Thinking Out Loud

September 30, 2008

Better Isn’t Necessarily Bigger

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Deepest Sympathy

Filed under: Christianity, Church — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:48 pm

Just learned about Pastor Terry Stauffer, at Edson Fellowship Baptist Church in Edson, Alberta whose 14-year old daughter, Emily Joy was murdered on Saturday night.   More details will be released as they are available on Terry’s blog.   The Calgary Herald news report is here.

September 29, 2008

The Pornography Effect

Filed under: Christianity, issues, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:29 pm

We have good news and bad news regarding the book project, The Pornography Effect:  Understanding for the Wives, Girlfriends, Mothers, Daughters and Sisters.

The good news is that you get to continue to read the book online for the foreseeable future.   The reason is the bad news:  the publishers we’ve been talking to have either broken off communication or indicated they don’t see the book happening in the next 90 days.   Frankly, the way the U.S. economy is, who can blame publishers for not wanting to take the risk?   This is a “crisis” book on a “crisis” topic that’s been written in a “crisis book” limited length so that pastors can keep multiple copies on hand.   Despite the past successes at marketing multi-packs, publishers aren’t beating a path to our door over this one.

I still think we’re on to something here.   The book tackles the problem of men and online internet addiction by explaining to the women in their lives — and anyone else who’s interested — just exactly what’s going on online.   It offers some new insights and presents some different hypotheses about internet addiction.   It doesn’t offer any easy, three-step solutions to a very complex problem.

So what we do right now?   I’ve been in talk with one pastor about taking the project full circle and doing it in seminar form.  Then we’re back to same issue:  Women in small towns aren’t going to identify another family member’s addition by showing up for such a seminar.   However, people are never as afraid of ratting out their kids!   So we’ve proposed a seminar for parents that would deal specifically with the challenges that are faced by people at the junior high, high school and college level.   Instead of 15 sections, the seminar would have a simple theme:

  • What’s in the picture?
  • Who saw the picture?
  • Who took the picture?

True to form, the seminar would also introduce one additional new idea, which, if you’ve been reading my comments on other blogs, should be familiar to you by now:   An entire generation is growing up without a sense of shame.   And as a result, an entire western society is losing its sense of shame.

They say that one key thing that separates us from the animals — and there are others — is our ability to blush.   We’re losing that.  Big time.  Very quickly.   And if you have kids in the age/school brackets mentioned above, you should be very, very concerned.   Perhaps that would make a good book premise, too.   Why have one unpublished book when you can have two unpublished books?

In the meantime, if you or someone you know has concerns about a third-party’s internet viewing patterns, be sure to send them to link to this online book.   It will help bring clarity of thought to a major issue in our communities, churches and families.

If you’re sending the link to non blog-readers, it’s important to tell them to click on “previous entries” when they get to the end of chapter six.   This book was simply posted on a blog page in reverse chapter order, so that opening the web page, it reads from first to last chapter.   But some people aren’t familiar with clicking on the link to get to the “previous” pages, which in this case, are actually the “next” pages.

Also, while I’m not a counselor or pastor, we did set up a special e-mail address associated with this blog, for people who have questions in dealing with this particular issue.   But you guys get to comment right here!

September 28, 2008

Solving the U.S. Economic Crisis

Filed under: economics, Humor — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:07 pm

If the situation is as bad as this:

Maybe they should try this:

Think of the administrative duplication that might be saved; or consider Canada, with a larger land mass but only ten provinces.  Or the business model of the last decade: mergers and acquisitions.

September 27, 2008

If Only God Would Show Up

Filed under: Christianity, Faith — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:40 pm

Another brilliant post from the UK website ASBO Jesus.

Philip Yancey on the Church and the State of the Union

Filed under: Christianity, Church, Faith — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:13 pm

…For all its strengths, the United States shows some alarming signs of ill health. With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, we have 25 percent of the world’s prisoners—more than Russia and China combined. We consume half of all the prescription drugs in the world, and yet by most standards our overall health ranks lower than most other developed countries’. In every major city, homeless people sleep in parks and under bridges. And our leading causes of death are self-inflicted: obesity, alcohol, sexually transmitted diseases, stress-related illnesses, drugs, violence, environmental cancers. Obviously, politicians have not solved all our problems.

George Orwell, observing the loss of religious faith in Europe (which he had applauded), remarked:

“For two hundred years we had sawed and sawed and sawed at the branch we were sitting on. And in the end, much more suddenly than anyone had foreseen, our efforts were rewarded, and down we came…”

Read the entire article from Christianity Today online, here.

Stealing Anne Jackson’s Blogroll: An Internet Crime of Major Proportions

Filed under: blogging, Christianity, Humor — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:12 pm

Anne Jackson is a blogger who has been inviting all her readers to sign up to be on her mega blogroll, in exchange for her being linked on theirs, of course.   She’s an author, too; with a book, Mad Church Disease coming out in the new year.   Coincidence?   Hey, in today’s Christian publishing market, you need all the friends you can get.

And actually, she’s a good writer, who’s been linked on our blogroll long before the bribe offer of reciprocation.   You can read her blog daily at

Because nothing in the blogsphere says, “That’s a great idea;” like outright theft.

2013 UPDATE:  Not sure what keeps drawing people here, but the actual page this linked to is gone.

2014 UPDATE: Anne is now Anne Marie Miller.

September 26, 2008

Welcome to our Church

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:18 pm

The problem in the church isn’t to be found studying the churches that are seeker sensitive; the problem is dealing with the churches that are seeker hostile.

~ source unknown

Where Christians Buy Books: My Reply To The Tim Challies Poll

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:55 pm

First here’s the results as of earlier this week:

Here’s my response:

The timing on this poll for Canadians is eerie. First we lost the largest bookstore chain in the country last November when Blessings Marketplace closed. Then a few months ago, we lost the largest individual store in the country when Christian Publications of Calgary, AB closed. Then at the end of August, CMC, the largest Christian music distributor in the country, ceased autonomous operations, with assets sold to David C. Cook.This week the largest Christian book wholesaler in Canada went into receivership, which also impacts the six retail stores they owned.

Obviously, the blog poll is reflecting a longstanding frustration that its dominantly Calvinist readership has with the average bookstore. Heck, I’m in the business myself, but I’m not a fan of Joel Osteen, either. Over the years we’ve seen a handful of stores which catered to purists who could not abide the status quo, the majority of which, as with the readers of the blog hosting this poll, were Calvinist.

But the poll, and the comments that introduce it, would almost seem to celebrate the joys of book buying online. Let me assure you that in terms of the bigger, long-term picture, there is no cause to celebrate.

Instead, I would suggest a lament. These stores were on the frontline of ministry in our local communities. They dealt with people who were seeking a church, seeking counsel, seeking truth, or simply didn’t know what they were seeking. They were there for believers who needed something yesterday, needed something you can’t buy online, or didn’t know what they needed. They promoted local Christian events, provided prizes and gifts for churches and schools, and presented book tables at all kinds of events in camps, conferences and concerts.

They helped launch the “industry” we have today at a time before Left Behind, before Veggie Tales, before Gaither Videos, before Purpose Driven Life and before The Shack. They stuck with slow-moving backlist product because they believed that someone, somewhere might have a need. They stayed open in lean years during which they were losing money. They served customers at a time when it was about the quality of the product, the scriptural integrity of the product, the owners’ familiarity with the doctrine of the product; and not about the price of the book. In fact, when you make it about the price, you totally diminish the product. An author who brings insight into something that you never noticed before is giving you something that is priceless.

Retail store clerks taking the time to walk someone through an informed purchase of a Bible translation spend more customer service time than at the average shoe store, and require more technical knowledge than at the average consumer electronics store. You simply don’t get that online. The responders to this poll are the exception, not the rule, because they know exactly what books they want to buy before they order. Bloggers know exactly what they want to buy. But the average parishioner wants some help, wants to browse the physical book, and wants to talk to someone who acts as both bartender (listening to their story) and pharmacist (recommending the product that suits best and explaining its use.)

Longer term considerations factored in, this is a sad time for Christian publishing in Canada and the U.S. and the U.K..


original article on Tim’s blog

The Core of Christianity

Filed under: bible, Christianity, Church, Faith — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:04 am

“…if Paul, James, Peter, and Stephen are good sources…a Christian is someone who has chosen to follow Christ’s practices, repenting of unloving acts that God hates, and believes Jesus is the Christ (as shown by his Resurrection) who has been given power over Heaven and Earth, including the office of Judge.”

New blogger David Rudel looks at the heart of Christianity as preached in the book of Acts at Authentic Christianity.   My wife thought that blog readers here might find the chart below espcially interesting insofar as it clearly defines what was included and what wasn’t; but you’re encouraged to link to the entire article.

in Acts
Jesus is
is Lord
Jesus will
Judge All
Repent! Believers go
to Heaven
go to Hell
2: 14-41 x x x

3: 12-26


4: 8-12

5: 30-32

5: 42

7: 1-53

9: 22

10: 34-43

13: 16-41


14: 14-17


17: 2-4

17: 18-31



18: 5

18: 28

20: 20-22



22: 1-21

26: 1-29

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