Thinking Out Loud

January 2, 2013

Wednesday Link List

II Cor 10_13--15  Online Translation

And you thought I would take the day off, didn’t you? Well, the link list crew worked all New Year’s Day to bring this to you.

  • Russell D. Moore has a unique observation post from which to consider the decision by the Russian government to suspend adoptions of Russian children by Americans. I think his two Russian born children would agree with his summary.
  • Hi readers. Meet Matt Rawlings. Matt read 134 books last year. How did you do? 
  • And here’s another Matt. Matt Appling has put together an amazing essay on why the concept of shame is ripe for a comeback.
  • David Murrow has an interesting idea in which popular TV pastors are a brand that is a type of new denomination. He also has other ideas about what the church will look like in 50 years. (Or read the Todd Rhoades summary.)
  • Some readers here also blog, and if that’s you, perhaps you do the “top posts” thing. (I don’t.) But if you had a post-of-the-year, I can almost guarantee it weren’t nothin’ like this must-read one.
  • “This is the most egregious violation of religious liberty that I have ever seen.” Denny Burk on what is largely a U.S.-based story, but with justice issues anyone can appreciate: The case of Hobby Lobby.
  • Can some of you see yourself in this story? “It’s really hard for me to read God’s word without dissecting it. I like to have commentaries and cross references. I like to take notes. I like to circle, underline, rewrite. And then my time with God turns into another homework assignment.” I can. More at Reflect blog.
  • This one may be sobering for a few of you. David Fitch offers three signs that you are not a leader, at least where the Kingdom of God is concerned.
  • “We put people into leadership roles too early, on purpose. We operate under the assumption that adults learn on a need-to-know basis. The sooner they discover what they don’t know, the sooner they will be interested in learning what they need to know…At times, it creates problems. We like those kinds of problems…” Read a sample of Andy Stanley’s new book, Deep and Wide, at Catalyst blog.
  • So for some of you, 2013 represents getting back on the horse again, even though you feel you failed so many times last year. Jon Acuff seems to understand what you’re going through.
  • Dan Gilgoff leaves the editor’s desk at CNN Belief Blog after three years and notes five things he learned in the process.
  • More detail on the Westboro petition(s) at the blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars; along with our get well wishes to blog proprietor Ed Brayton, recovering from open heart surgery.
  • Rachel Held Evans mentioned this one yesterday: The How To Talk Evangelical Project.  Sample: “If Christianese was a language, evangelical was our own special dialect. A cadence. A rhythm…” Click the banner at the top for recent posts.
  • Not sure how long this has been available, but for all you Bible study types,  here’s the ultimate list for academically-inclined people who want to own the best Bible commentary for each Bible book. (And support your local bookstore if you still have one!)
  • Bob Kauflin salutes the average worship leader, working with the average team at the average church. Which despite what you see online is mostly people like us.
  • Flashback all the way to September for this one: Gary Molander notes that the primary work of a pastor is somewhat in direct conflict with the calling they feel they are to pursue. He calls it, Why is it So Stinkin’ Hard to Work for a Church?
  • Nearly three years ago, we linked to this one and it’s still running: CreationSwap.com where media shared for videos, photos, logos, church bulletins, is sold or given away by thousands of Christian artists.

Christian books I hope you never see

November 21, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Try to have your link suggestions in by 8:00 PM EST Monday.

August 21, 2012

The Perils of Successful Online Churches

On Sunday Andy Stanley looked right into the camera and said (more or less), “If you’re watching this online you need to turn off the computer right now and get dressed and find a local church.” I just about fell out of my chair. 

“That took courage;” I whispered to my wife.

In a series of articles at the blog, Church Marketing Sucks (yes, it’s called that) Jon Rogers notes the success of the online church service:

LifeChurch.tv has surpassed their physical audience as their church online experience already tops 3 million unique visitors in 2012 (there are around 100,000-120,000 unique visitors at Church Online each week). However currently there aren’t metrics for tracking those who only attend online and how often.

If your church is considering putting your service online, there is much useful practical advice here.

May 10, 2012

Is Not the Whole More Than the Sum of the Parts?

I was thinking about the Andy Stanley sermon controversy when my weekly blog trip took me past a January item that appeared at Kevin deYoung’s blog concerning Jeff Bethke’s mega-popular spoken word video, Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus.  (I’m actually expected to say, “at The Gospel Coalition” instead of “…deYoung’s blog,” as this is a very elite company, but I’ve never been big on formalities here.) 

deYoung is part of the young angry restless Reformed group, though he approached his exegesis of Bethke’s text in a gentle and balanced way that resulted in a couple of pleasant email exchanges between the two. 

It turns out Bethke was/is still fairly young in his faith, and wrote the piece never expecting it get the 21,000,000 views it has now received.  deYoung may have allowed for that possibility but as Frank Turk pointed out in the piece that directed me to KdY’s at TGC, with all those views comes a certain responsibility.

Kevin deYoung’s blogroll — all the usual suspects

Basically, anybody can say anything in obscure quarters of the internet, but once your efforts become a blip on the wider radar, you are subject to closer scrutiny.  deYoung justifies this: “I know the internet is a big place, but a lot of people are connected to a lot of other people.”

At that point it becomes, ‘I know your intention was to say X, Y, and Z; but in the process of doing so, you must not omit including A, B, and C.”

Now, I arrived late to the party — the article was posted January 13th — but I think Kevin deYoung and many of his band of followers are analyzing the words spoken but missing the heart of the speaker.

And that’s exactly what many — Albert Mohler, Jr. being the most notable — are doing with Andy Stanley’s sermon illustration. While it’s a badge of honor to jump on the bandwagon that Stanley’s story is approving of gay marriage, I personally consider it a badge of honor to have watched the sermon live and been able to read the heart of what Stanley was saying, while at the same time thinking, ‘Some people are going to be uncomfortable with this particular narrative to make this particular point.’

The question we have to ask ourselves at times like this, is: ‘Are we looking for problems?’ But sometimes, the problem isn’t what a major church pastor doesn’t say, but what his congregation thinks he’s saying.

Which leaves me wondering what to do with John Piper’s recent encyclical featured at Christian Post.

…I dealt with a couple one time. They were sitting in front of me, and she said, “He learned from you that I have to get permission from him for everything I do.” I said, “Really? Like what?” And she said, “To go to the bathroom! He won’t let me leave the room without his permission. If I get up and walk out of the room, he says, ‘Hey, you’re supposed to ask me first.’”

The key line being, “He learned from you…”

Which, a few paragraphs later, brings us to:

So the answer would be, clearly, Yes, there are people who would draw lines in places that they shouldn’t be drawn.

That any of this needed to be said at all attracted the intention of the keepers of The Wartburg Watch.

I contend that complementarianism has been made a primary issue by the Calvinista crowd. Times have changed. Years ago, it did not overly concern me that there were people who believed in a young earth. I subscribed to the CS Lewis philosophy (paraphrased) that people who believe that God has a long white beard will still be able to go to heaven. It was only when I was made a target by a bunch of rabid young earthers who actually believed that a salvation issue might be involved I reconsidered my stance. Then I got interested, real interested.

The same applies to the subject of complementarianism. I knew some folks who believed in strict complementarianism but it was one of those agree to disagree things. That is, until I started to realize that this issue was going in the same direction as the “young earth or be damned” group. For several years, Deb and I have  predicted that more and more would need to be written in order to justify a rabid defense of such a doctrine. Unfortunately, we have been proven right.

First came the Eternal Subordination of the Son, which has been used to justify a belief  that women will submit to men in all eternity. I do not know if these men understand that I would consider it hell if I were forced to submit to the likes of Driscoll, et al. for eternity. 

Then John Piper and Tim Challies came out with a new mandate that women are not allowed to read the Bible out loud in church services. Challies, in a post I like to call “Hubris Rising,”  also “instructs” the great unwashed males in proper breathing and diction techniques, appearing to indicate that stutterers and those with COPD need not apply.Link

Finally, there was the startling Russell Moore pronouncement that he strongly dislikes the term “complementarians” and prefers the word “patriarchy…” Link

…Piper then discusses that we should be sensitive in how we apply “biblical clarity” in such situations. However, he adds no “clarity” to this situation except to say that women do not have to ask their husbands permission to go to the bathroom. Why does he not “clarify” his belief structure in this matter? Could it be that it might be a bit awkward for him?

Is he aware that some of his buddies have encouraged some distinctly odd and even abusive behaviors, on occasion? Piper says,“And we’re going to probably make different judgments about that.” He is discussing Biblical clarity and then says we are going to see things differently? So much for “clarity.”  There’s the rub. Here are “examples” of “clarity” and “differing judgements” that have been reported by those who claim to have attended churches that are pastored by good buddies of Piper.

  • Women must ask their husband’s permission to attend Bible study.
  • Women must drop what they are doing and bring coffee to their husbands at work as soon as they are commanded. (A game a few pastors played to “show” the obedience of their wives.”
  • Women should sit in the back of the church.
  • Women should not go to college.
  • Daughters should stay at home with daddy until they are married and should tend to daddy’s needs.
  • Women should not teach baptized boys.

Before leaving this, I do want to post what was the first of about 200 comments the piece at TWW has received:

Sad as it sounds, I’ve heard women who killed their husbands and went to prison say they prefer prison to their life with their husband. When asked why, their response was that “at least they could go to the bathroom without asking.”

And this one:

When I was in the patriarchy “camp” for awhile there was this wild thing going about communion. Husbands would serve their wives and daughters communion at family-integrated church. If for some reason Papa wasn’t available to do so, then the oldest son or next oldest son would do it. Mama & daughters could not/should not go get their own communion.

And this:

John Piper is going to discover that he will be unable to dial back his acolytes after this many decades.

…In the Andy Stanley case or Jeff Bethke case we’re dealing with assumptions based on silence or omissions; a sermon illustration raises some parallel issues and instead of accepting the analogy we get lost in the periphery of the story.

In the case of John Piper, the directive is taken too far, the assumptions are based on what was said, but the effects are disastrous and detrimental.

I’m convinced the common link is people hearing and not hearing what they want or don’t want to hear.

Image: David Kreklau’s blog

October 22, 2011

Saturday Silliness: How to Tell if You’re a Megachurch

Carlos Whitaker at Ragamuffin Soul, a definite insider on this issue, nails it with this checklist:

  • You might be a megachurch is your green room looks nicer that 95% of your attendees living rooms.
  • You might be a megachurch if you film sermon video illustrations on location in other countries.
  • You might be a megachurch if people take celebrity pictures of the pastor during his sermon.
  • You might be a megachurch if you have more people on staff to run a Sunday than American Idol has on staff to run a Wednesday.
  • You might be a megachurch if kids throw a tantrum when the moving lights aren’t working in their Sunday School.
  • You might be a megachurch if your pastor has had more work done than most of the women in your church.
  • You might be a megachurch if your worship department has not one single ugly person in it.
  • You might be a megachurch if your pastors security detail mimics the Secret Service.
  • You might be a megachurch if there are more police officers directing traffic into your parking lot than manning the streets of your neighborhood on a Sunday morning.

Thanks, Carlos.  Now then, click over to his blog and read the additional definitions his readers came up with…    No, really, you must read the comments.

September 30, 2008

Better Isn’t Necessarily Bigger

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:38 pm

Size matters:  Small group Bible study from Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church

Kent Shaffer at ChurchRelevance.com has posted a teaser of the Top 100 Churches list published annually by Outreach Magazine.   You can read his listing of the Top 15, and you’ll notice the following:

  • Lakewood (Joel Osteen) stays at #1 for the third year in a row, with no one else even close
  • Ed Young’s Second Baptist Church of Houston captures the #2 spot from Willow Creek
  • Andy Stanley’s Northpoint Community Church (including Billings Bridge and Buckhead) has ascended from #12 (2006) to #7 (last year) to #3
  • Willow Creek (Bill Hybels) has slipped to #4
  • Lifechurch.tv (Craig Groeschel’s 11 locations) stays locked at #5 for the second year
  • Saddleback (Rick Warren) is #8

In a reply to a comment, Kent points out you need at least 7,000 people to be considered.   (Given that, I don’t think one single church in Canada would qualify.)   Questions:

  • Have you felt a desire to visit a megachurch?
  • If you were a seeker, would the megachurch experience somewhat alter your understanding of basic Christianity?
  • If you go to a smaller church, do you envy people who are part of these congregations or do you think they should be envying you?
  • Is your general attitude, “Who cares?”  Are you somewhat unimpressed by this preoccupation with size?

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