Thinking Out Loud

October 27, 2013

Church Life: Pleasing Everyone is Hard to Do

I’ve never actually been in a church where the color of the carpet was an issue, but the topic stands in for a host of other topics when people are discussing superficial things they don’t like about a particular place of worship.

Still, there are some superficials which impact how effective ministry can be. For example, why is sometimes the pastor seems to really connect with people during the sermon, and other weeks when people are less responsive. It may have to do with things you don’t think about.

Sound

  • If the sound is turned up too high, people feel like they are being shouted at. It’s the live equivalent of me typing a sentence in CAPITAL LETTERS, back when people actually interacted in groups. Of course, there are some Pentecostal and Charismatic churches where the preacher’s words are amplified at rock concert volumes, but I think we have natural defenses that want to shut off any message bombarding us at high decibels.
  • If the sound is turned down too low, I believe that even if you’re hearing every single word, you’re using some mental processing capacity to strain to catch those phrases and sentences,  at the expense of being able to use that capacity to process the actual content of the words, and their applicability to your situation.

What you want is to find the sweet spot in the middle, and find a way to keep it consistent week-to-week.

Temperature

  • If the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system is turned up too high, people feel sticky in the summer and sleepy in the winter. If the temperature makes you feel comfy and cozy like you’re lying under a couple of blankets, you will indeed nod off.
  • If the thermostat is turned down too low, people are squirming or perhaps even needing to use the restrooms. Preservation instinct takes over, and the message processing capacity diminishes.

What you want is to find the sweet spot in the middle. Sometimes, if you’re not sure, you need to take 15 seconds to survey the audience on this one.

Lighting

  • The modern church spends a fortune on stage lighting, which includes something called “backlighting” which helps give definition to people on the platform. However, depending on where you are sitting, these lights can be shining directly into the audience seating. After the first five minutes it gets annoying and after as little as fifteen minutes you have a headache.
  • On the other hand, some churches are so dark it’s creepy. (We covered this topic in the list link a few days ago here.) Combine the absence of light with a high temperature and you have a perfect recipe for slumber once the sermon starts.

What you want is to find the sweet spot in the middle. One church I know turns up the lights for the sermon so people can follow along in their Bibles and make notes. Trouble is, in other auditorium contexts, when the lights come up it means the show is over!

So what superficials have affected worship in your past experience?

October 23, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Life is Like a Moving Sidewalk

Not many weird religious news stories this week; try to do something stupid over the next few days, okay?  This is a link list without links. To see them click over to Out of Ur. As for the above graphic, you need to listen to Phil Vischer Podcast

  • According to a CNN story, the head of Christian Copyright Licensing Inc. claims that Chris Tomlin is the most prolific songwriter in the United States right now.
  • Personally, I thought my alternative ending to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference would have been an interesting touch…
  • …but of course, truth is always stranger than fiction.  While I first read about Mark Driscoll crashing the party, I’d not heard James MacDonald’s name mentioned until this.
  • Two pieces on the subject of porn: Eric Simmons at Desiring God with I Hate Porn, and Tim Challies offering some preventative measures with The Porn-Free Family.
  • Did you see marathon swimmer Diana Nyad talking to Oprah? Is it possible to be an atheist and still be “in awe?”
  • Short Essay of the Week: What if modern technology permitted Biblical education to take place individually, and the place we gather weekly was for interaction, coaching, personal support and prayer? Be sure to read David Morrow’s The Flipped Church.
  • Medium Essay of the Week: Dancing as “keeping in step with the Spirit;” a metaphor for a life of faith, unless of course you believe that, “the praying knee can’t belong to a dancing leg.”
  • A Minnesota Pastor takes 20% of the revenue from a land deal and creates entrepreneurial opportunities for young people. Read the original CT article and this response (with video).
  • Most Provocative Title: From Catholic writer Tony Agnesi, are you Living Your Resumé or Your Eulogy?
  • Starting Over: For Jon Acuff, this particular blog represents Day Zero.
  • Academic Article of the Week: We all know what the gospel is, but if you’re studying alternative texts, what exactly is a gospel?
  • …and aggregate the Tweets of some well-known Christian academics, and you might find yourself reading Bible Gateway Bible Profs News.
  • Kid Min Corner: Unlike many children’s DVD series, Phil Vischer didn’t stop at the end of Acts. So what themes from Paul’s letters did he feel were worthy of inclusion in a kids video?
  • Youth Ministry Corner: Apparently some parents would rather just write a check to pay for missions trips, and the kids don’t want to do fundraising, either.
  • Know any Aspies? That’s a term for people with Asperger’s Syndrome; people for whom the church can feel like an alien place.
  • The blog Sliced Soup found this 18-month old guide to Hebrew pronunciation of YHWH, but as it turns out the video channel it’s from is a goldmine of instruction in Ancient Hebrew.
  • What should worship leaders do when the keyboardist who wants to join the team is a classically-trained pianist.
  • Pastors: If that illustration you’re using is actually debunked on Snopes.com, look out! Turns out Millennials like to fact-check sermons.
  • Video(s) of the Week: Two beautiful acapella song covers on YouTube by David Wesley — One Thing Remains and the more recently posted (last week) How Deep the Father’s Love.
  • People You Should Know: Another edition of the Young Influencers List.
  • Charlotte Church is now 27, but she knows the pressure put on young music stars to be hyper-sexualized.
  • Questions about the film’s ending has caused tension for the March, 2014 movie based on the life of Noah.
  • Music Flashback: From our Lost Songs collection, the worship of Calvary Chapel Downey, with the hauntingly beautiful song To be Like You.
  • Denominational stereotypes? Christianity Today answers the question, ‘Why are Google searches so much fun?’
  • Finally, if you’re going to steal stuff from a church, don’t try to flog it at a yard sale only a few streets away.

Link list curator Paul Wilkinson blogs at Christianity 201 and Thinking Out Loud, the latter of which still sports its original look and theme, an actual functioning blogroll that is updated regularly, and a merry-go-round that still operates. (Not that last thing…)

Main branch of the Kansas City Public Library.

Main branch of the Kansas City Public Library.

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.”

August 24, 2013

The Commodification of Christianity

Many times here I’ve referred to Illinois pastor and speaker Skye Jethani who also works for Leadership Journal and is responsible for this blog’s Wednesday Link List becoming part of the Out of Ur website over the course of the summer.  You can follow his blog at Skyebox.

Skye has a forthcoming book, Futureville and his most current book is With… Re-imagining the Way You Relate To God which I reviewed here. However, his first book, The Divine Commodity kept beckoning to me at the local Christian bookstore, and with a lighter summer reading schedule, I decided this would be a good time.

The Divine CommoditySkye’s passion — and if you hear him co-hosting on the Phil Vischer podcast you already know this — is that we in North America and Western Europe live in so saturated a consumer culture that it is tainting our view of what it means to follow Jesus and distorting our expectations from local churches. While untangling ourselves from this mindset isn’t easy, it has to begin with an awareness of the mess we’re in, and that’s where The Divine Commodity shines.

But as the salesman on TV says, ‘But wait… there’s more!’ The Divine Commodity also has a running metaphor running throughout each chapter pertaining to the life and work of artist Vincent Van Gogh. There are also a few color pages of pieces referred to in the book. Typically, this isn’t the type of writing that attracts me, but the art appreciation lesson truly fits here. Van Gogh also recognized that in the church of his day, something was missing; something was off course but as the salesman on TV says, ‘Your mileage may vary,’ in other words how each of responds to the consumerism prevalent in the modern church will be different.

Unfortunately, with many published writings, the theme of lament leads to books which radiate a certain negativity, but Skye Jethani doesn’t leave room for that here. While it’s true that we’ve adopted the ways of major corporations — including corporate branding — Jethani offers an argument that is criss-crossed with references to early Church history as well as contemporary authors that makes this very positive, encouraging reading. Having turned the last page of the book just hours ago, I plan to immediately start back into chapter one in order to be able to articulate his passion and concern on this with others.

My personal belief is that Skye Jethani is a bit of a diamond in the rough, and that as God continues to use his ministry, this 2009 book will get rediscovered and its somewhat prophetic message will be more fully appreciated. To watch a 30 minute sermon of Skye speaking on the closing day of the CRU (formerly Campus Crusade) staff conference, click here.

August 7, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Darwin - Cats

Is it Wednesday already? Time for another list of links of interest to people like you from blogs and websites great and small. But wait! None of the links below actually work; you need to click through to the Wednesday Link List’s new home at Out of Ur, the blog of Leadership Journal.

  • How about a 19-second video to kick things off? (Apologies to those who clicked!)
  • Frank Viola offers a completely different take on the spiritual life of John Lennon.
  • What did the Pope really say in that in-flight news conference? One writer thinks it’s not exactly what was reported.
  • You thought there were fewer this year and you were right. Stats on why not as many churches are doing VBS.
  • Got the standard 2.3 kids? John Wesley would not approve. I suppose you could call this an article about being procreative.
  • A UK church organist, 68, was walking to a midnight Christmas Eve service as he had done for 40 years when two men, both 22, beat him to death in a motiveless attack. Now, his widow offers a message of forgiveness.
  • Essay of the Month for June (but you may not like it): The atheist daughter of a noted Christian apologist shares her story so far.
  • Related: An Atheism, Theism, Agnosticism, Gnosticism infographic.
  • Essay of the Week: Ten things church worship leaders want the rest of us to understand.
  • Related: What if we looked at our church’s corporate worship time as a spiritual discipline?
  • The year isn’t even over and already we have a winner for the worst reporting of a religious story in 2013.
  • I’ll let Michael Frost Tweet this intro: “The conservative journal Christianity Today makes the case for welcoming same-sex couples to church.”
  • A blog to know about: Jesus I Will Follow You is a tumblr that answers questions from young readers on tough subjects.
  • From my own blog this week: A blog summary on the Presbyterian Church USA’s “In Christ Alone” hymnbook controversy and a look at same sex marriage in the Anglican Church of Canada.
  • It’s easy to deal with what’s appropriate beachwear for women when you’re on a Christian radio show. It’s harder when it’s your own 13-year old daughter.
  • Rob Bell is offering two more of his 2-day conferences in September and October that are already renowned for their lunch break to go surfing.
  • Music to brighten your day: Shine Bright Baby’s song from their new album Dreamers; enjoy Beautiful Love.
  • A link that takes you to more links: An Arizona pastors offers a 6-part blog series on the sins pastors commit including letting their wives manage everything on the homefront.
  • Here’s a March post which is a link to ten articles at the blog “Canon Fodder” by the author of The Question of Canon on — wait for it — ten things you should know about the New Testament canon.
  • In searching through blogs I had bookmarked months earlier, I landed on this very succinct post which I offer for your prayer consideration.
  • Before you hit the FWD button next time, here’s four reasons that Christians need to stop forwarding hoax emails.
  • A historic Roman Catholic Church that is already a shrine to a saint whose legacy is devotion to animals plans to set aside a memorial space for Fido and Fluffy.
  • Your assignment: Write a modern worship chorus utilizing the titles of television soap operas. [Warning: Consumes 4.5 valuable minutes]
  • Finally, a reminder for the end of the week, end of the month, end of the summer, or anytime you need a reminder.

I have no idea where the first graphic — the premise of which I’m not sure I agree with — originated; but the comic books below are purported to be real.  For additional wit and wisdom, follow me (please!) on Twitter. And one last time, here’s the link to today’s Wednesday Link List without the Linkectomy.

the-pat-robertson-and-friends-coloring-book-9781891053955Christian Conservative Coloring Book

July 16, 2013

Bad News / Good News for American Evangelicals

If it bleeds it leads.

So goes the adage among newspaper and television reporters when constructing the front page or the evening newscast. We tend to become more engaged by bad news stories, and for statisticians who manufacture and sell reports on everything from the consumption of soup or soap or the latest revelations of sexual trends among youth, shock sells.

The Great Evangelical RecessionThe book The Great Evangelical Recession (Baker Books, January 2013) by reporter-turned-pastor John S. Dickerson is this type of shocker. Forget the thrillers in the Christian bookstore fiction section, this book is far scarier.  The full title is The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors that will Crash the American Church…and How to Prepare. The book describes the challenges that the Evangelical church faces over the next few years. It’s a message that Canadians have been hearing recently through the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s Hemorrhaging Faith report, which I covered in this article; and Americans made aware of via a recent Pew Research Forum report which I discussed here.

The book is arranged in twelve chapters, six deal with isolating the particular urgent challenges faced by Evangelicals, and six offer hope and direction, but offered in the shadow of that same urgency.

Of the six issues there are two that I gravitated to in reading the book this weekend. The first has to do with the longstanding suspicion among many that the number of Evangelicals in the United States is grossly inflated. The author, no stranger to interpreting statistics — is more comfortable pegging the numbers at 7% or 22 million. Toward the end he states that while these numbers will be disappointing to some, there is a lot that may be accomplished by 22 million people.

The second issue concerns the financial health of churches and parachurch organizations. With each successive generation, people are becoming more stingy. Worse for local churches, is the tendency among the younger generations to prefer supporting parachurch ministries over local assemblies.

We often tie the drop in giving to the drop in the economy. But a larger undercurrent is also at play. The generation that gives almost half of total donations began passing away about three years ago. Nearly one thousand of them are called home every day. Their funerals and memorials are quietly held every morning, afternoon and evening in rural churches and metropolitan chapels across the country. Nobody seems to be noticing.

Over the next twelve years, this faithful and reliable generation will pass away. As they do, total giving will decrease by as much as half for typical evangelical ministries — nationally, regionally and locally. (p.82)

More specifically,

The older generation accounts for only 19 percent of our national church, but they give 46 percent of our donations. A combining of figures reveals that approximately 361,000 of these most generous Americans die every year, or 969 per day.  (p. 91)

And

Some optimists reason that as the younger generations age, they will become more generous. And certainly, some of them will. However, the Purdue study compares how today’s older folks gave when they were younger folks. It tells us that a 75-year-old giver today was, at age 35, far more generous than his 35-year-old counterpart today. (p. 93)

Perhaps it’s wrong on me to focus on the ‘money chapter’ especially in view of chapters that deal with the erosion of belief that accompanies the drop in church attendance. But in a book that takes its title from an economic event — recession — it seemed an appropriate section of the book to serve as example of what it is the church is facing in the long term unless some of these situations turn around.

Bradley Wright’s unofficial counterpoint to unChristian, titled Christians are Hate Filled Hypocrites, reviewed here, still must have dealt with enough potential negatives that his follow up had the more buoyant title Upside, reviewed here.  In John Dickerson’s case, the half empty glass and the half full glass are presented in a single volume. In a way, the first part of the book grabs us more, the frightful news story does indeed command the front page. But the second half — each chapter a response to the conditions described in the first — while more familiar to us, preach against a background of statistics that give their prescriptive advice much greater meaning.  Of those, I found the chapter on pursuing unity across denominational lines one of the most powerful.

The Great Evangelical Recession released in January in paperback at $14.99 US and is available from a Christian bookstore near you. Though the book deals exclusively with U.S. stats, I believe Canadians would benefit greatly from reading it as well. A review copy was provided by David C. Cook, Canada.

  • Watch a 6-minute interview with the author at Fox News

July 6, 2013

What’s Missing at the Christian Bookstore

bible bookstore

As if Christian bookstores aren’t already under siege from technology competing for leisure time spending, eBooks themselves, the rise of online ordering, and the decline in reading; some product lines are being wiped out completely. For example:

Lapel Pins: Seems silly to begin the list with what was generally a $1 – $3 item, but Christian bookstores sold a ton of the little pins. Evangelicals were the biggest customers who preferred pins that were witness items. But then everything went Casual Sunday. No suits for men = no lapels. Relaxed dress for women = no jewelry.

Bible Software: With so much available online, we don’t hear much about new software anymore. Furthermore, retailers got tired of being stuck with software that became obsolete with newer operating systems, or newer versions of the software itself.

Concordances: While it could be argued that online resources limit the need for all Bible reference products, once you’ve used online Bible websites, using a print concordance is a real pain.

Choir Music: What’s a choir?

Praise & Worship Songbooks: Surprise! You thought we were going to say hymnbooks. But in some stores hymnbooks actually sell better than worship folios and chorus books. The reason? Worship leaders get everything they need from CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing Inc.) and in the trenches, the congregation doesn’t use print music at all, as everything is projected on a screen.

Tracks: In many churches, a soloist can simply get the worship band to get charts for her/his song, and audiences prefer live music over canned music. But in many churches the “special” has gone the way of the dinosaur.

Tracts: The printing and distribution of gospel tracts was a cultural phenomenon that was an extension of a wider movement in which political broadsides were as common as religious ones on Main Street. Furthermore, current trends are moving away from conversion by argument. However, the cream always rises to the top, so tracts like Steps to Peace with God still sell well.

Bookmarks: If fewer books are selling, then that means fewer bookmarks.

Coloring Books: Older elementary kids can do amazing things on their Mac or PC, so you’re not going to impress them with a coloring book and a package of four crayons.

Pencils: This was once a huge industry with over a hundred available designs from a half-dozen suppliers. But you aren’t going to impress a kid today with a 29-cent pencil. (Unless maybe you throw in a coloring book.)

Sunday Bulletins: Churches large and small can create amazing color graphics on the church computer, and megachurches send all their weekend bulletin needs to a local print shop. Ditto brides planning their weddings or families constructing a print memorial to be given out at a funeral. So while Broadman, Warner, Cathedral Art and others can claim healthy sales, the handwriting is on the wall, or more accurately, on the laser printer. 

Clip Art: This is somewhat related to bulletins, but in a class by itself. A reader noticed I had omitted clip art when another version of this ran yesterday at another blog I manage. In this case clip art, books got trumped by technology with clip art CD-ROMs, which then got trumped by material available online.

Sunday School Record Books: Attendance records still exist as parents use a swipe card to check their kids in and out of the Children’s Ministry Center, but there’s no need for wall charts and stickers. Besides, what organized sports couldn’t do to disrupt church attendance, the demands of parents’ shift-work jobs did. Many kids can only make it every other week.

Christian Magazines: In days of yore, when the pastor came to visit, you demonstrated your spirituality by having Christian Life and Moody Monthly prominently displayed on the coffee table. Nothing needed to fill the gap here because increasingly, the pastor doesn’t come to visit.

The upside? The owners, managers and staff at Christian bookstores have fewer distractions and can better focus their energies on books and Bibles, and growing departments such as DVDs. 

Your local Christian store staff are doing frontline, marketplace ministry. They are the hands and feet of the local church in the retail square. Pray for them. Encourage them. Support them.

July 3, 2013

Wednesday Link List

lynx 3Today we kick off a new chapter; the link list moves to its new home at Leadership Journal’s Out of Ur website, a ministry of Christianity Today. I’ve been reading Out of Ur since long before I started blogging, so this is a real honor. Here’s a link direct to today’s Wednesday Link List. Please be sure to click through. (They didn’t take the List Lynx pictured at right however, at least not so far…) Also remember it’s just the Wednesday list that’s moving; we’ll be back here tomorrow with the content you’ve come to loathe love here at Thinking Out Loud!

UPDATE: In November, 2013, we updated the July WLL posts here to restore the links. (The first month never had them at all here in any form.) I might periodically go back and update older ones just so we have a record here of the original sources.

June 28, 2013

Church Sucks

Church Sucks

Okay, like you, I got really nervous when I saw the above phrase in a book review at Church Central.  Nothing like being provocative, I guess. Here’s a fuller explanation:

Scott Oldenburgh is Campus Pastor for The Church on Rush Creek Mansfield West (Texas).  His new book is entitled Church Sucks: But it Doesn’t Have to Stay that Way, (Fort Worth: Austin Brothers Publishing, 2013).

To fully understand Scott’s heart, you need to read the first paragraph of the Introduction:

“Let me start by saying that I am well aware the use of the word ‘sucks’ is a turnoff for many people in the church world.  However, after several attempts at rewording and rethinking the possible title of this book, I decided to keep it.  Let me explain my thinking.  There are times in life when the only phrase that seems to fit is, ‘Well, this just sucks!’”  (p. 1)

The reality is that those of us who have served churches for very long completely understand what Pastor Oldenburgh means either through our own experiences or through observation.

Pastor Oldenburgh begins with some of his own negative experiences in church.  Scott says, “I gave my life to Christ at age 15 and God began to quickly reveal two things to me: First, I had the spiritual gift of leadership and second, there were things about church that just didn’t make sense” (p. 5).  He recounts his experiences of how churches he served veered off mission and how leaders sabotaged the effectiveness of those churches.  He goes on to explain how damaging this is to churches, to the Kingdom of God, to church leaders, and to those leaders’ families.

The third chapter of the book gets to the heart of the matter: Church Isn’t Supposed to Suck.  Scott says, “When you are faced with a situation in life that just sucks, you will be forced to make some difficult and life changing decisions.  What is clear is that God does not desire for you to continue to have the life that He gave you simply sucked out of you!”  (p. 27)

Pastor Oldenburgh builds his thesis with these chapters:

Church Sucks When . . .
Vision Gets Sucked Out by Tradition
Joy Gets Sucked Out by Busyness
The Joy of Serving is Sucked Out by a Sense of Duty
“Serve Me” is More Important than “Serve Others”
Spiritual Growth Gets Sucked Out by Entertainment
Trust Gets Sucked Out by Bad Leadership
Grace Gets Sucked Out by Legalism
Authenticity Gets Sucked Out by Make Believe

continue reading here

The book cover image was sourced at ChurchSucksConsulting.com — It’s not every day that life hands you both a provocative post title and a hilarious book cover.  132 paperback pages from Austin Brothers Publishing; US SRP $15. 9780985326395

June 17, 2013

We’re All Afraid

Filed under: Church, current events, music — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:38 am
We're weather obsessed: Websites like Intellicast.com track active storm systems, while Wind Map (pictured above) shows active wind patterns at hint.fm/wind

We’re weather obsessed: Websites like Intellicast.com track active storm systems, while Wind Map (pictured above) shows active wind patterns at hint.fm/wind

I think we’re all afraid.

Different reasons in each case, but I know that my American friends — who comprise the majority of readers here — are wondering quite literally which way the wind is going to blow. Communities not devastated by hurricanes and tornadoes have been shattered by gun violence. It makes you want to build a shelter in the basement and then just stay there.

I base some of this on a monitoring of some of the worship songs that some churches did over the weekend. A recently released song by Tim Timmons invites me to Cast My Cares while Sunday Setlist founder Fred McKinnon borrowed a mainstream music song, Home by Phillip Phillips which reminds us we’re not alone.

Years ago, in a very accusatory tone, people said, ‘Christianity is a crutch.’ In other words, people who can’t get by need a faith to face the hard times. But in 2013, I believe that while we need the God’s strength to face each moment of the day, we want to have a faith that is more than just a coping mechanism.

Jesus promised us an abundant life. The Greek translated means in great quantity and in superior quality. ‘Where is that abundant life?’ people might well ask. Of course an abiding joy doesn’t mean circumstances are perfect and everybody is — to quote a children’s song from another era — “inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.” No, an abiding joy transcends the circumstances; it is joy in trials, peace in storms.

…Still, I think you’re going to see more worship songs that deal with our anxieties and our fears.  Our own worship this morning began with the Brenton Brown song All Who Are Thirsty.

All who are thirsty
All who are weak
Come to the fountain
Dip your heart in the stream life

Let the pain and the sorrow
Be washed away
In the waves of His mercy
As deep cries out to deep

We sing Come, Lord Jesus, come

Our music and our sermons are allowed to reflect the times we live in and the situations we face. God’s Word doesn’t change and we need our worship and teaching to be Word-directed and Word-centered, but at the same time, we have to acknowledge the felt needs people are experiencing.


The past weekends at Thinking Out Loud have contained a number of columns that Monday-to-Friday readers miss. Be sure to scroll through the back pages of the blog and feel free to comment.

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