Thinking Out Loud

April 30, 2010

Radical: Returning to Our Roots

No matter what first pops into your head when you hear words like “emergent” or “missional,” one of the byproducts of these movements has been a major theme in many Christian books in the last decade:   We need to recapture more of Christian discipleship as it was understood by the early church.

That’s the good news.   The bad news is that this theme is much overdone in some sectors of Christian publishing.

Enter Radical by David Platt.

Beginning with the story we call “The Rich Young Ruler,” and also the story of the scribe (“Foxes have holes…”) Platt is convinced that at times, Jesus seems to be doing all he can to drive followers away, because the demands of discipleship are so high.

So high, and so removed from what we in North America and Western Europe have made Christianity into.  So removed also from Christianity as it is practiced under threat of persecution and even martyrdom.   Have we messed up all of Jesus’ priorities?

In addition to the book, the publisher has released a booklet The Radical Question (shown in foreground of the picture) for giveaway by churches, sold in packages of ten.   You can request a free copy of that at

This review is a bit sparse because we were only given the first chapter of the larger book, however, you’re invited to share in that as well by clicking here.

You can also learn more about the book, including a video clip from the author at this site:

Click on the comments section of this post for more information about the author.

Digging a Little Deeper

New!  From the creator of Thinking out Loud, check out something new:  Christianity 201.   Guaranteed distraction-free faith blogging with fresh posts every day.


April 29, 2010

A Terrible, Horrible Worship Song

Bet that got your attention!

As a worship leader, I can remember arriving at a team practice with a new song about which I was personally excited.   “This is a great new song;” I might begin, perhaps adding, “A lot of churches have been adding this in the last few weeks.”

But really, while it’s good to have great songs, I should be wanting to arrive saying, “This is a great sentiment. It expresses something from our hearts back to God that I think will be unique among the songs we’re currently using.”

In fact, taken to the extreme, I could say, “Tonight we’re going to learn a new song.   It’s not particularly strong in its meter or poetic form, the chord structure is a bit awkward in a few places, and it just may be the worst new song we’ll do this year.   But I want to do it anyway, just as it was written, because of the special way it expresses the heart of the writer towards God.”

Again, it’s to say, “This isn’t a great song, but it’s a great sentiment.”   And then, while making improvements as they might suggest themselves, to otherwise leave the song with the vulnerabilities or ‘warts’ it had when the writer went public with it.

…God’s not impressed with our technical proficiency as He is with us truly wanting to be in His presence, truly wanting to give back to Him much more of the love that we owe.

April 28, 2010

Midweek Link List

It’s time for some lynx links:

  • Prodigal Magazine interviews Michael Catt, pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church, creators of the films Facing the Giants and Fireproof with questions about is role as a pastor, author and film producer.
  • The Church of England announces Monday that N. T. Wright will be stepping down from his position as Bishop of Durham. [HT: Jon Rising]
  • Is the schedule of activities at your church somewhat frenetic?  Maybe your church is over-programmed and you ought to consider Jared Wilson’s suggestion to under-program.
  • Lots of people linking to this piece at Resurgence, “How I Pastor My Family” by Justin Hyde.
  • How about this curiosity piece?  From The Thinklings:  Good Advice From Miley Cyrus.
  • The caption to this photo reads, December 1940. “Itinerant preacher from South Carolina saving souls of construction workers at Camp Livingston job near Alexandria, Louisiana.”  See the image — clickable to larger size — at Shorpy.
  • This has echoes of something Francis Chan would do:  A church in Fayetteville, Georgia says, “We don’t need no stinkin’ building;” and cashes out of its facility to put the money into ministry.  Read the article at Monday Morning Insight.  (No sir, your building is not “stinkin'” – please don’t write.)
  • Here in the north, we don’t get to see firsthand the vitriol dished out politically in the name of religion.   So we missed this bumper sticker entirely.   Sounds good on the surface, but Psalm 109:8-9 actually reads: “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars! May they be driven from their ruined homes…” Joe Bird discusses this at the blog Rebel Pilgrim.
  • Here’s another connection to Monday Morning Insight you don’t want to miss:

    “Pastors don’t need to give up on adults, but if we’re good stewards, we need to be putting a lot of eggs in the kid basket. Even better, we need to target our very young leaders. The most strategic time for developing effective and ethical leaders is a 4-year threshold we call the 10-13 Window. Unfortunately, very few church staff are leadership savvy. They confuse it with discipleship and service. And preteen/middle school ministries always tend to be low on the church totem pole.”

    Start reading here and then don’t miss the link to a rather unique organization called Kid Lead.

  • Congratulations to Canadian singer Matt Brouwer — pictured at right — who won this year’s Gospel/Contemporary Christian category in the Juno awards, Canada’s equivalent to the Grammy Awards.   We now have only one Christian category at the Junos and this is it.
  • Speaking of music, Christianity 201 goes hunting on YouTube for classic Jesus Music from the 1980s and turns up a classic song from the normally not-so-mellow band Servant.
  • Wendy Gritter of New Direction Ministries checks out the Drew Marshall show and decides that Spencer Burke and Tim Challies on the same radio interview represents a clash of pardigms.
  • And speaking of Challies, I think that’s where I found the link to this very powerful 90-second short film on YouTube titled This Was Grace.
  • That, in turn, is the perfect lead to this link that got squeezed out last week, from the blog otherwise known as “my competition at Christian Blog Topsites,”  the parenting/women’s blog called It’s Almost Naptime, with a powerful piece, Designer Babies, Designer God.
  • I know you’ve already seen a lot of discussion on this, but Trevin Wax takes a look at a particular aspect of the Jennifer Knapp story, the interview on the Larry King Show.
  • This week’s cartoon is from For Heaven’s Sake by Mike Morgan.  (Click image to link)

April 27, 2010

Kingdoms in Conflict

Filed under: bible, Jesus — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:14 am

The world says ‘seeing is believing.’

Jesus teaches ‘believing is seeing.’

The world says attain wisdom

The Bible teaches we should be willing to become a fool

The world says ‘be a survivor’

Jesus taught we should be willing to lose our lives

The world says ‘go for the gold,’ achieve greatness

Jesus taught us to be willing to be the last, the least

The world exalts leaders

Jesus said we should make ourselves servants

The world exalts human potential and greatness

Jesus said we should humble ourselves

The world says ‘look out for number one’

The Bible teaches we should look out for the interests of others and count others better than ourselves

The world says ‘get all you can’

Jesus says ‘give all you can’

The world says we should make our good deeds known

Jesus taught we should keep our good deeds secret

The world says love is a feeling, it’s conditional and it will grow old

The Bible teaches the love is a lasting, unconditional commitment; love never fails

The world says we should hate our enemies

Jesus taught us to love our enemies

The world says ‘get even,’ retaliate

Jesus taught forgiveness

The world puts spin on events to cover up mistakes

Proverbs teaches us to confess our mistakes

The world emphasizes the great things human can accomplish

The prophets taught things happen ‘not by might, nor by power,’ but by God’s Spirit

The world says ‘drown your sorrows’

The Bible contrasts that with ‘be filled with the Spirit

The world operates on cynicism and skepticism

Jesus taught that all things are possible to those who believe

The world says you should consult your horoscope

Jesus talked about searching the scriptures

The world says the Bible was written by human agency only

The Bible itself claims that all Scripture is God breathed

The world says the Bible is old-fashioned and out-of-date

Jesus said that heaven and earth will pass away, but not his truths

The world thinks Jesus was a good man

The early church confession was that Jesus is Lord

The world says Jesus is not coming back

Jesus promised ‘I will come and receive you to myself’

The world concludes, ‘I’ll never worship Jesus Christ’

The Bible says that someday every knee will bow and every voice will admit that Jesus Christ is Lord.

~adapted from Straightforward by Larry Tomczak, a classic book from the Jesus movement of the late 1970s; references for any italicized lines available on request

April 26, 2010

Pastor Appreciation Minute

Filed under: Church, ministry — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:47 pm

I’m exhausted.

I don’t know why it is, but serving in any capacity in a church on Sunday morning is always draining.   And I don’t do it that often.   And this wasn’t anything close to a large crowd.  This was the third time in six months, so I’m tracking a pattern close to “once every eight weeks.”   Hardly full-time ministry.

What if I had to do this every Sunday?    Plus board meetings?   Plus counseling?    Plus visitation?

I started an outline on the subject of worship, but it just didn’t take root.   So Thursday I was back to square one.  Although I don’t believe in recycling notes, this time around I redeveloped a sermon from the files.   About ninety minutes to recopy it and update some of the scripture readings from NIV to NLT and Message.   (A daring move considering this is an older congregation.)   Then thirty minutes later on Saturday to go over it all.

And it went well, based on their comments.

I think it simply went different. Congregations need to hear a different voice now and then.

Anyway… once again I have a great respect for pastors.   Is there something you can do to drop a note of encouragement to your pastor this week?   Do it!   Don’t wait for some card company version of “Pastor Appreciation Week.”

April 25, 2010

Personal Confession

Here’s the dirt on Paul Wilkinson:  I’m a very boring person.   Although I think I can hold a “cocktail party style” conversation on a variety of topics with a variety of people, I’ve been, as Drew Marshall might say, “doin’ the Jesus thing” for a lot of years.   As conversant as I might try to be on a variety of subjects, I live and work in a world of Christian ministry.   So you can try to get me going on some things, but certain areas — import cars, domestic red wines, and just about any sport you can name — are going to be a wipeout.

As a result, I have a high regard for bloggers who are faith-focused, and little time for bloggers who ramble on about the latest tech gear, cute things their kids did this week, and pictures of their last vacation.  (The last issue having much to do with envy and covetousness.)

Anyway, that’s my confession.

It shouldn’t be.   I’m realizing that I need to cut loose and relax those standards a bit.   When Steve McCoy at Reformissionary talks about his favorite music, or Pete Wilson at Without Wax highlights those great parenting moments; these things are what make these pastors real and transparent.   I should be celebrating those blogs here.

What I am coming to be less tolerant of involves the very “faith-focused” blogs to which a few years ago I would have given the highest marks.   The problem is their passion has absolutely no relatability to their congregation.   They live in a world of doctrine, a world of theology, a world of acadæmia, a world of church leadership challenges, a world of church government issues.  Truth be told, I believe they are largely writing to other pastors, carrying on a professional conversation that will tide them over until the next conference.

Their congregational members must cringe when they read their blogs.  “Who is this guy?”  “How can he relate to what I’m going through?”

In fact, I’m not even sure I should be the one apologizing.   This blog, although somewhat narrow in its spiritual focus, at least cuts loose with some cartoons, some offbeat ‘religious’ news stories, some speculative “what if?” editorials.  Besides my family wouldn’t be all that interesting to most of you, and my hobbies are few and far between.

But by comparsion, maybe I’m not really the one who is boring.

So how’s life at your computer?  Does your pastor’s blog relate to you, or is he off in another universe? Who do you think has a good chance at the World Series this year?*

*Answer only questions one and two… please.

April 24, 2010

Christian Pickup Lines Reprise

This one first appeared here two years ago.    Rowena from Australia still blogs at  Small Steps to Glory and reported at the time that there’s a group on Facebook for the appreciation of Christian Pick-up lines. Here’s some samples she chose:

“I didn’t believe in predestination until tonight.”

“I believe one of my ribs belongs to you.”

“Hey.. i would work 7 years for your sister.. but I would work 7 more years for you.”

“Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Gilead”

“You put the ‘cute’ back in persecution…”

“Feel free to meet me at the threshing floor.”

“You’re totally depraved but I’d still like to go out with you…”

“I’m interested in full time ministry, and not only that… I also play the guitar.”

“Look, you’re nearly 22.  Most Christians are 3 years into marriage by now… just settle for me.”

“Have you died before?   Because that looks like a resurrection body to me..”

“I would have asked you out to dinner, but I just put all my money in the offering basket.”

“Hi, I’m Calvin. You were meant to choose me.”

“All I’m looking for is a Godly woman.  I don’t care that you’re not attractive.” (That will go down well for sure)

“Can I buy you a non-alcoholic beverage?”

“My favorite species of vegetation is the church plant.”

“I have many sponsor children. one in each developing nation.”

“Who’s your favorite apostle?”

“The word says ‘Give drink to those who are thirsty, and feed the hungry’; how about dinner?”

“I have familiarized myself with all 5 love languages, in fact, I invented 4 of them.”

[check the person’s shirt tag] “Just as i thought… made in heaven.”

“For you I would slay two Goliaths”

April 23, 2010

Surfing the Christianity/Faith Blogs

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:37 am

I thought it might be helpful to elaborate about the dozen or so links that appear in the blogroll here under the category “links.”

The ALLTOP links take you to the three related pages directly.   Church and Christianity have a great deal of overlap, while Religion is a grab bag of bloggers of various faiths, including some Christian blogs not listed in the other two categories.

The TRAKKRZ links are somewhat based on the Alltop bloggers and actually aren’t working as I type this.

Some of the other ones linked there are self explanatory.   The first one ever to appear there, SITES UNSEEN is sadly in need of an overhaul, and still refuses to list this blog after many e-mails and many promises.

It’s the WORDPRESS links I want to discuss.   The thing I like about these is the opportunity to interact with blogs just seconds after something has been posted.    If you click on the Christianity link, you’ll see all the posts in recent minutes (or hours as you scroll back) from Christian blogs.

But you can also type the word Christianity into the search field.   It will give you blogs that have simply used the word from a variety of perspectives.   However the first screen you see that way is somewhat useless, you want to click on the link that says “Show the most recent.”  (WordPress distinguishes between relevant and recent in all its searches.)

Now you’re cooking!   You’ll see every WordPress blog that is using the word Christianity.    Read the screen.   Now refresh the page.   Chances are that in the minute it took you to scan the screen, a number of other bloggers posted.

It’s mind-boggling (or should that be mind-blogging?) how many words, sentences and paragraphs are being committed to the blogosphere every second.   Is that a good thing? You can click further back to see other pages, but remember that after many minutes what you knew as page one, may now be page four or page seven, or whatever.

You can also pursue different words:  faith, God, Jesus, religion, doctrine; or you can get a lot more specific than that.   I just typed Arminian and there have only been four posts today as opposed to 20 for Calvinist, including a few where the bloggers are already on the next day’s dating.   Then again Wesleyans and Pentecostals don’t blog as much as their Reformed counterparts.   (As an added feature, WordPress will tell you its most active tags overall; just now it was Music, followed by News, Politics and Life.)

Remember that the links I’ve posted will only give results for blog which have a general theme overview.    For a specific word, you need to type it in AND click on “Show the Most Recent.”   (I forgot two days ago and got caught up in a September, 2009 discussion, posting a comment that probably no one will ever see.)

It’s also a great way to interact with people who are hostile to Christianity, since they’ll be using the word in their post.   It’s a good idea to read back through a blog’s history before you think about leaving comments.

WordPress needs to lose the “most relevant” criteria.   Blogging is all about interacting with issues in something close to real time, and being directed to September, 2009 posts just isn’t helpful no matter how good they were.

April 22, 2010

Better Than Roberts Rules of Order

You can’t expect to run a society by the rules of parliamentary debate, but it often seems like a little bit of civility and decency might be in order.   So it seems rather timely that George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation should be released by so many publishers over the last few years.

American kids grow up knowing the rules as part of a penmanship exercise, but the title is foreign to Canucks, Brits, Kiwis and Aussies.

Many different publishers have availed themselves of this public domain title with 24 editions printed since 2002 currently available.

One publisher, Applewood, has the lone currently-available pre-2000 edition in print and markets the book with this history:

“Copied out by hand as a young man aspiring to the status of Gentleman, George Washington’s 110 rules were based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. The first English edition of these rules was available in Francis Hawkins’ Youths Behavior, or Decency in Conversation Amongst Men, which appeared in 1640, and it is from work that Washington seems to have copied. The rules as Washington wrote them out are a simplified version of this text. However much he may have simplified them, these precepts had a strong influence on Washington, who aimed to always live by them. The rules focus on self-respect and respect for others through details of etiquette. The rules offer pointers on such issues as how to dress, walk, eat in public, and address one’s superiors.”

Prices vary from $5.99 US for a simple 52-page edition to $37.95 US for a 180-page edition with commentary.

However, you can actually read all 110 rules at this Wikipedia page (#91: Make no Shew of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed not with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on the Table neither find fault with what you Eat) … though it’s in desperate need of a Eugene-Peterson-Message-style update.   Or maybe they can get James Reimann, the guy who updated My Utmost for His Highest.

On the other hand, KJV-only advocates should feel right at home with the language this title presents.

Better yet, here’s a question to end on:  Do they still teach any of this stuff to kids today?   Maybe we need this to be more than a writing exercise.

Related posts in this blog:  Don’t Blame Seniors (Aug. 2009)

Another reason you’ve heard the word civility in the last few days:  The head honcho of the Assemblies of God removes his name from The Covenant of Civility, perhaps rather missing the whole point in the process.   Read that story here.

April 21, 2010

Wednesday Think Links

Here’s the list for Wednesday the 21st: That means spring is one-third gone already!   (Or autumn for all our mates down under.)

  • Gotta love the new style of church names, right?   Okay, maybe not all of them. The blog Out of Ur has put them all in this collection.
  • What’s the worst thing a Methodist preacher can do?   Re-baptize someone, according to this piece by Talbot Davis at The Heart of the Matter.   Mind you, I can think of worse things!
  • Cornerstone Church without Francis Chan?  Tell me he’s just testing his congregation again.  Here’s the 11-minute video at Resurgence.  Or listen to the message on 4/18 here.
  • David Kenney went to church on Good Friday and Easter, only Jesus never died at the one, and never rose again at the other.   In this piece, he suggests that it’s all about life.
  • Tom Datema sets the bar low enough on church “purpose statements” that any local church can attain, in this piece at Brain Twitch.
  • Can you handle one more Jennifer Knapp post.  “…Let’s assume that it is a sin.  Then my question is: Can a sinful person love Jesus?  Oh! We’ve got to be so careful how we answer that question.  To me, the answer is an obvious “yes”.  It is obvious to me because my own life testifies to it.  In every season of my life, I have struggled with different sins. But in all of those seasons I have still loved Jesus.”  Read in full at Upwrite.
  • All those progressive Christian radio stations can keep playing Owl City, now that Adam Young has hit the online pages of Christianity Today.
  • Colin at the blog simply titled Words has an analogy on the subject of “constructive reconstruction” of faith with the piece, My Brother the Bike Mechanic.
  • Jon Acuff from Stuff Christians Like finally gets around to doing a book promo video, but you might draw more from this CNN clip of a piece he appeared in.  (Canadian readers:  Does John Roberts hint at the end that he attends North Point?)
  • Allen Flemming, who claims an intimate knowledge of the family says that Canadian David DiSabatino’s DVD documentary on Larry Norman has got it all wrong, setting up a website refuting Fallen Angel called Failed Angle.
  • Pastor Craig Groeschel of re-establishes his church’s purposes in The Code, a series of 13 statements spread out over three blog posts at Swerve.   You’ll have to click here and then head for April 14, 15 and 16 posts; but they’re good reading.  (Or see them all in the comments section here.)
  • Andrew Jones aka Tall Skinny Kiwi, has a balanced look at discernment ministries in 10 Ways to Keep Watchdogs from Barking.
  • Jason Wert is thankful for Anne Jackson drawing attention to the issue of human trafficking in Moldova, but suggests this event has been going on for a long while, even in the United States.
  • Adrienne at the blog, Contemplative Life, has a short post here introducing a piece by Ann Voskamp about Ann’s daughter’s baptism.   Start here, and then click the link to Ann’s piece.
  • Bill at the blog, A New Language for Christians, puts a more modern spin on the story of the good Samaritan.
  • This week’s cartoon is from Thom Tapp at Baptist Press:

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