Thinking Out Loud

June 21, 2018

Knowing the Family: Church Name Tags

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:15 am

Yesterday, on another blog I write for, the question of name tags came up. I checked to see if we had ever covered anything like that here, and the closest we came was a few months ago when we looked at church family photo directories, here and here.

I recognize that for many of you this is a rather superficial subject, but increasingly, I think that people like to have a name to associate with the people with whom they are having fellowship or engaging in worship. When the “turn around and shake hands and welcome each other” part of the service kicks in — and we can debate that in another article in future — my go to posture if I don’t know the people is to say, “Hi, my name is Paul.”

I feel that people want to know who you are more than have their right hand shaken for two seconds.

Admittedly the photo directory covers some of this. If you’re church isn’t huge, you can page through the thing and associate names and faces before ever having the first conversation.

Social media also makes a difference. Many are connected on Facebook, etc., and you’ve seen your friends’ friends’ pictures previously. (Yes, that was the correct use of the possessive apostrophe.)

So would name tags help?

We wear them at conferences, where it’s assumed people from many different locations are converging together. This is often helpful over the course of a week or weekend, but of course we might never see those people again.

The Mormons have them as standard issue. A friend of mine actually made his own when trying to infiltrate a local Mormon congregation. I’m not sure it was effective, but he did stuff like that. (I wish I could tell you more!)

I attended a church once that used them. You left them in a rack and picked them up when you arrived and pinned them on upon arrival. After about 12 months (or less in my case) people just got tired of it, though some people kept using them for several more years. After the first season of use, everybody knew everybody by then.

And that’s just the point. Fellowship and getting to know each other should occur organically. We shouldn’t have to organize what should happen naturally in the body of Christ. It doesn’t need a level of administration.

Next thing you know you’re taking all the songs you sing regularly and putting them in a book! Oh wait, that happened, didn’t it? And then the churches went through a period of only singing what was in the hymnbook and it was more difficult to introduce new songs.

I would argue that formalizing the getting-to-know process would do the same. Rather, tell me your name, and then tell me more; a little about yourself, your family, where you live, what you work at, how long you’ve been attending the church.

 

 

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June 20, 2018

Wednesday Connect

A spinoff product for Brant Hansen’s Blessed Are the Misfits book, or just a coincidence?

Usually the pictures and graphic images we open and close with have an element of humor to them, but I wanted to share this because I think this pastor — who I happen to know — has touched on something that doesn’t get discussed enough.

I know this is a theme which resonates with so many. Over and over again I hear of sons and daughters who grew up in Sunday School, but are now far from the Church, with many also far from God. I like what Ewen’s church is doing here and I think more churches need to think of ways to mobilize prayer. Also, if that’s you and you know someone in a similar situation, offer to become prayer partners for this particular concern. 

Now we resume regular programming:

.► Canadian Christians are still reeling from the decision in the Trinity Western University Law School case, which we covered here extensively on the weekend. “A portion of Christian freedom of expression loses big time in this ruling, which implies that in Canada, sexual identity trumps religious identity.” 🇨🇦

► An American looks at Canada’s Supreme Court decision in the Trinity Western University law school case: “Here’s why we’ve been raising our voices for so many years and why we’ve said that those who came out the closet want to put us into the closet. It’s why we’ve said that LGBT activism was never simply about ‘tolerance’ – it was about the silencing of competing views.” 🇨🇦

► Just my opinion of course, but I think social justice advocate Danielle Strickland is the hottest news on the rack right now. Just a few weeks after her Sunday at Willow Creek, she was back there for a Wednesday night, speaking on Zephaniah. Watch the entire sermon as I did and enjoy.

► Essay of the Week: Arrested Development is “an illustration of what theologians call generational sin…Is sin passed from generation to generation, or are we each responsible for our own actions? The answer is “both and,” a painful truth illustrated by Arrested Development. We are shaped by our families. Every family, from the Cleavers to the Bluths, is dysfunctional to some degree. We all inherit sinful ways of seeing the world, relating to each other, and understanding God. This is why Jesus insists his Church is a spiritual family, one that even supersedes our biological families.” An essay in making the body of Christ a family for those whose own is stuck in Arrested Development

► Churches and Social Media: If your church is pursuing Millennials, having a Facebook account may not be helpful. But having one on YouTube, Snapchat or Instagram means you’re going to have to have the resources to maintain it and post frequently.

Winning the 2018 Generation Award at the MTV Movie and TV Awards, Chris Pratt had three faith-filled points, but also two or three which I felt took away some of the impact from those. Hear his 4-minute ‘sermon,’ in full

► Small Group 2011 Flashback: The writer of the majority of the piece wrote the words 7 years ago. The title earns our ‘provocative’ award: Why Churches Should Euthanize Small Groups. (Not new, but 2nd most popular post at Sermon Central.) 

► If you’re looking up your family tree and mailing your spit to Ancestory.com doesn’t do it for you, it’s a well-known fact that the best authority on who married or begat who in North America is the Mormon church. Now comes word that their genealogical database will begin recording same-sex marriages.

► There have been many recent discussions about the contagion associated with suicide. Roger Olson looks at the question, ‘Is Suicide Sin?’

J. D. Greear

► After being elected the 62nd President of the Southern Baptist Church, J.D. Greear writes at his personal blog that his prayer for the SBC is for greater humility and greater hope… 

► … However, did everyone at The Summit Church, where Greear is the pastor, realize they were attending a Southern Baptist church?*

► … In less stellar SBC news, an all-white church has been kicked out of the denom for incredibly strong racist attitudes toward a black church with which they were sharing facilities and partnering for the purpose of guaranteeing their long-term survival after having dwindled from 250+ members to only 20. Perhaps now we know why people weren’t attracted to that particular congregation.

► If you can’t get enough of Hobbits and Middle Earth, here’s a website dedicated to all things Tolkien: Check out Kaitlyn Facista’s Tea with Tolkien.

► Church membership covenants, a membership roll, or just showing up each week? Scot McKnight raises the point and even though this article becomes a book teaser, it’s worth considering.  

► “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” That’s the working title of an address I am giving next month, so you can imagine my reaction in seeing this article. Inevitably, when the story is told of how things went south in a person’s life, it often begins with the time they met _____________ .

► Decriminalizing blasphemy: In Ireland, “any utterance or the publication of indecent, blasphemous or indecent matter is regarded as an offense.” The country wants to remove this crime from its constitution

► Fixed Prayer Times: On a more serious note at Reddit (than the item we end today’s list with) someone asked if Muslims are the only religious group having fixed prayer times. These short answers are actually quite helpful, especially reading them altogether.

► If it’s true what people are saying, at this time you should probably read this. (Doesn’t sound very forceful, does it?) A look at three phrases which reflect weak leadership

► Don’t think we run enough Catholic items here? Last night I rediscovered Big Pulpit. (It’s like Real Clear Religion but with more items and each one having a Catholic connection.)

► The sister of gospel music singer Kirk Franklin has been sentenced to 30 years in a Texas prison.

► Worship Leading: “Have you ever had someone on your music or tech team that you hoped God would call to the mission field? Or Toledo? Or just anywhere but your church?” 5 Preventative measures to keeping what the author calls “the crazies” off your team.

► The number of LGBT employees at the BBC is four times the national average. Also, “Almost one in 50 of the corporation’s staff identifies as transgender, but in the general population, only one in every 14,000 people has legally changed sex. The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director Ciarán Kelly said the news was further evidence of the BBC’s ‘obsession with political correctness’.”  

► “Let my building go!” — It could be the only way to keep the church alive is to jettison the historic real estate that’s holding you back

► In the artist spotlight on Jon Rivers’ show is Pat Barrett, with the song, The Way (New Horizon) also available in a 7-minute version from Housefires. ♫

► Releasing June 29th, this new Hillsong Young and Free video from the album simply titled III, shows the musicians in a very digital environment. ♫

► Religion Problems – 2018 Style: When you partially identify as Pastafarian and you want to get your new drivers license picture taken with a colander on your head but (a) you can’t find one that fits, and (b) you have to first prove you’re Pastafarian. Assuming you can find one that fits for next time, how do you prove you’re part of the fringe religion?


It would be nice to think that a year from now, when people scroll by this, they will have forgotten what the panel below was all about. Others will say it’s already too late for that, what’s happened is now seared into history. Either way, I love what David Hayward, aka Naked Pastor has done with this news topic. Click here to link.


*J.D. Greear video: We take no responsibility for the speaker damage that may occur when auto-play sends you to the video which follows. (If you have a blog, don’t use whatever video embed thingy that is.) Auto-play is destroying families and lives and must be stopped. Join the campaign by sending your money to me, or calling 1-800-STOP-IT with your pledge.

June 19, 2018

Empire Building


Empire Building

One thing my wife and I totally agree on is our disdain for Christians who are constantly trying to promote themselves or their organization.

I’ll admit if you’re a charity you need to do some fundraising, and if you’re a musician you need to sell some albums and book some concerts in order to survive. That’s not what I’m talking about.

Rather, there’s an underlying attitude that you simply know it when you see it. It loudly proclaims, “It’s all about me;” or “It’s all about my little empire.”

And it’s sad.

Kingdom Building

The only good thing about empire building is that it provides a healthy contrast for the times when you meet people who are all about promoting and building God’s kingdom.

It’s beautiful when people walk in an attitude of humility and simply trust God with their own projects in order to focus their primary energies entirely on seeing his will done in the earth.

…I was reminded of this song, and this particular version of it includes the lyrics. As Greg Boyd famously ended his services with this benediction for many years, “Now go and build the kingdom.”

Just make sure it’s the right kingdom.

 

June 18, 2018

If You Could Change Denomination or Religious Tradition, What Would it Be?

Filed under: Christianity, Religion — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:31 am

On the weekend, the Twitter anon-account Unvirtuous Abbey conducted an interesting if unscientific poll. The question was:

While respondents didn’t give their current status, the list of idealized destinations did contain some interesting results. I wondered what their readership is like (nearly 40,000 followers) and what the results would look like if the survey had been conducted by research organizations such as Barna, Pew, or LifeWay.

In the words of Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi, “These are not the denominations you’re looking for.” [Source: LittletonCoin.com]

Of 110 responses, several mentioned faiths lying outside of Christianity, such as Sikh, Unitarian Universalist, Baha’i, Buddhist, Wiccan and Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. There was only one mention of Islam.

In what I would argue is a class by itself, 7 or 8 people said Jewish, one even specifying Reform Judaism.

Roman Catholic was mentioned several times, but it was often in comparative sentences, or referring to an inability to bring themselves to leaving. “Can I be a bad Catholic?” one asked in jest; while another was very realistic, “I would have enjoyed growing up Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic because liturgy, but I’d likely have converted away by now.” In an indictment against other Christians, one person wrote that, “they seem to be the only one that takes Jesus’ teachings on serving the poor, the immigrant, the lonely, and the marginalized remotely seriously.”

But few actual votes, which was strange given one of the clear winners: Anglican/Episcopal. On the “why” part of the question, one wrote, “All of the pomp, none of the guilt.”

Another clearly-leading contender: Quaker. (One person adding, “I like their oats.”)

The Eastern Orthodox was mentioned a few times, though some of those were from people who had already tried it. Mennonite, Amish, Anabaptist, Wesleyan, United Church of Christ and The Salvation Army each received at least a single mention.

Of the more mainstream Christian denominations, Presbyterian received the most votes — One reason, “because I’ve got waaaay more debts than trespasses.” — as well as Evangelical Lutheran (ELCA).

If you have a Twitter account you can still comment (click on the image above) but really the thing needs a much larger sample size to count for anything.

Is the grass greener somewhere else? Are people feeling a yearning of discontent in relation to where they are? My own comment — skirting the question — was that I didn’t see people lining up to become Assemblies of God or Baptist. Perhaps that’s the nature of the readership that Unvirtuous Abbey receives, or perhaps it means something more significant. What do you think?

How would you — if you’re not on Twitter — answer their question?

 

 

June 17, 2018

Teddy Bears Baptist Picnic

Church Picnic Potluck: If you don’t like salads, pasta or casseroles, there’s always desserts.

Today, after the worship service we’re going to a church picnic.

Not any type of church picnic however, a Baptist1 church picnic.

And we’re bringing a salad2.

Oh no! How did that happen? What have we become?

The church where my wife has been serving as pianist for the last four months is having their Church Family Picnic, and while I would normally be attending a different service3, being together on Father’s Day seems like the right thing to do; plus just showing up for the food doesn’t seem right…

So… I wake up in the morning and like you do, I’m thinking about the day ahead, and the song The Teddy Bears’ Picnic jumps into my brain.

And then I realize it.

This is where, in my youth, in my formative musical years, I developed a thing for songs which have key changes; especially songs where the verse and the chorus are in fundamentally different keys and it alternates back and forth.

So here, for your Father’s Day entertainment, is Anne Murray4 singing the song, followed by a recording of the original. If you read this early enough in the day, consider taking Dad out for a picnic lunch5.


1 If you know my part of the world, there are two dominant strains of Baptist here. The one — which we attended 20+ years ago for about 18 months — is the one more similar to the SBC. The one we’re going to is part of the denomination once characterized as moving in a more liberal direction, but definitely moving back to its more Evangelical roots. At least, I think that’s right.
2 It’s a pasta salad that looks like a casserole at a distance. We have several categories covered at once here, if need be.
3 They had their church barbecue last week. Nobody brings anything; they provide hot dogs and hamburgers, potato chips or nachos and a drink. (No desserts, however. Crushed ice and cotton candy for the kids. Sigh!) Planned correctly, a person could get on a circuit for these things in the month of June, and never need to make lunch. It’s not your church? What are they going to say?
4 If I were still doing things for Canadian radio stations, this would qualify as Canadian content, provided Anne recorded it in Canada, which I think she did. “CanCon” as it’s called here — which is in no way similar to ComicCon — requires that at least two of four factors be Canadian: Music composer, Lyric composer, Artist, Production. Arranged in a logo that sort of spells “maple,” the MAPL logo still appears on music product here, provided you can track down physical product at all.
5 Restaurants are a Mother’s Day thing, at least in my books. Better to make something special, eat it at home, and put less stress on the credit card or bank account.

June 16, 2018

A Sad Day for Christianity in Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada had an entirely different view on dealing with religious or theological matters in 2004 than what was announced yesterday. [Source: ]

CBC News:

Trinity Western loses fight for Christian law school as court rules limits on religious freedom ‘reasonable’

Supreme Court of Canada says 7-2 decision will ensure open access for LGBT students

A B.C.-based evangelical Christian university has lost its legal battle over accreditation for a planned new law school, with a Supreme Court of Canada ruling today saying it’s “proportionate and reasonable” to limit religious rights in order to ensure open access for LGBT students.

In a pair of 7-2 rulings, the majority of justices found the law societies of British Columbia and Ontario have the power to refuse accreditation based on Trinity Western University’s so-called community covenant.

The mandatory covenant binds students to a strict code of conduct that includes abstinence from sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

The majority judgment said the covenant would deter LGBT students from attending the proposed law school, and those who did attend would be at risk of significant harm.

It found the public interest of the law profession gives it the right to promote equality by ensuring equal access, support diversity within the bar and prevent harm to LGBT students.

In the court’s view, the law societies were acting within their mandate in considering TWU’s admission policies in the accreditation process…

…there’s much more, continue reading here. CBC also mentioned:

Other professional programs at the university, such as the teaching and nursing programs, have been operating successfully for years, turning out graduates who are well-respected in the community, [TWU Professor Janet Epp] Buckingham said. She said she does not anticipate any challenges to those programs, whose students are also required to sign the covenant…

…But Andrew Bennett, director of the religious freedom institute at the Christian-based think tank Cardus, said the ruling could have broader implications for other professions such as medicine, and for other religious schools…

The Catholic Register reported:

…Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver, whose diocese includes Langley, B.C., where TWU is located, said he was “saddened” by the decision “with its potential to undermine freedom of religion, conscience and association in Canada.”

“The decision runs counter to Canada’s tradition of balancing rights and freedoms, and the implications of this decision for constitutional freedoms in Canada are severe,” Miller said. The Archdiocese of Vancouver intervened in the TWU case jointly with the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) and the Faith and Freedom Alliance.

“With this decision, the court has moved away from our historic tradition of reconciling competing rights, and closer to a prioritization of rights, essentially ruling some are more important than others,” Miller said.

The CCRL said the decision could have ripple effect. “The broader implications of the SCC’s decision will cast a pall on the future interface between religious viewpoints and state engagements in the public square,” said the League in a news release. “Questions will now be raised on continued or future access to state benefits, public funding or government approvals of available programs.”

“It’s a terrible, terrible decision,” said constitutional lawyer Iain Benson, who now teaches law in Australia. “It’s a very dark day in Canadian legal history.”

According to the majority view on the Supreme Court, “the standard religious position on sexual morality no longer accords with a reading of public interest,” Benson said.

“That is extraordinarily serious,” he said. “It has the potential to open up whole swathes of Canadian culture to scrutiny under so-called ‘charter values.’”

…read their entire report; continue reading here.

Peter Vogel of the Christian Heritage Party wrote,

This case has very serious implications for future decisions of the courts. Why? Because judges at every level, including the Supreme Court, are selected from the ranks of experienced lawyers. By making it more difficult for young Christians to pursue the study of law at an institution that honours their beliefs, this judgment has effectively closed the doors to many future Christian judges. The inevitable result will be courtroom decisions that ignore, not only Christian moral values but, the rule of law. Without the rule of law, justice and freedom will eventually disappear.

…for his entire column, continue reading here

There was also an interesting graphic on CBC News quoting the Supreme Court decision:

But one could argue the decision restricts access to legal education of Evangelical Christians. In another time, another place, the statement might just as easily read:

Realistically, it’s more in line with how things stand today. Further, the percentage of people in the general Canadian population identifying as “Christian” or “Catholic” is much larger than those who identify as LGBTQ. The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many, I suppose. 

In context, this decision comes just weeks after another event which has riled Canadian Christians from coast to coast: Federal funds for summer job grants were denied to religious institutions and Christians charities which refused to sign a statement saying that “anti abortion” wasn’t part of their “core mandate.” This, plus the legalization of marijuana, just weeks away, is seen as an attack on the values of Canadian Christians.  

Certainly, 2018 will see Canada’s attitudes on Christian values end much differently than the country started the year, leaving many Catholics, Evangelicals and even Mainline Protestants asking, ‘What’s next?’


Some comments on Twitter yesterday:


The school posted this video yesterday, although it doesn’t really address any of the issues:

June 15, 2018

How Many of These Scriptures Do You Have Memorized?

Of all the major religions in the world, Christians are least acquainted with their own scriptures.

A faith community that does not impart its sacred writings to its young people is one generation away from extinction.

Programs like the Navigators’ Topical Memory System and others like it have proved helpful to people wanting to memorize verses on their mass transit commute or during their lunch break. Today, we’re listing entire passages worth your focus.

We’ve been surveyed to death lately. Barna, Gallup, Pew and major media outlets have a sudden interest in Christians because they feel there’s a story here, and the story they think they’re seeing is that Christianity is sinking faster than the Titanic.

While the astute know that isn’t true — an Adam Ford graphic is helpful — I wonder what the comparative stats would look like in terms of our knowledge of and our ability to recite major passages from our faith’s sacred book.

The problem is that gathering data on this would make for some complicated metrics. What would you include? That’s where I want to take this today. Here are some passages I think everyone should know… by heart. I’m taking John 3:16 as a given and I’m more focused on passages than individual verses such as in this list or this list. I know some readers will want to add their own. How well do you fare against this list?

[ ] The Lord’s Prayer – Over a certain age and you probably had to recite it elementary school. And every Roman Catholic can tick this box, with or without “For Thine is the kingdom…”

[ ] Psalm 23 – Beloved for centuries and rich in imagery, I can do this one in two very different translations. If you think you know it, try right now.

[ ] The Ten Commandments – There actually are recent metrics for this one and I’m told some of us didn’t do very well.

[ ] John 14: 1-6 – “Let not your heart be troubled…” The promise of eternal life.

[ ] various “Romans Road” scriptures – Essential if you’ve ever taken a ‘soul-winning’ course, these would vary but must include 3:23 (“For all have sinned”) and 6:23 (“The wages of sin.”)

[ ] The Apostles/Nicene Creed – No, they are not in the Bible, but I toss it in here in case any of the above-named research people are actually reading this. Would be interesting to know the numbers.

[ ] The Fruit of the Spirit – People from previous generations would wonder, ‘How can you not know this.’ For me, compounded by the various translations, but I think I’ve got them all.

[ ] The Beatitudes – “Blessed are the meek…” In all honesty, this is one I might have trouble with.

[ ] “Think on These Things” – If you need a refresher, it’s probably on a wall at your grandmother’s house. Again, possible translation confusion, but easily memorized one way or another.

[ ] The Armor of God – I wouldn’t get this one and was told by my family it needs to be on the list. Is one of them The Laser Beam of Criticism?

[ ] Psalm 100 – Acting as stand-in for any Psalm which was ever set to music. (I’m thinking of the Maranatha classic Psalm 5; or any one of a gazillion songs based on Ps. 19.)

[ ] Psalm 1 – Wise advice.

[ ] The Philippians ‘Hymn’ – “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.” There are a number of clauses in this to remember.

[ ] Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart…” Only two verses; I shared this when I was baptized and the camp where we met is named IAWAH, In All Ways Acknowledge Him.

[ ] I Cor. 13 – “Love is patient, love is kind.” My wife mentioned this — maybe she was trying to tell me something — but I don’t see this one as strongly as the others.

[ ] I John 1: 1-4 – “That which we have heard and seen…” You knew John’s Gospel had a prologue but so does this epistle.

[ ] Deuteronomy 30 – “Choose life.” This a long passage, but if you’re committed to memorize some of it, you’d want to start at verse 15 and continue to the end of the chapter.

How would you do?

What would you add?


June 14, 2018

Books about The Book

Many years ago I was given a copy of something titled What’s the Best Book? It was an obviously homemade production — the type of thing you’d get printed and bound at Office Max — and for each book of the Bible it offered three of the best commentaries. On the front cover it proudly stated, “Published by Farrell’s Ice Cream” and an address which I believe was in Florida.* Despite this, I saw the value in such a compilation; this was truly someone’s labor of love.

Inside many of us is an unfulfilled Bible nerd. Though we can’t put Bible College or Seminary on our resumés, we love researching topics for the weekly Bible Study and having an ample supply of Bible reference materials on the shelf. We’d never dare quote Greek — at least out loud — but our inner scholar is always just a breath away from bursting forth.

This week I was truly blessed when a friend, now living on the other side of the continent, gifted me with a copy of Best Bible Books: New Testament Resources by John Glynn with contributions from 4 other writers; published just weeks ago by Kregel Academic. This is the Farrell’s Ice Cream book on steroids.

On a book-by-book basis, it lists the books it consider best resources and the books which are better resources and the ones which are simply good, as well as, at the end of each Biblical book’s section recommending additional books on other subjects which arise out of those texts. (The good/better/best ranking is done as each title arises alphabetically; one needs to read through the listings carefully.)

More than just a recommended list, it offers an informed rundown of the approach the author takes in each; followed by the format and usability.

It’s important to state that the books do not all receive glowing recommendations; there are some tough criticisms here which means no pastor, professor or student will end up with a resource which differed from their expectations. 

This is not a book you just sit down and read cover-to-cover, and for that reason I don’t purport that this is a review. Its benefits are toward those who want to get the right book; for those times when neither budget nor shelf-space allow multiple purchases. It’s also a resource I believe every Christian bookstore should keep handy, and every Bible College and Seminary library ought to display in a special place.

Many of the recommended books are from mainstream sources, though readers will encounter some esoteric publishers. Page counts are given but not U.S. list prices. There are some expensive titles to be sure, these types of materials don’t come cheap.

Here’s what Kregel themselves had to say about it:

There are thousands of excellent resources in the field of New Testament studies. But which tools are best for sermon preparation, topical study, research, or classroom study? In Best Bible Books, the authors review and recommend hundreds of books, saving pastors, students, and scholars time, effort, and money.

Glynn and Burer examine commentaries on every book of the New Testament, describing their approach, format, and usability; they then rank them on a scale of good, better, and best. Other chapters survey special studies for each New Testament book as well as books in related disciplines such as historical background, language resources, and hermeneutics. Also included are helpful chapters on building a must-have personal library, and identifying books that comprise the ultimate New Testament commentary collection. This is an indispensable resource for any serious student of the Bible.

Additional sections include recommended resources on general New Testament background, Jewish context, Jesus in the Gospels, and commentary series themselves.

I did say that this isn’t a book you simply read for enjoyment, but I’d like to qualify that: Seeing the different tactics used in the approach section of each listing in a section (i.e. 2 Timothy) and then following that section for each publication mentioned is truly an education in itself. It’s a reminder to ask ourselves, “How do I approach the text?”

Paperback | 336 pages | 9780825443985 | $27.99 US | $37.79 CDN 


*I believe Zondervan did something similar once. They had a book by John Kohlenberger called Words About the Word (about translation) and then did something called Books about The Book (from which I stole today’s title) but I couldn’t find evidence for it online to include here.

June 13, 2018

Wednesday Connect

The Week That Was: Trump at the G7 meeting in Canada. To see who is featured in the picture, click this BBC News story.


Scripture Faith Christian Shirts


Several of this week’s links are from Canadian sources. Events at the G7 weren’t connected to my decision to include them, but it’s a good place to remember that we are all brothers and sisters on both sides of the border.

We try to avoid sending you to sites with annoying pop-ups. Excluded this week was Thom Rainer, whose page allows you to do nothing until the pop-ups are finished. Anyone old enough to remember the Christian blogosphere before all this nonsense started knows how frustrating it is today.

Here’s this week’s collection of stories you may not see elsewhere.

► Faced with a dying congregation, an ailing building and poor finances, this Montreal pastor shut down the church for 9 months and then reopened it as a multi-faith community center providing a home for five different churches and addressing the fact that the 20,000 sq. ft. of urban space was only being used less than 5% of the time. “When it reopened, the masses were pared down. New people started coming. Before Singh took over St. Jax, the congregation was about 30 people. Now, there are about 80 there every week.
And groups have begun to start renting the space. There have been salsa dancing, choral and tap-dancing events. Long-overdue repairs have begun.” This revolutionary approach is worth reading.

► Coming soon to a computer near you: Crowd-funding continues for what is planned to be a summer launch of what founder Steven Andrew calls an alternative to Facebook and Twitter, USA.Life

► …And on a rather similar-looking page (featuring the swearing in of President Trump in the background) an alternative to Google, 1776Free.com  (The vision for both sites obviously ends at the U.S. border. Sigh!)

► This will be outdated by the time you see it on Wednesday, but I was still rather amazed at this article — appearing in no less than Christianity Today — calling for the election of Beth Moore for President of the Southern Baptist Convention. (Aren’t these the same guys who turned their chairs when Anne Graham Lotz spoke not so long ago?) …

► For the record, at age 45, the SBC-ers elected J. D. Greear.

► Decided this week: “Printing ‘In God We Trust’ on US currency does not force a Satanist to spread Christianity, federal judges have ruled.”  (History: The first motto challenge took place in 1970.)

► Could you pass as a Christian refugee? Swedish “officials did not believe that [Aideen] Strandsson was a true Christian because her knowledge of Christianity was apparently insufficient;” and wanted her deported back to Iran. I wonder what their test was and if the average North American Christian could satisfy them.

► So…Are there fewer weddings booked at your church this year? “Clergy are solemnizing fewer and fewer marriages. Instead, couples are turning to civil magistrates or even loved ones who obtain credentials. In 2009, 29 percent of couples had a friend or family member solemnize their wedding. That number had increased to 43 percent by 2016.” …

► …The article was based on a May article at Facts and Trends. “In 2017, 15 percent of weddings were at barns, farms, or ranches. Fourteen percent were at historic homes. Seventeen percent were at a banquet hall. Hotels (12 percent) and country clubs (12 percent) were also popular.”

► Increasingly, the term vacation is coming to mean vacation from the internet and social media. “More and more travelers seem to want to unplug. Terms like slow tourism, off-the-grid trips and unplugged travel are popping up on tourism-related sites. Travel firms have even started offering trips that require clients to leave their phones at home (or at least tucked away in their suitcases)… Ironically, resorts that once used Wi-Fi access as a selling point are now touting features that allow guests to unplug. For example, the Four Seasons Costa Rica lets guests log off by offering a 24-hour tech detox program. The luxury resort locks your device in their safe, and they provide tech-free activities such as dancing classes and boating trips.”

► When Wednesday Connect is all finished, I check Eric’s list at Phoenix Preacher to see where we doubled up (if we did) or if there’s something vital I really should include. This time around he noted that Charisma Magazine just one day apart, had two different takes on the Jesse Duplantis jet story which he heralded with this pithy one-liner with two short hyperlinks: “Charisma rag mag divided on Duplantis jet… nay, yea

► An athiest Indiegogo campaign raised 130% of its goal to place the booklet, Disproving Christianity in hotels. “I will send a petition to some of the top hotels in Los Angeles, indicating that the Bible should be accompanied be a secular equivalent. I hope the hotel owners will see that having the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, and the Bible in clients’ rooms is OK, but that we should have the opportunity to point out the discrepancies in those holy books, too.” Will the hotels be forced to give the book equal time?

► Is Junia the same person as Joanna, mentioned in Luke 8 and Luke 24? One thing’s for sure, she’s not Junius (a male name) as some would have it; in fact don’t even think of that if you ever meet this author. (For the record, she didn’t mention it either.)

► The Billy Graham era may have come and gone, but Greg Laurie is still packing in people at arenas for events such as this past weekend’s Harvest America crusade in Arlington, TX. (Link takes you to event’s Twitter feed.)  …

► …On the same day as the crusade, Greg Laurie posted his reflections on the sudden passing of CNN’s Anthony Bourdain. He compares Bourdain’s journey — raised, as he was, without religion — to his own.

► Moral failure warning signs: I’ve seen lists like this before but the five in this list contained some different indicators that are out there, such that afterwards people say, “Looking back, we see what was going on.”

► Cath Stats (Catholic Statistics): “With only 23% bothering to engage in the central tenet of that relationship, the Eucharist, it is easy to say the relationship is severely damaged. If more that 3/4 of the family doesn’t see being with the family as important, then something has gone wrong.” On the other hand, “with only 23% participation, the Catholic Church runs a vast array of schools, hospitals, and services for the poorest of the poor. We are able to do a great amount with just 23%. Imagine what could be done with 50%, or 75%, or even 100%.

► Never underestimate a young person’s desire and interest in God, the Bible and spiritual truths.The Ontario Director of the Canadian Bible Society reflects on 12 years of working with youth.

► An iconic church in Toronto has been offered the opportunity to do a land swap with a condominium developer that would also include sufficient funds to build an all new auditorium, offices and classrooms.

► Third Culture Kids (TCKs) are always discovering that Americans have an abysmal knowledge of world geography, as the opening illustration here so well illustrates.

► Poco (Good Feelin’ to Know)/Buffalo Springfield (For What It’s Worth) singer and guitarist Richie Furay pastored a Calvary Chapel in Colorado for 35 years. Retired now at 74, he’s still doing concerts.

► Parenting: “At least two new animated television shows about drag queens, one featuring children characters, are set to debut in America, drawing high concern from conservative commentators.” (Watch, if you can, a trailer for Drag Tots.)

► Christian Reggae band Christifari is back with a new music video. ♫

► Your deep theological questions answered: Seven reasons why Mennonites hold hands to pray.*

► Finally, not baking cakes for gay weddings? That’s just the start of the list this guy won’t bake cakes for, which includes just about everybody.*

*Mennonite satirical news site.

At age 91, J. I. Packer isn’t too old to cruise the J. I. Packer section in the Regent College bookstore this week, making sure his bestsellers are properly displayed. (Facebook – click to link)


Resurrected from 2013 at the Facebook page of twentyonehundred Productions, the media wing of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. (Facebook – Click to link)

June 11, 2018

Becky Goes to Church

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:24 am

I introduced this graphic less than 90 days ago when we were discussing Christian radio playlists.

[M]y wife pointed out something that the more I thought about it, the more profound it seems. She said something like, “There’s more variety on any given contemporary Christian music album than what is played on Christian radio.” In other words, the songs chosen to be the single off the albums tend to get chosen because they all match the station sound and therefore they all sound alike.

In my mind, I envisioned the diagram where each line represents the range of the songs on any given artist’s album — some exploring a greater number of musical genres — and the dots representing the songs selected to be featured on the radio.

Wouldn’t you like to hear some of the songs from the edge of each artist’s collection?

The article then proceeded to introduce Becky, the imaginary customer for what Christian radio has to offer.

But the hard reality is that Becky does indeed park the minivan once a week as she and her family attend church. There, the decisions being made about which songs to sing are being made along similar criteria, and in fact, there is currently an all-time high in overlap between the recurring songs at churches doing modern worship and what the Christian radio industry is promoting.

It’s basically about which songs work and the chosen few songs are those which are compressed into a narrow range stylistically, but also compressed into a narrow range vocally because, without the SATB parts breakdown of hymnbooks, everyone is being compelled to just sing the melody…

…In our community there is a church which broke away from the Roman Catholic Church many years ago. I’ve visited on many occasions and have described their worship as a blend of songs drawn from Catholic folk liturgy and modern worship. Recently however, the pastor corrected me and said, “Actually, we’re mostly just doing modern worship now.”

I felt a little sad. The diversity of music offered at churches in our area now stands as a binary choice: The hymns still sung by Mainline Protestants and the modern worship of Evangelicals.

A worship leader I spoke with yesterday described the pressure to do a song, “just because it’s popular;” despite his theological misgivings about some of the lyrics. We also talked about songs which need a spoken introduction describing the background and how a church might do this the first week, but if it fails to continue this in successive weeks, people don’t understand what they are singing; necessary in some cases as songwriters seek out fresh language or metaphors to describe scriptural truth.

In terms of style, full marks to those churches that continue to pursue a greater variety of music. The ones that still have solo pieces. The ones which include an occasional string quartet. The ones which reassemble a choir for Easter Sunday.

Unfortunately, in order to do that, you need a large pool of talent to draw from, which is why we see this type of thing at North Point or Willow, but not at the church around the corner from where you live. Mostly now it’s a matter of having the basics: A guitarist, a bass player, a drummer and a keyboard. For whatever reason, God did not distribute the gift of drumming equally around all the churches. Perhaps we’re meant to do more sharing in this department…

…I’m sure somewhere in this blog I’ve championed the value of doing pieces familiar across all Evangelicalism. It’s great if you’re visiting to know a few of the songs which are, after all, now ‘the music of the church.’ I don’t agree with going great distances off the path for an entire set, or only doing songs which are original compositions by members of your own band.

But I think we need to avoid blandness or sameness.  We need to look at the lyrics and say, ‘What sound best captures what the lyricist is saying?’ The original word I heard used for this is prosody. I can’t find the particular definition now among the several offered, but I was taught it implied “a marriage of lyrics and music.” In other words, let the music fit the words. Go beyond the fast song vs. slow song dichotomy.

I think Becky would appreciate it.

 

 

 

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