First here are some things from Friday’s PARSE column:
- It’s a Christmas Miracle – Yes, I know; the rule in journalism is that you usually end with the feel-good story. But this one couldn’t wait: “When a young Filipino girl received a Christmas gift-filled shoebox in 2000, she couldn’t have imagined that one day she would meet the 7-year-old boy from Idaho who packed the box in a small town 7000 miles away. And, she never dreamed that she would marry the American boy, now grown up, 14 years later.” The story even has a letter that was never received. Where do I option the rights to this?
- The End of Religion – The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the country’s public broadcaster, seems to be targeting one particular part of its Radio National (RN) schedule for cuts: “RN is the home of specialization at the ABC, and religion has been one of its signature specializations, because of the public broadcaster’s ‘cultural diversity’ charter obligation, and the fact that, often and increasingly, there is a deeper religious or spiritual explanation to what is happening in our world that eludes most, if not all, other mainstream media. Yet religion is a particular target of the ‘reshaping’, with a 40 per cent staff loss compared to 10 per cent in other RN program areas.”
- What the Evening News Means to the Church – Our ears hear “ISIS captured the city;” but we don’t really know what that means in practical terms. “Since taking over Mosul on June 10, Aina News reports that ISIS has destroyed, occupied, converted to mosques, converted to ISIS headquarters or shuttered all 45 Christian institutions in Mosul.” The list includes Catholic, Orthodox and even a Presbyterian Church. One goes back to the 8th Century.
- Losing My Denomination – It wasn’t just sexuality or gender issues that led entire congregations to exit. “Among the broader, longstanding concerns that convinced departing congregations that they no longer had a home in their denominations that Carthage College researchers found were: ‘Bullying’ tactics by denominational leaders; a perceived abandonment of foundational principles of Scripture and tradition; and the devaluation of personal faith. ‘The ones that left said reform was not possible,’ said Carthage sociologist Wayne Thompson, study leader.” The study focused on churches exiting the PCUSA and ELCA.
- Everyone’s Overwhelmed but Nobody’s Whelmed – So also with the idea of privilege. I have a friend who says if you’re going to be poor, it’s better to do it in a poor country. In the West, perspectives get confused. “All my life I’ve heard the term “underprivileged.” It was used when we talked about people in impoverished countries or children who needed assistance with school lunches. I’ve never heard anyone take exception to the term. But for some reason when you bring up the idea there are people who are privileged, folks get real bent out of shape. This seems a little crazy to me since you can’t have people who are underprivileged without having people who are privileged.” Jayson Bradley brings a broad worldview and encourages the church to “break out of our intellectual, theological, and sociological cul-de-sacs.”
- Exciting Ministry Opportunities for Women – At the Seminary Wives Institute of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, those opportunities include courses in Ministry of Hospitality (including etiquette and menu planning) and Hymn Playing (accompanying the congregation at the pianoforte.) But what if it’s the woman who feels called to ministry leadership and it’s the husband who is the supportive spouse? At the blog Spiritual Sounding Board looking at the SBTS options, writer Julie Anne was simply not amused.
- Any Excuse for a Party – The NIV Bible was first published in New Testament form in 1973 and in a complete version in 1978. So it’s time already for its 50th anniversary. You do the math. Expect 2015 to contain a greater spotlight on issues in scripture translation, such as this summary of a presentation given by Dr. Douglas Moo, chair of the Committee on Bible Translation on the need to go beyond a “word-for-word” translation philosophy. You can read a live blog at BibleGateway, or a shorter summary at Zondervan. To be fair, it is the 50th anniversary of the commissioning of the project though Wikipedia traces its roots to 1956.
- Another Christmas in Prison for Saeed – Given the U.S. penchant for attaching all manner of unrelated spending initiatives to a single government bill, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the situation involving jailed American pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran is now enmeshed with the nuclear talks with that country. His wife, Naghmeh Abedini states, “I am beyond heartbroken… While I have never wanted my husband to be a pawn in these political negotiations, I recognize that his freedom might be tied to our government being able to reach a final deal. The thought of waiting another seven months for resolution sounds unbearable at this time.” Saeed is part of the nightly prayer list at our home; Fox News recounts the backstory.
- One for the Road – When someone leaves 3,600 provocative blog comments in 12 months, he has enough profile, right? Someone thought Atheist Max and others like him deserved to be the subject of an interview.
And here are some things from today’s PARSE column:
- The Why of Church Social Media – Why you need to work harder to connect people to your church: “Back in the day, back in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, whatever, you would have multiple touchpoints each week with the people from your church. They’d come on Sunday morning, they would possibly come on Sunday night, they would come on Wednesday, and then there might be one more event during the week that they would come to. So you would have four touchpoints to get information to them, to announce things to them. Whereas now, if they’re in the demographic where I am here in Phoenix, we’re lucky to get families to show up to a Sunday morning twice a month. And so we look at social to make up the difference.” A 48-min podcast that’s worth the time investment.
- On Having Teacher’s Pets – Jesus built into a select group of twelve, and of those, gave extra attention to three key team members. Most of us have an ideal of being open to everyone. “The most effective leaders play favorites. They don’t treat everyone the same; won’t give access to everybody; spend very little time with low performers or problem people. Most of us want to do the opposite. We long to treat everyone the same; give access to everyone who asks; spend much of our time trying to help problem people or low performers because, well, it’s the right thing to do.” Three ways to play favorites effectively.
- Preaching Your Way Through 2015 – What does the new year look like in terms of sermon series? Maybe facing a new calendar year leaves you wishing your church used the Common Lectionary. Here’s one perspective: “To be honest, I’ve never thought about my process. Since this is another area about which the Bible is quiet, there is room for many different approaches. What I realized in thinking through my process is that my preaching calendar is the result of answering five questions.”
- Word-for-Word Narrated Gospels on Netflix – Unlike The Visual Bible which only covered Matthew and John, the creators of The Lumo Project are promoting the availability of all four gospels in different translations and languages, as well as distribution of all four feature-length films through Netflix. But one reviewer notes, “The entire film is simply narrated. Yes. The actors are “playing out” the scenes being described but they are not the ones speaking the dialogue. And maybe it’s just me, but I find that an incredibly dull way to present the dynamic and rich story which is found in scripture. I’m going to assume the decision to have a narrator read the entire thing is down to offering three available “versions” of the movie. Personally, I’d have rather they pick one and allow the actors to bring these words to life. Basically, The Lumo Project: Gospel of John is a really expensive version of a passion play.”
- Reinventing Christian Television – You know the drill: You buy time on Christian networks or you buy time on local stations on Sunday mornings. For Andy Stanley, a lot depends on what you mean by Sunday morning, as they are on in 13 NBC selected markets after Saturday Night Live. This past weekend, instead of sermon material, they broadcast a live interview with Tindell Baldwin, author of Popular (Tyndale). In her words, “I wrote a goodbye letter to God letting him know I wouldn’t be needing his services anymore.” As Andy explains, “Rather than bury her embarrassing past, she would leverage it for the next generation.” Watch the Dec. 7th episode, a perfect use of an ideal time slot.
- What’s in a Name? – A complaint to the city of Piedmont, Alabama sent by the Freedom From Religion Foundation meant the end of the ‘Keep Christ in Christmas Parade,’ but only insofar as it was the parade’s name. “The title of the parade was changed back to the City of Piedmont Christmas Parade by city officials. Residents of the city decided to exercise their freedom of religion and speech Thursday night during the parade with their signs that read ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’. ‘This anti-religious group that started all this stuff, I really believe this has backfired on them,’ [Piedmont Mayor] Baker told WJSU. ‘What has happened now is the city of Piedmont…has rallied. They have caused our parade to be bigger and better with more emphasis placed on Christianity.'”
- The Miracle Crusade Continues – I didn’t realize people were still tracking with Benny Hinn. One writer decided to check out his New York event. “From the musician to his audience to the very God he claims to represent, Hinn exerts control over it all. He orders his pianist to play a certain way, and tells him to stop and switch it up when he wants a different mood. He tells his audience how to worship and how much money to give him.” On the other hand, “But, as you look around the room and see men and women worshiping God with abandon, you realize something. Maybe these people, who trust and believe Hinn, are actually having authentic experiences with Jesus, despite the man guiding them. Maybe these people are actually finding genuine faith in a place that is otherwise tinged by deceit.”
- Repent! The End is Near! – What was once the domain of fear-mongerers born out of religious zeal, is now the province of secularists. “Today, it’s secularists who predict the end of the world with absolute certainty. If we don’t turn from our environmental sins, global warming will consume the earth in a fiery apocalypse. Just as the priests of old laid out their scrolls, today’s prophets of doom point to their computer models and tell us with absolute certainty that our planet is toast unless we turn aside from our pleasures (i.e. driving, affordable electricity, economical foods) and live an austere life of sacrifice.” Author David Murrow on the works-based religion of secularism.
- Christmas Scenes Breaking a Commandment – Are Nativity images depicting Jesus not a violation of the second commandment? “I am compelled to avoid all images of Christ. From the statues of Jesus on people’s vehicle dashboards to illustrations on covers of theological books (which I wrap in brown paper), images of Jesus are embedded in even our culture at large… Because what I want is not less Jesus in my life, but more… I am not taking Christ out of my life. Instead, I am making room for more of him.” Reading this article may be the end of every Bible story book in your home.
- Shameless Promotion of Personal Friends – David Wesley’s album Basement Praise is an a cappella collection of multi-track, layered vocals known to his 21,000 YouTube followers, and makes a great cross-generational gift.
And several other stories tracked this week:
- The half-million dollar lawsuit against LifeSite News has ended with the death of the plaintiff, a pro-choice priest.
- We also posted this at C201 on Monday: Peter Enns’ 10 New Testament passages that shaped his picture of God.
- Katie Couric admits she didn’t even know the meaning of the word; proof positive that we are living in the End Times.
- Unless you’re really following today’s modern worship artists, you may not recognize some of CCLI’s Top 25 videos for 2014. The songs themselves have gotten much, much longer than the 2 minutes and 43 seconds pop standard of the ’60s, or even the 4 minute worship song standard from a few years ago.
- Couldn’t imagine a situation where someone asks for prayer and is told, “No, I will not pray for you.” That is, until I read this article.
- A book about the election process by which Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis will undergo a change in one paragraph to make it slightly less conspiratorial…
- …Meanwhile, The Vatican discovers a fortune in cash hidden in the basement. OK, not really, but perhaps more in an accounting sense.
- Finally, here’s Paul’s missionary journeys as seen if he’d taken public transit. (See below.)