part time)

Other than the administrative assistant, there are no other paid staff. So you see the demographic consequences here, most of the ministry dollars spent on salaries are benefit parents with young children and teens.

Tony writes:

Tony CampoloIt seems strange to me that churches should show such favoritism to the youth and do little, if anything, for the elderly. When a church adds a new staff member, it is usually someone to work with the young people in the church, even though the young people constitute only six or seven percent of those who show up on Sunday morning, whereas a third of all those in attendance are over the age of 65.

In spite of this reality, the church is ready to appoint a youth minister, but not a minister with a specific assignment to the elderly. It is assumed that elderly people don’t need special ministry, but nothing could be further from the truth. Sociological studies indicate that elderly people are more likely to lose faith in God than young people. Through the years they have seen much suffering; they have seen too many unanswered prayers; and in the face of death they face incredible uncertainties.

I’m not saying that Youth Pastors are unimportant but what what I am saying is that churches go out of their way to add a youth worker position so that this person can help build up the church’s youth ministry, with the goal of attracting more youth to come to church. At the same time, there is already a large portion of the church that attend every week, give their tithes, and volunteer in church ministries but do not receive the attention or care that is essential to their spiritual well being. Churches are in greater need of a hired hand to assist with the day to day needs of the elderly than they are for the youth.

When I was younger I never realized the amount of time and energy that it takes to be old. Today, I spend countless hours going to and from doctors appointments and part of my daily routine now includes taking a variety of different medication that helps me keep going. It’s a hard task for me and I am in good health. For the millions of elderly individuals in our churches today without the luxury of good health I can easily see the struggles of keeping up with the demands of aging.

An Elderly Care Pastor could assist the elderly of their congregation by assisting individuals with transportation needs to and from doctors appointments, ensuring that prescription medications are taken on time and in the correct dosage, and by organizing elderly activities so that these individuals are not left sitting alone at home for days on end. Too many elderly people I meet tell me stories of how they spend most of their last years sitting alone with few, if any, visitors. We, the church, can and must do something to help the elderly. The addition of an Elderly Care Pastor is the first step towards making an immediate impact in the lives of the elderly of our congregations today.

Considering that the church is made up of elderly people more than young people, what is the church going to do in response to the needs of this important segment of its membership? My suggestion here is not the only suggestion worth considering. Please contemplate this issue and see what ideas come to mind that work to provide for the elderly in your local congregations.

To be fair, the church I attend has a Parish Nurse (a term borrowed from Anglicans, I believe) on call who does provide some of the functions Tony mentioned in the 4th and 5th paragraphs. I don’t know if she is paid beyond expenses as salaries aren’t broken down in the annual report and I’ve never bothered to ask.
So what do you think?
How would churches where you live relate to Tony’s perspective here?

Send Tony some link love and check out this article at source.


 

  • Related: Churches like to have young staff and young-looking staff. In many churches worship-leading and teaching pastor positions are given to people under 40. I wrote about this in June 2011, When 40 is Too Old to Serve Your Church.

 

June 10, 2014

When Dropping Your Kids at VBS at a Church Not Your Own

Filed under: children, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:13 am

vbs

It’s a dream come true. No kids for a whole week in either the mornings or the afternoons, or perhaps even all day. PLUS, it’s not your home church, so the likelihood of being asked to help is zero. For a haggard mom, does it get any better than this?

Well, before you get too excited, The Grinch That Stole Your Week Off would like to interject a little guilt:

  1. If you sense the church is a bit understaffed, you might want to ask if they need any help; especially if you have the requisite police clearances or certifications.  Maybe not exactly what you had in mind, but…
  2. VBS is a pricey ministry option, even by Children’s ministry standards. Sometime during the week, drop by the church’s office and make a donation to show your appreciation.
  3. Be on the lookout for a mom who is, like you, appears to be not from the host church, and offer to buy her a coffee. Or maybe a mom who is just going through a rough day and could use a sounding board.

Failing the first and third option, relax and take a deep breath, especially if an avalanche of kids is coming to your church next week.

May 6, 2014

Mom’s Night Out: A Faith-Friendly Comedy

Filed under: media — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:11 am

If you’re like most North American Christians, your media obligations have shifted from the Christian bookstore to the local cinema, and this Friday your family gets another opportunity to visit what has become for many, the sanctuary of choice in 2014.

Moms’ Night Out opens May 9th and contains a broad enough script that there’s something here for women, men and children. Alex Kendrick is in this movie, and one of the problems that female film-goers had with other movies connected to him such as Courageous, Fireproof, Flywheel, and Facing the Giants is that the scripts were far too male; there were firemen, car dealers, football players and policemen, but not so much for feminine tastes. (Count the words beginning with the letter f in that sentence!) October Baby filled the void more recently, but it was a rather subdued, cerebral script that offered little for a male audience.

In Moms’ Night Out that balance has been struck, but a little at the expense of a strong faith message that some might prefer. For that reason, I’m calling this faith-friendly instead of faith-focused, though there are a few scenes which touch on what it’s like to be a pastor’s wife (or a pastor’s daughter) and another scene where some moral teaching arises from an unlikely source.

Moms’ Night Out gives that pastor’s wife role to Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle) who, with her husband David Hunt co-produced the movie with a release date timing out perfectly for Mother’s Day weekend in the U.S. and Canada. Other cast members include Sarah Drew (Grey’s Anatomy), Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings), and platinum-selling country recording artist Trace Adkins (The Lincoln Lawyer).

When the preview showing ended two weeks ago on Wednesday night, we walked out into Dundas Square in Toronto (a knockoff of Times Square in NYC) and there was that week’s episode of The Middle playing live on one of the jumbo screens. Patrica Heaton was everywhere that night!

The trailer (below) outlines the plot sufficiently; the core of the movie is the stress of being a mother and how men understand so little of what that role entails. It’s about friendship, the image we try to maintain, and how when things go wrong, sometimes they go crazy wrong. The plot does indeed get a little complex near the end, but the whole thing is building like a British comedy, ever-ready to explode.

For all the movie tries to do, it succeeds. I wish the film’s producers the best in what is certainly a budget-stretching time for Christian families who have found themselves buying a lot of movie tickets lately. I expect however this film will find its biggest response among a broader, general audience who are looking for some good clean fun and something they can take the kids to, or something the kids can treat mom to for her special day.

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