Thinking Out Loud

January 8, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Is this what your church will look like in 2040? See article below.

It’s fiction, so it can choose to be or not be about Christianity. Nonetheless the program won’t be streamed in the country where it was filmed. See stories below.

With three weeks of catching up to do, this is a slightly longer list. I hope you’ll not rush through this, but take time to click on a half-dozen or more items.

■ Essay of the Week: I’m staring at a completely blank screen as I type this but this open letter to blogger Julie Roys is undoubtedly this week’s must-read piece. “[I]t can still be fairly observed that anyone who tried to pastor a church in the Chicago area in the past 30 years felt the influence of Willow Creek and Harvest like the manager of a Mom-and-Pop store feels the influence of Walmart and Amazon. Two near-orbiting energy-draining black holes.”

■ If you were following a Twitter account called C. S. Lewis Daily, what would you expect to see? I’m guessing quotations by C. S. Lewis, right? But on the weekend more people started noticing that the items have nothing to do with Lewis, there seems to be an agenda, and perhaps even the account has been hijacked. Check out the comments on this one, for example. (Update: Apparently we weren’t the first to notice this.)

■ UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his Christmas speech to remind everyone of the persecution faced by Christians worldwide. “As Prime Minister, that’s something I want to change. We stand with Christians everywhere, in solidarity, and we will defend your right to practice your faith.”  ­

■ If they didn’t like the message of Andy Stanley’s Irresistible, they might not be too happy with Greg Boyd’s take on a similar subject. Check out his weekend sermon introducing his book Inspired Imperfection.

■ An Australian reflects on the bush fires consuming such a large amount of acreage in his country:

  • Each year, there is a bushfire season in Australia, but this year it started weeks earlier and they are now the largest in living memory. The bottom line is that over 10 million hectares have been burned (that is an area the size of Scotland and Wales combined), hundreds of homes have been destroyed, at least 20 lives lost, and almost 500 million animals and birds destroyed (including an estimated third of the koalas in northern New South Wales).
  • These fires are not new. This afternoon I was reading about the impact of the 1851 Black Thursday bushfires that burnt a quarter of Victoria, killed 12 humans and over a million sheep.
  • The Indian Ocean Dipole is the main reason for both the extreme heat and drought in Australia. This is an effect where the western half of the ocean is warmer than that of the eastern. Added to this is the problem of the winds. Normally the strong southerlies blow several hundred kilometres to the south but for some unknown reason they are much closer to Australia.
  • If Australia were to destroy its own economy (and impoverish many poor people even more) and reduce its emissions from 1.3% to 1% of global emissions, the new power stations being planned in China would make up for that within a year.
  • 13% of bushfires are natural; 87% are human and of these at least 40% are believed to be arson. The situation is so serious that today it was reported that NSW police are to set up a taskforce to investigate how many of the fires were caused deliberately…

He then asks readers to pray for rain.

■ Memoir of the Week: Though he doesn’t pin any dates or locations to the article, Roger Olsen reminisces on growing up in a conservative Christian home along with the many services attended and behavioral codes adhered to. He wonders aloud what happened to that lifestyle.

■ Not everyone has a Damascus Road experience. “A study done among a group of 500 churchgoers in England who had come to faith in the previous twelve months found that almost seventy percent of them described their conversions as a gradual experience that took an average of four years. Only twenty percent described their salvation experience as dramatic or radical.” 

■ In one of his latest messages, Francis Chan bends slightly Roman Catholic. Or not so slightly. “500 hundred years ago, someone put a pulpit at the front of the gathering. This is when we shifted from communion as both the physical center and most important element of the service to ‘one guy and his pulpit.'”

■ Quotation of the Week: How to Stay in Church, A Field Guide

Maybe I’m not the best person to talk about this; after all, I’ve left. I don’t go to church these days. I’m an outsider. Maybe that disqualifies me from talking about how to remain. But I will tell you this: I still love the church. I’m always captivated by the idea of community and togetherness. And I believe in the mission of the church as I understand it. I believe the church was called to be a place where people come together to follow Jesus by loving their neighbors. For all my cynicism, I still believe in the power of the Holy Ghost flowing through the local church.

Even though I love the church, I’m by no means blind to the hurt it causes. And if you’re going to stay, you are going to get hurt. You must prepare to triage yourself and other people because the church is going to hurt you. There are going to be people who wound you, some doctrine that crushes, and unwillingness to change that is going to be like smashing your face against a brick wall. Theology will be wielded as a weapon and the pulpit will give up its authority for the sake of political power. It’s going to hurt to stay. If you want to stay, you must brace yourself for the hurt.”

■ Another denomination, the United Methodist Church, is splitting later this year over the gay marriage issue.

■ Significant Archeological News: “The Israel Antiquities Authority believes it may have found a 2,000-year-old market next to the recently discovered Pilgrimage Road in Jerusalem that Jesus and other Jews once walked on to get to the Second Temple.”

■ Having to do funerals for people he’d never met convinced this pastor of these five tips the dead can teach the living for 2020.

■ Decade in Review: Religion News Service on those whose influence rose and those whose stature fell.

■ Christmas, one more time: The 41-minute series kick off sermon from December 1 by Andy Stanley to his congregation makes good back-tracking for anyone in your sphere of influence unclear as to what the last month was all about.

■ Seven local church concerns. Thom Rainer reports on feedback from church consultants noting seven trends. Sample: #5 – “The issue of deferred maintenance is a crisis in many churches. Our consultants are reporting a number of churches that simply don’t have the funds to maintain their deteriorating facilities.”

■ A really, really good article from October, 2017 we wish we’d seen. The Bible’s world provides us with so many natural and agrarian metaphors. But we live in cities. Is there a way our worship songs can better reflect this?

■ White Supremacy: Publisher’s Weekly reports, “In this trenchant analysis of the roots of white supremacy in American culture, blogger and preacher [Mark] Charles (Reflections from the Hogan) and religion professor [Soong-Chan] Rah (The Prophetic Lament) team up to examine the insidious legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery, a set of 15th-century legal principles based on Catholic papal decrees.” This title released in November from IVP.

■ Thousands attended as “Reinhard Bonnke, the German evangelist known as ‘The Billy Graham of Africa,’ was lauded at a Saturday (Jan. 4) memorial service as ‘a giant and a general in the army of God.'”

■ New website(s) to know about with resources for the whole family: Minno Life (for adults) and Minno Kids (which is also the new home for Jelly Telly.)

■ To bolster attendance at their Kentucky attractions, Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter and Creation Museum will both offer free admission to children 10 and under in 2020.

A season of predictions. The holographic worship leader pictured above is one of several items on a list of ways the church will look different in 2040.

■ Provocative (but not exactly inaccurate) Headline of the Week: “Actress Michelle William Celebrates Abortion During Golden Globes, ‘Thank God’ We Can Kill Babies.

■ Opinion: The CT article by Mark Galli in reference to President Trump was nothing more than journalists doing what journalists do. ” Journalists serve the public… Journalism shares a lot of the same values as Christianity. They both privilege truth. They both are concerned with the interests of others.”

Messiah: Will he convert you or con you? That’s the question asked in a new series on Netflix. Like the CBS series God Friended Me, the brush strokes painted are wider than Christianity, but in much of that network series, Christianity seems to be most dominantly in view. Messiah offers “an ambiguous Christ-like man claiming to be sent by God.” “Packed with several solid teachings and the resounding message that sin brings punishment, season 1 of Messiah ends with the implication that Al-Masih might be either a hoaxer, a magician or a radical terrorist.” (Note: “The series is rated TV-MA (for mature audiences only), because it contains foul language and graphic sex scenes.”)  …

 … However, “The Royal Film Commission [in late December] officially asked Netflix not to stream the TV series Messiah in Jordan after supporting its shoot in the country… ‘The story is purely fictional and so are the characters,’ the commission said. ‘Yet, the RFC deems that the content of the series could be largely perceived or interpreted as infringing on the sanctity of religion, thus possibly contravening the laws in the country.'”

■ A single brand: Discovery House Publishing is now Our Daily Bread Publishing. (The organization has been moving toward a single brand identification dating back to it’s ‘Radio Bible Class’ days.)

■ Russell Moore begins by telling his 2009 self that “Donald Trump is president, Twitter is still around, Kanye West is a Christian, and Joshua Harris is not” and then goes on to name his Top Books of the Decade.

■ Old Music: The Getty’s have just covered a hymn belonging to a writer born in 1894: Thou Who Was Rich Beyond All Splendor.

■ New Music: Mandisa has covered one of our favorite songs: Way Maker

■ Mainstream Music (article): “Coldplay gives us a vision of everyday life in which people acknowledge each other’s hurt, individuals dissolve as drops into the same sea, and we all sing a mournful, joyful hallelujah together.” This analysis leaves me wishing the author had written a few songs of his own.

■ ICYMI: Our summary of the top Canadian-interest faith-related stories of 2019 which appeared here at Wednesday Connect.

■ Babylon Bee articles look like the real thing. And they’re quite funny. So they get shared. A lot. And people read them who don’t know it’s satire. Why that’s a problem for them, for the people referenced in their stories, and for all of us.  

■ Just east of Syracuse, New York, three of the four town councilors decided they’d rather swear on a book of town codes than on a Bible.

■ An article about a movie about the making of faith-based movies got 10,000 comments; all from people who haven’t yet seen the film. Watch the teaser trailer for Faith Based. (Film festival opening January 18th.)

Best sermon series teaser ever.

■ Finally, a Lent course based on Mary Poppins. (see image below) “Where The Lost Things Go is a ‘practically perfect’ Lent course for small group study – or for reading on one’s own – based on the popular film Mary Poppins Returns. Poet and minister Lucy Berry skilfully (sic) draws out some of the themes of the Oscar-nominated movie (which stars Emily Blunt, Ben Whishaw and Lin-Manuel Miranda) and shows how we can consider them more deeply alongside passages from the Bible.”


If you missed the Holy Post Podcast where Phil Vischer and Skye Jethani (and Christian Taylor) responded to the CT article by Mark Galli, it contained a history lesson on the differences between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. Josh Alves illustrated this on Twitter.

■ Postscript: If you already heard the Holy Post Podcast referred to in the above graphic, this article by Roger Olson is a good fit.

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