Thinking Out Loud

December 17, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Alien Mormons

The two Mormon missionaries in artist Brook Robertson’s piece “Zion / Rocky Mountain Alliance” look determined. The figures are both wearing crisp white shirts and ties, resolutely staring forward as their vehicle heads towards it destination. Such a statue normally wouldn’t be out of place in Salt Lake City — the worldwide headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Except for the fact that the vessel is a spaceship. And one of the missionaries has the bright blue skin of a sharply-dressed alien. CLICK the image to read the full story at Huffington Post.

 

Time to catch up what’s been happening in Linkland. First, the Friday PARSE column from last week:

  • Not Home for the Holidays – A woman in ministry writes her mom, “You didn’t sign up for this strange and wonderful life your daughter has chosen. You have not made any vows to the church. We young clergy women know that it isn’t always fair how our pastoral vocations impact our loved ones, from missing holidays with our extended families to spending too many evenings away from our kids to seldom being able to go away for the weekend with our spouses… Broadway stars have to work Friday and Saturday nights, tax preparers have to work long hours in March and April, pyrotechnicians have to work on Independence Day, and pastors have to work on Christmas and Easter.”
  • Churches Losing Career Women – We frequently encounter articles about the church losing the male demographic, or losing youth, but this one offers an entirely fresh perspective. Why are working women disconnecting? The article is a mix of stats, theory and practical concerns. “‘The existing programs for women don’t align with my work schedule or my needs.’ – We often hear professional women in the church say they would rather go to the men’s 6:30 a.m. group events because of scheduling and content, but can you imagine if they went strolling into one? …[T]he women’s events are scheduled during the workday or at other times that a busy working woman who is putting in 40+ hours at work plus running a home plus often mothering children and getting them to school, arts and athletics, etc. just can’t make it.” This makes a good discussion starter for church leaders.
  • Twenty for 2015  – Tony Morgan’s ideas and opinions do you make you think: “#6 Once a church gets beyond a few hundred people, it’s really dysfunctional for boards and committees to be involved in day-to-day decision-making around purchases, facility maintenance and staffing issues… #9 Every church should be actively planning to add a service, add a campus or plant a church…  #12 Shared leadership doesn’t work. When all the leaders are equal, no one is leading…#18 Every church should do a marriage series, a money series and a series on life purpose every year…” In total, twenty, some of which he admits are politically incorrect.
  • The Recognition and Function of Spiritual Gifts – A look at common misconceptions and questions raised by the topic of unique, individual talents: “A few believers have not fully appreciated, or embraced, their gifts because they were ones that did not appear to require some mysterious spin to its explanation. So they did not think very highly of those as spiritual gifts. So then, we tend to see how a vibrant biblical teacher could have a spiritual gift but not a skilled church administrator… So, what happens when we are outside of the walls of the church? … One who is blessed with wise counsel or sympathy does not automatically become unsympathetic or full of foolish advice when they are, say, with a colleague at workplace instead of at church.”  Responding to a variety of questions people will ask.
  • Crossing Theological Categories – Samuel James has been blogging on the Evangelical channel of Patheos for just a few days past one year. He’s been flooded with readers on a recent piece on Rob Bell, who he notes is a product of the Emergent movement but now espouses a teaching that is perhaps more in line with Pentecostalism, “which, of course, ends up making sense, since that’s exactly the kind of preaching that Oprah Winfrey seems partial to.” He observes, “Bell has now become the very thing he once decried;” and suggests something important regarding the people of Mars Hill Grand Rapids, Bell’s former church, “I feel a measure of sadness for those people; they have to feel a bit betrayed right now.” With all the attention given this, don’t miss James’ analysis in defending Dr. Russell Moore.
  • When the Translators Finish, Everyone Gets a Book, Right? – Growing up in a missions saturated church, I always thought that a printed Bible was the end product of every translation project. But orality, not literacy, is the norm in nearly half of the world. The problem is that traditionally, tech solutions involved moving parts that rusted quickly in many parts of the world, and batteries which wore out. Today, the face of Bible distribution involves unsung organizations such as Galcom and Megavoice using microchip content and solar powered devices to relay Bible content in dialects most of us have never heard of.  This video isn’t new, but gives the backstory.
  • Should Religious Scholars Be Tackling Climate Change? – Last week the New York Times reported that the American Academy of Religion (AAR) would be taking a sabbatical from its annual meeting every seventh year in the interest of saving the planet. One writer disagrees with this emphasis: “The real problem is that [AAR President] Zoloth has been drawn in by the challenge of her scientist colleagues at Northwestern, who apparently asked what the study of religion was doing about climate change… Must every discipline have some significant contribution to make to every social problem we face? Maybe, as an academic discipline we ought to show a little more humility. As much as we find it irresistible to pontificate, maybe there are times when a particular academic discipline needs to get out of the way and let those better placed get on with the work.”
  • Not Everyone Shares The Spirit of the Season – “As the spirit of generosity increases in the weeks leading up to Christmas, so do break-ins and thefts. Churches are not immune from the threat. In fact they may be easy targets during the holidays… ‘The major problem with a lot of churches is not that they do not recognize the need for security,’ [security expert Jerry] Turpen said. ‘They either procrastinate or they develop the attitude of ‘this won’t happen at our church.’ Churches must decide if it’s worth the risk not to take the threat seriously.'”
  • Bonus Link: Although the original story is two years old, making the rounds again is the marginal notes — complaints is a better word — that monks wrote in the margins of manuscripts they were copying.

Next, we have what’s appearing on PARSE today:

  • Having Church with Buffalo Wings – First it was movie theaters, now it’s restaurant chains. “When Riverchase United Methodist Church announced they would hold church services in a local Buffalo Wild Wings, they probably hoped to make a splash in the city of Hoover. I doubt they knew the move would inspire a top ten list on David Letterman…Christians need to abandon the idea of holy buildings and holy sites. Our church buildings are not the New Testament fulfillment of the Old Testament temple. Jesus is… We meet with God not in a physical building, but through Jesus who gave his life for us.”  A concise look at a breaking story.
  • Your Church’s Story, and the Surrounding Community Story – “From mega churches to house churches to traditional churches to community churches, the diversity in expression for the people of God in cities is vast. Yet amidst all the diversity, there is one commonality among North American urban churches: they all exist within a changing religious culture. Whether a church chooses to adapt, engage, withdraw or reject such change, they can’t deny that the church’s role in culture is in fact changing.” A short look at two churches in Vancouver, Canada that find the larger community around them undergoing dramatic shifts.
  • Redeeming ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ – Evangelicals generally disdain the popular carol for having no basis in scripture, however: “Worshipers of Jesus (like the magi) compel their neighbors (like the drummer boy) to consider Jesus — to come and see him, as it were. And when the neighbors do, if they would believe, a moment happens when they realize their bankruptcy is exposed. They see Jesus and comprehend his glory, and then they look at themselves: But I am broken. I am empty and poor. I’ve got nothing to bring this King that even comes close to representing the honor that is due him.” This Desiring God commentary helps us see the carol in a new light.  Which brings us to…
  • Why So Many Seasonal Songs are Written by Jewish Musicians – “In their music and lyrics, Jews captured Christmas not only as a wonderful, wintry time for family gatherings, but also as an American holiday. What they drew on, said Rabbi Kenneth Kanter, an expert on Jews and popular culture at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, was their background as the children of European-born Jews, or as immigrants themselves, in the case of Russian-born Berlin and others.” Why not Hanukkah songs? “Although celebrating the birth of Christ was not something these Jewish songwriters would want to do, they could feel comfortable composing more secular Christmas singles.”
  • Christianity without Christmas – “Some ‘conservative Quakers,’ said Chris Pifer, a spokesman for the Friends General Conference, one of several national Quaker groups, refuse to observe Christmas at all, under the “every day is a holy day” rubric. But not all of the nation’s 33,000 Quakers share that stance…Perhaps the most conspicuous of Christmas-shunners are Jehovah’s Witnesses, millennialists whose ranks include 1.9 million members in the United States. Although the group initially observed Dec. 25 as a holiday, church spokesman J.R. Brown said from the church’s Brooklyn, New York, headquarters, further study by one official in 1928 led them to drop the observance.” All this and more from a Mormon news website.
  • Why Teenagers aren’t Sharing their Faith – “[W]e have an almost irrepressible appetite for doing outreach events instead of mobilizing our teenagers to be the outreach event… Of course, outreach events are fine and good and needed from time to time. But if they are replacing, rather than enhancing, our teenagers’ personal evangelism efforts then they are limiting our true outreach effectiveness.” Seven points in total, but all of these could apply just as easily to adults. Which leads us to…
  • Christ Centered Youth Ministry – This article could also apply to Children’s ministry or various adult departments of your church. So imagine you’re a youth pastor, only a few weeks on the job, when a parent corners you in the office with this: “As a father, I take the role of instilling Christ into the lives of my children very seriously. Because of that responsibility I want to make sure that my kids are involved in a youth program that is Jesus-focused. So tell me, why I should trust you and the program you run?”
  • Slain in the Spirit – When I first saw this video I was sure it was faked. Think of Benny Hinn throwing his suit jacket at people, only ramped up exponentially. The pastor, Chris Oyakhilome, has his own page on Wikipedia which states that he is, “a Nigerian minister who is the founding president of Believers’ LoveWorld Incorporated also known as “Christ Embassy”, a Bible-based Christian ministry headquartered in Lagos… Pastor Chris’ ministry has expanded rapidly beyond coasts of Nigeria and South Africa, and he now holds large meetings in the United states and has Healing school sessions in Canada, and United Kingdom.” The one-minute video is entitled, “Watch as Pastor Uses Invisible Power to Knock Down Church Members.” (Hopefully, this isn’t the only Christianity people in that country see.)

During the week, I save links just for this part of the list. So don’t think of these as the cutting room floor from the PARSE links…

Christmas Mass at Saturday Night Live

If church is just an annual thing for you or your family, you might relate to this SNL skit. Click to watch at Relevant.

 

 

 

 

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