Thinking Out Loud

November 30, 2008

When Church People Interfere with Christian Outreach

Filed under: Christianity, Church, issues — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:14 pm

Many months ago, a group of people who are somewhat on the Evangelical fringe put together an event that certainly had the promise of redemptive value for some underprivileged people in our community.   The event took place on a Sunday morning, and because of the time, trouble and expense that had gone into putting it together, I included it in our local “Christian Events Calendar;” though given its 11 AM Sunday start time, I was fairly confident that nobody was going to skip church to attend this.

One of the people involved in the thing went ballistic.  The fear was that a bunch of “church people” would show up and ruin everything.   The actual words used were, “Church people in suits.”   I gotta admit, that would be catastrophic; having the “religious” set show up to a Christian outreach event.   Can’t have that sort of thing happening.   As it turned out, no “church people” showed up, just as I suspected; but instead, the ones that did read the calendar that week at least knew that other people were trying to do something different in a difficult place for ministry.  Perhaps they even prayed for the event.

Because I stuck by my decision to offer some unwanted publicity to their event; I am now completely estranged from a couple of these people; a situation that is impacting a decision I have to make whether or not to attend a meeting in Toronto on Friday which I feel is critical to the future of my wife’s ministry.

In the meantime, my wife was asked to do some performing in a secular (for lack of a better word) venue on Friday night.   When I got there it was fairly crowded, and realizing that the people doing this event are the same people who have forsaken the whole Christian scene; I realized that I was one of the “church people” that they really don’t want showing up at things they organize.   (Instead, I went for a walk downtown on a cold night; and ended up in a gift shop having a delightful, informative and profitable discussion with the store owner for the better part of an hour.)  I dropped by again about 90 minutes later just to let Mrs. W. know I cared, and then headed home.   Story, no doubt, to be continued.

She, on the other hand, is dealing with a situation where a bunch of “church people” are in fact expected to show up.   They’re expected to show up because, out of the blue, her ministry was mentioned in a Sunday service at a very conservative house of worship as an opportunity for them to put their faith into action.   (This ministry project is, in fact, the closest anyone in this small town will get to third world ministry conditions without driving more than a few miles.)   This leaves her and her team with the possibility of a different set of challenges.

As she puts it in her blog:

If you can’t sit down for dinner with 30 people, without having someone say the blessing,
If you can’t share a meal with someone who may or not be drunk,
Someone who may or may not be mentally ill,
Someone who may or may not be lying to you,
If you can’t have a conversation with someone who is smoking without making faces and waving the smoke away,
If you can’t hear someone use the F word as a verb and an adjective and a noun and an adverb, possibly all in the same sentence, without cringing,
If you can’t laugh at a genuinely funny crude joke, and good naturedly rebuff a truly offensive one,
If you can’t hug someone who may or may not have Hepatitis C or AIDS,
This may not be the place for you.

You can read this in context here.

But the bigger problem here is religious pride.   Not on the part of the “church people,” but on the part of those who think that “their ministry” is beyond the cultural or intellectual grasp of those who are still running the religious treadmill.   And religious ultraconservatisim on the part of those who don’t yet “get it.”   Thus my wife is forced to spend much of her time in the DMZ between the two; trying to make those on the one side better understand those on the other; or perhaps let both know that right now, each group really does need the other to make life change possible for people on the margins.

Film at eleven.


To Tell: Fresh New Music

Filed under: music — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:43 pm

totellWouldn’t you like to hear some new music that’s really “new?” I had that opportunity yesterday when I was introduced to the music of Zach Havens and To Tell on this MySpace Music page.   Zach currently resides in London, Ontario; which is about two hours west of Toronto, Canada.  Be sure to listen to all four songs.

November 29, 2008

Further Considering the Prodigal Son (and the Prodigal God)

Filed under: bible, Christianity, theology — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:45 pm


Like many others, I have been quite taken with Timothy Keller’s new book The Prodigal God, which I considered briefly here a few weeks ago.   I am ever impressed at the ability of this story to challenge us in so many different ways.

So it was only fitting that we downloaded two of Greg Boyd’s sermons from Woodland Hills preached earlier in November which deal with the same topic.   As Greg points out, if the father in the story had simply pursued justice, no one would remember this story today.   (I would have added that no gospel writer would have included it then either.)

One thing I like about Greg’s preaching is that he doesn’t tell you all he knows.   This is a guy with such intellectual depth that I recently gave up trying to follow a particular discussion at his Christus Victor Ministries blog.   To adapt a term from television production, he leaves enough “intellectual headroom” that you know he’s done his homework, but doesn’t lose the common touch.   (The second part of the series includes a hilarious summer job story from Greg’s student days that is such a perfect fit to the parable under discussion.)

Anyway, all this to say, read Timothy’s book, and listen to Greg’s sermon.  To do the latter go to the Woodland Hills download page, and select the sermons for November 9 and November 16, 2008.  You can either listen to on streaming audio (allow 40 minutes of uninterrupted listening per sermon) or copy it to a disc as we did for those long car trips. You’re bound to read or hear things about this so-familiar Bible passage that you haven’t heard or read before.

Pictures: left: Greg Boyd; right: Timothy Keller book

Bible Stories a la Rocky Horror Picture Show

Filed under: bible, Christianity — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:06 pm
terror_texts01DES MOINES (AP) — Don’t expect to hear these Bible stories at church.

Cannibalism, rape, a bear that mauls children — this is the Bible?

They’re among six stories from the Old Testament acted out in “Terror Texts,” a musical at Northwestern College in Orange City.

Adding to the shocking nature of the stories are the theatrics, with actors decked out in Goth attire, a rock band and a mosh pit.

…Read the rest of the “horror story” on the USAToday Religion Page

Pictures from the production’s My Space page as displayed on Fox News.

November 28, 2008

Three Reasons to Read The Apocrypha

Filed under: bible, Christianity, Faith, theology — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:31 pm

For a guy who says he’s just a student, Johnathan Bowers had done well to get linked here twice in one week.* Check out this article to consider the value of the Bible’s “annex” that many Evangelicals and some Protestants are quick to dismiss.

*Okay, so it’s a summary of another article, but hey, in blogging it’s all about presentation, right?

Dealing with the Excesses of Christmas

We don’t embed YouTube and Vimeo vids here as a concession to those still surfing the net with dialup; but for the second time ever in Thinking Out Loud history; I am linking you to a YouTube I think you should watch, that’s already appearing on various other blogs.  In fact, try to watch it in full screen mode.

But wait; before we go there, here’s a little perspective from The Thinklings blog, based on a story you can link to from the New York Daily News.

Now then, if you survived that one, and would like to see Christmas expressed differently in the part of the world you can control; here’s the YouTube link.

In America the western world, seems like nothing succeeds like excess; but we each have the power to, in ways big and small, be the change we want to see.

November 27, 2008

Lots of Lynx; er, make that Links

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:57 pm

lynxToday we have a whole lot of lynx links to articles on a variety of topics to get you thinking.   My creative output today is due to being home with my mouth frozen from dental work.  (The dental assistant is actually the board chair of our church, just to make it more interesting.)  I can’t talk, which is a real problem, since I do a lot of talking.   So I did a whole heap of blogging today.  Check out each of the four posts below.   (Isn’t a four-poster a kind of bed?)

Short Term Missions Trips: Yea or Nay?

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:52 pm

Our pastor and his wife returned Sunday night from North Africa.   He said it was a very busy trip, with early morning starts and late evening events, and travel to several cities.   I have never questioned the value of them going; especially in a denomination that puts foreign missions high on the list of priorities.

On Tuesday night, a group of twelve from another church returned from Thailand, just before things started to go a little crazy over there.   I actually know about half of the youth that were on this trip, and they are young people who I believe that God is going to use to do great things in the future.  I’m sure this was a life changing event for them, and again, I don’t question the trip for a single minute.

Andy Stanley’s churches, Northpoint, Buckhead, and Billings Bridge are organizing something in the neighborhood of a hundred short-term missions excursions over the next twelve months, involving something like a thousand people.   That’s a lot of trips.

Some people are critical of the whole short term missions thing, calling it “missions tourism.”  Not having been, I can’t say, but Trevin Wax, who blogs at Kingdom People and knows a thing or two about missions, has an article called Are Short Term Missions Trips Worth The Trouble? He outlines three negatives and four positives, though I think his first and third negative are really the same point.   Still, I’d recommend reading this, just to get you thinking.

Tim Guptill at Crosspoint Wesleyan Church in Fredericton, New Brunswick gives just positive reasons in Top 5 Reasons to Go on A Short Term Missions Trip.

But if you really want to shake things up a bit, you might want to read this article from The Wall Street Journal (yes that Wall Street Journal) called The Great Commission or Glorified Sightseeing? by Evan Sparks of the American Enterprise Institute.

Kent Shaeffer at Church Relevance condenses stats from a Barna Group report this October item, The Truth About Short Term Missions Trips.

At Deacon and Usher’s Weblog, the issue is put into dialogue form: Short Term Missions – The Real Truth (They do all their posts this way; I’ve just bookmarked this blog; you might want to check out some other content on it.)

We could keep going here, but this one from the Washington Post (yes that Washington Post – funny how this phenomenon is attracting so much media) couldn’t be left out.  Churches Retool Missions Trips is a very comprehensive article.

Resolution for 2009: Read More Books

Filed under: blogging, books, Christianity, Faith — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:11 am

If I’ve gained anything from blogging this year, it’s been that I have read more books.  I know it doesn’t make sense since I’m spending large amounts of time online, but I have definitely done more reading this year.

Some people felt that online books and blogs would be the death of traditional publishing.  Instead, I think the nature of what’s online, and on blogs in particular, is similar in content to what we find in periodicals.  For that reason, it’s no surprise that a large number of Christian magazines have ended or will end publication this year.  (I’ve always been a big reader of periodicals because the time from conception to finished product ensures that I am reading is most up to date.  With blogs, the time from completed ideas to publication is mere seconds.)

Back to books:  Tim Challies, a Canadian blogger with a vast readership in the U.S., gives 10 Tips to Read More and Read Better. Tim should know, he’s a voracious reader himself.   This link will also give you the comments, which you shouldn’t miss.

The Noise of Life

Filed under: family, issues — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:01 am

“It is the noise of life. And it never ends. And, if I’m not careful, the noise will keep me from hearing the sounds. You see, sometimes for me—the noise of life drowns out the sounds of life.”

Tim Stevens, who blogs at Leading Smart has written an excellent essay on the noise of life that interferes with the music of life we’re meant to hear.    Consider doing a copy and paste and sending this on to some friends as an e-FWD.

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