Thinking Out Loud

March 13, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Michael Frost’s reading audience includes a wide demographic.

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #52. This is where all the cool get people get their Christian news and opinion pieces. You can also stay in touch during the week here at the blog and @PaulW1lk1nson on Twitter. (Just remember the number one substitutes for the letter I.)

Starting on a more serious note, U.S. news media reported the eight Americans killed in the Ethiopian Air crash but not the 18 Canadians (the largest toll for any country other than Ethiopia itself.) I wanted to highlight just one, below. CNN reported on the larger number of people who were aboard the plane, “Gone is an entire corps of experts and workers focused on issues as diverse as championing the cause of Arctic marine life to maintaining security in Uganda to easing the suffering of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.”

■ So the past week brought us the image of Donald Trump autographing Bibles. What’s up with that? Michael Frost probed the subject and didn’t look to far to find those who said Trump was desecrating Christianity’s sacred textbook.

■ Canada Crisis: Or maybe it’s common to other countries in Western Europe and North America. “A national charity that works to save old buildings estimates that 9,000 religious spaces in Canada will be lost in the next decade, roughly a third of all faith-owned buildings in the country. National Trust for Canada regeneration project leader Robert Pajot says every community in the country is going to see old church buildings shuttered, sold off or demolished.”

Dave Stone (l), Kyle Idleman (r)

■ With a weekly attendance of over 21,000; Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky is definitely one of the largest megachurches in the country. After 30 years, this week it was announced that Dave Stone is handing the role of Senior Pastor over to former teaching pastor Kyle Idleman. “Stone himself is following the lead of Southeast’s former senior pastor, Bob Russell, who handed the reins to Stone in 2006. Russell was 62 at the time, and felt the church would benefit from a younger leader.”

■ Your new term for the week: Spiritually Vibrant, or if you prefer, Spiritual Vibrancy. Barna defined this and then surveyed what it calls Households of Faith on which practices bring a lively spiritual life to broader family routines and activities.

■ Ticking off the wrong people: Vimeo objected to promoting “sexual orientation change efforts.” (SOCE) So, “the church’s account – with all its SERMONS – was deleted.” In doing so they removed content which “had nothing to do with SOCE. They removed Christian testimonies from people who left LGBT lives. They removed other talks on Scripture.” Janet Mefford notes “You may not care about us, but this is an attack on Christianity. Period. There was no fair reason for Vimeo delete all the church’s sermons, with no warning or discussion.” (Be sure to click “show this thread” to see everything.)

■ Essay of the Week: With so many Christians so affluent, we tend to favor the idea of Jesus blessing the poor in spirit (Matthew), rather than having him simply say, ‘Blessed are the poor.’ (Luke). “Theologians Stassen and Gushee collected evidence from early church documents to show that for the first 300 years or so after Christ, the Beatitudes was the single most quoted piece of Scripture evoked for teaching, discipline or doctrine in the church.” Other scriptures support the idea that Jesus was indeed blessing the poor, and not just ‘in spirit.’

■ Hymns and Chorus explained. (And no it’s not the one about the cows in the cornfield.)

Many modern songs tell us what. They do this really well! We sing what God is, What He’s done, and what we do in response.
Hymns often tell us why. Why He is the way He is, why He’s done what He’s done, and why we should respond. If what brushes the skin, why penetrates the heart.

■ An element of the Passion Week story you might choose to leave out of your Good Friday sermon: The idea that, as one considers the dynamics of Roman crucifixion, Jesus endured what we would term sexual abuse today. (Graphic content.)

■ The response to James MacDonald’s justification of suing another believer (or several) which Christianity Today refused to print. (4½ .pdf pages plus footnotes.) (Admittedly the lawsuit was dropped, but by publishing only one side, doesn’t that leave CT complicit in the whole sordid affair?)  …

■ …and according to this report from Julie Roys, documents she’s seen show “numerous incidents where MacDonald spent the church’s money to support his lavish lifestyle.” Included in her report is the time when he “went on a worldwide missions trip that was so stressful, he needed a safari in South Africa to help him recover from it.” Or the time he “Demanded that the church pay to repair his truck after he scraped and dented it on one of the columns in the Elgin church parking garage, blaming security for ‘setting the cones up wrong.’

■ When it comes to certain issues, people will draw the line for one subject but not another. The article, at Internet Monk introduces links to a series of sermons and podcasts from one church which is on the frontlines of the issue of women in ministry.

■ If the formula ain’t (yet) broke… “After the success of 2018’s I Can Only Imagine, the Erwin Brothers and their producing partner Kevin Downes are tackling I Still Believe, the story of Jeremy Camp. Through Lionsgate and their Kingdom banner, the producing partners have targeted March 20, 2020, for wide release.”

■ Walking the Pavement: An organization which knows a thing or two about campus ministry notices that having some type of context changes how they pray for those college and university campuses. Instead of sitting in an empty classroom, there’s a value in prayer-walking, and it changes how a person prays.

■ Seeing the school adorned with flags supporting the LGBT community, an Ohio student responded by putting Bible verses on Post-It notes, which were taken down, and she received a suspension. She describes her conversation with the principal: “…I asked him why every time Jesus or God or anything like that gets brought up at school, it gets taken down right away. But we can put gay and pride stuff all over the school and not have to take it down and people can talk about it, but when you talk about God or Jesus you just get put down, you’re not allowed to talk about it.”

■ Believing the best or deceiving the donors? It’s amazing to read the spin John MacArthur’s Master’s University and Seminary puts on things despite being in default of academic institutional standards and also facing staff cutbacks.

■ Post-Hybels: Putting the situation at Willow Creek in perspective, a UK writer notes four things to remember about the Bill Hybels story, including that we should not be dismissive of all Bill believed and taught about evangelism and leadership… also this article:

■ Nancy Beach, a longtime Willow staff member from the earliest days, responds to the independent investigation.

■ This story is interesting and even includes a nun who was also Chemistry professor at a Michigan University. Yes, really! “While the discovery of DNA is usually credited to two physicists, James Watson and Francis Crick, there was a woman behind the scenes that paved the way for their breakthroughs by uncovering the complex structure of the molecule.” The story of Dominican Sister Miriam Michael Stimson.

■ NewSpring — the church founded by Perry Noble — isn’t taking responsibility. “A Southern Baptist megachurch in South Carolina says it is not responsible for actions of a former volunteer criminally accused of sexually assaulting preschool boys inside a church bathroom while security cameras rolled.”

■ Up to 100 former Jeopardy contestants who also happen to be clergy, including Orthodox Jews, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Episcopalians, will be participating an interfaith service via a Zoom conference on March 13 to offer prayers for program host Alex Trebek who was recently diagnosed with stage four cancer.

■ The top Latter-day Saint meets the top Roman Catholic. “A visit between a pope and the man considered a prophet by millions of Latter-day Saints would have been unimaginable to leaders and members in both churches 50 years ago. Clandestine olive branches and decades of détente were necessary, according to sources from both faiths…”

■ How To: In the United States, going to church seems as American as apple pie and baseball, but many are hesitant to invite their friends, neighbors, coworkers or extended family. An article from Life Church offers a template on how to begin the conversation.

■ The humility of affliction. A short devotional on Psalm 10 comparing the English of one verse to how it’s rendered in the Italian Bible.

■ New Author: Derek Vreeland is the author of By the Way: Getting Serious About Following Jesus. Here’s a sample of his writing dealing with four wrong assumptions about Christ’s death.

■ Then there’s the interesting case of the UK street preacher. Street evangelism is much more common in the UK than in North America, but this one had a rights-violating experience with police. “After marching out of the area, law enforcement transferred him by car to a remote location over five miles away from where he was. Lost and with no money, it was only through the kindness of strangers that Olu managed to find his way back to Southgate.”

■ A profile of  former Everyday Sunday member Trey Pearson, a “gay Christian rocker” who had to find new places to play after he was shut out of the Christian music circuit after coming out

♫ New Music: Lift Up Jesus by Passion featuring Brett Younker. ♫

■ Desiring God, a website once the domain of Reformed Pope John Piper, is now all about deciphering imagery in the Captain Marvel movie franchise. (With some predictable and justifiable outcry on their take.)

■ FREE Book Excerpt: Yesterday marked the latest release of a new fiction title by author Joel Rosenberg. You can read a 19-page .pdf sample of The Persian Gamble at this link.

■ Piano Lesson ♪ : Sound like you know what you’re doing as you reharmonize Amazing Grace. (12 minute video.)

■ Question of the Week: Could the Catholic Church in New York file for bankruptcy?

■ Lastly, did you give something up for Lent? Decision Data reports “this year social media overtook alcohol for the top spot. For years, booze had been at the top of the list, but not in 2019. Other big movers include television, which fell off the top chart and into the “other” category.” Check out the survey results.

Click the image to see this t-shirt at

Or click the image on this one to see it in black. We should get a commission for this!

Apparently Michael W. Smith’s infatuation with this diamond pattern is a long-running thing. The current album (r) and his second album (l) are separated by 35 years.


  1. I assume you knew it, but the “diamond pattern” contains Michael W. Smith’s initials. :)

    Comment by George — March 13, 2019 @ 8:48 pm

    • I can see that in the current album on the right side, but the three-dimensional aspect of the older album doesn’t work from my perspective.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — March 13, 2019 @ 10:12 pm

      • I think they were taking some artistic liberty, 80’s style. Look at his hair and clothes! :)

        Comment by George — March 14, 2019 @ 12:07 pm

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