Thinking Out Loud

August 8, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Filed under: Christianity, links — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:31 am

Follow the bouncing ellipses … as many of our stories this week are related and one feeds into the other. The first three items also appeared yesterday as a separate blog post, as this issue continues to grow in size and scope. Got a suggestion for this list? Try to have it to me by mid-morning on Tuesday.

♦ Author, seminary professor and veteran blogger Scot McKnight calls for sweeping restructuring at Willow Creek Community Church in the wake of new accusations concerning the personal conduct of Bill Hybels

♦ …and most of you know by now that Willow teaching pastor Steve Carter has resigned. ” I offered my resignation many weeks ago, but I was requested to delay an announcement and continue with my duties until the leadership determined how to make the decision public. At this point, however, I cannot, in good conscience, appear before you as your Lead Teaching Pastor when my soul is so at odds with the institution.”…

♦ …and in this statement from the Global Leadership Summit, don’t miss the wording of the section which forms the hyperlink: “Bill’s engagement with the Summit and Willow Creek Association was completely severed in early April. He has had no involvement in the 2018 Summit or Willow Creek Association since, and there is no path for him to return.” …

♦ …meanwhile, Rev. David Kim is out — similar circumstances — at Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, the church led for years by author Timothy Keller. (The source by which I found out about this is as interesting to me as the story itself. I tried to find another link, but…)

♦ …Staying with Tim Keller for a moment, the prolific author was the speaker at this year’s Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast in the UK. TGC reports that “attended by 170 members of Parliament (MPs) and members of the House of Lords, which are the upper and lower chambers of the United Kingdom Parliament. The audience included several senior members of the British government, including Prime Minister Teresa May.” A video of the full 25-minute address is available at YouTube.

It happens in other religions, also.

♦ Article of the Week: This item is an adaptation from an online course at Zondervan Academic, and examines ten types of apologetics found within the Bible itself. I’m guessing you’ll want to take notes from this list, or even get your hands on the course itself. Allow 15 well-invested minutes to read this fully.

♦ Special Needs: According to a just-published national study following three waves of the National Survey of Children’s Health, “The odds of a child with autism never attending religious services were nearly twice as high as compared to children with no chronic health conditions.”  …

♦ …and for the parents of such children, the kids who can’t get past the wall, this encouragement/devotional/story: “When I scour the Bible now, I skip over the miracle stories. I read instead about the wilderness, and I imagine how slowly time moves in that parched, barren land. I read about Jesus at Gethsemane, deserted and afraid. I read about manna—mysterious sustenance for one day at a time. And I read about the lost lamb the shepherd follows into the treacherous night, the little one who can’t help but wander. The exhausted, endangered one who needs so badly to come home but just can’t find her way.”

♦ Rwanda’s New Law: “Pastors must now have a degree in theological education from an accredited school. The law also prohibits church leaders from urging their followers to fast for lengthy periods—like Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness—in order to better secure God’s blessing; authorities claim this is a form of starvation. Many churchgoers look at the new law as a form of harassment and restriction on freedom of worship.”

♦ Baptist megachurch mogul and Donald Trump Fan Club President Rev. Robert Jeffress is attacking Pope Francis for the latter’s statement on capital punishment. “…But the Pope is sincerely wrong on this. Popes, pastors, and churches may change their opinions, but God’s Word never changes.” [Sigh!]

♦ The theological implications of the Susan Pevensie story: Missed that one on TMZ or Entertainment Tonight? Actually, Susan is a character in the Chronicles of Narnia. “There are two things that really bother evangelical friends of Narnia, and they both show up in The Last Battle. One of them is the presence of Emeth in Aslan’s country, and the other is the absence of Susan in that same country;” writes Doug Wilson in an epic-length article on the subject. “My intention is to show that a final apostasy on the part of Susan is really a literary impossibility.” (Perseverance of the saints? Or is it Pevensiearance?)

♦ Ever wondered why a Christian author’s second book is disappointingly similar to the first one? I always thought that they had simply said all they had to say; explored the themes about which they were most passionate in the first publication. It turns out that’s not necessarily the case. “A successful book can be a blessing or even a curse, as excellent sales ‘brand’ you a certain way. You will be expected to repeat the success, and more than likely, you will be required to do something ‘same, but different.’ Frequently, this means to write a similar book to a more focused audience. A very small number of authors can write whatever they want, and their readership follows them to whatever they write. The bulk of successful authors are known for something relatively narrow.” (Is this why Max Lucado writes so often on fear and anxiety?)

♦ Toward a more visual reading of Psalm 23: The camera begins in close up with the sheep and the shepherd but is ever slowly zooming out to a wider and then wider shot. I’d love to see what’s in this blog post expressed as an actual short film.

♦ The provocative line of the week: “Catholic nuns being forced to buy contraceptives.” A new poll reveals that increasingly, Americans feel any business owner should have the right to refuse to serve a customer where serving them violates their religious beliefs.

♦ FREE! With everyone crying “Fake news,” Abdu Murray’s book Saving Truth: Finding Meaning and Clarity in a Post-Truth World (Zondervan) may just be the right book for the right time. For the price of admission — your email address — you can enjoy a free download of the first chapter.

♦ Media: NBC News profiles Pure Flix, the Christian movie company. “In the eyes of many of its viewers, Pure Flix helps fill a void, providing a substantial group of Americans with what is marketed as a wholesome alternative to Hollywood and other mainstream media choices…But the Pure Flix fan base might need validation of its political beliefs, too. The three films in the God’s Not Dead trilogy, for example, tackle supposed anti-Christian fervor on American campuses, making the case for religious liberty in the face of academic secularism.

♦ Theological Discussion Point of the Week: Defining God in terms of Jesus, namely, “This paradigm shift in modern, contemporary Christian theology toward thinking through logically and without restraint the principle that Jesus is the perfect revelation of the character of God has precursors and profound implications. One of those might be that our Bibles should begin with the New Testament! I have gone so far as to encourage my students to ‘read the Bible backwards.'” Roger Olson on infusing this truth into more of our doctrines and study.

♦ Would Jesus give a TED Talk? Two reasons why today’s preachers shouldn’t try to emulate the form.

♦ Division in the ranks of Latter Day Saints over a familiar issue: “The Mormon and LGBT communities have been at odds, notably in 2008 when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supported California’s Proposition 8 ballot initiative, which eliminated state residents’ right to same-sex marriage. And in 2015, a church policy that barred the children of same-sex couples from being blessed or baptized until they turned 18 and disavowed same-sex relationships became public.” A look at Salt Lake City’s Love Loud festival, in support of LGBT youth.

♦ Biomedical Ethics/Canada Corner: The current situation in Canada where assisted suicide (aka euthanasia) is repeatedly offered to a man who makes clear he wants to go home instead

♦ …meanwhile: Children are being euthanized in Belgium.

♦ Parenting: The movie Eighth Grade was given an R-rating, though many disagree with that decision. In the meantime, if you’re reading this today (8/8) there are free, unrestricted showings in all 50 states tonight. (Word is that some theaters are defying the R-rating anyway on a 24/7 basis.) Which brings us to…

♦ Parenting: Seven things you should know about middle school kids.

♦ “The annual Church & Culture Conference is expanding its reach across the U.S. by taking the conference on the road! Starting this month with dates in Albuquerque, Tampa, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Charlotte, and more; all led by Dr. James Emery White. Watch a brief promotional video

♦ …meanwhile, Andy Stanley’s Deep and Wide Tour will take him to Irvine, Lancaster, Detroit, Indianapolis, Chicago, Orlando and yes, also Charlotte. (The latter must be a conference hub or something.) Everyone who registers gets a copy of the much-anticipated new book, Irresistible.

♦ Radio Biz: A print interview — is that odd for a radio blog? — with Sherri Lynn, producer and co-host of The Brant Hansen Show. Asked what is the greatest obstacle facing Christian radio: “Lack of diversity – not just on the air but also in management and ownership. As the world continues to grow and change in this area it’s weird that this industry has not. If it doesn’t, it may be rendered at best antiquated and at worst, irrelevant.”

♦ Love the title of this forthcoming (October) book from IVP, Finding Holy in the Suburbs: Living Faithfully in the Land of Too Much by (California suburbanite) Ashley Hales.

♦ Before You Say “I Do”: Here are ten things you should work out as a couple before the exchange of rings. Sample: #4 How do you function together in group settings? This is an article that both young adults, and those who do pre-marriage counseling should file away for future reference.

♦ I wasn’t expecting anyone so fluent in Spurgeon to be a fan of Hillsong, but I share this for your consideration. “Spurgeon speaks succinctly about the impossibility of combining genuine Christian preaching with a light-hearted attempt to entertain. How can serious preaching prosper when combined with gaiety, frivolity and forms of entertainment? Conversion preaching must bring about genuine conviction of, and repentance from, sin; it must highlight the dangers of eternal damnation for the unrepentant; and it must demonstrate the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross to provide sinful humanity with salvation.”

♦ New Music ♫ – for King and Country – God Only Knows.

♦ New Music ♫ – Lauren Daigle – You Say

♦ Are you a worship leader looking for some fresh material for Christmas? Praise Charts has compiled a list of their top-requested songs from last year, along with 60-second audio previews.

♦ Whimsy: If your church or your denomination had a mascot, what would it be?

♦ Finally, if no one else in the family is willing to ask the blessing at the evening meal, you could always ask Alexa to step up.

Vic Lee – Pardon My Planet – Click image to link

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August 7, 2018

Willow Creek: The Nightmare That Doesn’t End

Happier Days: Passing the torch, on the weekend of October 14th and 15th, (left to right) Steve Carter, Heather Larson, Bill Hybels. Click the image to read our reporting on that event.

Steve Carter, the teaching ministry heir to Bill Hybel’s position at Willow Creek has resigned. After years (literally) of developing a succession plan at Willow, things continue to unravel. Returning to a regular habit of watching Willow Creek online on Sunday afternoons a few years ago, I have greatly, greatly appreciated Steve’s preaching. As I watched yet another chapter in that church’s drama unfold yesterday, while some of it might have been continued jet-lag, and some of it might have been the heat wave, it is no exaggeration to say that I felt physically ill.

Furthermore, I feel we’re not done yet with this story. Attendance at the church seems to have been holding — I’ve tried to get more information — with the likes of David Crowder and Chris Tomlin leading worship; and guest speakers such as Henry Cloud (Boundaries), Christine Caine, Danielle Strickland, and former Willow teaching pastor Darren Whitehead. But over 200 comments on Twitter yesterday, responding to Steve Carter’s resignation letter, would indicate some might not be intending to stick around. Hence my title for this piece referencing “the nightmare that doesn’t end.”

You have to feel especially for families whose children are immersed in Promiseland and youth programs who shouldn’t have to be a casualty in all this; who should have to break up a routine and have friendships fractured.

For those not up to speed, I’m going to do something different here and share with you the top three items on tomorrow’s Wednesday Connect so you can track the story for yourselves:

♦ Author, seminary professor and veteran blogger Scot McKnight calls for sweeping restructuring at Willow Creek Community Church in the wake of new accusations concerning the personal conduct of Bill Hybels

♦ …and most of you know by now that Willow teaching pastor Steve Carter has resigned. ” I offered my resignation many weeks ago, but I was requested to delay an announcement and continue with my duties until the leadership determined how to make the decision public. At this point, however, I cannot, in good conscience, appear before you as your Lead Teaching Pastor when my soul is so at odds with the institution.”…

♦ …and in this statement from the Global Leadership Summit, don’t miss the wording of the section which forms the hyperlink: “Bill’s engagement with the Summit and Willow Creek Association was completely severed in early April. He has had no involvement in the 2018 Summit or Willow Creek Association since, and there is no path for him to return.”

That last item, the Global Leadership Summit is important. If your church’s biggest deal each year is an annual Christmas or Easter pageant, know that the GLS is Willow’s highest point on the calendar.

It’s next week. Craig Groeschel has stepped up to take a larger role, as have others, but right now the church wants to get past this — over 100 of about 700 remote location sites have pulled the event — to then focus more fully on the situation at the church itself. (The GLS is structured as a distinct organization, but intricately entwined with the church and (formerly) Bill Hybels.)

…I truly believe that the at the outset, the leadership at Willow wanted to believe in Bill’s innocence. I say that because I know I did. My first reaction was denial; in other words, mistrusting those bring the accusations forward to the Chicago Tribune (and now, the New York Times.) That turned to wanting to minimize the severity of the charges, to finally accepting the situation, and then to refocus on the leadership and the way they kept trying — possibly with some measure of sincerity — to sweep the situation under the carpet.

I can’t imagine the pain this is causing the church leadership, the church membership, the Hybels family, and now, Steve and Sarah Carter. Praying.

Steve and Sarah Carter. Steve had been mentored by Bill Hybels before coming on staff at Willow Creek.

 

August 6, 2018

Theologians Who are All Knowledge and Little Experience

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:40 am

Over eight years ago, I used a phrase which may or may not exist (probably doesn’t) from the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind to make a point about secular journalists who try to cover stories about religion in general and Christianity in particular.  At the time, I wrote,

There’s a scene near the end where the French scientist — his name is Lacombe — turns to lead character Roy Neary and says, “I envy you, Mr. Neary.”

But the next line, the line that has been stored in my memory since the picture released was not heard next. Here’s exactly how I remember the line, “I envy you, Mr. Neary; I study the phenomenon, but you have had the experience.”

After the movie, for 30 minutes, no searching the internet would reveal the phrase the way I am recalling it. Did I invent this? Or do I have two movies confused? Arrrrgh! I am so sure that line is accurate!

I then pressed into the application:

…We are studied and examined by all manner of journalists, academics and those who simply find us to be a psychological curiosity. But ultimately, their reports are lacking because they don’t have the necessary experiences to fully empathize with the Christian spiritual condition. (In a previous generation, that sentence would simply read, ‘They don’t have the Holy Spirit.’)

You can also turn this around.

The next time you’re in discussion with someone who you don’t feel is totally on the same wavelength, ask them, “Are you a student of the phenomena or have you also had the experience?”

Or how about, “Would you like to have the experience?”

This summer, I realized that this also applies to those of us who are Christians, but are trying to make sense of a denomination with which we have no familiarity. We have a sort of textbook knowledge of what they believe, but it’s missing all the fine tuning and nuances which would be gained by greater intimacy. We would never consider darkening the door of their churches even though ostensibly, we’re Christians and they’re Christians. 

You can take this another direction.

There are people whose preoccupation with Christianity is largely academic; scholarly; historical; theological. While they are busy analyzing and dissecting the doctrinal systems to death, there are others out there who are simply enjoying; living; experiencing. They’ve reduced to academic terms what other people are living out abundantly. They’re writing blog posts, articles, books; all trying to classify and clarify what is for others simply the reality of following Jesus.

I concluded,

I maintain that many of the people we come into contact with on a daily basis are simply observers, many watching from the outside. I often compare it to someone who encounters a log cabin filled with people on a cold, snowy day. Inside people are standing by the fireplace, laughing and drinking hot cocoa. The person outside watches with their face pressed against the window while the ice, snow and drizzle piles up on their winter coat and hat. 

Even if the line isn’t exactly in the movie as I remember it, it’s an appropriate metaphor to contrast those who are immersed at an academic level from those who are immersed in a life of faith.

Are you part of this family, or are you observing, as though from outside, with your face pressed against the window?

Why not come inside?

August 5, 2018

The K•LOVE We Never Knew

Filed under: Christianity, music — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:43 pm

If this graphic image doesn’t look familiar, click the links at the bottom of this piece for two recent rants about Christian music on radio, and modern worship in churches.

All this weekend, K-LOVE has been offering an online feed called “K-LOVE Classis: 80s, 90s and Early 2000s.” You can catch it at this link.

It’s in some respects, the K-LOVE that never was, though the station’s beginnings trace back to 1980.

There were a lot of people doing a lot of creative things in the earlier days of what we call CCM, but like K-LOVE itself, this is a rather safe, sanitized version of another generation’s Christian music. Perhaps what I’m longing to hear would be more of an Air1 classics station (Air1 is a sister station network to K-LOVE.) The first hour was interesting, but then everything started sounding the same.

Some of the trip down memory lane contained a few familiar songs — we played “Guess the Artist” while waiting for the ten second delay of the song ID onscreen — there were only a couple that really resonated where I turned the volume up high, and remember I was making my living full time from sales of this music in the 80s. (My wife handily won the artist guessing contest, however.)

We’ve discussed Christian music a few times here, so I don’t want to belabor this, you can read those articles at the following links.

Also, if you missed this 14-minute video,

 

August 4, 2018

Secularization in Europe: Where it Begins

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:05 am

You won’t see a picture like this often: Just 5 minutes earlier this Cathedral in Strasbourg was teeming with tourists, but they shut it down at 11:15 AM every day, evacuating all the guests. Empty churches is the theme of my writing on our concerns for Christianity in Europe.

I’m not a social scientist, though I play one on television.

However, in the informal interviews we had with people in July (and the year before) there is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that the secularization taking place in Europe has two very strong nodes; two places where it begins from which the ripple effects spread out throughout each respective country. Furthermore, I’m predicting that in the future, things won’t be much different in Canada and the United States.

One is cities. I know the stereotype. Country people are closer to the land, and it better lends itself to worshiping God in creation. But so many things reinforced the continued devoutness of the people in the smaller communities, as opposed to the secularized society we witnessed in the urban environments. Rural values are more spiritual.

For now.

The second is the young. Even as secularization spreads from the cities to the towns, it spreads as those in their teens advance into their twenties, have their own families for which church attendance is not a part of normal life.

We used to say, “Just wait until they have children.” The theory was that the children would ask questions that would force the parents to provide a structure to help them answer the metaphysical, philosophical, and spiritual questions of life.

Then studies proved that didn’t happen.

I’ve quoted this (source unknown) before:

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

I would add another today:

A faith community which has lost its children and teens is one generation away from extinction.

…and all the organ concerts and gift shop sales won’t be enough to stop that.

August 3, 2018

Secularism: Coming Soon to a Continent Near You

Tourists appreciate the stained glass in general, but often breeze by without looking at the details. “The Poor Man’s Bible” offered the Biblical narrative to those too illiterate to read the story for themselves, and too poor to ever afford a Bible. Cathedral in this picture was in Strasbourg, France.

If you Google the phrase, “The secularization of Europe;” you’ll get over 50,000 results. I am quite sure that many of those can say better what I’m about to say here.

As some of you know, we just returned from 14 days. Last year it was Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Germany and the Czech Republic. This year it was Holland, Germany, France (for 5 hours anyway), and Switzerland. During both trips, I interviewed tour guides, bookstore staff, hotel workers, and anyone else who didn’t sprint away when I brought the subjects of faith, church, religion or Christianity.

“We tried religion and it didn’t work;” one of the tour guides in Prague said to me last year. This time, when I asked about church attendance it was, “Why would they go?”

My usual question was, “Out of the people in your immediate social circle, how many would attend church?” One person made a point of telling me the answer was 2-3%, but that strangely the brother’s wife’s cousin of his husband was studying to be a priest (pausing to make sure the his husband part fully registered with me.)

The historic churches and cathedrals seem to survive on a blend of tourism and mid-week organ concerts. Because of the architecture, these buildings are museum-like in their connection to the past, but not the present. Their relevance or impact on day-to-day life for Europeans is minimal, except as a geographical point of reference, hence, “Meet me in front of the cathedral.” 

Most of the bookstores I visited either didn’t have a religion section at all, or if they did, the Christian section consisted of church history and related biographies. There were some stores which offered theology as a category, but it was mostly scholarly and academic texts; there was nothing that would attract a seeker investigating Christianity for the first time, and certainly nothing resembling apologetics. 

Holland does have a Christian bookstore chain, De Fakkel — I’m told it means ‘The Torch’ — but in a situation similar to Canada, it is the big cities which are taking the hit, and the Amsterdam store has closed. This led the sales associate in Scheltema, a five story bookstore, to point out that he really wouldn’t know where to begin picking up the slack. He was smart enough to recognize the various denominations each have their own particular interests, and that De Fakkel can do a better job of this as insiders, so he’s chosen not to expand the Christian books on offer.  

I can’t imagine living in a society where church is so strongly rooted in the past; not the present. As I reflect on this next week, I’ll share about our visits — 3 of them actually — to Amsterdam’s Red Light District, and the whole idea of taking vacations like this versus doing the Christian retreat center thing. 

To conclude: I haven’t fleshed this out as fully as I wanted (tomorrow I’ll discuss the two nodes of secularization) but as I wrote the title what I was thinking was that the secularization we saw in Europe is coming rapidly to Canada. About the U.S., I’m not sure. America is rooted in a nominal Christianity and a political Christianity which appears pervasive. Church attendance is dropping off, and the U.S. pales in comparison to the church growth taking place in some South American countries, but the country of “In God We Trust” is presently an exception to what we see in Canada, the UK, Europe and Australia. It will be interesting to see the religious face of America ten years from now.

This cathedral in Cologne (aka Köln) Germany is so intricate, so massive; and yet so irrelevant to the daily life of anyone under a certain age.

August 2, 2018

Breaking the Repetition Factor in Worship

A few days ago, our friends at Flagrant Regard posted this question at Worship Leader’s Collective:

 

Does anyone else feel the 7/11 treatment of songs (7 words, 11x in a row) can get a bit taxing if you’re standing, have ADHD or just want to sing worship songs that render its message in 4 minutes or thereabouts?
 
We took the nearly 8-minute version of Elevation Band’s great song ‘Resurrecting’ and rejigged it down to a comfortable 5 minutes (example below). Anyone else doing the same or feel the need to?”

We asked if we run this larger response for readers here at Thinking Out Loud.


Hey there. It’s the Original Poster (Flagrant Regard) here. So, after reading the many responses to the question asked above, the first thing I’d like to say is thank you all for taking the time to answer/reflect. Much appreciated!

I think from the many responses, the idea of the worship leader/team having to cut back on a Hillsong/Bethel/Elevation song’s length during worship time seems to be out of sync with the modern worship trends and not a favorable action with the majority here.

You know, if it were just young people in your services who are into the whole Bethel/Hillsong/Elevation Worship thing that has come to dominate the ‘industry’ of worship music in this century, I’d be like, “Yeah, that’s fine. Don’t cut back on your song lengths and repetition of choruses.”

But the church is made of many parts and many peoples. People who give a fig about older hymns, people who don’t. People who like songs from the 90’s and 00’s, people who don’t. People who like to sing and people who’d rather read the lyrics on the overhead projections and just ‘soak’ while the worship band does their shtick.

What bothered me in this thread was how some of the reasons for not wanting to trim some songs (in attempts to accommodate many people’s comfort-levels in the church body) came across as rather snobbish or selfish even. And musical snobbishness is a reflection of worship leadership that is more concerned with elevating one’s self or one’s musical agenda rather than attempting to meet many people where their at in an oft-diverse congregational body. We are taught in Scripture to ‘be all things to all men’. One good way to do this, as a worship leader, is to not just play the music YOU dig or get into. To honour one another above yourselves is sometimes playing that old hymn for those 10 or 11 folks there who would so much appreciate the effort that you’d take to do so. Maybe play only 1 longish song with multiple layers/choruses and then play others from the 90’s or the 00’s even that are less repetitive. Not everyone in the congregation is ‘bent’ toward meditative worship music that constantly refrains things for up to 8 or 9 minutes. This does not make them less spiritual than you. This does not make them less deserving of your respect or outreach or occasional accommodating their comfort-levels.

What’s wrong with a balance of song styles/lengths to reach a whole congregation and not just the Bethelites/Hillsongians among the crowd?

Listen to how much of your ‘SELF’ came out in your responses to the question.
“Gets ME into a meditative state”

“Sometimes it takes a little time and repetition for ME to really set aside MY day …”

“I THINK they can stand for 25 minutes once a week”

So it’s about you is it?

And then some of the reasoning for playing longer songs had me going, “Uh, really?”

“Why don’t we feel the same way when Scripture gets repetitive? Psalm 136 is a good example. … I wonder if we can’t stand as long because we just don’t want to. We like things our way because we feel entitled to things being done our way.”

“people who complain about repetitive lyrics, ask them if they like the Hallelujah Chorus”

“that whole idiotic 7/11 thing is what many of the prominent reformed guys use to smear the entirety of the charismatic church, while still being fine with the eternally repetitive ways that the angels are projected to be worshiping God in heaven.”

1. Psalm 136. Reminds me of my Roman Catholic days. You know, where every Sunday you’re made to say the same prayers over and over again in a ‘call and response’ fashion till it became lip service. Who warned us against ‘repeated prayers’ because of their inherent nature to disengage us from reality and make us think we’re doing something spiritual when we’re not? (Matthew 6:7)

Not saying that this Psalm isn’t wonderful. But I was able to read it aloud comfortably in under 2 MINUTES – TWO MINUTES folks … Not eight.

2. The Hallelujah Chorus … is not a congregational piece. It’s a highly designed performance piece. Doesn’t fit in with Sunday mornings now does it? Silly example.

3. People of a certain age (you’ll get their friends, trust me) will be sore. Yes, the ‘whole of Israel’ (hyperbolically speaking) was there for the reading of the Decalogue in Nehemiah, but Israel would not be telling a crippled old widow, “Stand up, you lazy serf. We’re worshipping God here.” Unless you believe in a God who would expect that, our role is to accommodate the suffering and struggling in our midst. People struggle with attention spans when they’re very young and very old and long, repetitive songs DO NOT ASSIST in their attempts to become more spiritual!

4. The angels in heaven … are in heaven. They are angels and not humans. They praise God because they are self-aware in a way that you and I could never comprehend (in this life) and feel compelled to worship our Mighty God in ways that you and I could never fathom.

Not all raise their hands in praise. Are they less worshipful? Not all have a singing voice, is it right to compel them to sing or hear things over and over again that do not centre their minds on God, say, the way a well-worded sermon does?

My wife was right yesterday when she noted that the modern worship service seems to be moving in this direction: its structure is being dictated by the worship music or leadership … not the pastor, not the preaching, not the theology, not the disciplining efforts.

She was right, I began to conclude. Is it because the whole ‘paid worship pastor’ thing (which is rather new in the history of the modern church) forces the worship pastors to ‘earn their salt’ by making sure they’re ‘performing’ to expectations? That their singing long enough songs … playing extended musical sets?

I wonder how many of those here in favour of the longer songs and longer sets are the same people who start looking at their watches when the pastor begins to go ‘overtime’ with his message? If you’ve ever done that … do you see the duplicity you’ve just found yourself chewing on?

I guess what it all comes down to is this:

Who are you serving? Why are you serving? How could your serving best meet the variety of souls that have to listen to you for 25 minutes or so? Old music is not bad. I used to be one of those ‘hymn haters’ … “Why can’t they do the new stuff here? They’re such FUDDY-DUDDIES!” But that was because my agenda was to make them – the less ‘with it’ folks – get with the program. Yeah, that’s what Christianity is about – making the people bow to YOUR preferences.

Christian worship leading is not about fulfilling YOUR preferences. It is about ‘being all things to all men/women’ and ‘honouring another above yourselves’ VIA YOUR GIFTINGS.

So before next Sunday, think about your congregation – the blue hairs, the young, the middle aged, the smart/the not so smart, the attentive, the less talented, the seeking … are you doing everything in your power (in the Spirit’s power, rather) to lead them closer to the Throne by meeting them where their at by way of the many songs available to you from the many glorious eras of Christian song that are wonderful as well and often succinct in their message/presentation?

Worship the Lord with your love and humble-heart, and love others with your various giftings. Play well and professionally of course. But love others – as many others as you can – with your gifts.

That is the true Worship Leader’s calling.

August 1, 2018

Wednesday Connect

My wife told me the sign means, “Christian Citizen School for Ordinary and More Extensive Primary Education;” but to me it will always say, “Christlike Burger School.” I think “Christlike Burgers” would be a great name for a chain of fast food places.

My wife and I were on separate buses, heading for different tours, but we both caught the familiar logo of Calvary Chapel next to a river in Heidelberg, Germany.

“…And, we’re back!” While we were away I was collecting items for this Wednesday Connect with Twitter, clicking “like” for the items I wanted to include. As we arrived back at the hotel each night, my Tweets would upload, so I had no idea that all my likes — two weeks’ worth — were disappearing into the ether. Nonetheless, we compiled this list in a hurry last night.

► Bethel Church in Redding, California has been criticized for not being a sanctuary for people who needed to evacuate because of the rampant fires happening there. But there is an explanation.

► Persecution Watch: With a change in status from prison to house arrest, praying people around the world are hoping that American Andrew Brunson is one step closer to leaving Turkey.

► “Now the youth group is taking another week-long summer trip, and she’s coming too. And just like last year, at some point in the week, she gets emotional about Jesus. Also like last year, she asks to talk to her youth minister, and yet again like last year, she comes to realize that she wasn’t “really” a Christian after all. Through tears and hugs she announces her newfound authentic faith, and again brings her testimony home to the church. But like last time, summer doesn’t last forever.” It’s easier to have a re-conversion than repentance

► Mark Driscoll: It’s déjà vu all over again. A new book looks at the rise and fall of Mars Hill Seattle from an academic perspective.

► Essay of the Week: “When you find yourself (for whatever reason) standing between a parent and a child—you’ve chosen the wrong side.” When a nation stops caring about its children, it has stopped being human.

► “We are experiencing characters and a dramatic developments (sic) in the world, which indicate that we are increasingly approaching the end times and Jesus’ return.” That may be true, but it’s not exactly what people were expecting to appear spontaneously from Google Translate.

► Parenting in the wake of dramatic news events: “For many teenagers and children, responses to a traumatic event are normal reactions to abnormal events. But some reactions may point to the need for further help.” The Thai soccer team cave rescue is an example where sometimes greater emotional and spiritual support is needed for kids and teens.

► Are Worship services for seekers or disciples? The problem with attractional worship is discussed in this Seven Minute Seminary video.

► The man who brought us “Chrislam” (a purported forthcoming merger of Christianity and Islam) now declares himself to be God’s Final Prophet

► What shall we name the baby? “Religion has taken a backseat in many people’s lives, but that doesn’t mean people have lost interest in it entirely. In fact, a rising number of parents are turning to the Bible for name inspiration for their kids.” Ten trending Biblical baby names. (Even if the parents don’t know they’re in the scriptures.)

► Parenting — Alleviating Awkwardness Dept. Having “the talk” with your daughter is made easier when three funny “big sisters” are telling the story on video. For just $39.00 you can partially outsource this normally precious mother-daughter moment.

► Chick-Fil-A is coming to Toronto, Canada, and already the gay community is planning a boycott. (Note: Link is to a gay news website.) … 

► … In other Toronto news, local churches open their door along a stretch known as The Danforth which was the site of another act of mass violence in a city often called Toronto the Good.

► On what we do here (blogging): “All it takes is a cursory stroll through Instagram to see that comparison- and bragging-based platform building has grown rapidly while the more thoughtful daily-logging and think-piecing have fallen out of fashion.” Zach Hoag returns to long-form writing at the new “General Christian” channel at Patheos. 

► Stepping aside from a church he helped found: Shai Linne gives an insight into what circumstantial burnout looks like.

► From our “Finds” department: Living Waters Europe documents both one-on-one Evangelism situations and adventures in street preaching on their YouTube channel.

► A look at the changing definition of masculinity. “How does this new masculinity function better? In what sense has it improved on the original version? The old masculinity drove men to provide for their families, protect their loved ones, win wars, build civilizations, among many other accomplishments. New masculinity may make effeminate men more comfortable, but what are they achieving and doing that traditionally masculine men couldn’t do as effectively? I can’t think of anything, besides, perhaps, matching their blazers to their shoes…” 

► Provocative Headline of the Week: One in Eight Divorces Caused by Student Loan Debt.

Lead Small is a new resource from Reggie Joiner (Orange Curriculum, Rethink Group) to help people learn five basic principles in leading small groups in various sized churches with particular highlighting of material which can be adapted in children’s ministry as well.

► Worship Workshop: This week on NoPro Worship, David Wesley suggests several reasons for adapting hymns in a modern church environment

► Christianese: Relevant Magazine’s Twitter poll results lists 9 phrases which confuse new and veteran Christians alike.

► Reaction to last weekend’s Revoice Conference in St. Louis, “Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.” 

► Video of the Week: An atheist gets locked in a church. (9 minute standup comedy w/ mature language.)

► Finally: Is Satan uploading sin into your brain via wi-fi? This may be satire, but best be safe and avoid fast food restaurants with free wi-fi.


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July 22, 2018

Taking a Break

Filed under: Christianity — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:49 am

After publishing daily for ten years, when we reached the decade anniversary a few months ago, one thing I promised myself is that I would be released from the obligation to create fresh material each day. And so, for the first time, Thinking Out Loud will be taking a break until the end of the month.

There’s ten years of backlist material here to discover, almost all posts are keyword (tag) searchable; and don’t forget our classic, old-school blogroll down the right margin (or at the bottom on the mobile version) contains enough rabbit holds to tie you up for the better part of a week!

 

July 21, 2018

No, Everybody’s NOT Doing It

Because we’re inundated with media that tells us that everybody is doing it, the other side should probably have equal time. If you’re on the fringes of the whole God scene, or maybe not even that close, here’s what I think some people I know would tell you…

Materialism

  • many of us are not going to a vacation resort this year
  • what you think is our ‘new’ car actually came off a three-year lease
  • I really don’t want a bigger house, in fact I’d like to downsize
  • those new appliances we ‘bought’ were free with credit card points
  • we think all those electronic gadgets are a waste of money

Boasting

  • yes, we paid off the bank loan, but then we took out another
  • many of us have kids that did not get straight A’s on their report card
  • Harry’s new job was a departmental move, not a promotion
  • the ten pounds I lost wasn’t exercise, they closed the local Krispy Kreme
  • the little league team we coach made the finals only because another team had to forfeit

Ethics

  • there are many people who do not embellish their resumé
  • no, actually I don’t cheat on my income tax
  • since you asked, not everybody looks at porn online
  • sorry, you’re wrong; not everybody tells lies to get ahead
  • if you look carefully, most of us really do drive the speed limit

Sexuality

  • the kids in my core youth group at church actually aren’t sexually active
  • the truth is, I haven’t thought about having an affair with the receptionist
  • I’m not that insecure that I need to flirt to prove I’ve still “got it.”
  • a lot of us women are not interested in reading the fantasy bestseller
  • there are many people who think inward qualities matter more than outward appeal

Anything you’d like to add?

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