Thinking Out Loud

July 22, 2014

Guest Post: Carlo Raponi — Sudden Urgency

Carlo Raponi is Evangelism Outreach Director with Kawartha Youth Unlimited, a Youth for Christ chapter in Peterborough, a city about 75 minutes northeast of Toronto, Canada. This is his second time at Thinking Out Loud.


There is not a day that I can remember where I’ve woken up alone in the world. Literally. I have no memory of any day of my life where I spent a whole day without ever encountering a single person. I think that if this ever happened it would carry with it a strange unfamiliar feeling that only gets seen in post-apocalyptic horror films. Instead, I, like all of us, am surrounded by people every day.

Most of the people we see are people we don’t know, many are people that we do; and some we only get to see on occasion. However they are all people that come into our spheres of influence. They are people with whom we have a chance to share the message of Jesus. Some of these encounters afford us time to develop His narrative slowly; other encounters require a faster and more succinct explanation of His hope. Either way, they all pass before us with a ‘best before’ date invisibly stamped upon them.

Last weekend one of the youth that attends The Bridge Youth Center told me that she’s moved to Toronto. She was only in town to deal with some court issues and then she would be returning back to the city. She is a girl that I have known for a few years now. When she first began coming in to the youth center she was a walking terror. Loud, boisterous and with a stubbornness that seemed incorrigible…she reminded me a little of myself. Perhaps that’s why we connected so well. But now she would be leaving, possibly for good. And so I apologized to her.

She asked me why I needed to apologize and I told her that in the years we have known each other I have approached the subject of our need for Jesus and who He is, but I never sat her down and REALLY challenged her. The ‘time’ never seemed right or the ’occasion’ didn’t present itself. There always seemed to be a reason that trumped the moment. Now she was leaving and I felt that I had done her wrong by not introducing her to the greatest thing she could ever possess – a relationship with the one who could change everything she knew about everything she knows.

I told her about a friend who’s younger brother had asked him the awkward question. He asked if he thought that the young brother would go to hell for not believing in Jesus. When the awkward reply came out as a ‘yes’ the younger brother’s response was, “…then if you love me, why haven’t you sat me down to tell me about Jesus?”

I told her that I owed her an apology because I wasn’t intentional enough to prove that I care by sharing this truth with her. The conversation that ensued was beautiful and honest, on both our behalves. It ended with her making a promise to find a church that she likes and to attend it 3 times. After that she could do as she pleases. With a smile she made me a pinky-promised that turned into a weird handshake of sorts (then I took this picture of it for proof).

the handshake

Now I must entrust her faith into the hands of God and the actions of others who I hope will do a better and more proactive job than I did. But I won’t forget this lesson. People pass in front of us every day. We’re surrounded by people all the time. There is a reason for this.

 ~ Carlo Raponi

 


 

Previously at Thinking out Loud: Three Conversations and a Wedding (March 2012)

July 16, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Abraham Isaac Jacob postage stamps

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

How Cats Ended Up With Nine Lives

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

Rapture Survivor Card

July 2, 2014

Wednesday Link List

hypocrites

A Happy Independence Day to our U.S. readers and a one-day belated Happy Canada Day to readers in the land north of the 49th. On with the linkage…

When not playing one of the 820 Solitaire variants while listening to sermon podcasts, Paul Wilkinson blogs at at Thinking Out Loud, edits the devotional blog Christianity 201, and provides hints of the following week’s link list on Twitter.

June 17, 2014

When Outrage Becomes Fashionable

Last week Leadership Journal — the same organization that publishes my Wednesday Link List — stirred up a hornets’ nest when they published an article by a former youth pastor now serving time in prison for sexually abusing a girl in the youth group.

For people who have had to deal with any kind of sexual abuse, this article struck a lot nerves, but not in the way you might think. Rather, there was a groundswell of feeling that the language in the piece elevated the author beyond what he deserves, that it appeared to be prescriptive at a time the author should not be giving advice, and that it somewhat soft-pedaled what took place using words like affair or relationship when the legal system would clearly define it as rape.

To publish or not to publishThat Leadership Journal is a division of Christianity Today, Inc. only added to the controversy.

I became aware of this taking place on Twitter — where readers seized the hashtag #takedownthatpost — and followed it early on in real time since I now have more than a passing interest in what happens at LJ and CT. Later Tweets revealed that several Leadership Journal staffers were away at the time, but eventually a three-paragraph disclaimer was added to the beginning of the story, and then, about a day later, the six-page post was removed entirely with an apology.

I think, at that point, removing the article was the only sensible thing to do.

Rather, what concerns me is something I felt while all this was going on, namely that being outraged by this particular article became a Twitter trend. People, some of whom I am quite sure have never paid LJ any attention prior to this, simply joined the bandwagon because that was the correct thing to do.Again, I don’t want to minimize the seriousness of the subject the article discussed. I merely want to make an observation here that for a few days last week, moral outrage became fashionable.

protest signSocial media has the potential to raise issues that are important, but when objection to a particular piece becomes trendy, I have to wonder if the outrage stems from deeply held convictions or if the the publication that is the subject of the outrage is simply being bullied into trashing the piece. As a regular reader of the weekly column by the Public Editor of Canada’s largest newspaper, I know that “You should never have published that article,” is an oft-heard refrain.

The article had it its issues. But as I pointed out in another blog post last week, the rule caveat lector always applies: “Let the reader beware;” or more literally, “be wary.” The author wrote what he felt about the whole issue, and yes, perhaps he is in denial about some aspects of what he did. Then again, maybe he simply wanted to write something that presented himself well.

The other question is one of the appropriateness of the forum the author was given. No doubt some felt that anything in the CT family simply gave the article too much profile; but the outrage that followed would only add to the website traffic.

[][][][][][][]

So…we have guest posts here sometimes. Would I have printed the article?

I think I would have been attracted by the idea that a convicted felon — incarcerated for something he did while on staff of a local church — would want to use my blog to tell his story. The inside nature of the story, or the exclusive release of the story would probably temper my desire to do some careful editing; and communication for the purpose of making changes might have been difficult.

Faced with objection and outrage, I might at first dig in my heels; and then I probably would start thinking about damage control after several days; basically exactly what CT did.

The situation would only complicate if I were working with a skeleton staff during summer holidays.

[][][][][][][]

The writer wanted to do something that would be redemptive for other student pastors who are vulnerable to temptation.

Instead we ended up with something that was prescriptive for editors faced with the temptation to run a story which perhaps should have stayed in the closet.

 

 

June 14, 2014

Elderly Need Ministry, Too

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

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

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

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

Tony writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

 

May 22, 2014

Lessons from the SGM Scandal

Covenant Life Church

Without adding to the flurry of comments and opinion already floating around the internet, I’d like to skip the specifics and make some general observations.

Sexual Abuse Knows No Denominations

We hear the stories and we immediate conclude a Catholic Priest was involved. Or may be an Episcopalian. There is a blog devoted to Baptist sex abuse. But abuses can take place in churches of all types, of all sizes, urban and rural. If you’re on staff at a local church, in leadership, or the parent or grandparent of a child in the Christian Education program; this is not somebody else’s problem. It could be your church everybody is talking about 60 days from now.

It is Natural to Try to Keep Your Church Out of the Headlines

It may not be morally or ethically right, but I believe it is part of our human nature to see our church only hit the newspapers and late night news when we’re feeding hungry people in the park or helping seniors clean up storm damaged yards. Denial kicks in and we hope that if we close our eyes it will all go away.

The Buck Has to Stop Somewhere

One summer I took a course in avant-garde, electronic music. The rule of synthesizers was, “Every parameter you can control, you must control.” That’s true of the church. The pastor can’t know what’s going on every minute in every Sunday School room — or every broom closet — but in a very real sense, he needs to know what’s not going on. Safeguards need to be part of the structure and leaders must have their discernment radar turned up to “10.”

It’s Hard to be Humble When You’re Wired for Arrogance

Many times in the capital-‘C’ Church we encounter an attitude of superiority among certain groups. Usually this is doctrinal, but sometimes sects or denominations will believe that they have a general superiority to everyone else at every level: Theological, administrative, evangelism, etc.  When this happens, it is very difficult to say, “We’ve messed up;” or “One of our number has erred.” Especially if you’ve always looked down your nose at others who have transgressed in similar ways.

Every Movement or Organization Has an Achilles Heel

James writes, “We all fall in many ways;” but there are some areas — such as sexual sin — that are really common to all of us. No group or local church is immune; sooner or later the problems associated with sexual temptation — or acting out on sexual thoughts — come home to roost. Despite their seriousness, which I do not want to minimize here, often these weaknesses or vulnerabilities are a microcosm of more serious flaws and fragility within the organization. We once sang, “It only takes a spark…” with spreading God’s love in mind, but the source verse — also in James — has to do with the damage caused by wildfires, and a single incident can bring down an entire organization.

 


 

Although I haven’t taken the course, churches in our area require child and youth ministry volunteers to take a course called Plan to Protect. There may be something similar in your area.

 

May 21, 2014

Wednesday Link List

John Wesley quotation

Out of several hundred potential links, these were some things that got my attention this week. Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE, the list’s owner, a blog of Leadership Journal in the Christianity Today family. From there, click the stories you want to see.

When not hunting down links for you, Paul Wilkinson blogs at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201, and Christian Book Shop Talk.

February 25, 2014

Mark Hall: We Were Made to Thrive – Book Review

Constitution Oak, a live oak at the junction between the Pea River and the Choctawhatchee River  in Geneva, Alabama. It is believed to be among the largest and oldest live oaks in the state. [Photo: Wikipedia Commons]

Constitution Oak, a live oak at the junction between the Pea River and the Choctawhatchee River in Geneva, Alabama. It is believed to be among the largest and oldest live oaks in the state. [Photo: Wikipedia Commons]


Like the book The Well by Mark Hall which we reviewed here in August, 2011, Thrive is both the title of a book and a compact disc. I’ve been privileged to hear the CD several times and read several sections of the book twice. While some authors may appear to write from a theoretical standpoint, Mark Hall is in the trenches, doing youth ministry first and foremost, and then what he views as a second role, as a musician with the band Casting Crowns.

Thrive - Mark HallThe book’s full title is Thrive: Digging Deep, Reaching Out and the subtitle and the cover telegraph the book’s outline and content. Using examples from his years in student ministry, as well as a few road stories from Casting Crowns, Mark delivers something fresh in each of the book’s 30 chapters. I’m struck by how he is both forthright and yet transparent and vulnerable at the same time.

The primary audience for Thrive will be people who are familiar with the band’s music, but really, this is a contemporary Christian living title that earns a place next to popular writers such as Kyle Idleman, Pete Wilson, or even Max Lucado. Almost every chapter brings new life to familiar scriptures.

I remember once hearing, “Part one of the gospel is ‘taste and see,’ part two of the gospel is ‘go and tell.'” That’s really the focus of this book. It is suitable for both new believers and those who are spiritual veterans. It is equal parts teaching, anecdotal and autobiographical.

I read parts of Thrive out loud this past week at our family devotions. I can only say that this was the right book for us and it arrived at just the right time.

Thrive is published by Zondervan in paperback at $15.99 US. Thanks to Laura at HarperCollins Christian Publishing in Toronto for a review copy. With both Zondervan and Thomas Nelson titles, you guys have the best books!

February 7, 2014

Churches with Loud Worship Bands May Need More Than Earplugs

Browns Bridge at Church Stage Design

As someone whose hearing hasn’t exactly been helped by exposure to loud music at Christian rock concerts in my 20s, I have a special interest in today’s topic.  It started with a Tweet by Kyle Idleman, who apparently visited Pete Wilson’s church in Nashville last Sunday, and noticed the availability of earplugs at the door. Kyle likes his music loud, so he was excited at the prospect of extra decibels. His wife thought they were packages of breath mints.

Is this common, we wondered? (The earplugs, not the confusion with breath mints.)

Sure enough, a search revealed a host of results, including a review of a church in Nebraska,  or this worship apologetic from Mike Pittman, church location not specified:

At Vertical we like our music a little louder than a lot of churches. How loud? Loud enough that you can sing out and not feel like everybody around you is listening to you (and all of the people who can’t sing said “amen”!). We have great sound technicians who work hard to ensure that our sound is full and consistent from week to week.

One of the things that is difficult about music volume is that people’s opinion is subjective and personal. Not everyone likes their music the same volume and with that in mind we have made the conscious decision to let the volume of our music be defined by the people we are trying to reach. This means that a few people thinking it is too loud is not reason to turn it down in such a manner that it affect our what we believe Vertical Worship sounds like. Our worship to Jesus is alive, loud and vibrant. With this in mind we decided to make earplugs available to anyone who feels that our music is too loud.

emphasis in original

Evidence of the widespread use of earplugs turns up in articles like this one “And don’t offer me any of those blasted ear-plugs; I shouldn’t have to wear earplugs in church!  I should just like what is being played and how it’s being played.”  The topic also appears on discussion boards like this, “if they handed out earplugs to me it would be goodbye time;” or, “It seems to me that earplugs would be the bandaid, not the cure.” (Link broken as of this morning.)

The earplug phenomenon has been around churches long enough it seems that it’s already fodder for blog satire.  “Handing out ear plugs says to the congregation ‘The volume is as low as it’s gonna go'”

The question churches need to ask however, is this: “Is providing earplugs sufficient to avoid potential liability issues resulting from hearing loss?”  I’m willing to wager that the average visitor isn’t expecting rock concert volumes at a church service. Last summer, we attended a youth service held in a former nightclub on the east fringes of Toronto and I was reminded firsthand of the volume levels that have no doubt contributed to the loss of high-end sound definition I sometimes experience. Really. Isn’t. Necessary.

And it’s not just the music. A while ago we carried this excerpt from a bulletin at North Point:

“This service contains flashing lights which may cause problems for people with photosensitive epilepsy.”

North Point Church Lighting Warning

There’s no doubt in my mind that excessive volume levels simply puts people at risk and exposes churches to liability issues, but all of this is simply another example of the modern church using youth ministry models to guide what takes place on Sunday morning. I doubt the early church house meetings in any way resembled what megachurches do on the weekend, nor would they even recognize those gatherings as religious in nature if they simply walked into the back during the worship set. 

I also believe that handing out earplugs is an admission that something is not right. Furthermore, there are all types of contextual issues at being presented with a rock concert at a 9:00 AM service versus the same band, same volume at 6:00 PM, at least for this writer.

I like my music loud enough that I can sing out, even try some harmonies, without feeling intimidated. I love the energy. I love the passion.

But it isn’t supposed to hurt.

Upper Image: Browns Bridge Church story at Church Stage Design (click to link)

Plugger Feb 25 2012

January 25, 2014

Weekend Link List

The Weekend List Lynx

The Weekend List Lynx

Some classic stuff from my files; none of this is new — most is from the Summer of 2011 — but it might be new to you. Mostly these are links I saved that I felt worth keeping at the time…

  • For those of us who are too Evangelical for Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” here is a new set of lyrics for which the author obtained a mechanical rights release, the way you’re supposed to. You might want to bookmark this for Easter.
  • “Are religious enthusiasts just naturally obnoxious? Or do certain forms of Christianity attract people who have an insatiable need to impose their beliefs on others? Do some of us simply have nothing on the the mental dashboard that registers “too intense?”  Classic Michael Spencer at Internet Monk.
  • And some classic Michael Patton at Parchment and Pen: What if the Apostle Paul’s story of the Messiah were a book proposal or a movie pitch? Paul would almost certainly get a rejection letter for having something unmarketable.
  • From a 2011 Pew Forum study, when asked what is the main threat to Evangelical Christianity 47 percent of leaders said Islam is the main threat  but 71 percent put secularism in that category.
  • There are a lot of blogs and websites for pastors about leadership, but Mark Galli suggests that what is really needed is pastors trained for chaplaincy.
  • Ten quick facts about Mormonism.
  • The part of the church service that usually doesn’t come under the microscope is the announcements. The author of this piece once tweeted, “I wish the bible had direction on how to do announcements during a service. It has to be the least effective thing the church does universally.”
  • Since the beginning of time as we know it, Phil Johnson and the Kalvinist Klan at Pyromaniacs have been offering us a “Weekly Dose of Spurgeon.” if C. H. Spurgeon has never been on your radar, drop your scanning speed down a gear and soak up his explanation of what it means to say “Jesus emptied himself.”
  • “..There was a bacteria in this youth-ministry entrepreneurial movement that has now been passed on to pastors. Because the focus was on winning participation, there was a little need or desire to reflect, especially to reflect theologically about the practice of ministry.” Andrew Root at IVP’s Online Pulpit.
  • Predating The Phil Vischer Podcast: Skye Jethani interviews Phil Vischer in April, 2012.
  • I remember when atheist Hemant Mehta posted this like it was yesterday: A survey that found many atheists who were also scientists enroll their children in a church program.
  • Ravi Zacharias quotes one of his professors: “Prophecy is very difficult, especially when it’s about the future.” What’s the future of western culture?

 

I think we’ll limit this rewind edition to a dozen; sometimes there are so many and people don’t know where to begin. I tend to be a “hoarder” with bookmarks in my computer; I hate to delete things, even if they appeared in previous link lists, because I keep thinking they are going to be needful and relevant to someone.

There is definitely a wealth of “backlist” items in the blogosphere that one hopes will keep being discovered.

Older Posts »

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.