Thinking Out Loud

June 30, 2008

Barack Obama on Faith & Public Policy – circa 2006

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“Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King — indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history — were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause, To say that men and women should not inject their ‘personal morality’ into public policy debates is a practical absurdity; our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Barack Obama in his keynote address to the Call To Renewal Conference, 2006

Read a commentary on his faith views in today’s Christianity Today Online


June 29, 2008

More After Eden

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It never amazes me how Dan Lietha is able to draw so many cartoons based entirely on the book of Genesis.  The After Eden comics are a sub-site of Answers In Genesis, a creation research organization.

What Persecution Looks Like

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Sometimes we need to see the picture to understand what our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are facing. The story of this Iraqi church with this picture is explained in Zach Nielsen’s blog, Take Your Vitamin Z on Friday, June 27th The story originates with Think Christian which is another site I monitor every day or so.

June 28, 2008

Free Worldwide Publicity for Your Church (and its Dress Code)

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Prodigal Jon (a.k.a. Jon Acuff) has done it again.   The creator of Stuff Christians Like has created a new website in which you can answer some questions about what you like (and don’t like) about your church for the whole wide world to see.   Just be prepared to answer the one, critical, fundamental question about your church that visitors are bound to ask, Can I Wear Jeans?

June 27, 2008

The Fam

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Fam = Family. Bill Murray uses the term in What About Bob? Anyway, it was fam week; a time to set aside some time to enjoy some milestone moments. First on Monday, Aaron graduated from grade eight. He’s pictured here accepting an award for great academic growth!

Then today, Friday, Chris celebrated his 17th birthday. He’s pictured here sporting his computer scientist hairstyle.

But Would Rev. Lovejoy Buy a Copy?

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This oughta be interesting. I’ve heard absolutely nothing about the book, nothing about the publishing company and nothing about the author. But I’ve ordered the book anyway because it’s about The Simpsons, the world’s #1 animated family. The book is called The Springfield Reformation: The Simpsons, Christianity & American Culture. The author is Jamey Heit, a doctoral student in religion and literature at the University of Glasgow. The publisher is Continuum Publishing.

Here’s what the publishers said on the book’s website:

This book discusses how The Simpsons articulates a ‘systematic theology’ that blends important elements of contemporary American religious culture with a clear critique of the institutions and individuals that participate in and uphold that culture. The goal of the book is to argue that The Simpsons is not only a legitimate theological voice, but also to argue that this voice offers a valuable addition to discussions about Christianity in America

Initially shunned by many in the Christian community when it made its television debut almost twenty years ago, after four hundred (and counting) episodes, and a feature-length film, few can deny that The Simpsons exhibits an astute understanding of Christianity in American culture. Its critiques of that culture are worth studying in detail. Jamey Heit’s The Springfield Reformation investigates how The Simpsons blends important elements of contemporary American religious culture with a clear critique of the institutions and individuals that participate in and uphold that culture. Though The Simpsons is clearly a product of American popular culture, its writers offer up a well-planned, theologically informed religious climate in the cartoon world of Springfield. This world mirrors America in a way that allows the show’s viewers to recognize that Christianity can hold together a family and a town that is rife with ”sin,” while at the same time exposing these very shortcomings.

(publisher marketing continued) Heit focuses on distinct topics such as: god, the soul/the afterlife, prayer, the Christian ethic, evangelism, science versus religion, and faith (particularly in response to the question of why bad things happen to good people). He also explores the connections between various episodes, discussing how these connections, manifest an honest critique of Christianity in America. Engagingly written and guaranteed to appeal to smart, religiously curious fans of the show, Heit maintains that The Simpsons is not only a legitimate theological voice, but also that this voice offers a valuable addition to discussions about Christianity in America.

June 26, 2008

Cut out the Jargon

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As a great believer in forthrightness and transparency, I loved this story from a few days ago where the British Local Government Association has told its member administrators to eliminate clichés from the public sector.

Here’s the link to the story from the Guardian; and here’s a direct link to the list of words they would like to see eliminated.

So now that you’ve looked at the list; do we do this in the church?   I don’t mean “Christianese,” that’s a topic for another discussion.   I mean, have we allowed jargon to be a means whereby we are doing less than “letting our yes be yes and our no be no”?  If so, what words or phrases?

~Paul Wilkinson

June 25, 2008

Making our Objectives Fit the Real Needs

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There is some really good stuff in Daryl Dash’s Christian Week column this month.   He writes about his church in the ‘burbs in northwest Toronto making a field trip to hang out with Greg Paul and the gang at Sanctuary.    You should really read the whole column, but here’s the part that got to me:

As we talked, we noticed that our language didn’t match up. We talked about Sanctuary as a mission; Greg talked about it as a community. We talked about targeting people; Greg talked about wanting to be with people where they are. We talked about servant leadership; Greg suggested that we’d be better off thinking more about servanthood and less about leadership.

When we come to a community with a set of services, Greg explained, there’s a power dynamic at work. We serve; they receive. They remain disempowered. When we go into a neighborhood, spend time with them, listen to them, and allow them to serve us, we become servants, and the power imbalance disappears. The challenge is to find who the poorest people are in the neighborhood, and to discover how we can be with them. Stop looking for programmatic answers, Greg told us. Go to people and listen to who they are, where they are.

June 24, 2008

The Squandering of Sunday Morning

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This weekend I caught a church service which was being used largely as a promotional vehicle for an upcoming building expansion program. Before I continue, let me say that (a) in and of itself, the service was well done; the testimonies of those who are being helped and ministered to by this church are quite real and genuine; God is at work in this church; and (b) there wasn’t the hard-sell offering at the end to raise money; in fact, the regular offering occurred quite early in the service and no other collection was taken.

Having said all that, I was totally appalled at what took place because (a) there was no scripture reading; very little allusion to scripture other than a projected theme verse; and (b) there was no sermon or even a short, devotional meditation. As good as the testimonies were, and as good as the worship was; this service was totally deficient overall.

There are only 52 Sunday morning services in the course of a year, and for some people, this is there only major spiritual event in the week. I know that doesn’t speak well of how many Christians practice the spiritual disciplines, but we all know the truth: Some people get their only feeding on God’s word once a week.

I also despair for those who might have been visiting in a quest for a church home. They would have found the experience self-indulgent. I did not. I knew most of the people at this church by at least their first or last name. I like those people. I like that church. But this service was just plain wrong.

Much of what we know about God we know from The Ten Commandments. From His point of view, these are The Ten Priorities. One of them is the concept of sabbath. “Give me a day each week;” He asks; we give him 60-90 minutes on Sunday. Another one of His priorities is stated as a kind of sub-clause to the first commandment, “I am a jealous God;” it says. Put the two of them together and you’ve got, “I want you to set aside a day that’s all about Me.” Does that sound sacreligious? No, that’s God.

I have never been a person to function in the prophetic gifts, but I believe that if God were in the parking lot after the service He would say, “Good testimonies, good music, good vision you have for what can be done in this place in the future. But you never opened My Word, and you never fed My People. If you really love Me; feed My sheep.”

I think God’s feelings about that particular hour would be as mixed as my own are as I write this; but in general, I think He would be a little ticked off. I would be afraid that if I were involved in the planning of that service, at some point, way down the road, at the time of judgment, the subject of June 22, 2008 might just come up. I would be afraid of his wrath at squandering a Sunday morning service for the sake of promoting a particular local church agenda.   Yes, squandering.   This isn’t the first time this particular church has done this.   There was flak last time, too.   Three members of my family never returned to that church from that day to this.

Yes, there are great things God can do through the local church. So keep doing those things. Don’t pause to look back, or to commend yourselves on what is being accomplished. Be faithful in serving that one person for whom this is “day one,” this is their “entry point,” this is the “time of beginning.” With the skill and craftsmanship of one who would bring their finest gift to lay before the King, teach and preach the Word with excellence. Each Sunday. Without taking a week off.

It was a great service; yes. And no; they shouldn’t have done it. Because at the end of the day, the church with the most faithful teaching and preaching of God’s Word wins.

~Paul Wilkinson

June 23, 2008

Paul Vaughan on 90% of the work of the church done by 10% of the people.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — searchlightevents @ 1:44 pm

It’s probably accurate that 90% of the work of the church is done by 10% of the people. The problem is that those who do the work, if they do it anonymously, receive all the glory. If they do it publicly, they ruffle feathers. Those who take the lion’s share of the life of the church are denying the body of the church the blessing and the opportunity. Probably the most blatant thing is that if a few are doing the work of many, then why would the Lord surround himself with a number of people with which to share the ministry? Why would he commission and ordain and send them two by two. Let’s ask ourselves the basic question, why isn’t all ministry, preaching, teaching and healing done by legions of angels? Why does God choose the fallible, unreliable, flesh-covered method that he did?

He chose us knowing that, through the Holy Spirit, we are capable of fulfilling the task given to us. But in addition, his constant emphasis of community of family — in the Hebrew, hebron; in the Greek, koinonia; in English, fellowship — is critical in church life. If it’s going to be a one man band then we will certainly stir a lot of people, but I wonder if we’re praising the Lord, serving the Lord, healing the hurts, and reaching the untouched.

One of the reasons that the modern day cults are successful is that they have clearly grabbed the demonstration given in scripture about assignment of tasks. If you become a Mormon, you owe their church two years missionary service. So if an apostate church demands that, why are we humming and hawing and hoping that if someone accepts the Lord, they might ask for offering envelopes and maybe they’ll join a small group and wouldn’t it be wonderful if they offered a musical gift, or taught children, or could sweep the floor. Why are we not a little more bold in demonstrating that millions haven’t heard and there’s work to be done?…

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