Thinking Out Loud

November 8, 2011

The Christian Blogosphere: Where it All Began

The closest thing we’ve had to being in a small group in the last seven years has been a group of people who were all involved in various church-planting and alternative church situations.  Because we were all from different cities, we tended to meet monthly and a couple of those relationships survived past the lifespan of the group.    It’s not for lack of desire, just all manner of time pressures; and lately our worship team has become our surrogate small group.

In the days our little group was meeting, there was frequent discussion about various things people had posted on their blogs.  The words ‘missional,’ ’emergent,’ and ’emerging’ were on everyone’s minds and in our part of the world, we were greatly influenced by the writing of Australian author and seminary professor Michael Frost.

So I started reading Christian blogs rather infrequently, then stepped it up a notch by leaving comments here and there.  My first blog was started somewhat accidentally in a remote corner of the religion page at USAToday.  For all I know it’s still there.  My wife started a couple of them, and then when I decided to take the plunge, I went with e4God.com as my blog host — which now exists with a  different form and function — just before they were rather severely hacked.

So I was intrigued to read this piece about twelve of the original Christian bloggers, written by someone who would know, Andrew Jones aka Tall Skinny Kiwi, whose blog turns ten years old in just a few days. 

When I first started Tallskinnykiwi in 2001, I was the only Christian blogger I knew of. Very soon I had discovered a few more faith bloggers on Blogger.com and by encouraging a few of my friends to start blogging about religion, the number grew. By November 2001, I had a list of 12 “theoblogians”. Nobody had ever created such a large list of Christian bloggers. Imagine  . . .  a WHOLE DOZEN OF THEM!!!!

[here’s the link again to click for that list]

Social media has changed considerably, especially with Twitter and Facebook.  Some communicate strictly within the YouTube community, and my youngest son communicates the most to his two closest friends on a game platform called Steam.  But if you want to get into lengthy details on any given subject, the blog still remains the best way to get your message out there, and with CMS (content management systems that don’t require you to account for every pixel on your page), CSS (cascading style sheets that make every page of your blog identical), and a limited knowledge of HTML (the acronym is intimidating to most non-techies), you can have a blog that looks fairly good, and with tagging (listing key subject interest areas contained in your daily post) you can attract a variety of readers especially when the keywords you choose aren’t in the actual story or editorial itself.

There’s a world of discussion taking place out there that’s just missing one thing: Your voice!  The blogroll here (at right) is one place to start, or the list under “Aggregator” for the various Alltop pages which list the five most recent post for the top “church” “Christianity” or “religion” bloggers.

The online world is no substitute of real live fellowship, but it provides connection for people for whom that isn’t possible right now for various reasons, or people who go to church regularly but don’t connect with their “tribe” at weekend gatherings. It also allows you to be selective, to get into the topics that drive you. Finally, it allows you to connect with people whose lives are different from yours; which can only help to broaden your perspective on the worldwide family of faith.

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April 21, 2010

Wednesday Think Links

Here’s the list for Wednesday the 21st: That means spring is one-third gone already!   (Or autumn for all our mates down under.)

  • Gotta love the new style of church names, right?   Okay, maybe not all of them. The blog Out of Ur has put them all in this collection.
  • What’s the worst thing a Methodist preacher can do?   Re-baptize someone, according to this piece by Talbot Davis at The Heart of the Matter.   Mind you, I can think of worse things!
  • Cornerstone Church without Francis Chan?  Tell me he’s just testing his congregation again.  Here’s the 11-minute video at Resurgence.  Or listen to the message on 4/18 here.
  • David Kenney went to church on Good Friday and Easter, only Jesus never died at the one, and never rose again at the other.   In this piece, he suggests that it’s all about life.
  • Tom Datema sets the bar low enough on church “purpose statements” that any local church can attain, in this piece at Brain Twitch.
  • Can you handle one more Jennifer Knapp post.  “…Let’s assume that it is a sin.  Then my question is: Can a sinful person love Jesus?  Oh! We’ve got to be so careful how we answer that question.  To me, the answer is an obvious “yes”.  It is obvious to me because my own life testifies to it.  In every season of my life, I have struggled with different sins. But in all of those seasons I have still loved Jesus.”  Read in full at Upwrite.
  • All those progressive Christian radio stations can keep playing Owl City, now that Adam Young has hit the online pages of Christianity Today.
  • Colin at the blog simply titled Words has an analogy on the subject of “constructive reconstruction” of faith with the piece, My Brother the Bike Mechanic.
  • Jon Acuff from Stuff Christians Like finally gets around to doing a book promo video, but you might draw more from this CNN clip of a piece he appeared in.  (Canadian readers:  Does John Roberts hint at the end that he attends North Point?)
  • Allen Flemming, who claims an intimate knowledge of the family says that Canadian David DiSabatino’s DVD documentary on Larry Norman has got it all wrong, setting up a website refuting Fallen Angel called Failed Angle.
  • Pastor Craig Groeschel of Lifechurch.tv re-establishes his church’s purposes in The Code, a series of 13 statements spread out over three blog posts at Swerve.   You’ll have to click here and then head for April 14, 15 and 16 posts; but they’re good reading.  (Or see them all in the comments section here.)
  • Andrew Jones aka Tall Skinny Kiwi, has a balanced look at discernment ministries in 10 Ways to Keep Watchdogs from Barking.
  • Jason Wert is thankful for Anne Jackson drawing attention to the issue of human trafficking in Moldova, but suggests this event has been going on for a long while, even in the United States.
  • Adrienne at the blog, Contemplative Life, has a short post here introducing a piece by Ann Voskamp about Ann’s daughter’s baptism.   Start here, and then click the link to Ann’s piece.
  • Bill at the blog, A New Language for Christians, puts a more modern spin on the story of the good Samaritan.
  • This week’s cartoon is from Thom Tapp at Baptist Press:

April 7, 2010

Wednesday Link List

The Christian blogosphere today will contain many reflections and tributes to Michael Spencer, aka Internet Monk.   We posted a few of these here yesterday.    For the Christian Church, the Internet is the most powerful tool we’ve been handed since the invention of the printing press.   Here’s how some people used it this week.

  • Blogger Tom at R.IP. Jesus thinks a local church Easter promotion got a little off the rails last weekend.   Well, more than a little
  • Here’s one that might make you think a little.  Seminary student Joel at the blog, Café of the Book, thinks that expressing theology in prayer may solve some of the gender problem.
  • Mars Hill Bible Church pastor Rob Bell has a new, post-NOOMA channel on Vimeo called The Work of Rob Bell, in which he unveils this 4-minute video, Resurrection.
  • Brian McLaren acknowledges some controversy and faces the musical question, “Why Do Evangelicals Dislike Me So Much?” in this article in The Huffington Post.
  • The blog, Red Letter Believers remembers Johnny Hart, the cartoonist of the BC comic strip in this tribute.
  • If you like tracking down blogs you haven’t seen before, consider Macho Lara.   (Warning: His life is currently a ministry roller coaster!)  Here’s a post I could totally relate to about going through a season of Music-less worship.
  • Andrew Jones aka Tall Skinny Kiwi backtracks on his earlier response to John Piper’s comments on the demise of the Emergent Church.
  • In a culture currently obsessed with vampires, Russell D. Moore observes correctly that Christianity is becoming increasingly “blood-less.”
  • Darryl Dash at the blog DashHouse invited his readers to enjoy a free download from pastor Tim Kerr, a prayer manual titled Take Words With You. You might just want to become one of those readers!
  • Youth Pastor and (apparently) part-time EMS guy Don Knoup shares a work-related story with a ministry-related analogy at A Broken Link.
  • Stuff Christians Like blogger/author Jon Acuff notes this week that many Christians really don’t care for Christian movies.
  • Here’s a sneak peek for all you early adopters at a little project I’ve started on the side.
  • You can never read this message enough times:  This one is from the National Review Online, and it’s about Getting Serious About Pornography.   “Imagine a drug so powerful it can destroy a family simply by distorting a man’s perception of his wife…”  Read this two-page article here.

It seemed appropriate to this week’s links that the comic selection for this week should be something by Johnny Hart:

Here’s one in living color from the book I Did it His Way: A Collection of Classic BC Religious Comic Strips (Thomas Nelson, 2009):

March 31, 2010

“Out Like a Lamb” Link Day

Except that I don’t think March rolled “in like a lion;” at least it didn’t here.   And why does this phrase borrow the Biblical “lamb and lion” imagery anyway?

There’s something unsettling in the contrast of having April Fool’s Day directly adjacent to Good Friday.   Perhaps with that in mind, I thought we’d lead off with this picture:

She looks real, doesn’t she.   This “cybernetic human” can act surprised, or angry, or any other emotion you want to program her to express.   Unveiled in Japan on March 16th, you can see more robotics at Boston.com’s Big Picture site.

And then there’s this picture, source unknown, of the “Love Chapter” from I Corinthians expressed as a tattoo:

Not sure which translation this is, but then again, that raises the question:  Are there King James Only tattoo parlors?   If not, someone’s overlooking a major market.

Which brings us to this T-shirt:

But I’m getting distracted; we really should move on to the links:

  • John Piper’s unexpected seven-month leave of absence — starting May 1st — was probably the story of the week in the Christian blogosphere.   How will the multitude of his followers get by without their weekly dose of J.P.’s encyclicals?    Read the official announcement at Desiring God.
  • Speaking of the Pipester, here’s his rant on the whole Emergent church movement, which he figures is due to implode in about six seconds from now, with some additional commentary at Tall Skinny Kiwi.
  • Theological finger-pointing at the Emergents continued over at Harvest Bible Chapel in NW Chicago on a recent Friday night Q&A session with a Moody Professor speaking for the anti-Emergent side while to balance things out they had… nobody.   JR looks at this rather one-sided presentation in this report.
  • Blogger Michael Krahn becomes a guest columnist at Canada’s Christian Week website; suggesting that all that technology has convinced us that we can’t sing.   I wish this article was a bit longer, because there are implications for church worship that might have been considered in a longer piece.    Check it out.
  • And speaking of things from my home and native land, I want to totally show off Canada’s national Christian magazine, FaithToday.   They’ve just started doing digital issues and if your internet connection is up for it, here’s a look at the March/April edition.
  • One of my favorite authors, British humorist Adrian Plass joins with Jeff Lucas — who pastors on both sides of the Atlantic — are joining together for a new book, Seriously Funny. “Made up a letters between the two, ‘Seriously funny’ is an honest look at life, love, book-signings, Christian ‘celebrity’, church…”   Check out the announcement at Christian Today.
  • Here’s a follow-up to yesterday’s piece here on foot washing.   Only this one, from last year, was a drive thru foot washing.    Seriously.
  • With all the interest in the Twilight books and movies, the Christian Post decided it was good time to interview former vampire-genre writer Anne Rice.   Actually, they were promoting the I Am Second testimony website.
  • Mark Sayers — whose DVD The Trouble With Paris was reviewed here — is up something big with this mystery project, Bordertown. You’ll have to sign up for the e-mail announcement.
  • I usually lose patience waiting for their web server to keep up to speed, but for what it’s worth, GodTube is back.   Apparently, like New Coke, the brand switch to Tangle didn’t take.  John Scaddington reports.
  • Described as “a little free-will humor;” the image below is from the blog Mockingbird.

  • Our cartoon this week is from For Heaven’s Sake; reproduced here not because it’s anything you haven’t seen before, but so that you can copy and paste it to that person in your e-mail list who needs a not-so-subtle prod.   Be tactful.   Okay, maybe there’s no way to be tactful and send this out at the same time…

  • Finally, the I Can Has Cheezburger (aka Lolcats) people have a new site, My Food Looks Funny. Maybe if the western world only ate as much as the person did who carved this, there would be enough food for everybody!



January 20, 2010

Wedneslinkday

This is, without doubt, the most amazing link list I’ve ever posted this week:

  • Phil Johnson wonders what Mosaic teaching pastor Erwin McManus is thinking with his production of “Casket” — wherein a guy stages his own funeral — as the play appears, in Phil’s opinion, relatively devoid of anything close to a proclamation of the gospel.    Read the piece and its comments at Pyromaniacs.
  • All the money being donated for Haiti is being ‘parked’ in a contingency account for the next emergency?   That’s the suggestion of an anonymous disaster relief worker at this “Stop Donating!” post on the blog Solar Crash.
  • Tony Campolo explains why he’d like to add “Do You Hear The People Sing?” from Les Mis and “The Impossible Dream” from The Man of La Mancha to the repertoire of your church’s worship team (!) at this interview on Christians and the Arts at the blog The Virtual Pew Daily.
  • Randy Alcorn re-examines the notion that our charitable giving should always be done in secret.   Yes, he knows that it was Jesus that suggested that, but he offers a fresh look at that passage, and a few others at Eternal Perspective Ministries.
  • Ever feel like you’re invisible?   Jeff Leake embedded this six-minute YouTube video featuring Nicole Johnson, which he says he also used at last weekend’s services at his church.   Check out his blog, The Launch Pad.
  • Darryl Dash doesn’t think it was intentional, but somewhere along the line, the “invocation” or “call to worship” which once started most Evangelical worship services, became the “welcome,” which isn’t really the same thing.   Check out this short but important post at DashHouse.
  • The Post is titled, “How Much Weight Do We Grant To Experience?” though a better, albeit somewhat longer title might be, “What are the Advantages of Aligning Oneself with Groups That Have Frequently Encountered Opposition?”   Okay, maybe the short title works just as well.   This interesting topic over at Pastor Matt‘s blog is begging for more of you to jump in.
  • Horror of Horrors!  Here’s a blog post is devoted to eight things Paul Clark enjoyed about “the little church” he visited last weekend; but it begins with describing the place as “the small church we are acquiring as a future satellite.”   It’s like the head of Starbucks saying how much he enjoyed having a coffee at the little neighborhood shop they’re about to demolish.   Well, actually there’s more to it than that.   Check out, “What I Liked.”
  • Andrew Jones aka Tall Skinny Kiwi summons all the courage he has to go inside a…  wait for it … Christian bookstore.   Apparently these places frighten him.   Read part one of the hair-raising account.
  • David Fitch suggests that if the church you’re visiting next Sunday is truly missional, there are eight things you should notice right away.    Actually, we think these eight things should be present regardless of other considerations.  Check it out at Reclaiming The Mission.   Excellent article.
  • Reformed blogger Kevin DeYoung suggests that if we’re going to toss around the phrase “social justice” we would do well to define it first.   Read his “Modest Proposal” at DeYoung, Restless and Reformed.
  • This one takes us back to December 21st (that’s light years ago in blogging terms) and a refreshing list of “redefinitions” of commonly used religious terms at the blog Kingdom Grace.
  • Pastor Mark Driscoll approaches the 14-year anniversary of Mars Hill Seattle with some things he would do differently he could.
  • Not enough links here?   How about a list of the Top 55 Pastor Bloggers.   That’s what it’s called.   Some of them are really links for pastors.     Check it out at the Online Christian Colleges site.
  • Our cartoons this week are from A Time to Laugh drawn by Aussie comic artist John Cook.

Here’s another one:

December 30, 2009

Last Link List

…of 2009

  • Trevin Wax at Kingdom People ends the year with The State of the Blogosphere.  I especially like is 5th point on ‘blog congregations’ at the expense of real ‘blog conversations:’  “The people who subscribe to these blogs already know what kind of information they are going to receive. They subscribe because they know and like what this person has to say.
  • Andrew Jones, aka Tall Skinny Kiwi, pronounces the Emerging Church Movement officially dead, but author Tony Jones (no relation) disagrees (again) with TSK’s perspective in this rebuttal.
  • The spiritual autonomy of 1,200 Christian organizations in Canada is under threat as the appeal in the Christian Horizons case continues.   Read this December 29th story in Christian Week for a summary and update.
  • Tullian Tchividjian suggests that The Jesus Storybook Bible, though originally written for children, can help adults understand that “the Bible tells one story and points to one figure: it tells the story of how God rescues a broken world and points to Christ who accomplishes this…” and that the book “…is, in my opinion, one of the best resources available to help both children and adults see the Jesus-centered story line of the Bible.”  Read more at On Earth As It Is Heaven.
  • The link that originally appeared in this space was deleted on January 2nd due to some unforeseen content.
  • The Pew Forum suggests that two-thirds of the world’s population live in countries with some kind of restrictions on religion.
  • Today’s cartoon is a T-shirt available in adult and baby sizes from Zazzle.com
  • Don’t forget that here in North America we can reduce the taxes we pay through deduction of charitable donations.   There are many Christian organizations that can use your help.   As of this blog post, you’ve got 30 hours to make a difference to your bottom line for tax purposes, and make a huge difference to a Christian charity or agency.
  • Looking for more?  Use the search window on this blog’s sidebar and type “links” to see some excellent link lists from previous Wednesdays.

February 17, 2009

Bible College and Seminary Grads Want Paying Jobs

not-hiringI have been part of this discussion before; the issue being that after emerging from seminary or Bible college,  many students expect to find an entry level position at a multi-staff church that offers a regular salary, book allowance, conference allowance, paid vacations and health benefits.    Despite this, many also expect to find employment in a setting that is postmodern, or missional or Emergent; so that they can live out many of their ministry dreams and ideals.

At his website, Andrew Jones, a.k.a. the Tall Skinny Kiwi raises this issue on a post from last week:

I have seen a number of Seminary graduates come overseas to hang with us and to potentially find work in the “emerging church”. After a short time, they have gone back to USA disappointed that there are no paid positions. Huge and wonderful opportunities . . . puny financial benefit…

I found this discussion through Jordan Cooper’s website, where he offers some kind of explanation:

I think Andrew has some good things to say here but he is missing the point that a privately funded (this means paid for by massive tuition bills and student loans) theological education creates a system where all by the wealthiest have to find full time ministry jobs just to service the student loan debt.  Right from the time we start to seriously educate church leaders, we ask them to embrace a worldview of debt…

Okay, I agree with that as a kind of background to the issue.   But obviously the system is flawed somewhere.    While I don’t usually cross-post my comments at other blogs, here’s what I responded at the time:

Expanding the concept of seminary is a start, but what if we’ve already got alternative vehicles for ministry education, but we just aren’t recognizing them as such? For example, I’m not a YWAM-er, but if I were on the personnel committee for my church and someone applied who had done a YWAM DTS and maybe one or two of their other schools, and all the appropriate field-trip components that go with it, I would weight that equally with the applicant with the BTh from a Bible College. And that’s just one example.

Another lifetime ago, as a student at U. of T., I served on a Communications committee that was screening applicants for a paid job in campus media. They asked one guy what formal training he had and without blinking he said, “No formal training, but lots of doing training, which some say is better.”

But that doesn’t mean the end of Bible Colleges and Seminaries. Generations ago, the University of Waterloo advanced the concept of co-op education at the post-secondary level. Many students leave their programs with their education fully paid for; some actually leave with money in the bank. This does however mean the end of field-placements and internships as Seminaries and Bible Colleges have traditionally understood them …it goes a long way to meeting the debt-servicing issue you’ve correctly raised.

But here’s another point that I wished I had added:

Churches can go a long way toward easing the situation for seminary students by budgeting something each year to go towards both students from their own congregation and direct gifts to the institutions concerned — designated for tuition aid and scholarships, not the maintenance of the infrastructure or staff salaries.   This should be part of the missions budget of every church.

What do you think?

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