Carlos Whittaker explaining technology to Pete Wilson:
In order to highlight that the links are now on PARSE on Saturdays, I’m running the latest list here. Remember that these are especially keyed for pastors and church leaders, but I try widen that focus a little with things of interest to all of us. Feedback from Thinking Out Loud readers is always welcomed. The decision to move to Saturday was made by CT, but we’re now in direct competition with our friends at Saturday Ramblings at Internet Monk, where you’ll also find a great summary of the week in religious news; and an especially busy list this week, too (including a sermon excerpt that’s not safe to play if your kids are in the room).
- A New Church Metrics Paradigm – Instead of counting bodies in the pew, you could count the times members invited their friends, relatives and neighbors. “I want to suggest a measurement that I believe would bring many benefits. This key measurement stat is ‘how many people have you asked to church this past week?’ Why that question? …[I]t does measure how enthusiastic the congregation is to want to talk about their church and what is going on there.” The writer sees eight benefits resulting from stressing this type of measurement.
- Americans Need a Counter-Script – Brian Zhand: “As Americans we are given a script from birth — it is our shared and assumed formula for the pursuit of happiness. Without even being aware of it we are scripted in the belief that our superior technology, our self-help programs, our dominant military, and our capacity to obtain consumer goods should guarantee our happiness. Said just so it sounds silly, but when it is communicated in the liturgies of advertising and the propaganda of state it becomes believable… But it’s a lie. It’s a false gospel, yet enormously popular. The only possible way to resist that dominant script is through the adoption of what Walter Brueggemann calls a counter-script. For the Christian that counter-script is the gospel of Jesus Christ — at the center of which stands a cross!”
- Sunday Night, February 22nd – Is your church calendar open that night? Author Phil Cooke has an idea which, even if you don’t pursue it, will definitely get you thinking: Host an Oscar Party. “Recently, as I’ve been speaking at conferences and events around the world I’ve been urging Christians to stop looking at Hollywood as the enemy, and start looking at Hollywood as a mission field. After all, what if Christians stopped just criticizing, and actually started praying for the most influential industry in the world?” This isn’t a packaged simulcast; you’re on your own as to what it might look like.
- Essay of the Month: Our Hunger for Transcendence – “These men go to church on Sunday with the question of why eating holes in their guts, and the church tries to answer that transcendent question with a supposedly transcendent answer, yet nothing of those men’s experience in church from week to week ever takes them anywhere into the genuine transcendent light of God. You can’t meet transcendent needs of people who are stuck thinking only of fish, if all you can talk about is the fish itself. And churches today are absolutely mired in talking about the fish. You can blame the leaders, but the fact is, most of them are generations removed from the last transcendent moves of God in this country.”
- After a Year Without God, Pastor No Longer Believes – You’ve probably already been tracking the story of Ryan Bell, the pastor now turned “agnostic atheist.” Branson Parler writes: “Bell illustrates that our beliefs and life practices are inseparable. We can’t act as if God doesn’t exist and assume that we’ll keep believing. In the context of his famous wager, Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal recognizes that believing is not merely a matter of reason and the will, but of our heart, habits and passions. We can’t just will ourselves to believe something; the process is more mysterious than that… Bell is Pascal in reverse. If I spend a year living like God doesn’t exist, it’s not surprising that after a year of living that way, I believe it.”
- Unconditional Election, Meet Modern Worship – There are some who will disagree with this song’s theological mindset, the manner in which it is adapted from another well-known chorus, or both. No matter, it’s an eye-opener. The author justifies some of this in history: “One of the things [Thomas] Cranmer did was to take the Church’s inherited worship practices and, in a sense, “hijack” them… He took people’s beloved traditional prayers, for instance, and “edited” them to emphasize God’s work and de-emphasize our work.” In a second article: “We’re attempting to capture the spirit of the Reformation for modern times.” Listen to the remake of “I Have Decided” and decide for yourself.
- An Addiction You May Share – “On November 7, 2012, I stopped watching the Fox News Channel (FNC). That might not seem like a big deal if you didn’t know that I probably averaged 7-10 hours a week for years. I was a news junkie. I LOVED watching the news, hearing different angles on the news, and listening to incredibly smart commentators share their opinion about the news. I watched other channels too, but I was probably 90% watching FNC…I just knew my steady diet of Fox News wasn’t good for my soul. So I walked away. I’ve noticed several things have changed in my heart and mind as a result…”
- One Christian’s Reasons for Marrying Someone Divorced – “[E]ven though God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), he doesn’t hate divorce in isolation, as though he just thought up something arbitrary to hate. He hates it for a reason, and that reason–stated in the verse–is because divorce is a form of violence against the person one has married… God is in the business of redeeming messed-up, broken, and sinful people, not avoiding them… He didn’t abandon Adam and Eve to their fate, and create a new pristine pure species who had never fallen to be his people. His plan for salvation didn’t involve a command from On High, but rather involved God himself becoming human, choosing to be one of us, mixing together with sinful humanity… the truth is that God has involved himself with sinful humanity throughout history, and I for one am deeply grateful.”