Thinking Out Loud

March 22, 2015

Good Friday and Easter Sunday Bring Endless Opportunities to Go Off-Message

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:10 am

You’ve got bunnies and you’ve got eggs, but don’t forget the whole “In Your Easter Bonnet” thing. You thought Easter was about the risen Christ? Nope. It’s about hats. And wearing white. This could make the fashions at Royal Ascot look tame. And don’t forget the $500 cash prize. (Guest music artist to be named later, however.) Don’t miss the fun at Lighthouse Full Life Center in Grand Rapids, MI. (Wait, this is in Grand Rapids?)

LighthouseResurrectionSunday-2015

March 21, 2015

Weekend Link List

Spring Retail Comic

Tony Campolo Speaks Candidly About Bart Campolo - “I really could have done a better job of nurturing my son in the ‘nurture and admonition of the Lord.’ I could have spent more time listening to him and answering his questions. Sadly, what is done in time is irrevocable.” But then there’s this: “He brings to that humanist community all the zeal, and then some, that I have tried to bring to the preaching of a holistic gospel all the many, many years of my life. He pointed out that the secular humanists on campus had very little in the way of community, and he hoped that something of the sense of community that he felt as a teenager in an evangelical youth group might be evident among these University of Southern California students. He unashamedly declares that he wants the secular humanists to have something of a sense of mission, which he sees as all too absent among them.”

The First Church of TED - New York Times: “I grew up among Christian evangelicals and I recognize the cadences of missionary zeal when I hear them. TED, with its airy promises, sounds a lot like a secular religion…A great TED talk is reminiscent of a tent revival sermon. There’s the gathering of the curious and the hungry. Then a persistent human problem is introduced, one that, as the speaker gently explains, has deeper roots and wider implications than most listeners are prepared to admit. Once everyone has been confronted with this evidence of entropy, contemplated life’s fragility and the elusiveness of inner peace, a decision is called for: Will you remain complacent, or change?

We Have More Contact with Social Media, But We’re More Lonely - “Mental health providers have noticed a significant uptick in ‘skin hunger.’ This is basically the adult version of failure to thrive and the core issue is that so many of us go all day without any meaningful physical or emotional contact with others… Once I started digging I found lonely women in every demographic… I identify several ‘modern day Trojan horses.’ These are things we think are a gift, so we wheel them into the gates of our lives, but eventually they turn and attack the things we most treasure, mainly our relationships. Technology is one of these Trojan horses, but certainly not the only one.”

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? We Do! - “Never mind the outspoken Christian leaders who reject the Big Bang and human evolution; nearly 70 percent of rank-and-file evangelicals in the United States say they don’t see religion and science as being totally at odds, a new survey found… Among evangelical Christians, about 48 percent said they see science and religion as complementary to one another, while 21 percent think science and religion refer to different aspects of reality and see them as entirely independent of one another, the survey found.”

Facebook Bans Christian Organization’s Ad - All the advertisement said was, “I Am A Christian – Join the movement at: http://www.YesIAmAChristian.com”.  But Facebook replied, “Your ad wasn’t approved because it doesn’t follow Facebook’s Advertising Guidelines for language that is profane, vulgar, threatening or generates high negative feedback. Ads can’t use language that insults, harasses or demeans people, or addresses their age, gender, name, race, physical condition or sexual preference.” Wait, what? Pressed for clarification a website official replied, “Your ad wasn’t approved because it doesn’t follow our language policies. We’ve found that people dislike ads that directly address them or their personal characteristics such as religion.”

Why The Dones are Done - Small church advocate Karl Vaters copies a list of reasons people are leaving their place of worship, then notes: “None of the things people usually leave the church over are things that actually define the church. The church is two simple things – neither of which almost anyone wants to be done with. The church is people loving Jesus and loving others. When former churchgoers say they’re done with church, they’re seldom actually done with loving Jesus or loving others. What they’re done with is the extras we’ve attached to Jesus and people – often at the expense of the two essentials.”

A Never Ending Supply of Made-Up Words - “Though I myself find most doctrinal disagreements to be a major snoozefest…I have managed to acquire over the years a small set of really interesting tidbits that for me represent the highlight of the Calvinism-Arminianism debate. It’s the Calminians and the Arvinists! If you take a close look at those two words—Calminian and Arvinist—you’ll see that they are basically the two halves of the words Calvinist and Arminian that have been chopped and glued back together with their rival halves. This right here is the kind of Christian slang that moves me to the edge of the proverbial seat and makes me literally push my glasses higher on the bridge of my nose. This is linguistic gold, ladies and gentlemen.” Then, the author at The Dictionary of Christianese, pursues this in a depth greater than many doctoral theses.

For Those Who Say They Don’t Want a Funeral - “I wanted no funeral. I didn’t want people standing up to testify to what a great guy Stan was. ‘He served Christ so faithfully, for so many years.’ ‘What an example of a godly man!’ If only they knew. If they saw the laziness and self-centeredness and waywardness and mixed motives and mean-spirited thoughts, their accolades would be silenced. I didn’t want hagiography. I didn’t want people testifying to a man they thought they knew, extolling virtues that would be dwarfed by vices. Not having a funeral would avoid a sideshow. But I have changed my mind—for two reasons. One, a friend died. The family decided not to have a funeral, nothing to acknowledge him or his death.  At first I took it in stride, but then it occurred to me that something was not right with that. In not acknowledging his death, they did not acknowledge his life.”

A Defense of Infant Baptism - Kevin DeYoung: “One, the burden of proof rests on those who would deny children a sign they had received for thousands of years. If children were suddenly outside the covenant, and were disallowed from receiving any “sacramental” sign, surely such a massive change, and the controversy that would have ensued, would been recorded in the New Testament… Two, the existence of household baptisms is evidence that God still deals with households as a unit… Three, children are told to obey their parents…Children in the church are not treated as little pagans to be evangelized, but members of the covenant who owe their allegiance to Christ. Four, within two centuries of the Apostles we have clear evidence that the church was practicing infant baptism.”

One for the Road - Last week, Julie Roys’ Up For Debate radio show looked at how Lent has spread beyond its mainline roots with this opener, “Protestants observing Lent is like the English celebrating the 4th of July.” Guests on the one hour program are Bryan Litfin and Carl Trueman.

Top Image: Retail a comic by Norm Feuti (click image to link)
Lower Image: Classic Archie Christian Comic by Al Hartley (click to link)

Archie Al Hartley

 

 

March 20, 2015

Baptismal Tanks + Hardwired (Corded) Microphones = Danger

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:07 am

This ran here in 2009 and then again in 2010, but now it’s been five years and I have a sense that we’re overdue for a reminder. I really think by posting it again we’re making sure that Kyle Lake’s death was not for nothing, but can serve as a warning to save other lives.

It happened again this morning. It was a great baptismal service, with an excellent lesson in persevering in prayer. But when it came time for the actual baptism, we sat there cringing hoping nobody would touch the hard-wired microphone places so close to the baptistry. I’ve e-mailed them about this before. After the service, a man came up to us and — on a totally different topic — said, “I’ve made suggestions to this church before and they don’t listen to me.” Sigh! Although I’ve run this blog post before, I thought I would repeat it here for the benefit of new readers. Doing so just might save some lives. Forward the link to whoever is responsible for the technical arrangements for immersion baptism where you worship. Hopefully they already know.

kyle-lake1On October 30th, 2005, Kyle Lake, pastor of University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas was electrocuted as he reached out to adjust a microphone while performing a baptism. He left behind his wife Jennifer, and three young children. (UBC was the church founded in 1995 by Christian music artists Chris Seay and David Crowder.) You can read more about Kyle, the accident, and the church here and here and here.

Months later, the family launched a lawsuit against the company that did work on the water heater in the baptismal tank. You can read more on that here. I want to focus on the microphone/baptism issue which will be more common to more churches. (These links are simple “first page” links from a Google search; see the comments re. the resolution was of that lawsuit.)

When I read of Kyle’s death, his widow and young children; I immediately pumped out an e-mail broadcast to as many leaders as I knew in churches where baptism by immersion is practiced. I targeted pastors, heads of worship teams, sound crew, and anyone else I knew who might be in a position to rig up a microphone anywhere near a large body of water.

As horrified as I was by the story, I was determined that we all learn from it.

This morning, I attended a baptism service at one of the churches that was on my e-mail list and — you guessed it — they had a live, hard-wired microphone on a stand far too close to the baptismal tank for me to comfortably enjoy what took place. I sat there cringing — and a bit of praying, but mostly cringing — the whole time.

A cordless microphone would have put me much more at ease, and would have put the two pastors and the four people baptized much more deeply inside the safety zone.

So here’s what you do. Immediately, send an e-mail to anyone in your sphere of influence telling them to link to this item at this blog. (Here’s the permalink.)

I never, never, never, never want to have to say, “I told you so.” Not on this one.

March 19, 2015

Why Are We Still Using Offering Envelopes?

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:58 am

Today’s article first appeared in the October issue of The Anglican, a newspaper for the Anglican Diocese of Toronto. Author Norah Bolton gave us permission to use it here, for which I am grateful because I have been trying to get this message across to a church in my area for a long time, a church which has a particularly young demographic, and they just don’t see it. So thanks, Norah for being a fresh voice on this subject.


envelope

What’s in your wallet? It might be fun to see what is there right now?

When I tried it, mine contained: Two $20’s, 2 loonies1, 8 quarters, 8 dimes, 3 nickels, a debit card and two credit cards – and a bunch of loyalty cards – some of which haven’t been used in years.

When you attend a church on a Sunday as a visitor, what would you be prepared to put on a collection plate from your wallet? What else might you need to hold back as cash for today or tomorrow? Lunch? Subway tickets? The kids’ pizza day at school?

I thought about this when our parish treasurer received a bill of $500.00 this week for a reprint of pew envelopes and, as warden2, I had to sign the cheque. Open collection is also down this year in our parish.

It will take 25 donations of $20 just to recover those costs. We will then issue a receipt on paper that will include a thank you card, a printed receipt, an envelope and a stamp now costing $1.00 to finish the transaction. So let’s make that 26 to 27 donations at least. That doesn’t include the volunteer counters’ time.

It will take 50 donations of $10 to recover the cost.

It will take 100 donations of $5.

It does not include those attractive pew envelopes hanging on the hooks used for other purposes and wasted – note taking, drawing, paper airplanes. We won’t recover those costs at all – but we will still pay.

In other words, we are using a system designed for another century – and we are spending time in committees discussing whether the colour of the band on the side of the pew envelopes should be red to match a recent brochure or blue to match the signs on the outdoor notice boards – rather than noticing how the world is changing.

We are also assuming that some of the users of the envelopes are potential parishioners, who will fill in the printed copy on the envelopes, when many folks are potential one time “friends” at best. They might or might not ever attend again. They might or might not have a pen in their pockets or purses to fill in the information on the pew envelope either. Some of the envelopes put on the collection plate are blank.

So maybe it’s time to re-frame the conversation.

How do people pay for things now – including making on-site donations?

img 031915I’ll use myself as an example. All my banking is now online. I pay for utilities, groceries, residential fees and taxes, car payments and monthly contributions to the parish via direct debit from my current account – and make two transfers a month to pay my credit card balances in full. Nearly all other purchases are paid via those credit cards – some as monthly deductions including the diocesan capital campaign – and others when I buy online. (The points I earn on one card add up to a free flight a year; on the other it brings me occasional cash deductions). I still have a small business account which receives the odd bit of income from an online order site. I have a line of credit to cover emergencies and a savings account to hold occasional surpluses. I make withdrawals of cash – usually to buy subway tokens – the withdrawal is always $60 in multiples of $20.

Sometimes the cash sits in my wallet for most of the month – but it is there for an emergency. I visited another church recently and didn’t really want to donate $20 but it was all I had in bills and I wasn’t keen to drop a bunch of change.

I donate to my college and TVO3 via their websites. I contribute to another warden’s charity walk online too – and get the tax receipts right away. I read my bank statements on my laptop, tablet or phone.

I’m a senior. Am I typical of my own demographic? How about a younger one? My guess is that the laptop is the least used device for the 20-50 crowd, and I look at the passengers on the subway car, it’s all about the phone.4

So here is the challenge: How are we going to encourage visitors5 to make one-time donations when they visit a parish church on a Sunday – in a way that works for them, not us?

The method does have to maintain confidentiality, be secure and allow us to obtain their basic information, issue a tax receipt and have enough information to thank the donor appropriately.

I think it’s time that churches begin this conversation. How about you?


1Affectionate term for Canada’s $2 coins
2Warden is (I believe) one of the highest offices in the Anglican Church open to the laity
3Equivalent to donating to PBS or NPR in the US
4A large church in west Toronto, which has been using a point-of-sale terminal for several years, has now set up a program where people can give through their phone. Many do this as the offering plates are being passed.
5While Norah’s article points to visitor donations, in many Evangelical churches right now visitors are actually discouraged from making contributions. My own take on this is that a point-of-sale terminal should be available to regular attenders, and I’ve seen this work in other churches. The machines cost to a church or charity is under $35/month, and they can be used for things other than tithing, such as paying for an upcoming youth or women’s retreat. The church I mentioned in the introduction also has a Daycare, with which they could split the terminal’s cost.

March 18, 2015

Wednesday Link List

I found this at the comics blog, Comic Curmudgeon with this caption: Hmm, Dennis’s teacher takes him aside after class, as if to gently correct him privately, but makes sure to do it while the other children are still in earshot, so that they can snicker at his ignorance! I’d say the menace has become the menaced, except that Dennis managed to get a Sunday School lesson to linger on nudity and shame, so maybe he’s playing a much deeper game here.

I found this at the comics blog, Comics Curmudgeon with this caption:
Hmm, Dennis’s teacher takes him aside after class, as if to gently correct him privately, but makes sure to do it while the other children are still in earshot, so that they can snicker at his ignorance! I’d say the menace has become the menaced, except that Dennis managed to get a Sunday School lesson to linger on nudity and shame, so maybe he’s playing a much deeper game here.

 

Featured Links

Your Church’s Management Culture – Thom Schultz looks at five models, the Family Run church, the Celebrity Centered church, the Deacon Possessed church (I loved that title), the Team Oriented church and the Democracy Weighted church. “Every congregation–and each ministry within it–takes on a style of governance that shapes its work and effectiveness…Sometimes a church’s structure becomes its very focus. People become devoted to the system, rather than to God.”

Navigating a Major Staff Departure – After 16 years of working together, Andy Stanley was so concerned with his friend Joel Thomas’ decision-making conundrum that Andy didn’t initially communicate that he didn’t want Joel to leave. And Joel broke all the rules of disclosure, bringing Andy into the discussion from day one. A 19-minute leadership podcast on what Andy calls Open-Handed staffing.

What Some Christians Think About Christians in Other Tribes - As listicles go, this collection of 10 Myths will make you think. Sample: “Interpretations differ because one party respects the Bible less… [T]his myth rests on the very shaky assumption that respect for Scripture always leads to correct interpretation and application of scripture. Too bad scripture itself doesn’t back this assumption! Apollos fervently respected the Old Testament and teachings of John the Baptist. But his own sermons were off-base enough for Priscilla and Aquila to pull him aside and give him a crash course in the gospel of Jesus.”

Preaching Christologically - Encouraged to “preach Christ in every sermon” hands go up at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with objections to the idealism of this approach because, “my sermon text is focused on a particular doctrinal truth” or “my sermon text is focused on a moral truth and not on Christ” or “my sermon text is focused on a moral truth” or “every sermon begins to sound the same.” The response to these situations is found in something published in 1801.

Confessional Accounts and the Women (and Men) Who Write Them - This precis of an article from The Hedgehog Review begins with Augustine’s Confessions and moves to modern times: “..But now …confessional literature is a consumer product and (usually) female writers are the commodifiers and the commodified… If their work has anything in common, it’s a mixture of self-consciousness and shamelessness… I too have seen Serious Literary Types raise an eyebrow at first-person narrative essays by women as though it was, by definition, evidence of vanity and triviality. When sold or produced as a genre, Women’s Confessional Literature can be a cynical enterprise that capitalizes on voyeurism.”

Parenting with Perspective - Baker Books author Emily Wierenga: “My friend tells me about a family from her neighborhood whose house burnt down in a fire – and they weren’t able to make it upstairs in time to reach their four oldest kids. Four boys. Now in heaven. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever heard. I just weep and weep. Some things are too much and this feels like one of them. No mother should have to outlive one of her children, let alone four … I want to cling to every single one of my children’s moments, good and bad, long and short, messy and smudged with kisses, because I’m never going to look back and miss that Mommy Time.”

Looking Further Down the Worship Road - Songwriter and producer Brenton Brown: “At least two significant challenges face us as worship leaders. The first is that often we become so engaged in the immediate worship needs that we delay beginning the process of developing the leaders around us. Saying ‘yes’ to developing leaders at certain points will mean saying ‘no’ to other ministry opportunities. There will always be need, but if we are to be effective in serving people in worship we need to break out of the survivalist mentality and plan for the long-haul. The second challenge that faces us, more often than not, is our artistic/perfectionist temperaments which seem to rear up at any hint of a possible drop in standards.”

Making Multi-Faith Mandatory in Medicine - Under new guidelines issued this month by the National Health Service in the UK, hospitals would be required to provide atheist chaplains. ““Chaplains already show no discrimination in dealing with patients whatever their background or belief. Providing atheist chaplains is an exercise in pointless political correctness. Taxpayers’ money should not be spent on this misguided attempt to comply with the perceived demands of equality laws, when they are already met by existing services.”

L’Arche Founder Wins Templeton Prize - Americans could be forgiven for not knowing Jean Vanier (or how to pronounce his French name) but are probably more aware of Henri Nouwen who joined L’Arche, the organization Vanier founded, after a career as a Catholic seminary professor. L’Arche, founded over 50 years ago became “an international network of communities for mentally disabled people” and last week it was announced that Vanier has “won the 2015 Templeton Prize worth $1.7 million for affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” Vanier has 22 books currently in print (in English) including the popular From Brokenness to Community and the 10th anniversary edition of Becoming Human and is known for affirming the dignity of developmentally challenged adults.

Rolling in the Deeps - Why anyone would go to the trouble of crafting a religious sculpture and then placing it out of sight underwater is anyone’s guess, though in this collection of five such placements we’re told that two of them were: “placed underwater by local officials to help discourage fishing techniques that use explosives. Since fisherman know the statues are down there, they don’t use dynamite.”

One for the Road - The artist currently known as Prince has covered a 2005 song by Christian artist Nicole Nordeman. Her reaction.

And-on-the-7th-day

Short Takes

We end with long-time favorite cartoonist John McPherson:

close-to-home-on-blogging1

March 17, 2015

You Say / He Says

Filed under: bible — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:31 am

YOU SAY
GOD SAYS
BIBLE VERSES

You say: “It’s impossible”
God says: All things are possible
(Luke 18:27)

You say: “I’m too tired”
God says: I will give you rest
(Matthew 11:28-30)

You say: “Nobody really loves me”
God says: I love you
(John 3:16 & John 3:34 )

You say: “I can’t go on”
God says: My grace is sufficient
(II Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)

You say: “I can’t figure things out”
God says: I will direct your steps
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

You say: “I can’t do it”
God says: You can do all things
(Philippians 4:13)

You say: “I’m not able”
God says: I am able
(II Corinthians 9:8)

You say: “It’s not worth it”
God says: It will be worth it
(Roman 8:28 )

You say: “I can’t forgive myself”
God says: I Forgive you
(I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)

You say: “I can’t manage”
God says: I will supply all your needs
(Philippians 4:19)

You say: “I’m afraid”
God says: I have not given you a spirit of fear
(II Timothy 1:7)

You say: “I’m always worried and frustrated”
God says: Cast all your cares on ME
(I Peter 5:7)

You say: “I’m not smart enough”
God says: I give you wisdom
(I Corinthians 1:30)

You say: “I feel all alone”
God says: I will never leave you or forsake you
(Hebrews 13:5)

Here Come More and More and More Blogs

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:27 am

Back in October I dumped my entire load of bookmarks marked “Blogs” on unsuspecting readers. I’m not sure if anyone in particular really got a whole lot out of that, but now that my computer is definitely dying, I feel the need to preserve some of the newer entries in the cloud, while at the same time appearing to do something altruistic. Please note that this list does not include bloggers who themselves do regular link lists — I have those filed as “Aggregators” — or Christian news sites, which are already listed here in the margin. Oh, and some people are on this list simply because they have new addresses or the ones that appeared previously were incorrect.

Blogs
Philip Yancey | Author, Thinker, Climber
WorshipIdeas.com
Faith | Sue’s Trifles
GetBetterToday.com – Christian News | Inspirational Stories
Nearly Christian – A Christian community devoted to the journey
Blog – The Janet Mefferd Show
Michael May’s Adventureblog
Wineskins.org | Exploring the Heart of Restoration
KATE CONNER
The Blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship – intervarsity.org
Faith Archives – Faithreel.com
Power of Change
Ratanak International
The Morning Drive
Christianity 201 (I just snuck this in the list, it was already in the other one)
Blog | Tim Gioia
Blog – Deb Mills
Memes Archives | Catholic Memes
TN PRIME RIB
old time religion by Jim Linderman
Samuel’s Notebook – A Blog of Inklingations
Learning Domestic Discipline: The Blog (please don’t take this one too seriously)
Reflections – AllAboutReflections.org
Blog | KW Redeemer
Home – Ecelectic Contemplations
the Jesus Event | the blog of Tyler M. Tully
Soteriology101
Ken Wytsma
Desperately Wanting To Believe Again | From ashes to new life
Atlas Church
Sketches By Boze | An ongoing exploration of faith, culture, myth, life, art.
Café Seminoid | Inspiring the Aspiring
Archbishop Cranmer
David Santistevan | A Blog For Worship Leaders & Musicians
Then My Youth Said
Hope Stands | Never Without Hope
realsimplefaith
Paul J. Pastor
Tom1st.com
Christian Book Shop Talk (another one of my own)
Life’s a Journey
Ryan Huguley
Worthily Magnify | Helping Worship Leaders Lead Well
Phil Cooke « Engage | Influence | Activate Phil Cooke
Agnusday.org – The Lectionary Comic
Living On Tilt
Church for Men —
Live58
Bible Knowledge Ministries – Bible Teaching Website
ForeWords | Lectionary Musings within the Community of Christ
Tuesdays with Morris | Jason B. Morris
Christian Courier
Stand to Reason Blog
First Things | America’s Most Influential Journal of Religion & Public Life
Road Report by FarmingtonGlenn
The Heidelblog | Recovering the Reformed Confession
Not Ashamed of the Gospel – Share Your Faith
Alex Koo Blog – Staying Christian in a Millennial Generation
ParkingSpace23 – Carrying the tradition of boldly proclaiming the truth
Phil Cooke | Engage • Influence • Transform
subversive1
Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology
Innovate For Jesus | Grow the Church
Lead Small | A small group community
Children’s Ministry Curriculum | Orange 
Karen Zacharias | Karen Zacharias
Worship Tech Roundup | Worship Links
Jonathan Malm | Creator and editor of ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com
David’s Theology – Peering through the Biblical Lens
The Joyful Noiseletter
Home Brewed Christianity
Launch Clarity
Anxious Bench — The Relevance of Religious History for Today
Panorama of a Book Saint
mysteryoffaithblog
Story Time With Haley
In the Line of Fire
Loose Him and Let Him Go | Spreading the Gospel, ‘Bit by Bit’
Dirty Christians | How to serve God in a messy world
Discipline | &mirth.

 

March 16, 2015

The Sound of Keys: Modern Worship Instrumentation

The new Nord Lead A1 analog modeling synthesizer joins brands such as Moog, Korg, Novation, Studio Logic, Akai, Access, Yamaha and Roland.

The new Nord Lead A1 analog modeling synthesizer joins brands such as Moog, Korg, Novation, Studio Logic, Akai, Access, Yamaha and Roland.

If you track the worship sections of church service podcasts, you can’t help but notice a couple of subtle shifts taking place in what instruments are on stage. Some churches are manifesting one of these, others have both:

  1. The influence of Roots music or even Appalachian music, in particular the use of banjos, ukeleles and mandolins and compositions by bands such as All Sons and Daughters, Rend Collective and I Am They.
  2. The re-introduction of more keyboards, not just the use of what is called pads or textures, nor synthesizers which are being used for their digital samples of existing instruments or variants; but rather, the more raw synthesizer sound itself being used to drive the melody or create linear counter melodies or lines between verses.

For this writer, the second situation can’t happen soon enough. After three or four decades of having both Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) and modern worship dominated by Nashville — most of the major record and publishing companies are physically based there as well — it’s time to refresh things by changing it up a bit, and allowing the UK or European sound to influence the sound of weekend church services. To date, both CCM and church worship in North America has had Tennessee’s country music looking over its shoulders.

That doesn’t mean the guitarist is done. Watching services this weekend at North Point Community Church as well as the ‘release party’ church service at City Church for Judah Smith’s new book Life Is _____, it was apparent that even though the sound was revised in several songs and very much keyboard-driven, the guitar player is still front and center providing leadership.

Where Christianity meets culture and worship meets the arts, there are always going to be opinions and counter-opinions, but trying new things is not harmful. If anything, keyboard players who were excluded from the team roster now have an extra instrument — a second digital keyboard of synthesizer — which can be included.

The resultant sound is bright, crisp and certainly inspiring.

March 15, 2015

Luke: The Gospel of Amazement

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:20 am

Michael Card - Biblical Imagination Series - IVPI just finished reading what is for me, the second book in a series I hope to complete over the rest of the year. Luke: The Gospel of Amazement by Michael Card is part of the Biblical Imagination series. Since I’ve already devoted some space to it after I read and reviewed Mark: The Gospel of Passionclick here to read — I won’t go into great detail, since the format of all four books in the series is the same.

In this volume, Card points out certain recurring themes in Luke that aren’t present (or as noticeable) in the other gospels including the attention to detail and the observations on the role of women in the narrative, and we also come to understand how it is that Luke got the information that is unique to his story.

I wasn’t really taking notes on this one, but one takeaway — which applies to the whole series — is that the speculative, imagination-based things Card points out are not things being extrapolated without other Biblical support, but rather, the text bids us or begs us to make certain connections.

Honestly, completing the book only makes me want to read more Luke commentaries. There is so much going on in these gospels that we miss completely.


To my friends at InterVarsity / IVP Books in Illinois: I had to buy this one. Next one is your turn, okay?

March 14, 2015

Weekend Link List

Found online in 2009, this Taco Bell menu board was not made up.

Found online in 2009, this Taco Bell menu board was not made up.

Featured Links
Don’t miss the bonus short takes at the bottom.

The Pastor in the Larger Community – This is one of a series currently running at Pomomusings: “…I thought it was some Christian youth thing, but found out it was a free community event that was requesting people to give five minute presentations about something they were passionate about. Liking microphones and sharing my passion it was a perfect fit… That night, in a community space surrounded by people I didn’t know, most of whom didn’t go to church, many of whom didn’t want anything to do with church, I gave a presentation about changing the perceptions of Christians in the public square, suggesting that we weren’t all like Fred Phelps or Pat Robertson, and that some of us were open to having conversations, not to convert people but to learn from people. That event sparked several relationships that expanded my role as pastor to a part of the community that I would never have had access to in the church.”

‘Amen’ is Now Replaced by Applause - “No congregation should be faulted for wanting to make some sort of response in a service of worship. Worship in many places needs more of that. But applause is known in virtually every other context as affirmation for performance. Thus, the question: is applause during worship our best choice to affirm what is happening? …Applause is a way of saying ‘We like that,’ or ‘You did a good job.’…One isn’t required to declare what is said or sung as the truth. One isn’t required to put the weight of one’s character behind applause. …When a prayer ends with the Amen of the congregation, we are saying ‘That is my prayer too,’ or ‘I own that as the truth.’ That seems to me more potent than applause that says, ‘I like that,’ or ‘Nice going.'”

If Jesus Addressed the U.S. Congress - “Jesus is introduced. (Standing ovation.) He stands before Congress and begins to deliver his speech. ‘Blessed are the poor…the mourners…the meek.’ ‘Love your enemies.’ ‘Turn the other cheek.’ After a few perfunctory applause early on, I’m pretty sure there would be a lot of squirming senators and uncomfortable congressmen. The room would sink into a tense silence. And when Jesus concluded his speech with a prophecy of the inevitable fall of the house that would not act upon his words, what would Congress do? Nothing. They would not act. They could not act. To act on Jesus’ words would undo their system… In the end, the U.S. Congress would no more adopt the policies Jesus set out in the Sermon on the Mount than they were adopted by the Jewish Sanhedrin or the Roman Senate…” An excerpt from A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd.

Four Sermon Types You Don’t Want to Preach - Sample (#3) on the type of sermons which seem to best serve to reflect the pastor’s seminary education: “The sermon sounds like a lecture because it is a lecture. It titillates the intellect, but fails to minister to the affections. Its delivery even (perhaps unintentionally) suggests that only the few—those endowed by special wisdom and insight—can possibly be trusted to understand what the Bible says.”

Meditations, Devotions and Prayer Books, Oh My! - Starting with My Utmost for His Highest, Publishers Weekly looks at the devotional book genre both within and outside a Christian context and finds things trending toward shorter readings, while customers choose the books for visual appeal. Also noted: “‘Religion books in general are somewhat insulated from the digital shift,’ says Andrew Yankech, business development manager for Loyola Press. ‘But prayer books in particular tend to be print-focused because readers are more often than not seeking a respite from the pressures of the daily grind, and that includes modern technology.’ At Loyola, Yankech says, the sales ratio of print prayer books to digital ones is 10-to-one—’or higher.’ The figures at Harvest House tell a similar story. Of its top 10 nonfiction e-book categories, devotionals have the lowest percentage of sales in e-book format, with e-book versions accounting for just 6% of total sales for all devotionals.”

Why Didn’t They Just Book a Last-Minute Substitute? - “They canceled the retreat because I am a Mormon. My initial response was shock. After nearly a year of planning this retreat, they’re canceling now? For this? (And how could they not know from a two-second Google search that I am Mormon? It’s not like I’ve tried to be stealthy about my faith. I co-wrote Mormonism for Dummies, for heaven’s sake.) But any shock and anger I felt soon dissolved into pure sadness. What a thing. These people are willing to sacrifice all the effort and expense they’ve put in to planning this retreat (yes, I am still getting paid since I did all the prep work) because they’re just now noticing the Scarlet M emblazoned on my chest. The organizer told me that the church leaders had determined that I was not an ‘appropriate’ person to be a leader at a Christian event. She sounded sad about it too.”

Preparing Yourself to Minister at a Funeral – “Just when you think you have seen it all—the next funeral reveals you haven’t.  Even if you have seen fights break out, arrests made, uncontrollable wailing, family members and pallbearers fainting, caskets dropped and knocked over, shouting conflicts between families and funeral directors, or funeral attire that would make most people blush,  these experiences do not mean at all the next funeral will fit these experiences.  Because of this, prepare to see anything.  Prepare to get the craziest response to something you say.  Prepare to watch families at their worst.  This will allow you to think clearly and wisely when the unexpected happens.”

Lysa TerKeurst on Rejection Letters - Today she hardly needs a link here to point people to her writing, but it wasn’t always that way. “…I hung my head, got into my car, and drove to my local bookstore. I saved up all my tears until I was smack dab in the middle of thousands of other books – thousands of other writers who’d received a thumbs up to their dreams – thousands of other people with evidence that their writing mattered – and I sobbed… Sometimes callings from God unfold in a miraculous instant. But more often callings happen within a million slow moments of revelation and maturation. I needed to experience God revealing Himself and maturing me so I could properly handle the Truth I would eventually write and speak about…”

High Praise for Faith-Focused Film - On Confessions of a Prodigal Son: “I didn’t have high hopes that this would be a cinematic masterpiece, and it wasn’t. However, when the end credits rolled, the lights came up, and Spiers spoke on his concerns about the final product, I had to agree with him when he said that his fears of making a stereotypically-bad faith film weren’t realized… In fact, it was actually good, and for several of the reasons that such films usually fail. [Director Allan] Spiers’ experience as a documentary cinematographer translates well into the narrative genre by giving Confessions a simple but realistic visual setup whereas most faith films try to imitate a grand Hollywood style and fall embarrassingly short.”

The people behind the Wow music brand apparently have taken note of the presence of remixes. Better late than never?

The people behind the Wow music brand apparently have finally noted of the presence of remixes.

Short Takes

Finally, now we know what happened to the dinosaurs:

Dino Rapture

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