Thinking Out Loud

March 26, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Football Cross at MontanaWestUSA(dot)com

We’re back with another mid-week link meeting! Here’s what your brothers and sisters from random parts of the big ‘C’ church were up to this week. Clicking any of the links below will take you to PARSE, the list’s benevolent patron.

Stay in touch with Paul Wilkinson during the week on Twitter.

Our closing cartoon is rather interesting, don’t you think? The artist is Jess MacCallum and you can click the image to see more.

Evolution Cartoon at JessMacCallum(dot)com

February 11, 2014

Take a Break, Just Don’t Tell Anyone

When I was young there was a story about a girl in our school who took off to spend a year going to school in England. I learned later that ‘spend a year in England’ was a euphemism for her family wanted her out of sight while she was pregnant and had a baby. This was a time when pregnant teens were less commonplace, and the family didn’t want her condition to be an embarrassment. Today, in one of our local high schools, the girls bring their babies with them to class. Not this particular time and place. It reminds me of Joseph in the Christmas story wanting to “put her [Mary] away quietly.”

I thought about this when Bill told me about Hank. Bill attended a church in a city about 30 minutes away, and I had heard that their pastor had been given a four-month sabbatical. Nice non-work if you can get it, I suppose. Now I realize there are some solid reasons why pastors should be cut some slack; recently someone posted five good ones. Personally, with the exception of two days in August at a cottage where it seemed the phone never stopped ringing with issues back at work, my wife and I have not a break at all since October, 2012.  Heck, I’d check into a local motel right about now just for the experience of sleeping in a different bed and using the inn’s soap and shampoo. We’re not picky.

sabbaticalBut for Bill, the problem was that Hank was a local farmer who had worked his tail off for 46 years without any significant vacation. And the argument that “pastors are on call 24 hours a day” just didn’t cut it with a farmer who had both grain crops and livestock. Who worked 16-hour days, six and a half days a week.

The theory was the next generation would take over. In practice, the three boys couldn’t wait to get off the farm. After high school they went into trades that were more tech-based. Nothing to do with agriculture. No cows, no corn in their futures.

Bill wasn’t even on the church board. He was just a guy that Hank thought could explain sabbatical to him. And Bill was caught in the middle, knowing that pastors take sabbaticals but also realizing that Hank would never quite get it.

“You mean we’re still going to be paying him?” he asked Bill.

“Yes,” Bill said, “He still gets his salary.”

And when Bill told me the story, that’s when it hit me. While there’s no shame in taking a break every seven years, Bill’s pastor needed to borrow a chapter from the girl whose family wanted to disguise the nature of her absence.

“Hank,” I would say, “The pastor’s going to help out a church in England. It’s sort of a mission trip.”

Except that would be a lie.

January 19, 2014

ADHD Sermon Notes

Filed under: Church, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:45 am

sermon notes The pastor preached eloquently this morning, weaving together contemporary illustrations and stories from his own life with related scriptures, the meaning of key words in the text, a fuller understanding of the context for today’s reading, a recap of the main points, and a couple of ways we can apply the lesson to everyday life.

Now, as I write this, and stop and consider further what he said, I realize I have no idea what the message was about.


ADHD or everyone? Do you sometimes see yourself in this situation?

About the image: I doubt Lauren Finley (click image to link) is ADHD, but I needed an illustration and it seemed like something someone might do if they were. On the other hand, some people function better taking notes with a built-in distraction, just as I often play Solitaire while I’m listening to Andy Stanley online.

December 28, 2013

Holiday Link List

edited Christmas cardr

With both Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on a Wednesday, we offer this mid-point link list today, with the regular schedule returning January 8th. (Actually, I think that’s supposed to say, “returning, Lord willing on January 8th…”)  If you’re new here, there was a corporate takeover of the link list in July, so all roads below lead to Out of Ur, the blog of Leadership Today magazine.

 

December 21, 2013

Tweetering on the Edge: Karl Vaters

Karl VatersThose of you who follow my other blog, Christianity 201, know that I have a high respect for people who keep a tight spiritual focus on their social media. If you’re a pastor who also enjoys NASCAR, in my view that’s two blogs, not one; and possibly two Twitter feeds as well.

I only follow about 100 people on Twitter, but through hearing about a small church conference several weeks ago, Karl Vaters ( @KarlVaters ) came to be one of them. He also blogs at NewSmallChurch.com. Despite the preponderance of mega-sized places of worship, churches with less than 100 adults present on Sunday morning is the reality at about a quarter of all U.S. churches and nearly half of all Canadian churches. As Karl states in one article, the contrast can be confusing:

…[I]n any city where there is a church of 10,000, there aren’t just 100 Small Churches with 10,000 people attending – there are probably 1,000 Small Churches with 100,000 people attending. That’s reality. Small Churches outnumber megachurches by 1,000 to 1. And Small Church members outnumber megachurch members by 10 to 1.

Although I think his target audience is pastors and church leaders, he posts some great links that I think many of you might enjoy…

Well…that’s enough to get you started. Or simply subscribe to Karl’s blog or Twitter.

Tweetering on the Edge is a new monthly feature at Thinking Out Loud

December 4, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Awkward Moments Children's Bible

This week, many links that will be of interest to pastors and church leaders, along with the usual dash of quirkiness. The list is posted each week at Out of Ur, a blog of Leadership Today, a division of Christianity Today. Click here to read.

Looking for more substance, why not click over to Christianity 201.

October 2, 2013

Wednesday Link List

This is what greeted worshipers as they arrived at church on Sunday; Mrs. W. snapped a picture.

This is what greeted worshipers as they arrived at church on Sunday; Mrs. W. snapped a picture.

[B]link and you’ll miss it!  As per usual, the links are missing in all the stories below. You have two options: (a) spend hours using search engines to try to figure out where the pirate treasure is buried (see above) or (b) visit the Link List’s new owners at Out of Ur

  • Usually the video links come near the end. But not when it’s a new song by Gungor.
  • So why does Compassion invite online writers to apply for one of their overseas trips if they only choose A-list faith bloggers?
  • Apparently a respected Canadian Bible college has some history with the world’s favorite funeral protestor.
  • If 150 churches donated $1,000, it would buy a home for Saeed Abedini’s family. Meanwhile, Billy Graham asks Iran’s President for Saeed’s release, as does President Obama.
  • Two architectural firms are set to begin the transformation of the former Crystal Cathedral into a Catholic-friendly facility.
  • Seven years later, the wife of the Amish schoolhouse shooter breaks her silence.
  • A Chinese pastor thinks Rick Warren needs a lesson in cultural sensitivity, while the blogger known as Naked Pastor discusses the same adapted Red Guard propaganda poster.
  • A Wisconsin truck driver has so far spent over half a million dollars funding a billboard ministry on major highways.
  • A pastor in Louisiana was shot to death during a Friday night church service. Then, after reading that, the story gets worse a few days later.
  • When their daughter’s wedding was canceled, the parents of the bride invited 200 homeless people to the four-course meal that would have been the reception.
  • Essay(s) of the Week: A tie between two pieces by Hannah Anderson, her piece on Childlessness, and an open letter to her insurance company.
  • Married people remember their single days with affection, but for those still single, their experience doesn’t match the stories.
  • Why clergy shouldn’t dispense medical advice: Women who drive automobiles risk damaging their ovaries.
  • A Church planter proves the axiom that hindsight is always 20/20 .
  • History Lesson: Once upon a time, people wrote music reviews of new albums.
  • Some pastoral leadership errors can be overcome, but there are three mistakes you really want to avoid.
  • Church. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. But it’s the best because of what Jesus is doing.
  • Speculative Church History Department: Would U.S. President Barak Obama bomb the Canaanites?
  • Speculative Music History Department: What if The Beatles sang theology?
  • The problem with prostitution is that we sugarcoat it instead of seeing it as a form of rape.
  • Bible Translation of the Week: The International Standard Version, version 2.0 (that would be the ISV-V2.0)
  • Alternative Bible Version of the Week: God is Disappointed in You; by humorist Mark Russell along with a cartoonist from New Yorker magazine.
  • Also in the humor section of your local e-bookstore is  Joel Osteen’s Jokes: Collection of Joel Osteen’s Funniest Short, Clean Jokes. Apparently this is the latest in the potentially copyright-infringing series called Joel’s Gems.
  • Seems like everywhere you turn, there is a television show with a faith-based theme.
  • Finally, there are some great articles online promoting Christian higher education, and then, on the other hand, there’s hype and propaganda.

Now you’re curious, right?  Click over to Out of Ur, a website of Christianity Today.

I love this photo of the work done by the girls at this year's Fine Arts Edge Camp at Camp IAWAH in Ontario, Canada

I love this photo of the work done by the girls at this year’s Fine Arts Edge Camp at Camp IAWAH in Ontario, Canada

July 28, 2013

Megachurch Pastor Practices Vulnerability

Filed under: Church, ministry — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:11 am

Bruxy Cavey Bus

You can choose to go to a church of 10,000 – 20,000 people and never actually have a conversation with the person who teaches you each Sunday. In the modern megachurch, lead pastors don’t do weddings, don’t do funerals, and if you ask to meet for counseling, you are passed on to someone else on church staff.

Which is probably why I was so impressed when NavPress author – The End of Religion –  and teaching pastor of The Meeting House in Oakville (west Toronto) Bruxy Cavey, Tweeted this while walking through Canada’s largest city last Sunday night:

Hanging out on Queen St downtown Toronto. Any Meeting Housers in the area wanna grab a drink & a chat? Text or call me.

I don’t know what kind of response he got — he has 7,100 followers — but I do appreciate his willingness to connect with the people of his tribe totally spontaneously. And I admire the vulnerability in throwing the invitation open to anybody, even that guy who always wants to engage in a long and tedious conversation. (And sometimes, in other contexts, I think I may have actually been that guy.)

Learn more about one of Canada’s most cutting-edge churches at The Meeting House and Bruxy’s blog.

May 1, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Church History

The week in review:

Christian music industry faces critical shortage of album titles

Christian music industry faces critical shortage of album titles; our reporters are investigating

March 7, 2013

The Edge, Shock Value and Shifting Standards

There are going to be people who think me a little too conservative for not posting the cover of the book referred to in today’s earlier post. Sigh.

no-godIt seems that we live in a time when standards are shifting, and even if your values are less progressive, it never hurts to go for shock value, as in Peter Enns’ article Why I Don’t Believe in God Anymore. Perhaps it’s just that people who blog on the Patheos platform are expected to be more controversial, but the word “God” with the red circle and red slash through it seems a bit over the top.

Peter Enns actually does believe in God, at least in the way most of you think. His article is saying that for him it’s really about trust.

…“Belief” in God connotes–at least as I see it–a set of ideas about God that may, if time allows, eventually make their way to other parts of my being…

…I see a huge difference between “I believe in a God who cares for me” and “I trust God at this particular moment.” The first is a bit safer, an article of faith. The latter is unnerving, risky–because I have let go…

In a way, Enns’ view is at the heart of Christian living. As people approach crossing the line of faith, our great desire is to see them reach that point of belief; but once the line has been crossed, the center of the Lordship of Christ is trusting Him with every area, every department of our lives.

I know someone who hasn’t crossed that line yet, but I know the ‘gay’ question is going to come up at some point and when it does I’m going to say, “Look, I want to let you in our playbook. Right now our concern for you is about believing, but for those of us on the inside, the fundamental question is: Can God be trusted? Can we see that out of good, better and best, He does indeed have a best for each of us, an ideal which represents His highest intentions?”

Trusting God has having our ultimate highest good in mind is a better way of framing difficult questions. It’s possible to look at people in an adulterous relationship and say, “I know you expect me to say what’s wrong with what you’re doing, but I want to ask you, ‘What’s right about what you’re doing? What do you derive from this that makes it worth the various inconveniences?’” I believe you could equally ask, “What’s right about your incestuous relationship that makes it worth the effort of keeping the secret?” or “What’s right about your gay relationship that makes it worth the separation from your family?”

It’s not rhetorical.  You’re going to get some answers in most cases. What makes it good. And then it’s easy to say, “I believe God’s intention was beyond good, beyond better. I believe God had a best, but we’re afraid of fully trusting Him.”

However, it’s important not to let this much more compassionate, much more sympathetic approach not undermine the idea of trusting God for the best. It’s vital that in the process, we don’t take scissors to scripture and excise the passages we think don’t fit.

Which brings us to United Methodist pastor Dave Barnhart’s article How Being a Pastor Changed My Thinking on Homosexuality. This piece has received a lot of attention online and is emblematic of what happens when theological convictions are transferred to real people engaged in real living in a real world.

Most people who have wrestled with this issue have come to recognize the personal disconnect that takes place when the convictions we would write on a list shatter in the face of people who have been damaged by dogma. No one reading scripture thoroughly can help but be caught in the middle of God’s holiness and judgment versus God’s compassion toward those who ‘miss the mark’ of His greatest standards.

The article says,

Being a pastor is more about being willing to be led by God and changed by the people I meet than issuing infallible decrees from a pulpit, more about admitting I’m wrong and sharing my frailty than pretending I know God’s will on a given subject. One friend describes preaching as a “homiletical wager,” and I’ve come to believe that pastoring, presuming to be a spiritual leader, is bit like gambling with God, where the stakes are very high but I’m betting the game is rigged toward grace.

So again, the title is edgy, it certainly goes for shock value, but has the writer really changed his view on the standards that God holds up for us, or has he simply come to see those standards in the light of mercy, come to a desire to confront the way The Church attempts to mete out its version of upholding God’s best?

Conservatives and traditionalists may feel the spiritual sky is falling, but I prefer to think of the present spiritual climate more in terms of a shaking. Too many people wrote things in ink that they should have written in pencil, or even chalk. But a massive rethink of terminology or approach doesn’t mean that we’ve completely tossed all our formerly held convictions.

As pendula swing wildly, the place of balance, the place of rest, is ultimately somewhere in the middle.

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