Thinking Out Loud

November 13, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Ironically subtitled, “The Subtle Art of Appearing Better Than You Are;” this book won’t be appearing anytime soon. See stories below. [Image: Waterbrook]

An abandoned French chapel. “It’s on private property, meaning that the municipality doesn’t have to take care of it, like most churches in France. The owner, for a reason or another, couldn’t or wouldn’t maintain it.” Source: Reddit.

Often, when looking back at the previous week’s events, there is one story which sticks out and I wrestle with whether to mention it or if it’s best to assume that everyone has already seen it. This week, it was the revelation by Charisma Magazine of the indiscretions of John Crist, a Christian comedian.

So often, these are not happy stories. Each one however is a cautionary tale; and one that people — perhaps even one person reading this blog — needs to hear. But first…

Francis Chan is moving to Asia.

“I feel like I’ve been fishing in the same pond my whole life,” he said. “And now there’s like thousands of other fishermen at the same pond, and our lines are getting tangled and everyone’s fighting over stupid things, and one guy tries some new lure and we go, ‘Oh, he caught a fish, let’s all try his method!’ And it just feels like, what are we all doing here?”

■ …But there’s something in the way Francis Chan said it that has him mired in controversy. (Read the whole thread.)

■ James MacDonald responds to being considered “disqualified for ministry.” Spoiler alert: He disagrees.

■ Runs in the Family: Anne Graham Lotz on Donald Trump’s withdrawl from Syria as a fulfillment of Ezekiel 38. This is the sentence where the writer lost me: “…Lotz appeared on “The Jim Bakker Show” last Wednesday to promote her new best-selling book…” Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.

■ Back when I was a regular listener, I got to ‘meet’ so many people through the Phil Vischer Podcast, now the Holy Post podcast. Two of these really stand out. One was John Walton, and the other was John Mark Comer. John Mark recently joined Skye Jethani to talk about his new book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. (Both are rabid Dallas Willard fans.)

■ Are you a fan of the CBS-TV show God Friended Me?

So, back to John Crist. Here’s what happened.

■ Our changing culture: A Columbia University theater professor resigns after being told the hiring committee he chaired could not hire the best person for the job, unless that person was either female, a minority, or gay; and then was pressured into casting a trangender student in the role of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. He said that America is heading toward the communism he left behind years later in Romania.

■ In another one of his visits to different types of churches, Matt at Ten Minute Bible Hour certainly found a colorful interviewee in Illinois with Lutheran Pastor William Weedon. (33 minutes; watch it all!) (Already watched it? Here’s the follow-up interview.)

Essay of the Week: The 1.3 million people of Estonia have over 700 choirs. “Much of their history is marked by occupation and oppression and they’ve rarely been a free people. As a result, they’re not known for their universities, for their innovation or their army. They aren’t known for great food, scientific exploits or their soccer team.
They are known for their voices.”

■ New Music ♫ — I don’t see a lot of clicks on these each week, but I do get encouraging comments, often by email. These three all originated in the same place. I went to confirm an event date on the website of Life100.3, a Christian ‘superstation’ (not ‘superstition,’ spellcheck) in central Ontario, Canada and found these three — none of whom I was familiar with — on their daytime Top 10 list.

♫ The band: We Are Leo; the song: Your Voice.

♫ The artist: Charlie Rey; the song: Undeniable Love.

♫ The artist: Joel Vaughn; the song: I Look to You.

■ What’s your theology of heaven like? What of this live will we carry forward into that life? Much of has to do with your views on the nature of God.

■ Irony: An Indonesian religious scholar, who helped draft one region’s very strict adultery laws was publicly flogged 28 times after being caught after being caught in a parked car with a married woman.

■ From our Anglican/Episcopal friends, “Songs for the Holy Other includes almost 50 ‘queer hymns’ by and for individuals who identify with the LGBTQ+ community and their allies.” “…[I]t’s an amazing resource for music directors and for priests who are looking for hymns that are affirming for the LGBT community.” “There are songs about our created belovedness—how God created us, God loves us, and our sexuality, our gender doesn’t change that.” And yes, worship leader, they’re covered by your CCLI license.

■  A follow-up essay on the story of the mother and father arguing over the sex of their seven year old: “…our nation is so entangled with the diabolical concept of gender theory that, in this situation, the jury ruled exactly the wrong way: they negated the rightful authority of the parent who is striving to uphold nature and validated the authority of the parent who spurns nature. The reasoning is completely upside down.”

■ Did you ever laugh so hard you cried? That was the question posed to Brant Hansen recently. Click on Podcast #1023, and jump to 12:28 and listen to the end. (Had to listen to it twice.) (5 minutes total.)

■ Essay of the Week: “Let’s say your last meeting included five songs. Based on those five, would a new person be able to tell that you believed in the Trinity? In the cross? In the resurrection? In the return of Christ? … I have been in churches that seem never to sing about the cross; I was once in a church that (literally) never sang about anything else. The problem in each case was not the songs that were sung, but the ones that weren’t

■ Kayne is headed to Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church this weekend. Hardly surprising. It’s how TMZ reports this that makes it more interesting.

■ In Case I Missed It, Which I Did: This was published in RNS back in October in a report on the Evolving Faith Conference, co-founded by Rachel Held Evans. (Referenced in a comment on Saturday at Internet Monk.)

Dan Evans, Held Evans’ husband, also spoke during the opening session, reading an excerpt from a book she had been working on before her death… and which will be published posthumously in 2020.

In his remarks, Evans opened up about some of his own personal struggles with faith and Christianity… “I’m agnostic,” Evans said. “I haven’t been public with this.

“I wish I was certain we were all going to live forever,” he continued. “I wish I was certain we are all going to heaven. I wish I was certain I would see Rachel again. But it doesn’t seem very likely to me. I don’t know.

■ Names to Note: Addison Bevere is the son of well known authors John and Lisa Bevere, has a book coming in January with Revell, is the COO of Messenger International (his parents’ organization) and is the cofounder of Sons and Daughters.

■ Another pastor steps down because of a sexual abuse which was long in the past. “Charles W. Lyons, who led the 400-member congregation at Armitage Baptist Church for the last 45 years, resigned in July after telling church leaders two years earlier about his misconduct.” The events took place before he began his run leading the church. Why mention this here? Because this is yet another church in the Chicago area.

Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers

■ Won’t you be my neighbor? The Mr. Rogers movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood opens US Thanksgiving weekend. (FYI: Fred Rogers was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1963.)

■ Parenting Place: Using the new, third edition of the NIV Life Application Bible with your kids. “Overall, if someone knew nothing about the Bible’s background, this study Bible has more than enough information to get by while still not getting lost in the weeds with theology or historical information.” 

■ The 2019 Christy Awards for Christian fiction were announced last week. (See image below.) Patti Calahan’s Becoming Mrs. Lewis was Book of the Year.

■ Unusual Twitter Account: “No Context Chick Tracts.” Description: “The Southern Poverty Law Center lists Chick Publications as a hate group. There are many valid and effective responses to hate; we believe humor is one of them.

■ Hilarious. Not this tweet, but the 300+ comments. Captioning the Donald Trump/Paula White saga with a scripture verse.

November 8, 2019

Blogroll Update #11

Computer searchIt’s been almost a year since I did one of these. This is not the blogroll that appears here on the blog, but rather things I bookmark in my computer as I find them. If you read all of the various parts to this ongoing series of lists, it comes to several thousand. If you find something that’s a dead link let me know. Also, because the list is shorter this time, I’m including an updated list of the various sources I use to compose the weekly Wednesday list.

Blogs (new)
More Than Cake
Blog – Phylicia Masonheimer
Blog | Jennifer LeClaire Ministries International
Standing For God – In These Evil Times
Mark 12:30 – Worshiping with Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength
In the Fourth Nocturn
Ken’s Daily Bible Re
Out of the Depths
Jesustrek | Journey of a Lifetime by Tom Cox
TXAB: The Christ Almighty Blog
The Apologista | Love, Life, and Logic with Lauren
BLOG — Danielle Strickland
Faith and Leadership | Duke Divinity
Home Page | Vital Sermons
Brenton Collyer
Just A Thought
Home – Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy
In Pleasant Places
Gospel Taboo
ExpressYourself4Him | A writer’s journey with God
Rock Badger Christianity – YouTube
Simply Shannon!
Generosity Monk – Meditations
Warhorn Media – Welcome to the reformation.
Church Militant – Serving Catholics
the Way? – Following Jesus in the 21st century
Spiritual Regurgitations |Rev. Dr. Robin J. Dugall
Nathan Hamm
CultureWatch – Bill Muehlenberg
Jen Pollock Michel
Todd Wilhelm: Thou Art The Man
Hare Translation Journey –  Bible translators in Cameroon
Practical Faith
Christian News Sources
FaithWorld | Analysis & Opinion |
Christianity Today Gleanings
Christian News, The Christian Post
Christian News on Christian Today
Faith and Leadership
Disrn – Brief, smart, faithful
Christian news, church news, **** – FaithfulNews
Christian Newswire – Up to the Minute Christian News
Religion News Service | Religion News in Photos, Articles & Video
Religion Dispatches
Christian News Headlines
News | The Christian Institute
Trending News – Positive Encouraging K-LOVE – Your News Right Now
HuffPost Religion
Spiritual Sounding Board
CBN News – Christian News 24-7 –
On Faith:  The Washington Post
Persecution News of Churches Persecuted & Christian Sufferings
Forum 18 Latest News
WORLD Magazine | Today’s News, Christian Views
Religious News – SRN News
Christian News Network
News & Events
WND – Faith
Breaking Christian News
ASSIST News Service
Holy Post | National Post
Religion News Blog
Belief –
News |
Premier Christianity
Mission Network News – Mission Network News
The Old Black Church
On Religion – The UK’s first magazine about faith and religion
God Reports
BuzzVine | The Christian Post
Converge MagazineConverge
Baptist News, Opinion, Resources, Inspiration | Baptist Standard
The Journal of Gospel Music –
Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project
Read the Spirit | Spiritual, Interfaith, Cross-Cultural Media
News | The Living Church
The Aquila Report —  Reformed and Presbyterian
Rush to Press, news from Christian publishing industry
Ecumenical – Daily Christian, Ecumenical News Online
The Association of Religion Data Archives – U.S. and World Religion Statistics and Data – ARDA
TheBlaze – Breaking news and opinion
The College Fix
Now The End Begins: End Times Bible Prophecy
Gateway News — Christian News Portal, South Africa
Parents As First Educators
Christian News on Christian Times
Religion Dispatches
Christian Daily
SBC Today | Southern Baptist News and Analysis
Christian News on Christian Today
Baptist Press
Jewish News & Israel News –
ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
religion | The Africa Report
These Christian Times
Sports Spectrum – Christian Sports Magazine, Christian Athletes and Profiles, Faith-based Influences
Christian Examiner Newspapers | Christian News, Commentary, Events
Christian News, The Gospel Herald
News Archive – Mission Network News
News : BREATHEcast
Episcopal Cafe
365 Days Of Inspiring Media | Music and Entertainment Blogs with a Motivational and Moving Message For All Days Of The Year – Baptist News – Biblical Recorder is the Official News Service and Baptist Press for the NC Baptist State Convention
All are welcome.
All Religion News and Press Releases from PR Newswire
Trunews. The Real News, Uncensored.
Christian Newswire – Up to the Minute Christian News
News & Ideas | Faith and Leadership
Christian Current Events – ChristForums
Good News, Inspiring, Positive Stories – Good News Network
Religion – Good News Network
ChurchPOP | Make holy all the things!
Christian Book Expo
Religion | Commonweal Magazine
BCNN1: Black Christian News Network One
Catholic Stand – Living the Truth the Church Teaches : Catholic Stand
Christian Standard | Resourcing Christian Leaders
Home – EpicPew
Christian News on Christian Times
The Christian Mail | Christian News, Christian Mail for Christians Worldwide
Christian Newswire – Up to the Minute Christian News
The Christian Post,Christian News
Acts of Faith – The Washington Post
Worthy Christian Forums
Christian Forums
Company News | HarperCollins Christian Publishing
The Christian Sentinel – Where Faith Meets Investigative Reporting
Publishers Weekly Bestseller Lists
News : Hallels
PE News | News
Religion Books and Publishing News | Publishers Weekly
Religious News – SRN News
Omni Articles | Quill and Quire – Baptist News | Baptist Press Coverage by Biblical Recorder
Christian Daily
Religion | HuffPost
The Living Church – Serving the One Body of Christ
Christian News Archives – Christian Blog
Eternity News
Global Christian News – Christian News Across The World!
Articles Archives | ChurchPOP
World Religion News
Religion Dispatches – Rewire.News
Latest News :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)
Breaking Christian News – Religion Headlines
Religion & Politics
Religion Archives – The Federalist
Church Watch Central
Eternity News
News – Global Christian News
Religion Release Distribution by EIN Presswire and EIN News
Religious Forums
Reformation Charlotte
Homepage – Religion News Service
Home – Anglican Ink © 2019
Subject: Religion | The College Fix
News – Word&Way
Christian Film News™
After the Altar Call –
Home – The Christian Index
Bitter Winter | Religious liberty and human rights in China
Home | Step FWD UK Christian Chart

The link to part one. (October, 2014…six years worth of links to that point)

The link to part two. (St. Patrick’s Day, 2015)

The link to part three. (May, 2015, also included my news sources to that point)

The link to part four. (August, 2015, included blog aggregators and people who do things similar to the Wednesday Link List or Wednesday Connect)

The link to part five. (August, 2016, a full year later)

The link to a mini update. (Just five weeks after part five the file was getting full again)

The link to part six. (January 2017)

The link to part seven (June 2017) 

The link to part eight (October 2017)

The link to part nine (May, 2018; included an updated list of Christian news sources)

The link to part ten (January, 2019)

November 6, 2019

Wednesday Connect

See our Essay of the Week below for more on this theme.

God is getting into wearable tech. See story below. [Vatican News photo.]

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #78, hence the 78 RPM Records motif this week. The image is from Wikipedia who inform us that, “The literature does not disclose why 78 rpm was chosen for the phonograph industry, apparently this just happened to be the speed created by one of the early machines and, for no other reason continued to be used.”

■ Just as coastal regions put up beacons and lighthouses to warn passers-by of immanent danger, just to be clear, Harvest Bible Chapel has declared to the world that James MacDonald is presently unfit for ministry and “biblically disqualified.”

■ …and while a number of HBC churches have jettisoned the name, the same is happening with former Sovereign Grace Ministires churches.

■ Crusade of the Week: Kanye gave an altar call, and according to reports, 1,000 people responded out of a crowd of 6,000.

■ I found this gem of an article this week, and wanted to feature it even though it was posted at the end of August. Did missionaries really receive used tea bags from supporters back home? Did they really pack their supplies in coffins believing they would be buried on the mission field? In the article and the comments you can explore the myths and memes.

■ Transgender; gender-fluid; what’s a parent to do? Opinions vary. At Premier Magazine (part of the UK’s popular Christian media network) two articles appeared recently.

  • First, The Christian Institute’s Sharon James wrote an article on dealing with gender fluid kids. (We often quote the Institute’s news feed for articles here.) She offered 10 ways parents can respond.
  • But three days later, Katie Pope, the mother of a transgender 16-year old found the article disturbing and asked for equal time. She gives 10 alternative responses.

■ Persecution Watch: An American pastor has had his passport seized and is being detained in India.

■ Christian Education Department: J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold Case Christianity isn’t a fan of dumbing it down or trying to make it exciting and dynamic. He says we need to stop treating kids like kids because “this new generation is ripe to hear the word of God.”

■ Scot McKnight kicks of a series of looking closely at Introducing Evangelical Theology by Daniel J. Treier (Baker Academic), which is organized differently from other books of this type. “Here theology is not forced into one biblical author that mutes the voice of other biblical authors, but instead it is shaped by the fundamental categories of the great tradition that forms the Apostles’ Creed and the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.” Don’t miss this introductory article.

■ Parenting Place: This is a powerful article. 14 Things you can easily do to give your children a global perspective. “You might be raising a future missionary.”

Essay of the Week: They only show up a few times a month. So what? Attendance is not the same as faithfulness. Author Mimi Patrick asks us to “stop shaming busy parents” because it’s “not the way to minister to these families.” (Sample advice: Put teaching modules on YouTube and ask the student to leave a comment each week.)

Pachamama! What was he thinking? The Pope placing Incan fertility idols inside The Vatican? From studying pastoral issues in the Amazon region to bringing in a female shaman into The Vatican gardens and brought in two such statues, stunning people watching from around the world. The idols were later placed next to the altar of St. Peter’s. Then they were thrown into the river. (3½ video.) (Read further details at LifeSite News.)

■ Podcast 🔊 — Fostering another church. Not adopting. “There are neighboring churches in your community struggling and need your church’s love.”

■ Is giving down? 💵 — Also at Thom Rainer’s blog is this summary of five reasons why giving may drop.

Addition (8:55 AM) — Roger Olson lists (and laments) the many Christian leaders and authors who have landed on the Fundamentalists’ blacklist: “Tony Campolo (one of their first targets way back in the 1980s), Jim Wallis, Clark Pinnock, Stanley Grenz, Beth Moore, Rob Bell, John Sanders, Greg Boyd, Andy Stanley, Richard Foster, Carl F. H. Henry, Bernard Ramm; I could go on and on.” He wonders when “moderate evangelicals going to come out of hiding and condemn the vituperation of the neo-fundamentalists?”

■ Essential Reading about Essential Oils: Do you have people in your church who are into the Essential Oils movement? Or who recruit other people to sell the products through multi-level marketing? People may be led to expect more than just basic health benefits, and practitioners may find the love for the product all consuming.

■ Significant Music ♫ — “On June 1, 2019, 15 year-old Lily Kelly was tragically killed when the car she riding in was hit by a drunk driver. In the days that followed, a song emerged that Lily had written and recorded just six months before. Family and friends found comfort in Lily’s original song, ‘I AM,’ which tells of her close relationship with Jesus and her thorough understanding of His character.”  

Addition (8:48 AM): Josh Harris’ first public interview since renouncing his faith. It’s only 3 minutes, so there must be more somewhere.

■ Following the death of his 21-year old son, TobyMac has established a foundation to allow kids who can’t afford it to pursue music education. The Truett Foster Foundation is accepting single and monthly gifts.

■ Longtime Christian blogger Mark Altrogge offers 12 reasons we should belong to a local church.

■ Youth Ministry / Parenting: There’s been a significant spike in teen suicide since 2007.

■ Podcast 🔊 — Hey readers, why didn’t you share this one with me? The Mega podcast is the official podcast of Twin Hills, a non-existent mega church. (Note: This type of satire is not for everyone.) Read the story about the podcast itself. Or, listen to an episode.

■ Blowing Our Own Horn Department: Four days ago, our sister blog, Christianity 201 celebrated 3,500 consecutive daily posts. C201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites.

■ ICYMI: Adam Ford’s Christian Daily Reporter has resurfaced as Disrn

Addition (9:25 AM): There is finally a release date for home viewing of the Overcomer film, November 26th on digital but those looking for a physical DVD will have to wait until December 17th, giving them only a week to purchase it before Christmas.

■ New Music ♫ — We’re gonna kick off this week’s cluster of five new songs with an audio-only by Citizen Way, The Hope Song.

■ New Music ♫ — The Porter’s Gate with a song featuring Casey J. and Josh Garrels, Daughters of Zion. Actually, there are two  different versions of this just posted. This one features Urban Doxology with The Porter’s Gate performing the same song, Daughters of Zion. (This may not be a song for complementarians.) 

■ New Music ♫ — This is the #1 song on the UK’s Step FWD Christian music chart, One Voice Collective and their video of Strength to Go On. (Personally, I love the sound of mass choirs, so it’s #1 with me as well.)

■ New Music ♫ — Also from the UK, the folk/acoustic sound of Land and Salt and their video for Homeless Hearts (Amazing Grace)

■ New Music ♫ — Lastly, in this week’s music cluster, some fun with Matt Maher and Elle Limebear and a collection of Sunday School instruments Alive and Breathing.

■ Unforeseen Consequences: When we tell our female children and teens that “modest is hottest” we are inadvertently sending a rather contrary message. The author of this piece makes her two key points quite well.

■ It knows when teens are sleeping.
It knows when they’re awake.
Okay, maybe not literally, but nearly five million students are being monitored by schools “paying big money” for the online surveillance services of Gaggle. 

Addition (8:30 AM): This video collage of “The Best of Paula White” is one thing. But do not — do not — miss the 250+ comments as readers attempt to caption the video with a scripture verse.

■ Finally: Not an Onion story — The Vatican is behind a high-tech rosary. “However, unlike its traditional predecessor, the eRosary links to a ‘Click To Pray’ prayer app of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. The device is activated by making the sign of the cross.

[Source: Casual Christian Comedy 2]

October 30, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Brooklyn-based brand MSCHF released a limited-edition Nike Air Max 97 sneaker filled with water from the Jordan River in the soles at a cost of $3,000 per pair. The sneakers, called “Jesus Shoes,” sold out within minutes. Story link below.

Tomorrow is October 31st. It’s a special day for both children and lovers of candy, and people who like to pretend they are someone (or something) else. Jesus had a name for people who were pretending to be someone else. Can you name it? 

Also, all of this week’s New Music features are for artist names you’ll recognize.

■ In my opinion, the top Christian news story this week was the untimely death of TobyMac’s 21-year-old son, Truett Foster.

■ What’s new in funerals: Alkaline hydrolysis or what is sometimes called water cremation.

…[T]treatment with alkalies in water solution in a sealed container…converts proteins into simpler water-soluble compounds, which are harmless — and, indeed, can provide valuable plant nutrients. Disarticulated bones remain, softened but intact and easily crumbled to a pure white powder; again, an excellent phosphatic fertiliser. Alternatively, they can be dried and stabilised for burial in a small casket.”

Reducing the process, “to three to four hours has been possible using a pressurised stainless-steel cylinder in equipment that is like a large washing machine.” For some reason, I found the picture rather clinical.

■ Best opening paragraph:

A lot of evangelicals are swimming these days. They’re slipping on their metaphorical fins and masks and churning their way across bodies of water to emerge on the other shore as members of a different faith community. Those that move from evangelicalism to Roman Catholicism are said to swim the Tiber; those that become Orthodox swim the Bosporus.

The reader is invited to instead swim the Mississippi, and check out Lutheranism.

■ An avowed complementarian says that nonetheless, John MacArthur does not speak for him.

Neither his words nor his attitude towards Beth Moore displayed even a basic respect, let alone the kind of godly, honouring love that Christians are required to show even to their enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). He was not seeking to enable her to flourish, or “contributing extra features to her in such a way as to improve or emphasize her qualities”. He wasn’t defending a complementarian view of the Bible. He might have been speaking at a conference entitled ‘Truth Matters’ but he wasn’t defending truth, he was insulting a woman (and one who wasn’t even there to defend herself). In doing this, he betrayed the model of biblical leadership that he claims to believe in.

And in the conclusion, “He hasn’t won anyone over to his beliefs.”

■ Patterns in Peacemaking: Beth Moore tells her followers, “Let’s move on.”

■ Jesus had to die. But why such an extreme, or — pardon the etymological pun — excruciating death? At Good Question Blog, “I don’t feel that I can answer your question in terms of purpose, that is, why God would have wanted Jesus to die that way. I can’t imagine that this was something that God wanted, intended, or made happen, even though God did send Jesus into the world at a time when crucifixion was practiced, knowing that he would be ‘delivered into the hands of men.’

■ Parenting Place: The latest from Pew Research notes that, “The share of young adults who could be considered ‘financially independent’ from their parents by their early 20s – an assessment based on their annual income – has gone down somewhat in recent decades. A new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data finds that, in 2018, 24% of young adults were financially independent by age 22 or younger, compared with 32% in 1980.” And this consequence, “There’s a sense among a majority of Americans that parents are doing too much for their young adult children these days.”

■ Leadership Lessons: When pastors have a ton of education, it’s good to keep the perspective of this guy, “God did not give me a congregation so that I could have all of the benefits of being a Church History professor without having to grade papers or sit on the curriculum committee; God entrusted me with a flock so that I could feed them, love them, and point them toward the Chief Shepherd. They need to know Jesus Christ and the gospel.”

Essay of the Week: Does anyone need healing? When the question is asked, and you’ve been just been diagnosed, but you remain seated. “My body is in need of some divine intervention, no doubt. But I didn’t stand up. I didn’t even consider standing up…I didn’t let them pray over me and beseech God for bodily healing on my behalf because I don’t believe it’s going to happen…Was the bleeding woman physically healed? Was the blind man? They almost certainly were and that alone is worthy of exploration. But it’s actually the least interesting part of those stories.”

■ Since we last gathered, there has been great momentum for Kanye West’s Christian album, Jesus is King, available for download. As I prepared this on Monday night, the top song on YouTube was this title, Selah

■ …But it’s difficult to let this pass without sharing this People magazine headline: Kanye West Asked Jesus Is King Collaborators Not to Have Premarital Sex While Working on Album

■ …Meanwhile at New Wineskins, a reminder that the church has a 2,000 year history of being skeptical about high-profile converts

■ …Finally, a review of the Kanye IMAX film itself, Jesus is King. This contains many spoilers. (But it’s only a 35-minute film.)

■ Julie Roys looks at the situation at Willow Creek Crystal Lake, but not so buried in the story is a mention that Bill Hybels received a sweet retirement deal. “…Hybels’ retirement contract was ‘non-contestable’ and had no morals clause…”

■ Divine appointments can happen in small groups: “I have seen a group member dealing with an illness rare enough that only one person in the entire church should be experiencing it. But when the person opened up about it, two more people in the group said they had experienced or were experiencing the same thing. This phenomenon is not just reserved for health problems. I see the same thing over and over with things like dreams, passions, family issues, and work problems.”

■ If you find yourself reading this blog after the rapture and are wondering what to do next, there’s this book, pictured: Rapture 911: What To Do If You’re Left Behind — “Rapture 911 is your handbook for navigating the Apocalypse. If you like to-the-point information, actionable checklists, and helping save your loved ones’ souls, then get this sobering guide to humanity’s final days.” (The publisher link I hoped to provide is actually the author’s LinkedIn page.)

■ Provocative header of the week — Star Trek: 50 Years of Humanist Values.

■ After his speech was edited for the second time, Kirk Franklin is calling for a boycott of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), the Dove Awards, and the Gospel Music Association. He raised social justice issues previously in 2016.

Most intriguing opening sentence: “In case you were wondering if we are living among complete reprobates with no concept of financial responsibility, a bunch of idiots are buying “Jesus shoes,” with holy water injected into the soles, for $3000 a pair, making some swindler very rich.”

Crux Ansata
(Ankh symbol)

■ Religious symbols and icons: Did Christians steal the Ankh symbol? (6 minute video.)

■ New Music ♫ — Remember Rachel Lampa? She’s back check out the audio for He’s Good.

■ New Music ♫ — New from Rend Collective, audio for Revival Anthem.

■ New Music ♫ — A song of testimony from Aaron Shust, lyrics and video for This I Know.

■ New Music ♫ — Just released from Matt Redman, official lyric video for The Same Jesus.

■ Sleeping in Church: “Eutychus probably had an excuse. He probably worked long hours, or walked a long ways to get there. I do think he moved to the window in an effort to keep awake. The spirit was willing, the flesh was exhausted.” Recommendation: Let them keep sleeping.

■ Not sure about this one: “Meme Monday: Calvinism is the Gospel Urinal.”

■ Finally, a church organist is working hard to learn Kanye’s Christian repertoire.

The Door to Hell
The Darvaza gas crater also known as the Door to Hell or Gates of Hell, is a natural gas field collapsed into a cavern located in Derweze, Turkmenistan. Click image for details.

Matchstick Church
If you click the image, you’ll discover that building matchstick churches is a popular pastime.

October 23, 2019

Wednesday Connect

It’s been a busy week month for my wife and I, but I thought I’d better do another one of these Wednesday Connect roundups before I forget how. So after a couple of weeks off, a welcome back to readers. Please let us know if you find any broken or incorrect links.

■ This was the week that John MacArthur’s brand took a rather large hit and appropriately so. His comments about Beth Moore were simply beyond the pale. Sadly, the same polarity which grips (particularly) the United States politically is evidenced in situations like this. Peoples’ minds are already made up. MacArthur has his supporters and to their way of thinking he can do no wrong. Rich Villodas put this so well: “Right” theology + Unloving Practice = Wrong Theology.”  In the event you missed it, this will catch you up… 

■ … and appropriately, our Tweet of the Week.

■ In completely unrelated searching, I happened upon this.

■ Speaking of Beth Moore, about a week ago she tweeted: “Nothing on earth can make sober people drunker than being invited to a table where they can sip on power. It is a drug like no other.” It was quoted in a recent Religion News Service story reporting on Jack Graham (not related to Franklin or Billy), Robert Jeffress and Greg Laurie, tweeting their approval of a new book by Paula White, who most in the SBC regard as a false teacher. So why do it? One possibility is the Trump connection, or as it’s termed in the article, the Trump-dunk.

■ Willow Creek fallout continues: Just months after the resignation of the pastor at the church’s Wheaton campus, comes the resignation of the Willow Crystal Lake pastor Marcus Bieschke. But sadly, he also shut down the possibility of continuing independently, which some in the congregation suggested.

■ Continuing the topic of megachurch meltdowns, but switching our attention to Harvest Bible Chapel and James MacDonald, the question everyone is asking: What happened to the deer herd? (A story in progress, so do read the comments including the one saying “there are two stories about two deer herds.”)

■ …Okay, forget the deer, they’re probably asking about James MacDonald’s recent ‘first’ public appearance, where participants at the event were told not to take pictures.

■ I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe, this might be one of the major Christian book releases heading into the Christmas gift-buying season: The Faith of Queen Elizabeth by Dudley Delffs (Zondervan). Excerpt: “More than the product of polite deference to historical tradition, the Queen’s faith transcends her inherited responsibility and the theology of the Anglican Church….Such an authentic faith could not be merely academic, political, or social but is undoubtedly personal, visceral, and deeply intimate….the thread stitching person and personage, duty and desire, together.” Quote sourced at Publisher’s weekly, or check out the book’s page at Zondervan.

Essay of the Week: A look at climate change.

There’s nothing in the Bible that conflicts with climate change science. Climate change science poses no Biblical or hermeneutical crisis for the Christian, forcing you to choose the Bible over facts. This makes climate change wholly different from how evangelicals have approached evolution. Yes, there is science denialism at work in both instances, but that denialism has to be coming from two different places. We know the Bible is the source of resistance to evolution. But where is the resistance coming from when it comes to climate change? I think the answer is obvious. Resistance to climate change science is rooted in—

[seemed like a good cliffhanger, click to read.]

■ Essay Runner-Up: After the March. He “found that pastors were never as confident about what they believed as they came across from the pulpit;” and he gives 5 reasons your pastor may not want to be highly visible in that public fight over social issues.

■ Worship Workshop: “Be Thou My Vision is an ancient Irish poem thought to be written in the 700s. The 700s. As in 1300 years ago! When my church sang this song a few weeks ago, Millennials in Monterey were connected to an Irishman 5,000 miles and 1,300 years away.” “…So you tell me. Do we really need to keep singing hymns?

■ On the other hand: Roger Olsen on the “concert atmosphere” of many modern churches. 

In most of these services there are no announcements, no pastoral prayer, no scripture reading, no responsive reading, no Lord’s Prayer, no Doxology, no invocation, no benediction. And in most of them some people in the congregation are wearing extremely casual clothes…, and sipping coffee and occasionally looking at their cell phones during the worship service. In one such church I observed a man leave the worship space during worship. I assumed he was going to the men’s room. Nope. He returned with a cup of coffee from the coffee bar in the foyer.

■ Persecution in China: “Months after the fact, a report has surfaced that True Jesus Church in China’s Henan province, worth about $1.4 million, has been forcibly demolished by Chinese authorities…On the morning of June 22, 2019, as about 200 believers were gathered at True Jesus Church, the church’s electricity supply was suddenly cut off…Then, on July 26th around 3 a.m., approximately 1,000 government employees covertly assembled at a school nearby as they planned to demolish the church.”

■ An ultra-low U.S. refugee ceiling in 2020 of only 18,000 will be a hardship for persecuted Christians seeking settlement in the States on religious grounds…

■ …which is strange when you remember the attention that Donald Trump received when he left the climate change discussion at the UN in order to attend and address a gathering on religious freedom.

■ Remember Larycia Hawkins? The former hijab-wearing Wheaton College professor’s story became a film, the documentary Same God. The film pops up in various cities with discussion afterward, but I was able to find this general review of the production.

■ Do I have to go to church every week? “Instead of going to church as long as nothing else gets in the way, the Christian guards Sundays so that nothing will get in the way! Rather than scheduling Sunday around one’s week, he or she schedules the week around Sunday…Affections (desires) dictate priorities.

■ Through a bizarre series of circumstances involving an academic scholarship and their 2-year old son’s health, an Iraqi Christian family finds themselves caught between a rock and a hard place that is literally life or death.

■ Good reading: Lysa TerKeurst on the problem with pithy, trite, cheap, cliché Christian answers and responses.

■ Disturbing. That’s the only word to describe this Texas story about a family who had two twin boys. The mom wanted to embark on “transitioning” one of them, heretofore named James, to female, with the name Luna. The dad, Jeffrey Younger, “argues his ex-wife is transitioning James against the boy’s will.” I may have left out one detail: James/Luna is 7-years old. The dad is now forbidden to use the former name. His visits will be supervised. He was only trying “to protect his seven-year-old son… from chemical castration.” And buried in the last paragraph, word that the mom is not biologically related to the twins, “They were created through in-vitro fertilization and the couple used an egg donor.”

■ Gary Thomas on Gary Thomas: Read the author’s personal summary of his latest book on dealing with toxic people as Jesus did, When to Walk Away, along with a brief chapter excerpt. From one reviewer: “Gary Thomas says that he quotes Scripture more in this book than he has done in any other that he has written…He [also] tells us that he wasted 30 years of his ministry believing that standing up to toxic people was wrong.” The book’s content is also available as a Zondervan small group DVD study.

■ Jobs in Journalism: As religion reporters become “as endangered as polar bears,” the challenge of covering religion in the world of The Nones.”

■ Personal checklist: Guilty of any of these? The 5 Marks of a Pharisee.

■ The challenge of getting the Pennsylvania Amish to vote: “George W. Bush,…and his father, George H.W. Bush, were the only two sitting presidents who came to speak to Amish people.” Most of the 75,000 Amish in the state simply don’t vote.

■ A little high church moment: I love reading the reviews at Ship of Fools, but this 95-minute mass (long by most standards) captivated children and adults alike.

■ A shopping mall in the UK will terminate Chick-fil-A’s lease when a six month trial period ends. “We always look to introduce new concepts for our customers, however, we have decided on this occasion that the right thing to do is to only allow Chick-Fil-A to trade with us for the initial six-month pilot period, and not to extend the lease any further.” By now you’ve guessed the reason: Pressure from the local Pride (LGBT) chapter.

■ While many in Evangelicalism have capitulated to the Republican/Trump rhetoric, one sector has not: Contemporary Christian music artists. (Published at CNN, no less.) …

■ But Michael Frost wants to know why Christian music isn’t more revolutionary. “People like U2’s Bono, and Christian hip-hop artists Lecrae and Marty Mar from Social Club Misfits, have bemoaned the tame, risk-averse nature of Christian music.” He continues:

  • The Civil Rights movement sang Christian spirituals.
  • The German democratic movement that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall began with singing and prayers for freedom in a church in Leipzig in 1980.
  • The anti-Marcos movement in the Philippines, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the anti-Russian movement in Ukraine – they all wrote songs to inspire their followers.
  • Even today on the streets of Hong Kong, millions of protesters resisting the controls imposed by Communist China have found the Christian hymn, “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” as their anthem of freedom.

So why don’t they write songs like that today?

■ 🇨🇦 The landscape for Christian book distribution in Canada will change drastically on December 1st as two of the country’s largest distributors — Foundation and Anchor/Word Alive — merge distribution and operations.

■ Music ♫ — Avril Lavigne: “I wrote I Fell In Love With The Devil as a constant reminder to myself that some of the darkest people in this world can be disguised as angels. It will continue to remind me of my worth and what I deserve as a woman. Sometimes it’s not easy to walk away. But I am so sick of the pain and heartache, and I know what I deserve…” (Facebook)

■ Music ♫ — Check this out: “The recording has officially been released and includes 30 albums, 296 songs and 32 hours of music, all available on a USB flash drive.” What is it? A musician in Maine has completed “an eight-year project recording books of the Bible sung and played with bluesy rock melody lines. “The Bible Sung to Rock Music” is truly biblical in scope.” It consists of most of the New Testament and selected books from the Old Testament.” 

■ Music ♫ — Monday I asked the programmer for a satellite Christian music channel what he would include here and he recommended I introduce you to the band Good Weather Forecast. Check out the song Underdog (recent) and (from four years ago) one of their most popular songs Citylights.

■ Music ♫ — Official audio for Jason’s Gray’s Order Disorder Reorder.

■ Music ♫ — Then there’s the new John Crist music video. Wait a minute, John Crist? Music? Yup. Check out the official video to Check Your Heart featuring DJ Mykael V, nobigdyl. & 1K Phew. Which brings us to…

■ John Crist is getting his own Netflix special on November 28th, titled “I Ain’t Prayin’ for That.”

■ Sports Department: Magic Johnson’s decision to leave the NBA was in part so he could spend more time serving in his local church. (COGIC, in case you’re wondering.)

■ Kellogg’s — the cereal company — has partnered with an LGBTQ activism group to promote diversity with “All Together,” a limited edition cereal combining many of its favorites into a single box.

■ The latest at Lutheran Satire as Tyler the Evangelical Quits Swimming.

■ Finally, “The message printed on a runner’s bib during a recent Minneapolis race turned out to be prophetic.” It said, “Jesus Saves” and mid-race, Jesus did.

Snowman worshiping the Christmas star: Another example of the people at Dayspring Cards doing the best they can.

From Reddit

October 2, 2019

Wednesday Connect


This modern worship leader and author of five books is running for Congress in California. See story below. *

The Union Theological Seminary faculty member behind #plantgate. “We processed into the chapel carrying plants and placed them on soil. Immediately people started to come to the plants, to confess their forms of relation or non-relation.” See story below. **

Welcome to the Long-Haired-Newsmakers edition of WedCon, aka Wednesday Connect #75. Don’t forget to try to get your link suggestions in by Monday evening.

■ The danger of accepting public funding: “Some ATC [Adult and Teen Challenge] centers are trying to walk a dangerous tightrope. They’ve instituted short-term, state-licensed programs, which usually come with more funding. But state-attached strings can make that programming look more like clinical rehab plans instead of the Christ-centered message ATC has always brought to its students.” ATC co-founder Don Wilkerson is worried for people accepted into the program, “They need to be surrounded 24/7 in a spiritual atmosphere…

■ Rethinking the Sermon (1): A trainer for TED Talks comes to Nashville and meets with local pastors.

…Every pastor in the room felt a certain amount of vindication when her eyes went wide with surprise as she found out we, the pastors, have to write a new “speech” every week.

“No way,” she said. “No one can do that. There’s not enough time”.

We agreed, and then, it was our time to be stunned. How long do you work on a TED Talk?

Three months, she said…at a minimum.

Mike Glenn guests at Jesus Creed.

■ Rethinking the Sermon (2): Essay of the Week — Skye Jethani writes at the UK’s leading Christian magazine:

I am a preacher. For hundreds of years my craft was in high demand. People travelled inconvenient distances to hear my sermons, they paid for my training so I could improve my skill, and they sacrificed to supply me time and space to study and write my weekly monologues.

But now the forces of modernity and technology have conspired against me. Seemingly overnight the conditions that made my vocation valuable have disappeared. I feel like a lamplighter at the dawn of the 20th Century, watching the cold glow of Edison’s lights replace the warm flicker of flames across my city. People still need light, just not mine…

…An audit of virtually any Protestant church will reveal a massive percentage of the institution’s resources (space, funds, leadership) are devoted to the Sunday preaching event and its related activities. In other words, most churches have inherited a 16th Century model that is increasingly unsustainable with 21st Century realities.

■ Students are being handed gender-neutrality by progressive educators, but rather than protest, push back quietly by creating unspoken, more traditional structures. The children “are pushing back against the delusions that adults are imposing on them.”

■ The end of “evangelical” – an expanded book review: Alan Jacobs discusses Tommy Kidd’s Who Is An Evangelical? A History of a Movement in Crisis. ” So we now have a peculiar situation in which people who don’t know what the term evangelical historically connotes and who massively distrust one another—God-and-Country moralistic therapeutic deists on the one hand, and a press that simply doesn’t get religion on the other—have combined to take the term away from those of us who know and care about its history.” 

■ Amanda Opelt reflects on the last few months and on heading out to the Evolving Faith Conference that her sister, Rachel Held Evans, helped to organize. “Woundedness wasn’t a status for her; it was a tool with which she could better love and serve others and fight for justice.”

■ These are times most challenging for Bible translators. Bill Mounce reflects on the specifics of “Gender Neutral,” “Gender Inclusive,” and “Gender Accurate.”

■ Maybe they should have called it ‘Know Where You Believe.” This is the book that fellow Moody Press author Drew Dyck called “genre bending.” “…each community had its own way of doing Christianity, and usually did not understand how others could think differently.” The title is Not From Around Here: What Unites Us, What Divides Us and How We Can Move Forward.

* This isn’t a Babylon Bee article: Bethel Worship musician Sean Feucht is running for a congressional seat in California.

■ Suffering with the little children: “When I was preparing in seminary to become a pastor, I was offered an internship at a local church. The pastor asked me what area of ministry I was interested in focusing on most. I told him I would do pretty much anything – teaching, adult discipleship, student ministry, missional living, worship and liturgy, or polishing the pastor’s shoes and being his errand-boy – whatever the church needed me to do would be fine. I told the pastor that there was just one group I wasn’t interested in working with – little children.” You can guess where he was assigned.

■ Your Acronym of the Week: DMM = Disciple Making Movements. If nothing else, watch the 96-second video and see how this fits with what your church is doing.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Franklin Graham: The Apple That Fell Far From the Tree.” Sample: “To turn ‘The Hour of Decision’ into a thinly-veiled promotion for President Donald Trump (or any political candidate) betrays the passionate, singular cause that Billy Graham espoused in more than 400 crusades in 185 countries.”

■ Unique Podcast: Gabe Lyons, host of Q, welcomes his wife Rebekah Lyons who shares the story of her second book Rhythms of Renewal: Trading Stress and Anxiety for a Life of Peace and Purpose (Zondervan) which officially released yesterday. Moving to New York was the beginning of her first panic attack. (Audio, approx. 15 min.)

■ Church History Department: Ever heard of Renée of Ferera? Born in 1510? “She was the daughter of King Louis XII of France and Anne the Duchess of Brittany, the richest woman in Europe.” She figures largely into the story of Charles d’ Espeville, a.k.a. John Calvin. Yes, that John Calvin. And it’s not a story which casts him the best light.

■ Academic Alley: With Christmas approaching, resolving the differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus.

■ As devotional literature gets increasingly specialized, this one for families involved in service of all types: “Though the book does specifically address families that serve in the military, as first responders, and in other ‘front line’ ways, it is applicable for EVERY family that is serving the Lord and others in their home, church, and community.” 52 Weekly Devotions for Families Called to Serve.

** The answer to the question we’re all asking, from the leader of the chapel service in question: Dr. Cláudio Carvalhaes, Associate Professor of Worship at Union Theological Seminary on Why I Created a Chapel Service Where People Confess to Plants.

■ When joining a church is conflated with joining a particular political party. “ gives those considering the Christian faith the strong impression that to be converted, they need not only to believe in Jesus but also to become members of the (fill in the blank) Party. It confirms what many skeptics want to believe about religion — that it is merely one more voting bloc aiming for power.” complicated by this: “…Increasingly, political parties insist that you cannot work on one issue with them if you don’t embrace all of their approved positions.” Timothy Keller in the New York Times.

■ Canada Corner 🇨🇦: “Eight months after declining to ban conversion therapy, the Liberal party is promising to do just that if re-elected in October…In its platform released Sunday, the Liberal party said it will criminalize the practice.”

■ Shameless Internal Link: This week we were blessed to have a guest post here from Dr. Robin J. Dugall on how local churches succumb to the temptation to over-program, trying to be all things to all demographics.

■ A rabbi, an imam and a pastor walk into a plot of land: Flashback to 2013 and the unique Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha, Nebraska.

■ From high (church) to low (church), Ten Minute Bible Hour, in a video that may not be as interesting as their Catholic and Orthodox visits, decides to check out an Evangelical Free Church in Colorado. (Video, 16 min.)

■ What “hard core Evangelical” looks like to K. P. Yohannan of Gospel for Asia. For me at least, church never looked like this.

■ Newish Music: ♫ An indie Christian band based in greater Cincinnati; enjoy Where You Are by Mere Vessels. (From March, 2019)

■ New Worship: ♫ The former Dove Award-Winning band, Soulfire Revolution is now G12 Worship. This is We Invite You by G12 Worship.  (Released last week.)

■ New Music: ♫ An acoustic version of a song we featured previously, I Feel Bad by Hollyn. (Released two days ago.)

■ New Music ♫ Thought we’d end the collection with something LOUD! This is the song Premonition by Becoming Bristol. (Released two weeks ago.)

■ Oh, my! A recent poll confirms that Britain’s favorite hymn is the one recalling the time that Jesus visited England.

■ Update ICYMI: The band had in-ear monitors and simply kept playing for a few seconds after the cross fell off the wall and landed on the drum kit and the drummer.

■ Baptist “pastor” Robert Jeffress says there will a civil war if Donald Trump is removed from office. Then he gets the opportunity to dial it back a little, and doesn’t.

Do it yourself link. What’s a weird and wonderful story, or a good and beautiful essay that you read this week? Comments are open. You remember comments, right?

■ Finally, for those who have often wondered, here’s what happens if you’re speaking in tongues and checking your phone at the same time:

A concluding new-way-to-do-ministry image from this week’s Happy Monday:

Last week’s top clicks: Click here to read last week’s WedCon:

1. Purge Sundays
2. World Vision new sponsorship paradigm
3. Is Greta Thunberg being used?
4. Cameron Strang stepping back from RELEVANT
5. TBN founders’ granddaughter keeps $900K
6. Racism charges at RELEVANT
7. Universalism
8. 10 Redemptive Films

September 25, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Well, that was rather cruel, wasn’t it.

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #74. Your comments and suggestions via email or Twitter are always appreciated.

■ The U.S. President, amid walking out during climate change presentations at the United Nations, comes out on behalf of worldwide religious freedom. “The United States of America calls upon the nations of the world to end religious persecution, to stop the crimes against prisoners of faith, to release prisoners of conscience.”

■ Disrupting the child sponsorship paradigm: I saw this earlier in the week and sent it to some people involved in missions. Pictures of kids waiting to be sponsored on a table in the church lobby? Not this time. It’s the kids looking at the pics and making the choices, turning ‘I hope someone chooses me’ completely upside-down.

■ Climate change is not exactly a Christian news story, but if you missed young activist Greta Thunberg’s speech to the United Nations, you really need to take the five minutes…

■ …But if you don’t believe in climate change, and its consequences, you’ll probably react like this.

■ Trinity Christian Center, the parent of Trinity Broadcasting Network, must pay $900,000 to the founders’ granddaughter Carra Crouch who said she was drugged and raped during a telethon in 2006 when she was just 13.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “What If Universalism Were True? A Question for Evangelical Christians Especially.”

■ Then again, maybe this one, charging racism at RELEVANT Media Group, is more provocative: “Black Christians Deserve Better Than Companies (And Churches) Like Relevant Media Group.”  … and then …

■ … an announcement Monday from Cameron Strang that he is taking an extended leave of absence from RELEVANT following the racism charges, which he does not dispute.

Essay of the Week: “…I also learned that the reason leaves fall from the trees is because the tree is trying to prepare itself for winter and, eventually, for the coming spring. Wherever a leaf falls from a tree, a new leaf will grow in its place. So, the mother tree must push its own leaves, those little extensions of itself, from the branches so that life can continue. If the earth is always doing what is necessary to keep the seasons, to keep going as is her custom, to keep creating and breathing life and dying and creating again, maybe we can do the same.”

■ Okay readers, this one’s not new. In fact this 2005 article predates this blog, let alone the Wednesday Link List. But it’s been the object of several discussions I’ve been part of in at least three locations during the last two weeks. It’s the idea of “Purge Sundays,” a daring ‘culling the herd’ which separates the passive from the committed, practiced by the church mentioned to this very month. Pastors, your thoughts?

■ Nothing ‘newsy’ in this link, either, but I really enjoy (when I remember) listening to A. J. Sherrill. The sermon begins at 36:00, but if you’re interested, there’s a thing at the beginning describing Mars Hill Church leasing their building long-term to a local school board which is bursting at the seams.

■ Want to start a blog of your own? Dee at Wartburg Watch writes, “One of the things people always ask me about is insurance. If you have a homeowners insurance, yo might check to see if they cover you for blogging and even leaving comments on Google, restaurant reviews, etc. My USAA insurance policy covers me for this. I did not have to buy it separately.”

■ I always think of Passion plays happening in the spring season, but this one rolls out each summer, has an extra 30 minutes devoted to the birth of Jesus, makes the audience part of the Sermon on the Mount story, and boasts an ecumenical cast, 80 percent of whom return each year.

■ Movies with a Message: “Here then, from a long-time movie buff, are ten recommendations from various eras and genres that hold forth the ancient ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty.”

■ Persecution, American style: “[F]our Wheaton College students pushed back when [Chicago’s] Millennium Park instituted rules they believe undercut the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech and free exercise of religion.” They are now suing the city. Their lawyer says that one of the restricted areas is the sculpture Cloud Gate, commonly known as the Bean; adding that, “The Bean is one of the highest tourist attractions in the United States … that’s where you want to get your message out.”

■ Persecution, UK style: The headline reads,”Christian doctor lost his job after refusing to identify a six-foot-tall bearded man as ‘madam’, tribunal hears.” Well, almost true, except there was no actual “bearded man” in the story. He was being asked ideological questions about hypothetical clients.

■ If you follow Christian Fiction books, here are your 30 finalists for this year’s Christy Awards.

■ Leadership Lessons:  7 Errors in thinking that can hinder your church’s growth. 7 ministry “Thinkholes.” However, on the topic of growth…

■ …There’s strength in numbers. Big numbers as well as small numbers.

■ This is rather unsettling: “The Sept. 13 disclosure that the preserved remains of over 2,200 aborted babies had been found at the rural Illinois home of the recently deceased Indiana abortionist Ulrich “George” Klopfer has sparked outrage and demands for immediate investigations by authorities.”

■ Biblical confirmation or wishful thinking? A Christian archeology and research group claims to have found the boat anchor dating back to the Apostle Paul’s shipwreck on Malta.

■ For the (Married) Guys: 10 Ways to stay attractive to your wife. Five are about physical things, and five are about character.

■ New Music: ♪ From the author of Build My Life, Pat Barrett – Hymn of the Holy Spirit.

■ New Music: ♪ The Good Music Blog writes, “We recently met up with singer-songwriter indie worshipper Tina Boonstra at her church, Soul Survivor Watford, where she treated us to a live rendition of her new song ‘Second Chance’, a bold and honest song about God’s gracious love despite our constant struggles.” Tina Boonstra – Second Chances.

■ New Music ♪ From the same source, “We’ve been supporting Cortes since day one, and have loved seeing him grow as an artist over the years… Just like his latest releases, the vibe is smooth as ever, but lyrically he’s still coming strong with challenging the culture and not afraid to use the platform to point people back to the riches found in Christ, which he does in this song by reminding listeners of the truth that in all things, including our difficulties and struggles God is still working things for our good. Cortes – For The Best. (Audio).

■ New Music ♪ A heartfelt rendition of a song “dedicated to brain injury warriors, caregivers, and families.”  Cristabelle Braden – Not Giving Up (Piano Version). (Like the song? Here’s the full band version.)

■ Having dinner in the V.V.I.P. section with T.D. Jakes in Nairobi would set you back the equivalent of $723.30 US. “Those tickets were out of reach for the average Kenyan considering the per capita gross domestic product of Kenya is $2,010.”

■ Briefly anyway, last week’s story about Union Seminary students confessing to plants became a hashtag, #plantgate.

■ Finally, here’s the entire article, headlined “Priests spray holy water from plane to stop ‘fornication’” —

(ABC NEWS) — Russian Orthodox priests in the Central Russian city of Tver took to the skies in a small airplane to save citizens from “drunkenness and fornication,” reported a Russian local media outlet.

On Sept. 11, Sobriety Day, an unofficial Russian holiday, the priests carried 70 liters (about 18 gallons) of holy water onto the aircraft.

Once the plane reached an altitude of 200 to 300 meters (approximately 800 feet) the blessings began. Clergymen held a prayer service before pouring the holy water out of the plane’s open door.


September 18, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Every six months or so I drop in at Church Stage Design Ideas to see what’s new. The very fact that we have (for many years now) a site like this shows how different the modern church has become from what many of us remember in our youth. But wait a minute, Haran Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia is taking the opportunity to do something more than retro, a stained glass window motif. What does this say about our hunger for a more classical faith? (Click the image to see more pictures.)

Since we last met it appears you survived the full moon falling on Friday the 13th, which I know, as good Evangelicals, was top of mind that day. We’re back with a shorter list this week. It’s our ‘All Wheat, No Chaff’ list, accomplished through the process called winnowing, and I’m not talking Winnows 98, either; this is Winnows 10.

■ After five years in jail, a Christian couple in Pakistan — ranked as the 5th worst nation in the world for religious freedom — faces the death penalty for blasphemy, but they may be holes in the prosecution’s case, “including the allegedly blasphemous messages being in English even though Emmanuel and Kausar don’t speak English.”

■ This time around WORLD magazine looks at the ECFA, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. The organization appears to have been nothing more than a rubber stamp for member charities. Julie Roys writes:

As the WORLD article notes, this shameful pattern at the ECFA goes back decades. In fact, the criminally fraudulent spending involving the PTL Club and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker in the 1980s occurred while PTL was a member of the ECFA.

Start at Julie’s article, then click here to read the piece at WORLD.

■ 10 Minute video: “The Church of the Godless;” a look at the rise of the “nones” who now exceed the number of Evangelicals.

■ On Friday, 200 Liberty University students staged a protest demanding an investigation of Jerry Falwell, Jr. following the article in Politco.

■ Financial improprieties? Catholics have them, too. “Some parts of West Virginia are so poor they can’t afford running water in their homes, and their shepherd took ‘necessary breaks’ at Palm Beach penthouses

■ One of the things for me that makes Jarrid Wilson’s death so hard to take is that just one day earlier, he had officiated the funeral for a woman who had committed suicide.

■ On a variation of ‘Was that the Lord, or last night’s pizza?’ a pastor notes that we need to discern the difference between the leading of the Holy Spirit versus the latest trending insights of church leadership experts.

■ Respected Christian journalist Jana Reiss provides a thorough look at David Kinnaman’s new book Faith for Exiles (co-authored with Mark Matlock.) The book looks at the faith of Gen Z-ers and Millennials.

■ We mentioned the job posting at Willow Creek last week for a senior pastor. Scot McKnight critiqued the job description and found some things over-emphasized and at least one thing seriously lacking.

■ If you did a 500-mile pilgrimage, can you imagine doing it for a second time? I can’t, but it must have been special since Brian Zahnd and his wife are again walking the Camino Francés pilgrim route.

■ The United Methodist denomination: When God wants to write a new chapter, the previous chapters don’t always have a verse which anticipates the change. (That sentence isn’t in the article, but you get the idea. I hope.)

■ Women’s Workshop: “Yes, it is good to be independent but it’s also good to be interconnected. We can do it alone, but we don’t have to – we can belong to each other and this makes life so much richer.”

■ “Churches are using targeted ads on social media to convert and recruit.”

Katie Allred—co-founder of the group and assistant professor of software development and digital media at the University of Mobile, a Baptist-affiliated school—cites the Parable of the Lost Sheep, in which a shepherd leaves his flock of 99 sheep to recover the wandering one, as biblical inspiration. According to Allred, “If your church has a marketing budget, you don’t want to use that budget to reach the 99. You want to use your ad budget to reach the one, so that someone who is far from Christ might be interested in learning more.”

■ Parent of a high school student already thinking about September, 2020? The Christian University College Fair tour has kicked off for another year. (I mention this annually because one of these events was extremely helpful to us a few years back.)

■ Worship Musician-ing: In our present environment flow is everything. However, “Silence between songs is not the kiss of death. If the Glory of God is revealed in your worship service it’s because He’s chosen to show up. No amount of liquid, musical fluidity can coax Him. No amount of choppy chord changes can deter Him.”

■ Time to sell the church? A Jacksonville congregation has had that epiphany. “The fact of the matter is that an institution that is spending 53 percent of its budget on plumbing and heating and buildings and facilities, that is not a church anymore. That is a property management organization.”

■ New Zealand wants to greatly restrict access to pornography. You can guess who isn’t happy about that.

■ Parenting Place: This particular forum on Reddit doesn’t usually see this type of engagement. The question asks people who grew up in the church and are still following Jesus if there’s anything in particular they feel their parents did right.  Closing in on 400 responses.

■ Seeing God Work: Earlier this summer the people at Southeast Christian Church heard pastor Kyle Idleman share the history of the rapid growth of their church.

■ New Music ♫ – Until last night I had never heard of Lindy Conant, though her band goes back several years. Check out the latest, Stand in Awe by Lindy and the Circuit Riders.

■ New Music ♫ – One of my personal favorite artists. Butterfly by Josh Garrels. (This is a really cool song.)

■ New Music ♫ – Is it a music video or a graphic novel? Check out Dreaming of Eden by Skillet.

■ New Music ♫ – One of the most anticipated albums this fall in mainstream CCM is the one for which this is the title song:  I Give Up by Laura Story. A companion book was released by Thomas Nelson and is already available.

■ First there was Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Now there’s Christians in Cars Getting Spiritual. But it will not have that title. And judging by the one-minute trailer, there might not be cars. But there will be Kirk Cameron. (Actually, it looks like fun!)

■ Confessing your sins to plants. You’ll think it’s an Onion article. Or Babylon Bee. But Union Theological Seminary was serious. Don’t miss the comments, either.

And people say there is no God. Explain this.

■ If you’re into the whole church sign thing, we found 42 of them at this link.

Vaping Throwback.jpg

September 11, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #72. 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 if you’re typing it in from scratch.) • Image (above) from this week’s Happy Monday.

Apology — The list was pretty much locked in on Monday night, and then on Tuesday, like most here, I read of the untimely death of Jarrid Wilson at age 30. I considered adding it last night but just figured there was no escaping the reports online. This morning I feel bad about seemingly ignoring this story. So for any who missed this, here is a link to the story at CT and you’ll also find it in many other media outlets.

■  AdditionAgain, subscribers will not have received this one, either; but I wanted to mention that Willow Creek has posted the call for resumés for the position of Senior Pastor. There are many requirements, but also this, the only entry in the section labeled ‘education:’ 

Willow Creek values candidates who are life-long learners. Proven leadership experience is important, and this individual should be theologically grounded, but a formal theological classroom education is not a requirement for selection. 

The piece notes that the candidate will wear the “dual hats of pastor…and CEO” leading “a complex organization with more than 350 employees.”

■ Ultimately, this may be the most important thing I post today: “Archaeologists believe they might have discovered the location of the town of Emmaus, where Jesus was said to have first appeared before two of his disciples after His resurrection.”

■ Mega baptism service: Thousands are baptized in at least 28 different pools in a gigantic event in Bocaue, Bulacan, in the Philippines and at more than 100 sites worldwide. (We’ll include a link to your service the next time it takes a drone to capture it all in a single image.)

■ Another one returns! Pete Wilson has been teaching at a church in Michigan. In the sermon linked, he’s seen starting a sermon series on vocation. The story at Wartburg Watch is fresh, but the linked video is from May, as is another video from the same church with Willow’s former teaching pastor Steve Carter. The article notes that Wilson joins a long list of ‘comeback’ pastors.

■ Even at Wesleyan University, where the author of this piece is president, discussion of faith are fine if it involves the type of facts and figures you’d see on Wikipedia. But when he tries to make it personal, students basically shut down

■ Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids is selling a sizeable portion of their building, a former shopping mall, to the local public school, with an agreement to have the use of baby and preschool rooms free for 15 years. The announcement comes at the beginning of the service video.

■ Before you say, “Here I am, send me;” note the 7 types of Christians God can’t use.

■ Rachel Held Evans put a lot of work into the upcoming Evolving Faith conference in Denver, October 4th and 5th. Her husband Dan posted a link to this newsletter

Essay of the Week: Karen Spears Zacharias uses the weekend hurricane as a metaphor for the greater trials we face. “We need people who will ride out the storm with us.”

■ Did he let him off too easy? It’s easy to armchair quarterback this pair of episodes of Ten Minute Bible Hour:

■ Blogging at its Best: Getting your readers to help you put together your Sunday sermon. (To be clear, I liked this, and learned much from some of the comments. Bruxy Cavey did this a few weeks earlier on Twitter for a sermon on Abraham’s ‘sacrifice’ of Isaac.)

■Your new Word of the Week: Christoformity. Scot McKnight explains in this 2-minute book teaser.

■ One of his best blog posts, Aaron Wilkinson on The Ten Commandments as Narrative.

■ If it looks like a duck… Gospel for Asia’s “K.P. Yohannan says there isn’t a ring kissing practice” in an interview with Francis Chan that Warren Throckmorton was forced to remove from YouTube (but it’s embedded in this post) discussing the practices of Yohannan’s Believer’s Church. Throckmorton also has more on Gospel for Asia asking past donors to return the settlement money from the $37M lawsuit.

■ ♫ Have you heard of the band half•alive? Listening to the song Creature, I’m reminded of Owl City from a previous generation. Here are some lyrics:

i’m looking forward to the day
when life can grow without decay
humanity is not alone
when Jesus Christ sits on the throne

■ For part of our New Music feature, we offer you the winners in the Christian category of the Unsigned Only Music Competition. More details at this link.

■ ♫ More New Music: New from Integrity Music, Stillman, and the song Draw Near.

■ ♫ Also from Integrity Music: Thrive Worship, with the song I Still Believe.

■ Admittedly, Charisma Magazine is biased, since they share the same parent company as the publisher of Oracle, this week’s hottest selling Christian book by Jonathan Cahn. That said, if you’re looking for the 411 on this half-prophecy, half-fiction title, this article well covers the book’s premise.

■ Yes, I know. Benny Hinn has renounced prosperity gospel teaching. But haven’t we seen it all before where he repents of certain doctrines, only to have them pop up again — in Whack-a-Mole style — in subsequent teachings and books? Think back to his 9-part godhead, where each member of the trinity is itself triune. (Sorta like a fractal, I guess.) So for this one we bring you:

■ Leadership Lessons: “Leading your church through a time of sexual questioning.” Half hour podcast with Bruce B. Miller the author of a book by Thomas Nelson by the same name.  …which brings us to…

■ …Becket Cook’s turnaround from being gay in Tinsel Town, started with seeing a book on a table:

…Six months later Cook was at a coffee shop in Silver Lake with his best friend, also gay. He glanced over at the table next to them and noticed something akin to an extraterrestrial encounter — five young people with Bibles on their table. “It was strange because I had never seen a Bible in L.A., ever. It was a sighting. We just thought it was so odd; we were intrigued. My friend urged me to turn around and talk to them. He liked to stir things up and engage in crazy conversations.”
Cook felt compelled to ask the $64 question. “What does your church think about being gay?”
“We believe it’s a sin,” one said.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.  (More on the book at his website.)

■ They sold the church’s two properties for $1M U.S.
On the day of the funds transfer, they bought a lake house for $1M.
Months later they transferred title to the church.
Because of its status, the church is not required to file annual returns.

■ Parenting Place / Puppy Place: “There are times in parenting that are like little deaths both because they slay your heart completely and because you have to die to your basest instinct to Control the Shit Out of a Situation That Is Causing Your Child Pain and instead provide leadership and kindness and gentleness and guidance so they can slay their own dragons.”

■ Trans books for kids:

In a book aimed at seven-year-olds called Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity?, the protagonist Kit says: “the best thing about hormone blockers is that if I change my mind then they won’t hurt my body”. [Researcher Susan] Matthews however points out that this is “misleading”, as the notion that puberty blockers are fully reversible lacks any medical foundation. (emphasis added)

■ Adults making friends: 2 authors, 4 tips for extroverts, 4 tips for introverts.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Before Washington Was, I AM,” Trump Tells Reporters. [Note: Eye of the Tiber is the Catholic equivalent of The Babylon Bee.]

■ At Christian Forums, this one caught my attention: “How to assimilate all of evolutionary theory into a literal 7 day creation without changing anything.” This topic is more widely discussed than you might think.

■ Former U.S. Presidential Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders considers herself a Christian. Now she may be running for Governor of Arkansas

■ Looking for more? check out Michael and Eric’s link list, especially about six or seven in the first half.

■ The real estate agent never mentioned they were buying a house practically next door to a nudist camp. Once you’re past that, the article is a serious look at the spirituality of nudist culture.

■ You thought Baptists don’t dance? Pictures of Beth Moore dancing leaked to Twitter by… Beth Moore.

■ Time for another Worship Leaders Fantasy Draft. (You’ll need to know who are the major players in the worship ‘industry.’)

■ Finally, months later, his $25,000 fundraising goal at GoFundMe is still stalled out at $215. I wonder why?

When people share their most intimate secrets, as they do at, matters of faith and belief often get included in the mix.

Calling versus Living: Also from this one is especially sad.

One last one from PostSecret (we’ll visit again in six months): This either reflects a great satisfaction with life as it currently consists, or a very low view of heaven.

September 4, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Hillary Price’s Rhymes with Orange panel for 12.16.18

I go to a variety of sources to choose what appears here. This week I found an article alleging that a Christian textbook publisher was just a front for a large secular publisher hoping to make a profit of the homeschooling industry. It could have been our lead article, except that it went on to promote the product line with which the author was affiliated. It’s unfortunate when that happens, but increasingly on blogs and websites it’s all about someone trying to sell you something, in particular their something. 

Clicking on some items this week will earn you double reader points, but you won’t know until you click.

■ Quotation of the Week: “Youth ministry is more than a stepping-stone; it’s a viable lifelong ministry. In the same way no one asks a high-school English teacher when he’s going to start teaching college students, we need to stop asking youth pastors when they’re going to leave youth ministry.” A youth pastor reflects on four reasons he’s stuck it out in student ministry for 21 years.

■ It’s not about the Bible; it’s not about the Church; it’s not about dogmas and creeds; it’s all about Jesus. If that’s where our focus lies, that’s enough. Dr. Claude Mariottini,  Emeritus Professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary offers his own take on why people leave the Christian faith.

■ Rant of the Week: “I’m tired of a sermon on, say, the essentiality of baptism, being presented to a church of 80 souls, all of whom already agree with the preacher on the subject, and then someone later congratulating the preacher on having the courage to “preach the truth.” That’s not courage. It’s not courageous to tell 80 people something you know they (likely) already agree with you on.” On sermons lacking any edge or tension.

■ Authors accustomed to editors correcting their books, should have editors screening their tweets. Dr. Albert Mohler spectacularly insults the singles, the childless, calling non-parents less than human.

■ Persecution in Nigeria. This is a hard story to read.

■ Persecution in America: “San Francisco employees on official business won’t be permitted to travel to states with restrictive abortion laws under a new law…”

■ Are there two testaments in the Old Testament? According to this author, yes; “the old covenant given through Moses, and the original covenant given to Abraham.”

■ From the same author, if you want a visitor-friendly church, you need to be conscious of the 6 unwritten rules by which local churches operate.

■ Justin Bieber, Worship Leader: The pop singer led the midweek congregation at Churchome, a network of churches started by Judah Smith who has known Bieber since he was eight years old. FOX News adds that he also shared a ‘vulnerable’ testimony

■ Still looking for a Fall adult curriculum? Check out Scot McKnight’s review of this new DVD-based product featuring N.T. Wright and Michael Bird.

■ No gay gene? The Catholic News Agency reports that “a major scientific study found there is not a singular genetic marker for homosexualty…I t examined data from several large genetic databanks in multiple countries, and surveyed nearly half a million people about their sexual partners and preferences. Previous studies on the matter have only examined sample groups of hundreds of people.” (Or read about the study at

■ Singer Randy Travis has written a memoir, which this reviewer says chronicles “decades of spiritual highs and soul-wrenching lows.”

■ Is there such a thing as too concise? If so, I think this summary of Paul and Barnabus having a disagreement over John Mark* proves that ’25 words or less’ can leave you with an outline too simplistic. (And readers told him so.) (*Not a reference to John Mark Comer.)

■ Losing their religion: It can happen every bit as much at a Christian college or Christian university as it can happen at a secular one. CT’s report on students’ crises of faith.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Liberal Indiana United Methodists Stand with Tarot-Practicing Lesbian Activist Minister.”

■ I didn’t end up with a specific link this week, but as we kickoff a new season, I want to remind readers here that if you want to know more behind the faith-focused stories you read in mainstream media, bookmark the site Get Religion, where you’ll find excellent analysis.

■ Part insider, part outsider, he discovered four things about the denomination after attending his first Mennonite Church USA convention.

■ It should have been a routine youth group trip. But the boy whose birthday was being celebrated possibly suffered a seizure in the wave pool and later died. (The youth pastor adds details on Reddit.)

■ Randy Alcorn shares an excerpt from God, Greed and the Prosperity Gospel, a new book from Costi Hinn, nephew of Benny Hinn; which includes a rather awkward rationalization for the times that people do not get healed..

■ After listening to a song by Christian band Big Daddy Weave, a man in Tennessee confessed to murder and robbery

■ New Music: Cody Carnes – Run to the Father – one of the top sheet music downloads this week by worship leaders at

■ New Music: Will Retherford – Human – “orchestral dream pop and electronica with mild flavors of folk and indie rock.”

■ New Music: Urban Doxology – The Earth Shall Know – their name says it. 

■ New Music: Beach Chapel – Sweet Water – indie worship project from California.

■ This UK writer (who we frequently link to here) believes that if you’re moving, instead of trying to find a good church, you should consider trying to plant a good church.

■ Leadership Lessons: When pastoral staff are fired from a church.

■ First Impressions: 9 Indicators that it’s time to work on your church’s interior design.

■ Here, one year ago: Remembering the “Teaching Tapes” years in church

■ Not the words I would have chosen: Revisiting Robert Capon’s 9 word summary of the Bible.

A 7-year-old has admitted to setting a fire which damaged a Louisiana church.

■ Anything but the Bible, I suppose. So a Missouri city councilor takes the oath of office on a Dr. Suess book, leading a friend of ours to post:
I would not, could not
Swear on The Book
Not in a port
Not in a court
But swear I will
On Dr. Seuss
For I am such
A silly goose

■ Finally, it can happen to the best of us: “Pope Francis begged the pardon of the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square Sunday, explaining that he was late because he had gotten stuck in a Vatican elevator and had to wait for help from the fire department.”

■ Way, way past “finally” in a category by itself: Matthew Pierce’s Baptist Fan Fiction.

An abandoned LifeWay. Dark. Dirty. Lifeless, like a Lutheran VBS. Stacks of books, all of them ghostwritten for football coaches or Duck Dynasty cast members. In the corner, a single Mandisa CD gathers dust like so many Promise Keepers.

For the record, I just read the printed text, I have no idea what’s in the podcasts at the end of each.

This got your interest? Then click the image to read more at Facts and Trends.

■ At 8:30 last night I thought I was done, but Eric and Michael provided some links that were irresistible. (Including three I’d already included.) Check out their link list which appears the day before this one.

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