Thinking Out Loud

November 19, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Rowan and Rowena - The Bishop Bears

Stay here to read classic Wednesday links, or visit PARSE to view nine selected stories with more preview info.

The above image from the Ship of Fools archives seemed appropriate given that women can now officially be bishops in the Church of England.

 

With all the many challenges that gay couples face, I honestly didn’t think of this one:

Name Problem

 

March 19, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Abandoned Church

This long de-commissioned church photo appeared back in October at the Twitter feed of AbandonedPics.

There’s something here for people at every age and every stage, including links to stories of interest to lay people and clergy, liturgists and charismatics. Or at least that’s the theory. 

The link list is now owned and operated by PARSE the blog of Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today.  Anything you click below will take you first to them, then you can click the item again.

All I know about this comic below is that I found it on the floor of my office, apparently photocopied from a 2002 book of Christian cartoons by Doug Hall. (Does anyone know the book title?) The sentiment expressed here is still alive and well a dozen years later.

Criticize the Pastor

March 3, 2014

Creating a Church Social Media Hub

Church social media directory

How a social media hub is different from a Church directory

I’m writing this in a vacuum, because I haven’t exactly seen done what I am proposing here. I just see a need. So here’s the proposal, and if you have any suggestions or revisions based on experience with a church that’s doing this please leave a comment.

Social media, as we have come to know it, is with us to stay. The platforms will migrate over time, but a generation has grown up communicating on line, and overall, I would say that for the church, this is a good thing. We can start a conversation at a weekend service, and continue it all week. We can learn that people have specific interests, and send them links to articles and channels of interest. It replaces the classic “encouragement notes” or “thinking-of-you cards.”

  • Ideally, a church directory lists every member and adherent. A social media index lists only people who want to share their various social media platforms.
  • A Church directory contains addresses and numbers for mobile phones and land lines.  A social media index has names and locations for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, tumblr, WordPress and YouTube pages.
  • A Church directory often exists in print; a church social media hub exists only online.
  • Church publications generally promote the church’s own social media pages. A social media index highlights what the church family is doing online.
  • Church directories are usually only distributed to the people whose names are contained in them. A social media index can just be a page on the church website — “Central Community Church on Social Media” — with no restricted access, because each of the pages concerned are public anyway.
  • Knowing that anyone in your church can access your pages is a wonderful way of keeping yourself accountable for what you write, post or link to. Your social media pages may reflect a personal family focus and other interests and hobbies you have; but ultimately you are aware that fellow church members might drop in at any time, unannounced.
  • Social media is constantly changing. A social media index for your church family needs to be updated on a regular basis, perhaps weekly.
  • If any social media platform from any church member is reported to have questionable content, all their listings would be removed.

If one of the basic problems in the church is that we don’t really know each other, I know of no other way to change that than to be interconnected online. This allows us to get to know each other to a greater degree.

 

Graphic: Sacramento Metro Church of Christ (click image to link)

August 28, 2013

Wednesday Link List

For Heaven's Sake - Mike Morgan - August 12 2013Apparently this marks the 12th time we’ve used a For Heaven’s Sake cartoon here.  Mike Morgan’s weekly comic can be seen in selected newspapers.

Find the links that go with these stories at Wednesday Link List’s new home at Out of Ur.


If you don’t click all these links, how will you know they’re not talking about you?

  • The Gay Debate Continues: How can we pick and choose which Levitical laws continue into the present age and which don’t?  That’s easy.  Acts 15 tells us which ones carry forward.
  • An appeals court in Tehran rejected the appeal of American Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen, and refused to reduce his 8-year prison sentence.
  • An Anthropology professor, writing in the New York Times, takes an academic look at speaking in tongues.
  • No doubt about it, in churches of all stripes, Bible reading is notable for the presence of smart phones.
  • “I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau…” English Bible translations use the love/hate motif but the passage raises translation and interpretation issues that are a lot more complicated.
  • If you’re a church leader and you’re constantly dealing with how to disciple messy, new believers, then it probably means you’re doing something right. Conversely, if everyone in your church is spiritually mature, then something is terribly wrong.
  • Russell S. Doughten, Jr., the man responsible for the making of the landmark Christian film A Thief in the Night, died on Monday at age 86.
  • Thom Rainer thinks that church membership is relatively stable, but that the decline in church attendance is more connected to frequency of attendance.
  • Part-time pastor: A bi-vocational minister looks at logistical sustainability problems in bi-vocational ministry.
  • Here’s a worship song from the UK that gained a lot of traction here over the summer, Let it Be Known by Worship Central.
  • So who are your non-Christian friends? Better yet, if we were to ask your neighbors, do they have any Christian friends? Maybe not.
  • If experience teaches me anything, lots of you will click through to read an article called Getting Naked With Your Friends.
  • Rob Bell’s next book is titled Zinzum.  Yes, Zinzum: God’s Secret for What Makes Marriages Flourish.  Other than that it’s a book about marriage, I have no idea what the title means, and that doesn’t surprise me.
  • Bonus video: The song Jon Acuff recently called his current favorite, Josh Garrels’ 2011 update of Farther Along.
  • A woman who supported her gay daughter’s campaign for health benefits has been kicked out of her Tennessee church.
  • Canada’s public broadcaster highlights 50 different responses to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
  • Nominations for The Dove Awards — the Christian Grammy Awards equivalent — have been announced, including Lecrae and Chris Tomlin. (I feel I should know that second name…)
  • Bahamas’ pastor Thabiti Anyabwile believes that many of us discussing homosexuality are unnecessarily suppressing our gag reflex.
  • Steven Furtick is building momentum for a 2014 book, Crash the Chatterbox, dealing with the voices that chatter fear, insecurity, condemnation and discouragement by inviting people to join a movement of people called Chatterboxers.
  • Social Media Sins Department: Facebook is now the theme of a gospel choir song.
  • Remember, parents; if nothing else, your parenting techniques can always serve as a bad example. 
  • It would be great if I was getting a kickback for this rather blatant advertisement, but it turns out the Christian kids’ classic Bullfrogs and Butterflies is still available. Can Psalty the singing songbook be far behind?
  • And speaking of children’s music, I can’t think of a better ending this week than this nugget of wisdom.

Today’s column with links activated appears at Out of Ur. Paul Wilkinson is a writer and prognosticator who blogs at Thinking Out Loud and whose Twitter handle does that annoying thing where numbers are substituted for letters, hence @paulw1lk1nson (he forgot to switch the ‘o’ for a zero.)

Trees of the Field - Teaching Parabolas - Steve Wall

May 11, 2013

What if Your Church Had an Alumni Newsletter?

This is a repeat of an article from last year which was titled, If Churches Were Like Colleges and Universities.

Yesterday my wife received an alumni newsletter from her college. Because I graduated from the University of Toronto, which is a federation of colleges, I get three of these things regularly, one from the university itself, one from my college, and one from the Department of Philosophy even though I majored in Sociology.

I flip through these, and don’t entirely regard them as junk mail, though I’ve never yet made a donation and frankly, with Christian charities a priority, I’m not ever likely to.

Still, I wondered — minus the glossy magazine part — what it would be like if local churches had some of the mentality of alumni associations, especially toward people who have either moved on or dropped out:

  • They’re really good at maintaining a data base of former students and knowing what each is doing. In church life we tend to assume that people have simply gone on to another church when that’s not always the case. They have an interest in where life has taken you, and they track you down, even if you move several times and think you’ve lost them! I’m going to guess here that 99% of churches have nothing formal in place to ‘follow’ former adherents and members, and truth be told, a significant number of them did not go on to another church.
  • They’re really excited about sharing their programs. It never occurs to us that if someone liked what we were doing as a church once, they might be interested in connecting again. We basically treat departures as a form of rejection, unless the person moved or was transferred.
  • The door is always open. We have nothing in the church that compares to the concept of ‘homecoming.’ Just think what might be if we created a culture where the welcome mat is always out for former members and participants. Colleges and universities invite you walk the corridors and sit in the classrooms to rekindle memories; why can’t a church do that?
  • They earnestly solicit your financial help to advance their work. Even though I don’t expect to benefit directly from what my alma mater is doing currently, they invite me invest in its future. Many people who have stopped going to church have stopped giving to Christian causes even though the latest books tell us they still like Jesus, they still love God. There must a polite way to say, if you’re not giving to anything, the work of the church still goes on.
  • They share their stories. Related to the above item, they have a better system for hearing back from their ‘graduates,’ and what is being accomplished in and through their lives. In a world of email and Facebook, keeping in touch with former church adherents ought to be a cakewalk. Some are possibly very grateful to share how their time at your church impacted their lives. Everyone else needs to hear those stories.

What do you think? Are there analogies I missed? Can we do better at tracking people who were once part of our church family roll?

January 1, 2013

2013: A Whole New Year of Church Statistics

If you show up for clergy hour at the local fitness club, you often see pastors in the locker room comparing size. Church budget. Membership. Number of baptisms. That sort of thing. (What did you think I meant?)

The term for this is “church metrics.” It’s a term that shouldn’t exist, but it does. And you don’t want to hear the, “God’s okay with numbers, He’s got a whole book of them” line.

I guess you just did.

But these days, in a mega church world, the metrics are different. Number of weekend services. Number of satellite campuses. (Or is the plural campi?) Rank in Outreach magazine’s list of top churches, churches to watch, most influential churches. Number of books published. Highest position on the New York Times list for your last book. (Even if it’s the New York Times list of books that didn’t make the real New York Times bestseller list.)

Well forget all that.

I’ve got a new church metric… thing that separates the pastor men from the pastor boys.  You’re not really playing the ministry game until you’ve got data to add to this chart.

How many jet airplanes do you own?

Jets for Pastors

Hey, all the cool pastors in Nigeria are doing it. Well, one for sure. Christianity Today reports:

Allegations of extravagant living among Nigeria’s Pentecostal preachers have deepened following the gift of a private jet to the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria.

The multi-million dollar jet—a 10-seater with a range of 3,900 nautical miles—was presented to Ayo Oritsejafor by members of his congregation, Word of Life Bible Church in the oil-rich Delta state city of Warri. The gift celebrated the pastor’s birthday and his 40th anniversary in ministry.

Oritsejafor, who also serves as president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, joins a growing list of preachers with private jets in the West African nation, which is Africa’s largest oil producer.

David Oyedepo, the founder of Living Faith Ministries (popularly known as Winners’ Chapel) in Lagos, Nigeria’s major port and most-populous city, owns three Gulfstreams (plus a Learjet) worth almost US$100 million. (By contrast, Oritsejafor’s Bombardier Challenger jet is worth less than US$5 million.) Enoch Adeboye, general overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, also owns a private jet. So does the flamboyant founder of Christ Embassy Church, Chris Oyakhilome.

Apart from preachers, only top business tycoons and a few governors and politicians own private jets in a nation where more than 70 percent live on less than US$1 per day.

Nigeria’s wealthy have spent US$6.5 billion on private jets in the last five years, making it Africa’s biggest market for private planes. The number of privately-owned aircraft rose by 650 percent between 2007 and 2012, up from 20 to 150 planes at an average cost of US$50 million.

continue reading here

Okay, more than one pastor. And one guy owns four of them… C’mon pastor; you know you want one. And you’ve got a lot of work to do to catch up to the guy who has four. Size matters.

To expedite your order as quickly as possible, the image here conveniently links to the website for Gulfstream – The World’s Most Advanced Business Jet. Or if you prefer a different route, this link.

UPDATE:  Much more on this in the comments today!  Be sure to click through to read more.

December 24, 2012

Are Churches Counting The Wrong People?

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:45 am

Church metrics.

Yeah, that’s a thing.

Vince Antonucci has a different take on it:

Churches count their “attendance” each week. (Some don’t count very accurately, willing to count people – band, choir, staff, children’s volunteers, etc. – multiple times, but that’s a point for another day.) They count the amount of people from their city who show up at their church each week.

But I’d like to propose counting something different: The amount of people in the city not showing up at any church.

Seriously, a church can say that “This year we grew from 1,000 to 2,000!” but what if, in the same year, the amount of people not going to church in that city grew from 370,000 to 391,000? That gives you a very different picture of what’s happening, doesn’t it?

If the number we counted was how many people in our city are not going to church it would force churches to no longer celebrate growing through stealing people from other churches, it might lead churches to support and celebrate the success of other churches, and it would lead churches to focus on truly reaching the lost instead of focusing on their attendance numbers.

Instead of magazines featuring the “Hundred Fastest Growing Churches” there would be articles on the cities where the most people are coming to Christ, and isn’t that what we want to promote and celebrate?

So, what about it?

May 26, 2012

If Churches Were Like Colleges and Universities

Yesterday my wife received an alumni newsletter from her college. Because I graduated from the University of Toronto, which is a federation of colleges, I get three of these things regularly, one from the university itself, one from my college, and one from the Department of Philosophy even though I majored in Sociology.

I flip through these, and don’t entirely regard them as junk mail, though I’ve never yet made a donation and frankly, with Christian charities a priority, I’m not ever likely to.

Still, I wondered — minus the glossy magazine part — what it would be like if local churches had some of the mentality of alumni associations, especially toward people who have either moved on or dropped out:

  • They’re really good at maintaining a data base of former students and knowing what each is doing. In church life we tend to assume that people have simply gone on to another church when that’s not always the case. They have an interest in where life has taken you, and they track you down, even if you move several times and think you’ve lost them! I’m going to guess here that 99% of churches have nothing formal in place to ‘follow’ former adherents and members, and truth be told, a significant number of them did not go on to another church.
  • They’re really excited about sharing their programs. It never occurs to us that if someone liked what we were doing as a church once, they might be interested in connecting again. We basically treat departures as a form of rejection, unless the person moved or was transferred.
  • The door is always open. We have nothing in the church that compares to the concept of ‘homecoming.’ Just think what might be if we created a culture where the welcome mat is always out for former members and participants. Colleges and universities invite you walk the corridors and sit in the classrooms to rekindle memories; why can’t a church do that?
  • They earnestly solicit your financial help to advance their work. Even though I don’t expect to benefit directly from what my alma mater is doing currently, they invite me invest in its future. Many people who have stopped going to church have stopped giving to Christian causes even though the latest books tell us they still like Jesus, they still love God. There must a polite way to say, if you’re not giving to anything, the work of the church still goes on.
  • They share their stories. Related to the above item, they have a better system for hearing back from their ‘graduates,’ and what is being accomplished in and through their lives. In a world of email and Facebook, keeping in touch with former church adherents ought to be a cakewalk. Some are possibly very grateful to share how their time at your church impacted their lives. Everyone else needs to hear those stories.

What do you think?  Are there analogies I missed? Can we do better at tracking people who were once part of our church family roll?

February 29, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Welcome to Wednesday Link List Leap Day Edition, or as we prefer to call it, WLLLDE.

Here’s my social media observation for the day: Pinterest is to Facebook what Tumblr is to WordPress.  (Five years from now they’ll be quoting that in business textbooks.)

CT Stories

  • There may be some changes afoot at Christianity Today as to who can access articles online, so we’ll do these while we can.  First, in one we missed in January, T. D. Jakes revealed he’s now regarded as heretic by both mainstream Evangelicals and one-ness Pentecostals.
  • A brief rare interview Rob Bell did with CT earlier in the month. Doesn’t let the cat out of the bag as to what he’s currently working on, though. (But if you’re really into Bellmania, flash back to this piece Tony Jones did exactly one year ago, which remains in his all time top five.)
  • “A century ago, a novel called In His Steps convinced generations of Christians that Jesus would, among other things, oppose the sport of prizefighting. That novel became the ninth best-selling book of all time, and the book’s thesis found new life in the ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ movement.” So begins a look at the ethics of cage fighting with three viewpoints.
  • “Here’s what you can do in a New York City public school after hours: You may gather people together once a week (or more often). You can start off with praise choruses and Bible reading. Someone can stand up and teach that Jesus is Lord, that he rose from the dead to save us from sin, and that he is coming again. Then you can break bread and pray together.  Here’s what you can’t do in a New York City public school after hours: Hold a ‘religious worship service.'” Another look at the strange situation in NYC.

Les autres links

  • With just weeks to go before release, Donald Miller and Steve Taylor sit down to discuss how Blue Like Jazz, the collection of short stories, ended up as Blue Like Jazz: The Movie, with a more cohesive storyline. 
  • Signs of the Times: There is now actually a blog with the name Church and Synagogue Security News. Tagline: Covering security and safety at places of worship and religious institutions worldwide.
  • Sarah Bolme reviews Peace Child by Don Richardson; an absolute classic missions story that many of you have never heard of. “In the book, there is a quote from a missionary talking to Don before Don embarks on the mission field. This gentleman says, “You must be prepared in the strength of the Lord, to do battle with the prince of darkness, who, having held these hundreds of tribes captive these many thousand years, is not about to give them up without a fight.” Sarah says Christian authors today face similar obstacles.
  • Zac Hicks looks deeply into the sometimes thorny issue of church membership. He offers five compelling arguments for moving from adherent to member. Which type of weekend service attender are you?
  • Who to date.
    Where to go to college.
    Who to marry.
    Where to move.
    What job to take.  — Steven Furtick thinks that knowing God’s will for your life isn’t the main point.
  • Mark Buchanan is blogging sample chapters of his forthcoming book, Your Church is Too Safe. Check out chapter five and chapter thirteen, a most interesting consideration of the types of spirits that showed up when Jesus ministered, some of which show up in our churches today.
  • In other Zondervan book news, one of my favorites from last year is being released in a teen/youth edition; look for the bright red cover for Not a Fan Teen Edition by Kyle Idleman (no link).
  • How do you get KJV-only teens revved up for the next youth conference? How about a Marine Corps themed promo video with the bold proclamation “In 1611 God forged a sword.”  Apparently before 1611 God was a little deficient in terms of a means to save the world.
  • Donation request: Tony Jones (aka Tall Skinny Kiwi) needs about $5,000 US to ship his truck from Turkey to New Zealand, where it will serve as an operations base. Funds are needed rather soon.
  • If you’re like me, you’ve probably tried at least once to learn Biblical Greek. Tyler Blanski thinks the key is learning to love parts of speech that aren’t so important in English.
  • People Department: I always look forward to Brad Lomenick’s monthly Young Influencers List; here’s the one for February.
  • I’m always interested when slightly more insider church references make it into the comics pages.  Wikipedia notes that Pluggers “…runs in 60 newspapers, mostly in the Southern, Mid-West, Plains, and Rocky Mountain states… In the context of this strip, ‘pluggers’ are defined as blue-collar workers who live a typical working-class American lifestyle, accompanied by a mentality characteristic of the veteran and Baby Boomer generations. In the comic, pluggers are portrayed in the form of anthropomorphic animals, most often a plump bear, dog, chicken, or rhinoceros…”

June 1, 2011

Wednesday Link List

A few days back I ran a Friday Link List with two items I felt were worth a closer look.  Over the course of the weekend, at least 600 people (out of a much larger group of visitors) went directly to the homepage or the link list, but the number of people who actually clicked the two links was unbelievably small.

So I’m really reconsidering all this.  Much work goes into the weekly link list, and I enjoy doing it.  I highly respect the bloggers who in some cases, as I mentioned last week, do this every day.  I’m not saying link posts are non-productive, they just may not fit the particular group who have chosen to follow this particular pied piper.  So we’ll continue for awhile, just not as many links as before.

  • Contest winners:  Congrats to Amy, Byron and Cynthia; winners in our Not a Fan book giveaway from Zondervan.  An e-mail has been sent to you to collect addresses.
  • Church Life department:  David Foster has uncovered the American church’s dirty little secret, and it’s not what you might guess.
  • More Church Life department:  In a world where many are starting to think differently, Bryan Lopez offers 12 reasons why church membership matters, lifted from a forthcoming Crossway book by Jonathan Leeman.
  • For Whom The Bell Tolls deparment:  Ya gotta give Rob Bell credit for getting everyone talking.  Dan Kimball analyzes the discussion itself with a piece at Outreach Magazine.
  • Same Subject department:  Derek Oullette gives an advance peek at Brian JonesHell is Real but I Hate to Admit It, publishing in July from David C. Cook.
  • Op Ed department:  John Shore reacted to Francis Chan’s response to Love Wins because he’d rather promote being “safe from hell” than worry too much about what hell is and isn’t.
  • Hypothetically Speaking department:  If you could read just one book besides the Bible…?  Gregory Koukl of STL picks a few I hadn’t heard of.  (The 2nd author is Luntz not Kurtz…)
  • Roast Preacher department:  Tim Funk at the Myrtle Beach Sun News thinks that Franklin Graham is less like his evangelist father, and more like Jerry Falwell.
  • No Benefits to These Friends department: Dannah Gresh guests at CNN with a look at the conflicting statistics showing while there is more virginity out there, but also more sex;  with dire psychological consequences.
  • Point/Counterpoint department: Matt Schmucker thinks a pastor who is leaving should help the church prepare for the next guy, but ideally and Biblically, Arthur Sido notes that the church should already know the next guy.
  • Too Much Media department:  Brian Kaufman at Shrink The Church sees 5 reasons to cancel cable, and we assume he means satellite, too.
  • New Ventures department:  What is your dream?  That’s the question posed — with sample encouraging answers — at new website Kingdom-Dreams.org
  • Our cartoon is yet another from David Hayward at NakedPastor.com; where you can purchase a print of any one of the gazillion cartoons there to brighten your own pastor’s office and/or get him/her fired.

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