Thinking Out Loud

September 30, 2012

Finding A Good Church Fit

A strange thing happened in church this morning.

During the first verse of the first worship song, a family came in: Husband, wife, teenaged daughter.  They took a seat in the 2nd last row. Then we started into “One Way Jesus,” about the edgiest song we do, or as edgy when it can be when most of the worship team is in their mid-forties and the sound is being mixed by the most conservative sound team member in the rotation.

And during the first chorus of that song, the family headed for the exit.

Apparently our church had one chorus to ‘wow’ them and we didn’t. Or maybe they were expecting a more conservative church that would sing from a hymnbook. Either way, it was like we were all X-Factor and the three judges has just given us all three giant Xs. (Or is that X-es?)

I wanted to run outside after them and get the backstory, but I was actually part of the worship team in question and dropping my guitar and running out the back door would probably have alarmed some people, including my wife who was leading the worship this morning, and would have assumed me to be in some type of physical distress.

I wanted to do this for two reasons. First, of course, I wanted to know where our church let them down. Did they not phone during the week to find out about the style of worship? Should they have done more research?

Second, I have an unusually high degree of knowledge about what’s going on in other churches in our community. I could have hooked them up with two churches within a few miles that do actually still use the hymnbooks, both of which have a start time a half hour later than ours, putting them there right on time.

But I don’t even know if it was a music thing. Someone suggested they had seen that the building was open and had come in to use the restrooms, and found themselves ushered to a seat in the auditorium. Now if that’s true, then I really would have wanted to hear that story, just because it’s so funny…

What I did find however, is that witnessing the whole thing from the rather clear vantage point of the platform, the whole scenario completely unnerved me. I played a couple of wrong notes and was completely distracted for the rest of the worship set and well into the sermon. Why had they come in only to leave so quickly?

So, today’s question: What’s the weirdest thing that ever happened in your church involving a visitor or group of visitors who clearly didn’t fit in, or were in the wrong place at the wrong time?

If you have trouble leaving a comment, email it using the “contact us” page in the list of pages further down the sidebar.


September 29, 2012

Is He Gay? — The Not So Straight Answer

Found this today at The Two Cities, a blog I hadn’t heard of before* which began just over a year ago as a collaboration of seven friends. This article is thoughtful, well-written, and will take about 4-5 minutes to read; here’s a sample:

So am I gay?

Here’s the problem: it’s hard to cram a whole conversation’s worth of cultural context, theological concepts and personal convictions into “yes” or “no.” For Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction, the answer is really “yes and no.” Yes on the surface level (being attracted to the same sex) and no in the truest sense (as a new creation in Christ). So if someone asked if I’m gay, the best answer is “Kinda sorta yeah not really.” It’s a complicated answer. But so is the question.

continue reading I’m (Kinda Sorta Yeah Not Really) Gay at The Two Cities blog

*found at Saturday Links at DashHouse

September 28, 2012

Giving Your Church What They Prefer Over What They Need

Matt Marino is an Episcopal Priest who spent 17 years with Young Life.  He dares to pose a question that’s being heard more and more recently,

What’s so uncool about cool churches?

[This is a teaser, you are strongly advised to click the link above and read the whole article, which has so far attracted over 100 comments.]

They ask for more and more, and we give it to them. And more and more the power of God is substituted for market-driven experience. In an effort to give people something “attractive” and “relevant” we embraced novel new methods in youth ministry, that 20 years later are having a powerful shaping effect on the entire church. Here are the marks of being market-driven; Which are hallmarks of your ministry?

  1. Segregation. We bought into the idea that youth should be segregated from the family and the rest of the church. It started with youth rooms, and then we moved to “youth services.” We ghettoized our children! (After all, we are cooler than the older people in “big church”. And parents? Who wants their parents in their youth group?)
  2. Big = effective. Big is (by definition) program driven: Less personal, lower commitment; a cultural and social thing as much as a spiritual thing...
  3. More programs attended = stronger disciples. The inventors of this idea, Willow Creek, in suburban Chicago, publicly repudiated this several years ago. They discovered that there was no correlation between the number of meetings attended and people’s spiritual maturity...
  4. Christian replacementism. We developed a Christian version of everything the world offers: Christian bands, novels, schools, soccer leagues, t-shirts. We created the perfect Christian bubble.
  5. Cultural “relevance” over transformation.We imitated our culture’s most successful gathering places in an effort to be “relevant.” Reflect on the Sunday “experience” at most Big-box churches:ure.
    • Concert hall (worship)
    • Comedy club (sermon)
    • Coffee house (foyer)
  6. Professionalization. If we do know an unbeliever, we don’t need to share Christ with them, we have pastors to do that. We invite them to something… to an “inviter” event… we invite them to our “Christian” subcult
  7. “McDonald’s-ization” vs. Contextualization:  It is no longer our own vision and passion. We purchase it as a package from today’s biggest going mega-church. It is almost like a “franchise fee” from Saddleback or The Resurgence.
  8. Attractional over missional. When our greatest value is butts in pews we embrace attractional models. Rather than embrace Paul’s Ephesians 4 model in which ministry gifts are given by God to “equip the saints” we have developed a top-down hierarchy aimed at filling buildings. This leaves us with Sunday “church” an experience for the unchurched, with God-centered worship of the Almighty relegated to the periphery and leading of the body of Christ to greater spiritual power and sanctification to untrained small group leaders.

continue reading the whole article here.

As I prepared this, I thought of point number eight in light of my ‘online’ church home, North Point. There are only two worship songs, and further worship is relegated to Thursday nights every other month. But even those nights simply mirror what happens on Sunday morning, which is itself an extension of the youth ministry model.

Some youth are not happen with the state of the church, and are seeking an entirely different model, as we wrote last week.  Other teens and twenty-somethings are simply leaving, as we noted two weeks ago. So there are issues that need to be addressed as to the sustainability of the present models within student ministry; but also larger implications for an entire assembly or congregation.

Among the comments at Matt’s article:

  • Being hip isn’t the problem you’re addressing, its the lack of content which plagues both cool (too much focus on preference for entertainment) and uncool (to much focus on preference for tradition)
  • What matters isn’t what the preacher wears, whether there is coffee, whether there is a rock band or an orchestra or just a piano, is the FRUIT.
  • “Guitar Praise — Just Like Guitar Hero, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “Praise Ponies — Just Like My Little Pony, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “Testamints — Just like Altoids, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “Christian Chirp — Just like Twitter, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “GodTube — Just like YouTube, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “Seek & Find” — Just like Google Search, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “Johnny Hammer — Just like Justin Beiber, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
  • Your biggest draw, which is providing a loving community where all kids can belong, is completely lost when your church preaches a bigoted message on homosexuality.
  • We assemble to worship, serve, please and praise God. It’s all about HIM! Not us. Smoke machines, guitars, pianos, lasers, and flashing lights? Why? Does this please God? Is it what he’s asked for? Or is it a ploy to bring more bodies in? Hey, I am all for trying to get more souls in the pews, but let’s do it in a way that doesn’t put make-up on God.
  • A good church cannot be determined by its “style” of worship. What is important? Shouldn’t a church be judged by things like its theology, its teaching, its mission, the fellowship and growth of its people, whether people come to God and become closer to God?

Study on the Moral Failure of Pastors

Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor in the Bahamas who blogs at Pure Church. While working on a book on scandals involving the indiscretions of Evangelical pastors, he noticed some common themes:

  • In most cases, men who should have been disqualified were back in their pulpits or establishing new ministries within months
  • In most cases, churches were seriously injured by the transgressions and hurt further by the inadequate efforts at redress
  • In all the cases, the offending pastor received more attention and support than the victims of his abuse or deceit

He then delves into a study by Garland and Argueta, two researchers at Baylor University, noting:

“All of this carnage begins with a process researchers call ‘grooming.’”

I thought the use of that term interesting, given that it’s the same term that’s used when pedophiles are slowing preparing children and teens for sexual contact. In other words, an affair doesn’t happen in a moment, but is the result of a longer process, or even strategy; all of which begins because the pastor is in a place of trust:

Congregants trust their leaders to protect their families; these leaders are those that perform weddings and are expected to be present and supportive to congregational families through times of crisis. Instead, these offenders often denigrated the women’s spouses, driving a wedge into what they knew was a vulnerable marriage. In the aftermath of the death of her child, by definition a marital crisis, [one victim]’s pastor told her that her husband would never be able to meet her needs. Delores remembers the tension between her husband, who had a leadership role in the church, and the pastor as the pastor began to initiate a relationship with her.

Read the full article here.

September 27, 2012

Microblogging Again – Material for your Facebook Page

First, from your friends at Dayspring Cards:

Or if you want to evangelize your mostly non-churched Facebook friends:

Or encourage mostly Christian Facebook friends:

Or this one actually found on a Facebook page:

If the label is a clue, this Aeropostale t-shirt parody is by Kerusso:

For Christian seniors who can never find a graphic for their blog:

And then from Absolutely In Love With Him:

And finally, for those of you who prefer to put substance over style on your Facebook page, this one from Sabrina:

Decision Making Principles for the Christian

Before you decide, ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Is it Biblical?
  2. Would Jesus do it?
  3. Will it bring glory to God?
  4. Can it be done in the name of the Lord Jesus?
  5. Is it coming from selfish or unselfish motives?
  6. Have I prayed seriously about it?
  7. Is it a righteous use of my time?
  8. Do I have any doubts about this?
  9. Will this cause anyone to stumble?
  10. Will it cause me or anyone else to think about anything that is not pure, lovely and excellent?
  11. Does it appear or “seem” to be evil?
  12. Will it cause you to have anything to do with evil things?
  13. Is it constructive and beneficial?
  14. Is it seeking your good or that of others?
  15. Is it a first priority matter for me as a Christian?
  16. How will it effect the lost?
  17. Does it help unbelievers understand about God and the Gospel?
  18. Is this upbuilding to fellow Christians?
  19. Am I doing the good that I know to do?
  20. Is there a substitute for this that is better?
  21. Have I examined all of the possibilities?
  22. Have I sough the counsel of wise men?
  23. Will it build unity in my family and the Church?
  24. How will this effect myself, and my family in the future?
  25. Will I be glad about this tomorrow or in the future?
  26. Where will this possibly lead? Do I want to go there?
  27. Does it hinder my doing the things God commanded or nullify His Word?

Joe Brumfield, 1995 X

Okay, I know I said ‘finally’ but then as I was putting this to bed, I found this at this week’s Happy Monday at Master’s Table:

September 26, 2012

Wednesday Link List

We either start off with really serious issues and end with something silly, or we do it the other way around. Today leads off with the latter:

Okay, we need some serious links also, right?

Not enough links for you? The new Top 200 Church Blogs list is out.

September 25, 2012

A Response to the COEXIST Poster

source: Stand to Reason (STR) Blog

UPDATE (Dec. 4, 2012) As noted in a comment below, if you want to know more about the origin of this graphic visit

Weekend Worship: We are at a Crossroads

For several months now I have had some misgivings about the sustainability of our present worship paradigm. Now someone has confirmed it…

They’ve grown up dancing, so they long to kneel.  They’ve grown up with masterfully orchestrated services, so they long for worship that may be planned, but never rehearsed.  They’ve grown up with the latest, so they long for the oldest.  They’ve grown up with, “God is here, let’s celebrate!”   They long for “God is here, let’s kneel and be silent.” 

They’ve grown up being urged, “Now, everyone can just worship God however you might want.  Just let the Holy Spirit move you.  We are all different.”  So now some are seeking worship where the implied advice is, “Now, everyone leave your hyper-individuality at the door.  Let’s say words together.  Let’s make gestures together.  Stand together.  Kneel together.  Let’s listen to the wisdom the Holy Spirit has given over the centuries.”

continue reading Sneaking Into Worship by Tom Lawson at Adorate

September 24, 2012

Catholic Readers, Help Wanted!

Saint Longinus – from his Facebook page

Today we’re asking our Roman Catholic readers — that’s right, both of you — and anyone else who wants to chime in on this one to help us with a perplexing problem.

Why was the soldier who pierced Jesus’ side canonized? (i.e. granted Sainthood)

The Evangelical in me — despite the fact we don’t confer sainthood on anybody, not even Rick Warren — is dying to know.

But others with a thing for search engines and internet sleuthing are welcome to play the game, too.  So here are the basic facts:

And isn’t there a thing about proving three miracles to become a saint? How does that fit here?

Snapshot of Life for the Wives of Prisoners

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:31 am

The British TV series Prisoners Wives — already out on DVD in the UK — is just now coming to Canada, airing on Vision TV.   An article in the Catholic Register paints a vivid picture of what viewers can expect, and what the real life wives, children and parents of those incarcerated face every day, presented here through the storyline of four very different characters who share the common burden of having a loved one behind bars.

But it was the sign in the visitors area on the promotional shot that really got to me:


There’s a dose of reality.

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