Thinking Out Loud

April 21, 2015

World Vision Paying Bookstore Up To $185 For Each Child Sponsor

Free Press

An article published Sunday in the Detroit Free Press on the receivership/restructuring of Family Christian Stores (FCS) carried information not seen to this point, including the amount of kickbacks the chain received from World Vision for each child sponsor recruited. 

We can attest to the solicitations personally; going through the FCS checkout there is a litany of pitches including bonus buy offers, but also charitable causes including placing Bibles in prisons, and child sponsorship:

The one which was most shocking was the amount of the “bounty” paid the company each time someone signed up to sponsor a child through World Vision:

Family Christian has also benefited from customers who sign up to sponsor a third-party group called World Vision, which provides food, clothing and shelter to impoverished children throughout the world.

The chain solicits sponsorships from its customers and receives a $150 fee from World Vision for each customer who signs up and pays the monthly fee, according to records obtained by the Free Press. Family Christian receives another $35 if the customer signs up for automatic payments.

Again, you’re encouraged to read it all at The Detroit Free Press

Let’s do some math here.  The sponsor is paying World Vision $35 per month per child. That means that for the first 5.28 months, the organization has yet to break even. It’s really into the 6th month that the sponsor’s donation is free and clear, but of course there are also overhead costs in that $35 that we don’t know. 

In our part of the world, we’ve seen special events like Couples Night Out and Ladies Night Out which are used to attract potential donors to hear a pitch for sponsorship. These evenings feature special speakers, giveaway prizes, and printing costs for posters and tickets. The cost per sponsor recruited is possibly equally high or higher. 

Still, the idea of the charity paying bookstores such a large incentive to get cashiers to make the appeal is somewhat disturbing, don’t you think?

 

April 20, 2015

The Trinitarian Connection

Filed under: Christianity, theology — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:57 am

You don’t actually find the word ‘trinity’ in scripture, which means that you won’t find it in many Bible dictionaries. But that doesn’t mean that the doctrine, the idea, the concept is not presented clearly. The problem is that “God in three persons, blessed Trinity” is easy when you’re singing a worship song, but when you try to explain it, you begin to understand the mystery of God.

Also, some people use “God” to refer to “God the Father;” which confuses things. The solution is found in the term “Godhead,” but to some people, that conjures up some weird image more suited to science fiction.

Today, I want to just look at the actual scripture verses which reinforce the doctrine; though if you do a search, you’ll see we’ve covered this here before. Having all these verses in one place will, at the very least, be helpful to me if no-one else!

Matthew 3: 16, 17 NIV

16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Matthew 28: 19 NLT

19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

John 15: 26 ESV

[Jesus speaking] 26“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

Acts 2: 33 NIRV

33 Jesus has been given a place of honor at the right hand of God. He has received the Holy Spirit from the Father. This is what God had promised. It is Jesus who has poured out what you now see and hear.

II Cor. 13: 14 The Message

14The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.

Ephesians 2: 17 – 18  TNIV

17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

I Thess. 1: 2-5a  CEV

2We thank God for you and always mention you in our prayers. Each time we pray, 3we tell God our Father about your faith and loving work and about your firm hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4My dear friends, God loves you, and we know he has chosen you to be his people. 5When we told you the good news, it was with the power and assurance that come from the Holy Spirit, and not simply with words…

I Peter 1: 1 – 2  NIV (UK)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,  To God’s elect, strangers in the world … 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:  Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Also included in this list is the passage at I Cor. 12: 4-6, because of the pattern: Spirit, Lord, God at the end of each phrase.

The passage from Acts was on a poster in my bedroom when I was younger.   In the Living Bible, it read, simply, “The Father gave the authority to the Son to send the Holy Spirit.”

You might also find these posts helpful:

Finally, this is a good place to insert this diagram, which our pastor coincidentally used on Sunday.

trinity_diagram.jpg

April 19, 2015

Daring to Dream Again

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:45 am

Dream Center Los Angeles

For three nights this past week, just before turning out the lights, I read God’s Dream for You: Finding Lasting Change in Jesus, a short book by Matthew Barnett, pastor of Angelus Temple and the Dream Center in Los Angeles, California; the first of 150 Dream Centers launched around the world.

God's Dream for You - Matthew BarnettReleased in the Fall of 2013, I’m not exactly sure how this ended up in my current review stack, but the story of Dream Center, an urban ministry very similar to one which my wife co-founded a few years ago (albeit on a much smaller scale) really resonated. Matthew Barnett was probably expecting to fall in his father’s footsteps and be another megachurch pastor, but God had other plans.

Fifteen years ago, in another book, The Church That Never Sleeps, Barnett told the story of how, “a small group of believers stepped out in faith-against all odds-and claimed the Queen of Angels Hospital in downtown Los Angeles for the cause of Christ. Now 200 different ministries in the Los Angeles International Church reach out to thousands of residents. Innovative programs minister to AIDS victims, the homeless, battered women, drug and alcohol addicts, and abused children-offering hope and a chance for a better life.”

God’s Dream… is a more recent look at what staff and residents call “The D.C.” with stories of changed lives that will remind some of the testimonies in books by Jim Cymbala about what God is doing on the opposite coast of the U.S.; with a number of hope-filled scripture references and teaching included.

At 188 pages in a smaller, digest page size, God’s Dream… is published in hardcover and fits what is often called the “Gift Book” genre of motivational and inspirational titles that I’ve never tried to review before. The main message of the book is that when people hit bottom, it’s easy just to focus on subsistence, but Barnett reminds the people he serves to go after their dreams. This book would be a great encouragement to someone who finds themselves mired in tough circumstances; but also the Christian leader who feels ill-equipped to minister in an urban setting.

To learn more about The Dream Center, go to DreamCenter.org

April 18, 2015

Thinking Out Loud after PARSE

Link List - Out of Ur22 Months ago, an email from Skye Jethani changed things around here and forced me to raise the bar on what I was doing with the Wednesday Link Lists. He wrote,

I’m a fan of your Wednesday Link List. Not only is it helpful and concise, but I enjoy some of the wit and whimsy of your comments. I think the readers of Leadership Journal’s blog, Out of Ur, would benefit from what you’ve created. I wanted to explore the possibility of having your weekly link list published on our site in order to give it a wider audience.

Just days later, the first installment appeared at Out of Ur, later renamed PARSE.

I have always had great admiration for Christianity Today, and I wish there were space here to list the great Christian writers and leaders who have had staff positions with its various publications. I actually applied to be a columnist at Leadership Journal (their website is the parent to PARSE) in the days before the internet, and still have the rejection letter from Kevin Miller. If you’re going to be turned down, at least be turned by the best.

Out of UrI will admit that I got carried away at times. One of the lists had 38 links in it. So more recently we transitioned to a new format whereby there would be far fewer stories, much longer excerpts, and a twice weekly format that was originally envisioned as ten on Wednesday five on Saturday, but ended up being close to ten each time. I will admit that I still get carried away at times.

The biggest joy of writing for people at Leadership Journal was knowing that the material I selected was being seen by people in full time vocational ministry. It was, in its own small way, a means whereby an ordinary writer like me could be an influencer.  In an earlier lifetime, I had stepped down from a similar monthly column at Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine with the closing line, “While it’s a fine thing to write the news, I think it’s a better thing to make the news.”  (Actually, it was the dark ages, and italics had not been invented yet.)

Now I’m not so sure that was wise. Certainly, as a frustrated musician, it was hard to write of others’ successes, but this time around, in a world where everyone has a blog and is clamoring for attention, there is some honor in choosing what types of news stories and opinion pieces people see.

Working with people whose opinions and perspective on Christianity and culture resonate with me has been a blast, even if we’ve never met face to face. I can’t thank Skye Jethani enough for the opportunity, and also thank Paul Pastor, Drew Dyck and Tim Gioia for doing the legwork of making what I wrote visible to so many. 

But alas, things change, so last week I was abruptly told by Drew Dyck,

…After many years, first as “Out of Ur” then as PARSE, we will be shutting down our blog.  I’ve been incredibly grateful for the awesome job you’ve done for us. I still don’t know how you manage to track down all the relevant/interesting stories for church leaders around the web—and then do such a great job of setting them up. Anyway, with Paul Pastor gone, maintaining a multi-voice blog has been a challenge…

So as suddenly as it began, it ended.

Ironically, PARSE just won Third Place in the Blog category at an Evangelical Press Association awards night, and is also the #15 blog on the latest Top 300 list from Church Relevance. I’m not sure that dumping a relatively hot internet property like that is wise, especially when blogs are struggling to maintain readership numbers. But that’s their call.

Again, I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with a great team.

…And now we come to where I need your help. The Wednesday Link List will continue. I’m not sure about the Weekend Link List however. The question is, do you like the excerpts or would you prefer the original listing of nothing but bullet points?

Please email me via the contact page, or leave a comment right here or on Twitter.

And if you manage a Christian website that has a budget, use the contact page if you’d like to offer the Wednesday Link List a new home.

Dear WordPress: Your “Improved Editing Experience” Really Sucks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:14 am

Beep Beep Boop - WordPressToday I’m going to bite the hand that feeds me, I think; or at least one that I feed daily myself.

While it takes a lot of smarts to come up with something innovative, it’s really easy to build on the imagination and work of others. Hence, there are a large number of people in the tech community who earn their take-home pay by “improving” websites that, before their input, were working relative well to begin with.

The blog platform I have used every day for seven years, WordPress, is in my opinion one of the better ones out there; but recent changes to the text editor used to create new posts causes all manner of liabilities.

Specifically:

  • There is no longer any indication as to when posts are auto-saving, if they are at all. Best bet, I suppose, is to save manually and do it frequently.
  • There’s no longer a save that happens when you assign your post a title. I suppose that might benefit people who create the header at the very end, but when you’ve become accustomed to the old system and then hit enter, the screen just stares back at you as if to say, “So….?”
  • When you place some text in a different color, you can’t see that color until you preview. I didn’t know this and kept repeating the same operation over and over. Furthermore, for some inexplicable reason, when you complete a color change, the cursor and text jump to the beginning of the post. Which is a good time to mention that…
  • When you get to the bottom of the visible text area and then go to the top, returning to the very bottom can very difficult. Whether it’s HTML or Visual editor you’re using, the only way to make changes near the bottom of your article is to hit Ctrl-minus until the screen shrinks to a size that it deigns to show you the entire post. You might decide reading glasses are in your future at this point.
  • Your categories display alphabetically, but if you have many — I think I have about 25 — they are impossible to view beyond the first half dozen. In the past, I would create tags first, and then decide which of my recurring categories were suitable. No longer.
  • And then there’s that annoying “Beep, Beep, Boop” every time something is loading. Seriously?

But mostly:

  • There’s no longer an option to return to the classic editor. Not visible, anyway.

Blogging can be challenging. Occasionally, something releases before its time, or I have a sentence that is missing a critical word like “not” (Thanks, Lorne) but the new editor, like the revised stats page, simply offers fewer of the benefits I have come to appreciate about composing on WordPress.

April 17, 2015

How and Why I Use Different Bible Translations Online

Filed under: bible — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:11 am

Bible Translation Continuum

If you look at Thursday’s Christianity 201 post, you’ll see that I used a total of seven scripture verses. The verses were ones that my wife and I discussed that were then located using Yahoo’s search engine and the website BibleHub.com which seems to have priority status with Yahoo. Sometimes a search engine is more forgiving if you get one word wrong than the Bible programs online; the exception being BlueLetterBible.org which — until they destroyed it with the most recent update — allowed a margin of error. (Why can’t they just leave these Bible search programs alone?)

Each of the seven verses from yesterday is quoted from a different translation. Bible Hub is somewhat conservative in its choices, for some of what’s listed below, I would have had to change over to BibleGateway.com

I do intentionally mix it up a bit knowing that I have a variety of readers, and also wanting the very familiar verses to be seen in a different light. I also want to send a message that, as Augustine himself was quoted as saying in the marginal notes to the KJV, “There is much to be gained from a variety of translations.” (He said it in different words, that was my NLT-like update.)

When I want a very rigid adherence to structure, I go with the NASB. But you have to remember that if you really heard the English words spoken in the order they appear in the Greek or Hebrew texts, it would sound, at worst, like gibberish, at best like Yoda. Their word order is completely foreign to speakers of 21st Century English. So what we call “Formal Correspondance” in translation is a term that should best be applied loosely.

When I want to refresh the meaning, I use The Voice or The Message or the Common English Bible. Although I don’t use The Amplified Bible as often, it would fit this category. I have great admiration for what Eugene Peterson did, as both a Hebrew and Greek scholar doing a one-man translation (not paraphrase; please don’t use that word); and I’ve also become a regular reader of David Capes at The Voice Blog, who gets into translation issues that warm the heart of this follower of people like John Kohlenberger and The Mounce Brothers (who are actually a father and son), and the missionary context translation issues raised by Eddie & Sue Arthur. (Anyone wishing to debate the subject of translation needs to have some exposure to non-English Bible editions.)

However, occasional use of the KJV can be equally arresting to readers.

When I wonder if readers might question a verse if it’s changed up too much, I consider the NIV a relatively safe standby.

Although all my blogs have an absolutely horrid relationship with Tyndale Publishers, I do like the NLT (New Living Translation) and use it about as often as the NIV. I like that it’s plain language backed by the authority of the 128+ translators who worked on bringing the old Living Bible “up to code” as I describe it.

I am not a fan of the ESV. Sorry, Reformers and Calvinists. It’s not clear at all in places. I also have problems with Bibles created by publishing companies and not Bible Societies, etc.; so I’m not a fan of the NKJV or the HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible) either; the latter, I feel tainted somewhat by Holman’s historical association with printing the Masonic Bibles. I’ve never even acknowledged the MEV at the C201 blog.

On the other hand, this (sponsored) article at Challies.com did warm me to the HCSB text itself, which my wife uses. She also finds the Young’s Literal Translation useful.

I should say that I do occasionally run with the ESV anyway, just to try to keep the Calvinist readers I have at C201, and I also will use the NRSV at times just to find a point of reference with my mainline or inter-confessional readers.

I’m sure I’ve missed something. I am keeping an eye on the NET translation. And if you’re interested, I did a different type of translation breakdown here six months ago you might enjoy if you’ve read this far.

(And no, that’s not my picture below, but the warp of the shelf looks familiar.)

Bible Translations

April 16, 2015

Going Off Course

Filed under: cults — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:30 am

img 041615Yesterday I was looking at a bit of the history of the Children of God cult, also known as The Family. I’m not including a link here because parts of the story simply are not edifying. Like many Made-in-America cults (and some in Western Europe) the thing that is often highlighted is a very liberal view of appropriate sexual behavior.

Sometimes these organizations begin around the distinctive doctrines of a very small-c, charismatic leader. But other times there is a drift away from Christian orthodoxy that happens bit by bit, year over year. (It’s also possible for an organization that has drifted to have a reformation and return to orthodoxy, as happened with the core membership of The Worldwide Church of God.)

Here’s an analogy. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If I decide to visit my neighbor across the road and two houses down, and I line myself up from my front door to his front door, and I am in fact 5% off, I will still make it to his door. Five percent isn’t much when you’re only taking about a hundred steps. But if I am a rocket scientist, aiming toward the Moon, and I am out even 1% on my calculations, I could easily be wrong as to where the Moon is going to be on the day I need to begin orbit.

So it could be argued that some organizations move, over time, into false cult status. The adjective false before cult was common in previous generations because, by definition, any separated group could be considered a cult; today the word has shifted and the false — plus the implications of wrong teaching, authoritarian leaders, separation from society, etc. — is assumed. Did they start out 1% or 5% off course or did something happen that bent the straight line they were on? It’s interesting that a tendency, disposition or inclination is called a “bent.”

Christian bloggers and watchdog ministries are very quick to point out the perceived error of everyone else (but themselves) but we don’t have many mechanisms in The Church that would be considered preventative. You don’t know someone is sick until they exhibit symptoms, but maybe we should have a ‘blood test’ that would tell us if someone is going off the rails.

However, it can also be argued that bank tellers know how to recognize authentic currency not by looking at counterfeit bills, but carefully studying real ones. Spending time immersed in the weekend teaching and mid-week Bible studies connected to mainstream Christian churches is sufficient to keep us all on the right path.

April 15, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Hear See Post

Featured Stories

Churches Without Buildings – “Church attendance and construction boomed in North America during a time when having your own building was expected. For churches, businesses and families. In my parents’ era, owning real estate was a sign of success, status and stability. So churches that wanted to be seen as reliable and successful bought buildings. Often before there was a congregation to fill them. When someone started their own business, they would leave their house to sit in a building behind a desk all day long – even if every aspect of that business could have been done from their house. The brick-and-mortar building meant reliability and permanence… Brick-and-mortar may not be dead, but it is on life-support… The church should be leading the way in this idea… We already lose more churches every year from inability to pay the mortgage than from any other factor.”  Speaking of buildings…

The Ecology of Worship Gatherings – Every so often I find an article that is a few months old that should not have been missed. Such is the case here on the physical space we use for worship: “The very spatial mediums we use to communicate those messages shape and architect us in powerful ways. In fact, as a medium, the literal physical spaces we use may actually subvert the very messages we are preaching. What if the arrangement of spaces are actually speaking louder than what we are saying in our sermons? Ecology is the branch of biology that looks at how organisms relate to one another, and to their physical surroundings. If we apply this field of study to our worship gatherings… The premise of an Ecology of Gathering is that the non-living components dynamically interact and stimulate the living components (biotic), creating a living spiritual climate. This climate communicates a message, and over time, this climate controlled message trains us into a certain way of thinking and behaving.”

Pew Research on Religious Growth to 2050 – “In the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050, and Judaism will no longer be the largest non-Christian religion. Muslims will be more numerous in the U.S. than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion…” As to the world as a whole, “by 2050 there will be near parity between Muslims (2.8 billion, or 30% of the population) and Christians (2.9 billion, or 31%), possibly for the first time in history.” The Nones continue to grow also: “At the same time, however, the unaffiliated are expected to continue to increase as a share of the population in much of Europe and North America. In the United States, for example, the unaffiliated are projected to grow from an estimated 16% of the total population (including children) in 2010 to 26% in 2050.” There is much more to the report, presented in text, graphs and tables.

Getting Your Hands Dirty – “I was speaking, learning, teaching, and advocating for mentoring without actually doing it. In anthropology, there are two types of field research: Etic and EmicEtic researchers make their observations from outside the culture. Emic researchers get up-close to local customs, traditions, and beliefs. Our temptation is to stay on the outside. To be Etic but not Emic. To attend endless conferences, read endless books, buy endless t-shirts. To dump cold water on our heads, take a selfie and hashtag it. To be about the latest ideas, like those on Mars Hill, to be waiting to see something new, like the newest post or picture online. Ideas, when used this way, can be very self-indulgent. All the while, we remain outside the issue, and quite possibly, outside of our own story. But the great ideas – love, justice, intimacy, reconciliation – require something of us.”

CBS Profile of Crossmaker Runs 22 Years Later – On Easter Sunday, CBS ran a profile of a man that was scheduled to appear in 1993. If you’ve driven the interstate highway system, you’ve seen Bernard Coffindaffer’s work: Crosses erected within sight of the freeway. “Coffindaffer has spent his own money on this project — close to $3 million … to buy the wooden poles, to hire road crews, to perform routine cross maintenance.” But the video never aired when he died of a sudden heart attack. Years later, his legacy continues: “There are 48,000 miles of interstate highway in America,” Sara Abraham of Crosses Across America said. “We will have crosses every 25 miles all across America.”

Editorial / Devotional on Christian Maturity– “Jason and I have often wondered what a foreigner or alien would think the church believed if they simply judged us on the books we buy and sell. As I walked through the aisles, I started to worry that they would perceive a church that is weak and powerless, so consumed with our own needs and self-esteem that we constantly battle the same issues, and never become effective agents of God’s mission in the world… Sadly, may of us in America are “grown up,” in that we’ve been serving Christ a long time, but we have not yet reached maturity. Like it says in Hebrews, we should be teachers, but we need someone to teach us the basics over and over again.”

Church History Lesson: The Non-Jurors – “[T]he new order was demanding that all clergy and office holders take oaths to the new king. Many clergy, including some of the church’s greatest spiritual and intellectual beacons, found that they simply could not accept. They refused to swear those oaths, and by dint of that, became non-swearers, “Non-Jurors.” They began a domestic schism from the established church, and ordained their own succession of bishops…They agonized over issues of ecclesiology, and at the same time sought new ways of leading a pure Christian life… you have very likely encountered portions of their writings or hymns. It was for instance Thomas Ken who wrote the famous Doxology.”

When Sharing Your Faith is Costly – The woman in the story works for the government-run National Health Service (NHS) in the UK: “Miss Wasteney had discussions about Christianity and Islam with a junior colleague, Enya Nawaz, and offered to pray with her when she became upset about health problems. She also invited her to church and gave her a book called I Dared to Call Him Father, about a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity. However, Miss Nawaz accused her of trying to convert her to Christianity and made a formal complaint. Miss Wasteney was suspended for nine months while the East London NHS Foundation Trust investigated.” In a story update, the Employment Appeals Tribunal ruled against her.

On My Own Blog – A look at what I call Spiritual Recidivism and a review of Did God Kill Jesus by Tony Jones.

Finally… – How younger leaders can gain credibility, from Brad Lomenick who tracks up-and-coming Christian leaders, 11 suggestions. Sample: “Become an expert NOW, even before you need to be. Set a standard of excellence way before you’re the leader in charge who is expected to. That way when it’s your turn to come off the bench you are ready.”

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April 14, 2015

A Letter to the Pastor

Filed under: Lost Voice Project — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

The Lost Voice ProjectDear Pastor,

I know we’ve never quite gotten together as I had hoped we would, but I kinda had to write this letter to you today.

I think you are quite familiar with the work I do in the next town over, and because of that work and the nature of its environment, people tend to dump a lot of their stories — especially church stories — on me. I guess they feel it’s a safe, neutral place; a sort of ecclesiastical Switzerland.

Anyway, some of the stories are about your church, but that’s not a big deal because given the numbers, there is bound to be some restlessness and dissatisfaction out there. There are stories about several churches, though a few seem to be somehow exempt. I don’t really expect Pastors and church leaders to put a lot of stock in what the critics might have to say anymore than you would expect me to give a lot of weight to comments people leave on my blog. Sometimes it’s just best to ignore them.

But then again, I’m writing you a letter, aren’t I? So there must be something troubling me.

Here’s the deal. I don’t personally believe that people get hurt by this church or that church. But people do get hurt by people in a church. Sure, sometimes it’s about the sound system, or the parking lot, or the color of the new paint in the Fellowship Room; but more often than not it involves a fellow human. People say things and do things and while some people are thick-skinned, some people are not, and there is always going to be some hurt and wounding in any institution, especially one which operates with a volunteer army and a presupposed adherence to the highest of ethical and moral standards.

Honestly, I’ve probably done my own share of the hurting. Wait, not probably, definitely. I was on staff at a local church once and the way the story is told, I got rather firm with a student who was helping out on the sound system after a particularly mistake-filled first service, and told him we really needed it better for the second service. Apparently he was quite hurt. I’m told he didn’t come back. I don’t remember him not coming back. In fact, I don’t remember a whole lot of this story; it all got told to me years later. Ouch!

My point is, a lot of the stories I get told about your place of worship come down to one person. One guy. One individual. He’s a member of your church board, or deacons, or elders or whatever you call it your denomination. He’s a bit of a one-man wrecking machine.

On the other hand, he’s probably among the people in your church you are closest to. You and your wife probably socialize with him and his wife. He probably gets things done at a board level. You can count on him for support. You can’t imagine him being cast in a negative light.

Here’s the thing: Over the course of many years, because of him, you’ve lost a lot of good people. People who, if you added them all together, had so much to give to the life of your church. We’re talking a cumulative loss that’s worth more than whatever benefit you might see from one single leader.

At the end of the day however, I can’t be more specific. It’s all just random noise from the discontented being vented to a third party. But I think that, after many years, I’m a good judge of character. I think I can discern the sincerity of those dumping their stories on me, and it resonates with my own impressions of the person in question.

I hope you can connect the dots at this point and figure out who and what.

Sincerely,

Paul.


Though the format today was different, today’s piece continues The Lost Voice Project, a continuing series of articles about people whose circumstances have resulted in their contribution to the local church being diminished; their voices not being heard.

April 13, 2015

Book Review: Did God Kill Jesus?

Did God Kill JesusThere was something almost eerie about reading this book over the Easter season. I took a rather slow, almost plodding pace in order to absorb the material and then have a day to digest it before moving on, some of the events described paralleling narratives being brought to mind at Holy Week.

In Did God Kill Jesus? Searching for Love in History’s Most Famous Execution, author Tony Jones looks at the central element of the Christian faith — the death and resurrection of Jesus — though his focus is clearly on the crucifixion and all of its ramifications for doctrine and theology. Over the years, writers and teachers have processed a handful of dominant models of what all is taking place — what we call atonement — as Christ yields his life to the religious and political powers of Jewish authorities and Roman soldiers; and Jones considers these as well as a few of the lesser-known theories.

At the very core of his analysis is Jesus’ cry from the cross, “My God, my God; why have you forsaken me?” He veers strongly toward the view that at that moment Jesus sees the Father as absent and dares to suggest that right then, right there, Jesus experiences something akin to atheism; life in a world without God. This is presented alongside the notion that while positionally God’s omniscience is a given, there are things that could only be known incarnationally.

This is a book for people willing to risk actually doing some thinking. Many of us have grown up in environments where we were taught that “Jesus died on the cross for our sins;” but would be lacking clarity in explaining exactly how the violent, death of this One accomplished this. He notes that if a sacrifice were all that was required, a child sacrifice at the Bethlehem manger would have sufficed. He also forces the reader to consider why a violent death was necessary.

I had been aware of Tony Jones through his blogging activity at Theoblogy, and knew that because of his co-authorship of The Emergent Manifesto, some readers here might question his orthodoxy. My thoughts ran somewhat the other way; reading through I asked myself if the book could not have appeared under HarperCollins’ more Evangelical imprints such as Zondervan, instead of HarperOne. (There were a couple of language issues early on, which are, in balance, unfortunate.) Jones is simply a nice guy, charitable to people whose views on Calvary are different because they are Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic, Progressive or even Pentecostal. By this I mean, the book accounts for all tastes.

Perhaps it is my own perspective, but my takeaway — and I mean this as high praise — is that I found myself thinking about Jesus and what would be going through his mind throughout all aspects of his final words to his disciples, his betrayal, his beating, his trial before Pilate and the agony of the crucifixion itself. Could there be any higher benefit to the reader of a Christian book?

Click here to read sample pages of Did God Kill Jesus?.

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