Thinking Out Loud

May 29, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Gary Webber and the staff at Southside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida took Bruxy Cavey’s ‘The Gospel in 30 Words,’ the centerpiece of the book (re)Union, and made it into a pocket card with matching key tag.

New York Times bestseller list. Her sister Amanda Held Opelt wrote on May 23rd, “She is still with us in so many ways. She always will be.”

This week we had a number of leads on items all connected to Patheos. They asked me to turn off my ad-blocker and normally I’m more than willing to do that, but I glanced at the ABP number in the corner of my screen and it indicated it was blocking 17 elements. There are some great writers at Patheos, but getting to read them comes at too high a price. One site — I can’t remember whose — was asking me to turn off ABP and it was indicating that there were 65 elements being blocked. I totally removed the bookmark.

Now that the rant is done, on to this week’s list…

■ Tired of hearing of church-plants tripping over each other to attract suburbanites? Here’s a positive story of reinventing the wheel: “An Indiana megachurch is impacting the lives of incarcerated and troubled individuals through volunteer-run microsite campuses established this year inside a local jail, a rehabilitation center, and a local work-release facility. At least 15 people have come to Christ since the multicampus, nondenominational Emmanuel Church launched [the] campuses in January

■ The darker side of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs): Forget everything you heard about Harvest Bible Chapel, that may have been tame by comparison with this New Jersey church. “A nondisclosure agreement used by a Ridgewood church, described by some former members as cult-like, to allegedly block its followers from leaking secret beliefs and practices has been nullified by two Superior Court judges. Those practices allegedly include forced abortions, tax fraud and doomsday prophecies, according to Raymond Gonzalez, an former member of the World Mission Society Church of God, who claimed the agreement he had signed bound him to silence… The church follows many traditional Christian teachings but breaks from the mainstream in its devotion to Zahng Gil-Jah, a 75-year-old woman whom members call God the Mother or Heavenly Mother… Gonzalez also alleged, among other things, that followers who did not sign were told they ‘would be punished by God and sent to a fiery hell.'”

■ Baptist leader says women can teach men as long as they don’t act like they are teaching. Okay, it’s actually more nuanced than that. The article is titled, “JD Greear Says Women Can Teach, Well Sort of, So Long As They Don’t Mimic the Authority of an Elder.” Mimic? The article continues, “She can’t mimic pastoral shepherding in a mixed gender group unless the co-leader is a man…In other words, ‘Just the facts, Ma’am.’ And apparently the size of the church is factor.

■ His PhD program at Purdue University was “sabotaged” because of his faith.

I was ABD (“all but dissertation”) with a 3.5 GPA. I completed all course work, languages, exams, and my funding was even from a different department. But my dissertation committee chair informed me that he dropped me. He said it was because I had “too much of a faith perspective.” Never mind the fact that part of my dissertation topic was on the virtue of faith.
I now had no adviser and no legal recourse. If they don’t want to advise a grad student, then they don’t have to. I couldn’t find an adviser willing to touch me. Without an adviser I couldn’t even register for research hours. Without doing so, you’re gone a semester later. So much for academic freedom and viewpoint diversity — even in a philosophy department. I had no choice but to terminate with an MA in philosophy. Essentially, I was effectively forced out of the PhD program.

■ Meanwhile in the UK: “A nurse who offered a bible to a cancer patient and encouraged him to sing The Lord is My Shepherd was fairly dismissed, a court has ruled. Sarah Kuteh was given the sack from her job at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent in 2016 for repeatedly talking to patients about her faith and handing out a bible, in breach of Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) rules.”

■ This should settle some arguments: “Human life begins in bright flash of light as a sperm meets an egg, scientists have shown for the first time, after capturing the astonishing ‘fireworks’ on film. An explosion of tiny sparks erupts from the egg at the exact moment of conception.”

■ This is not a faith-focused article by any means, but I know that many of you use MailChimp’s mailing list server in your work with churches and parachurch organizations and the recent changes they have made in their terms of service have left some groups feeling it’s time for an alternative.

■ Persecution Watch: Iranian intelligence agents stormed a 100-year-old Assyrian Presbyterian church in Tabriz, removed the cross from its steeple, and shut it down…According to the source, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence and the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO) ‘entered our church compound and changed all the locks on the doors, removed the cross from the church’s high tower, installed some monitoring instruments and started to threaten and force our custodian to leave his place inside the compound immediately.'”

■ “Catholics are moving away from President Trump.” So begins the article which continues, “When it comes to Trump, the shift among Catholics is more pronounced than among other religious groups.” But then the next paragraph begins, “Interestingly, the slippage is somewhat greater among white evangelicals.” Huh? More clear is that “Even relatively conservative Catholics retain elements of Catholic social teaching that put them at odds with Trump policies.”

■ The time when Jesus was being racist: A great explanation of the strange interaction between Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman. “Some Christians speculate the reason Jesus challenged Justa with his ‘dogs’ crack, was because she may have had a hangup with authority or racism, and this was meant to snap her out of it. They imagine Justa had refused to help her Jewish neighbors, and now the shoe was on the foot, and Jesus was pointing this out.”

■ It’s “Wear it Rainbow Day” at work. What do you do? “How do we navigate a work space in the public square; in which the work place has been leveraged as a major platform for social change, much of it at odds with a Christian view of sexuality, and some of it, at least, at odds with lots of other groups? That’s become a critical question, and it’s all happened so quickly.” 

■ A church in Northampton (UK) pays the ultimate price for past leaders sexual abuse: (BBC News) An orthodox evangelical church has closed down following a series of historical cases of sexual abuse. Six men from the Jesus Fellowship Church – formerly known as the Jesus Army – have so far been sentenced for the indecent and sexual assault of 11 victims between the 1970s and 1990s…The JFC’s leadership team said members of the church voted to revoke its constitution at a meeting on Sunday…At its peak in the late 1980s, Jesus Army had about 3,000 members – about half of whom lived together in community houses.”

■ Quotation of the Week: Philip Yancey quotes David Brooks

“The natural impulse in life is to move upward, to grow in wealth, power, success, standing. And yet all around the world you see people going downward. We don’t often use the word ‘humbling’ as a verb, but we should. All around the world there are people out there humbling for God. They are making themselves servants. They are on their knees, washing the feet of the needy, so to speak, putting themselves in situations where they are not the center; the invisible and the marginalized are at the center. They are offering forgiveness when it makes no sense, practicing a radical kindness that takes your breath away.”

■ Regardless of what you believe about Purgatory, click through to this piece and then click on the accompanying image of Mount Purgatory to view it full size. (Not raised Catholic and not having read The Divine Comedy, this was new to me.)

■ When is it time to stop? “Church world is known for allowing programs to limp along for years instead of ending them. The same could be said at times for overseas work…I have been mulling how to decide when to end a program or other ministry slice.” The author offers a number of considerations, and then this personal note, “It is sad. It has been hard to decide to end this iteration of outreach. And we believe it is the right decision.”

■ I watched all 16 minutes of this one. Jay Vellacott calls his YT channel Rock Badger Christianity and he doesn’t seem to have a huge following, but Bible publishers would do well to at least hear him out on Teens Against Bad Teen Study Bibles.

■ Video I did not watch: On Sid Roth’s YT channel, guest David Hogan’s story is called “Face to Face with a Shape-Shifting Witch Doctor.”

♫ The band from C4 Church in Toronto’s eastern suburbs has released their newest album. Enjoy the title song from the album Resurrection Song. (This was just released hours ago… be among the very first to hear five more songs from the album at this link.)

■ The role of fiction: “Fiction is by nature untrue, and I think this is where some people get hung up on it. To tell a story, you are technically lying—therefore in reading a fictitious account, the story must be not factual, but rather originating in the imagination. We get the word “fiction” from the Latin fictus, which means “to form.” …As an author, I love the image this evokes: the idea of the story forming—taking shape like clay on a potter’s wheel—in the mind. But although fiction is by definition not true, good fiction should show us true things.”

■ Leadership Lessons: Twelve things learned on returning to pastoral ministry.

■ Should church budgets identify each individual staff member’s salary? I would have liked Thom Rainer’s answer to be fleshed out in greater detail (including a line item indicating his salary) but he gives three common-sense reasons why he feels it shouldn’t be done.

■ Best headline: “It’s Lit When You Use Teen Slang, Right? TBH, I’m Kinda Shook.” Then again, we might link to the original article which had the title Resisting the Urge to Talk Teen. (The first headline from a reprint at  …

■ … Quotation of the Week: Staying on the subject of youth ministry, and staying at; I couldn’t resisting quoting this pithy statement: “I realized that sex is not sexy.”

■ Nothing much on the James MacDonald front this week, unless you count this article describing him as a “gun-toting bully” who “pointed a gun at a former worker who requested payment” and caused concern “because of his guns” and mentions that he probably “got away with ‘millions'” from Harvest Bible Chapel. Other than that, a fairly quiet week

■ …but in light the James MacDonald situation, Jon Acuff’s words on The 700 Club in 2015 seem rather prophetic, “Leaders who can’t be questioned end up doing questionable things. Show me a church that fell or a business that fell and I’ll show you an isolated leader.”

■ Although I agree with the ruling, I do have mixed feelings about what could be next: In the state of Maine, parents can no longer “use religious or philosophical reasons to opt out of having their school-age children receive vaccinations.

■ A supergroup made up of members from iconic CCM bands will make its debut this summer in Calgary, Alberta. “With sales exceeding 30 million records between them, Kevin Max (dcTalk), John Schlitt (Petra), Billy Smiley (Whiteheart) and Dan Haseltine (Jars of Clay) have united to collectively perform their biggest hits.” The band is called CCM All Star Review.

■ Now Open! Chick-fil-A Automotive: “My tire somehow went flat in the drive through so they rushed out to replace it for me with their hydraulic Jack. They brought my food out to me then after it was done replaced my food with new fresh food so it wouldn’t be cold and put two cookies in there for free! Those people are truly doing the Lord’s work over there!

■ Everybody join and sing with us:
The rains came down and the floods came up.
The rains came down and the floods came up.
The rains came down and the floods came up.
And they ended up in court.
(Except that’s a song about the wise man building his house on sand/rock, and this is a Noah’s Ark story about suing for water damage.) 

♫ More New Music: Jason Gray’s newest, I’m Gonna Let It Go

♫ More New Music: Lyric video for the Mallary Hope song, Me.

■ A whimsical article with Canadian connections that I thought was more suited to Lorne’s blog than my own

■ Tweet of the Week: They don’t do this in my church. What about yours?

■ Finally, “Fancy a swim above the Seine in a rooftop pool on Notre Dame? A number of designs have been proposed for Notre Dame’s fire-damaged roof and spire but few are as daring as this rooftop pool.”

Click the story above, or this link to see the design company’s swimming pool image in all its glory…

…other proposals included replacing the spire with a tower filled with beehives

…or this rooftop greenhouse (same link as above.)



  1. Quick thoughts:
    I agree about Patheos – most blogs are unreadable – and if Scott McKnight ever leaves, I wont go there anymore.

    I would not consider the College Fix a reliable source of information.

    Richard A. Kauffman’s post on The Christian Century was super authentic and helpful. Should be required reading for every pastor. Too often we forget about service and get stuck in the “it’s a job” mentality. Having someone walk away and come back brings that fresh perspective about what really matters.

    Your last pic links to a site that also promotes confederate flags – not cool at all (of course neither were the Knights of Templar who the site also seems infatuated with) – most rational people in the States have moved away any association with nostalgia for the antebellum South and their “lost cause” (or at least until Trump made it safe to climb out from under that rock again)

    Comment by Jeff Jenkins — May 29, 2019 @ 7:18 pm

    • I’ll keep in mind your comment re. College Fix; we’ve used them before. I had some personal email re. Patheos which mentioned Scot McKnight. I think I already removed AdBlock from his, but as I recall it’s necessary to do all the Patheos bloggers individually.

      As for the last pic, vetting sites can be time consuming, but deleting pics take seconds. I checked it again, and the pic will be gone in about a minute.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 29, 2019 @ 9:44 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Your Response (Value-Added Comments Only)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: