Thinking Out Loud

February 26, 2011

The Lord’s Table: How Young is Too Young?

Continuing where we left off yesterday…

I like the story of the little boy who wanted to take part in the communion service that followed the Sunday morning offering. When told by his mother that he was too young to take communion, the eager participant whispered loud enough to be heard five rows back, “Why not? I just paid for it, didn’t I?”

~Stan Toler in Preacher’s Magazine

Last week was Communion Sunday at our home church. We attended the 9:00 AM service so that we could actually get to a second service at 10:30 at our other home church. The 9:00 AM service is attended by families with young children who wake up early, and I was horrified to glance and see a young boy of about six or seven helping himself as the bread and wine were passed.  Maybe this story describes the kind of thing I’m referencing:

At my church, we had a special Easter night service, and we took communion. My brother was in there, and he’s only 6, so he doesn’t understand the meaning of it. When he saw the “crackers” and “grape juice” being passed around, he said “mommy! Its snack time! I want a snack too!” Obviously, he’s too young to take communion. But for those of us who do take it, do we see it as “snack time”? Communion is great.  I love to hear Pastors words describing the night when Jesus and his 12 apostles took upon the 1st Holy Communion. I think since we do take communion regularly in church, we overlook the importance there is in it.

~Summer, a 15-year old in Illinois

But not everyone agrees with this approach:

I have allowed my children to take communion ever since they have told me that they love Jesus. I think 3 was the age they were first able to verbalize that.

We explain it to them each time as the bread and wine come around, and while they dont get it all, they know they are considered ok to partake.

This would not have happened in the world I grew up in.

~Andrew Hamilton at Backyard Missionary (really good article)

The latter view is the one currently gaining popularity among Evangelical parents. And there are often compelling reasons for it. A children’s ministry specialist in New Zealand only ever posted four things on his or her blog, but one of them was this piece which argued for including all children because:

  • The historical reason: Children would be included in Passover celebration;
  • The Passover parallel: It is a means of teaching children about Christ’s deliverance for us;
  • Salvation qualifies them: If they have prayed to receive Christ, which is not exclusive to adults, they should participate;
  • The alternative is complicated: The age at which a child would be considered “ready” would actually vary for each child, and setting a specific age adds more complication;
  • Communion is an act of worship, something children should be equally participating in.

Having read that, it might be easy to conclude that this is the side to which I personally lean.

That would be a mistake.

Despite the arguments above, I really think that Summer’s comment adequately describes the situation I saw firsthand last Sunday.  As with yesterday’s piece here — Baptism: How Young is Too Young? — I think we are rushing our children to have ‘done’ certain things that perhaps we think will ‘seal’ them with God.

I thought it interesting that one of the pieces I studied in preparation for yesterday’s post suggested that the parents of children who would be strongly opposed doctrinally to infant baptism have no issues with their non-infant children being baptized very young. Another article described a boy so young they had to ‘float’ him over to the pastor, since he couldn’t touch the bottom.

I’ve often told the story of the young woman who told me that when she was confirmed in her church at age 14 — confirmation being the last ‘rite’ of spiritual passage for those churches that don’t practice believer’s baptism by immersion — she stopped attending because she ‘done’ everything there was to ‘do.’  She described it perfectly: “The day I officially joined the church was the day I left the church.”

Are we in too much of a hurry here to see our children complete these things so we can check them off a list? Are parents who would be horrified to see their daughters wearing skimpy outfits because that constitutes “growing up too fast” actually wanting their sons and daughters to “grow up spiritually too fast?”

I was eleven when my parents deemed me ready to take communion. While I question my decision to be baptized at 13, I think that this was a good age to enter into the Eucharist. I know that Catholic children receive First Communion at age seven, therefore I am fully prepared to stick to this view even if I end up part of a clear minority.


Footnote: Finding a picture to accompany this article was a reminder of how the Catholic Church has allowed remembering Christ’s death and resurrection to become an occasion for both gift giving and a party, as First Communion pictures totally dominate the available images. Of course before a Catholic of any age can receive communion they are supposed to have been to confession. The confession that precedes First Communion is called First Reconciliation and increasingly, people are visiting Christian bookstores looking for an appropriate First Reconciliation gift and card. What goes on at a First Reconciliation party? Is there a cake? Do the kids dance? I need to know!

Related post on this blog: On The Night He Was Betrayed

December 28, 2010

Where The Symbolism Ends

Filed under: cartoons, Christmas, Church — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:59 pm

This appeared on Dave Walker’s Cartoon Blog before Christmas.    After e-mailing it to a few people, I thought it really should appear here.    So many times in church life, new people come in to our various congregations and fellowships and don’t know where the doctrine ends and the surrounding culture begins.   “Don’t steal.”   That’s Biblical.    “Children should not run in the sanctuary.”   That’s surrounding culture.   “Honor your parents.”   Biblical.  “Wear your best to church on Sunday.”   Surrounding culture.

And so on.   We know the difference, right?  But does everybody?

BTW, if you don’t already have Cartoon Blog bookmarked, now’s a good time; especially if you’ve got connections to the UK, or Anglican/Episcopalean roots.

 

September 8, 2010

Wednesday Link List

The long hot summer is just about over, and the kids are back in school.    Time for a look at the pages that grabbed my attention this week, with a little help from our friend (at right) the links lynx.

  • First of all, there’s a live event online tomorrow (Thursday September 9th) night:  A Night of Worship, streaming live from North Point Community Church at 7:30 PM Eastern, 6:30 PM Central.   To watch at home you need enough bandwidth to capture the live feed, and this website.
  • When Chad Holtz isn’t busy pastoring a rural Methodist church, he’s busy confronting evil at the local Islamic Center.  Sort of.
  • Greg at the blog, Lost in the Clouds posts an edgy response to the Christianity Today cover story Hipster Christianity by Brent McCracken based on his book of the same name.   Greg says “I’m sorry, but all of this is adding up to a sorry picture of our tour guide through the world of Hipster Christianity…”   I think he struck a nerve.
  • Students at Belmont University are being handed cash to make a difference.    Donald Miller explains the $20 giveaway; but I wonder what they’d do if — after the manner of Matthew 25 — one of the students simply handed back $40?
  • Carlos Whitaker doesn’t want attendees at the Catalyst Conference to be singing the songs he chooses, so he asks his readers to report the song titles they are connecting with at their churches.   So far, over 125 replies.
  • Frank Turk, who probably doesn’t write a lot of music reviews, joins a number of bloggers who are noticing what can only be termed a “modern hymnwriter,” Matthew Smith.
  • Andrew Jones lists five major game changers that revolutionized who he is today.  People in ministry, don’t miss this one.
  • Thom Turner knows that baptism can be a divisive subject, but suggests there’s room for diversity even within denominations and possibly within local churches as well.
  • If you missed the blog tour — actually it was more like a progressive dinner — for Anne Jackson’s Permission to Speak Freely (Thomas Nelson), you can still catch all seven excerpts by following the links, starting here.  Anne’s honesty will resonate with anyone dealing with various types of pain.
  • Brian, a regular reader of this blog, invites you to join him and others in a week of prayer for Beja people — nomadic camel herders — of Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea.   Read more here.
  • Our video link this week is a worship song you may not know by Willow Creek’s Aaron Niequist, simply titled Changed.
  • U.S. Fundamentalist nutcase Terry Jones is determined to burn copies of the Quran on September 11th — I doubt even the U.S. President could stop this guy — so as of Tuesday night officials announced plans to quell access to his property through an identification checkpoint, so fewer people can see him do it.
  • John Stackhouse has no problem with street preaching, but that’s usually in commercial areas, right?  What happens when the preachers invade a residential street?  That, he says, is going too far.
  • Anglicans in Nova Scotia, not content with the annual “blessing of the pets” service, are having a “blessing of the techs” service for laptops, cellphones and mobile devices.
  • This may be your church, or at least your church sign:  Grace Methodist Episcopal in New York, circa 1922; from Shorpy.com; a classic photograph site.  Middle picture is from the Gospel Mission in Georgetown, circa 1920; final picture is a storefront church from the “Black Belt” of Chicago in 1941 and where deciding where you’re going to eat after church isn’t an issue with the lunch wagon next door.   Click through any of the pictures to see the images in super-giant size.


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August 4, 2010

Wednesday Link List

There you go.   We’re number one.   Because e-mail is now mostly a mobile thing; social networks and blogs currently dominate online computer time.   Click the image to read the full report.

…I’m not exactly sure about this, but I think I am:  I got an e-mail this week from someone I’ve been e-mailing  for many years, who perhaps didn’t realize that when I send her something and it appears on her screen in blue with a line underneath, that’s a LINK and she’s supposed to click on it.   So just in case anybody here is missing the point, these little bullet points are not an end in themselves.   They are LINKS and it’s expected that you’re clicking on the ones that interest you.

  • The producers of the movies Fireproof and Facing The Giants have a 5-minute documentary on the website for their new movie, Courageous.
  • Can you handle another Bible translation?   Coming soon to a bookstore near you:  The Common English Bible.
  • John Ortberg asks the musical question, “Who speaks for Evangelicals?”  Or to make it more personal, “These days, who speaks for you?”  [Related on this blog, see trend # 10 for 2009]
  • Self-styled “pastor of the nerds,” Tony Kim provides a rundown of his visit to Comic Con.
  • Here’s the video for the book trailer of Peter Hitchens’ book (the brother of atheist Christopher Hitchens) The Rage Against God:  How Atheism Led Me To Faith (Zondervan).
  • The church that markets coffee mugs proclaiming “Islam is of the Devil” has a Quran burning ceremony scheduled for September 11th, though not every Christian group agrees with their tactics.
  • Time for some time-travel with David Fisher:  If you could spend a summer afternoon with any of the saints who are no longer with us, who would make your short list?   Check out his sixteen saints.
  • Another video link, this is a beautiful worship song; check out Keith & Kristyn Getty’s  Creation Sings the Father’s Song.
  • Talbot Davis suggests a different reason for introducing change in our local churches:  Because it creates muscle confusion.
  • Should an Anglican priest have slipped a communion wafer to a dog who went forward?   An interim priest in Toronto did just that, and now the Bishop isn’t very happy.
  • Megan Hyatt Miller — daughter of Thomas Nelson’s Michael Hyatt — comes face to face with her inability to embrace the current social justice movement because she just doesn’t like the poor.
  • Many of you know this story, but for those who don’t here’s an interview Mark Driscoll did with Randy Alcorn explaining why Randy doesn’t keep his book royalties, and why he works for minimum wage.
  • Matt at The Church of No People blog suggests, “…when Christians can’t find the words to share Jesus, a much easier method of evangelism is available.  All you have to do is become a walking billboard.”  Check out Christian socks.
  • This has been up for over a year, but I found it interesting that the people from xtranormal.com (the text-to-movie site) took a script from Lifeline Productions (those little comedy moments you hear on Christian radio) about trying to earn salvation, and turned it into a video.   Watch 1,000 Points.
  • Is she in or she is out?   Vampire author Anne Rice is either out or simply challenging some definitions of  ‘Christian.’  Another author, John Shore, tries to sort it all out.  (No, she writes about vampires, she isn’t one herself…)  As does the Christian Q&A guy, Russell D. Moore who sees this as a definite leave of absence from the faith.
  • Piper gets asked if it’s okay for a guy to listen to Beth Moore, or female speakers in general.   His answer is somewhat conditional.
  • Speaking of women in ministry, Pam Hogeweide has an interesting perspective in Happy Christian Women, which Kathy Escobar then picked up as a natural lead-in to three(1) more(2) posts(3) which deal with “Spiritual Refugees;” people who have been displaced from the church.  Each post includes a 12-minute video.
  • On the topic of links, if you have a blog, consider adding Thinking Out Loud to your blogroll.
  • Hoping to save marine life after the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a 67-year old man has modeled his rescue project on Noah’s Ark.
  • Our cartoon this week is from Rev. Fun.  You see these on various websites and blogs rather frequently, but there’s also a print version that went on sale this summer.   For that person who isn’t internet connected, check out Rev. Fun … Offline from Zondervan.

May 17, 2010

Religious News All About Sex and Gender

What makes a religious news story these days?   According to a quick look at the religion page of USAToday on Sunday, it’s all about GLBT issues and sex scandals.   Four out of the five “top news” items fall into that category, as do four of the remaining ten stories, and the featured story about the rally at the Vatican to support the Pope’s handling of the abuse scandal.

You can check the page for yourself anytime, here. Hopefully, in the days to come, you’ll find a “good news” story or something about doctrine or theology.   Right now, editorially, it’s becoming increasingly about a single issue.  In the meantime, please note that Christ followers have many more concerns and activities taking place than what you’re seeing reported.

March 10, 2010

Wednesday Lynx Links

This is the link list you want to tell your friends about.   Or you can tell them about this one.   Or even this one.  This week is extremely random.  And the lynx is back, too!

  • Linda McKinnish, professor of ministry at Wake Forest Divinity School suggests that Celtic Christianity is a separate religion, in this article.
  • Randy Morgan recalls a riveting story from Mark Buchanan’s visit to Thailand from his book Things Unseen at Randy’s blog, Your Best Life Later.
  • Talbot Davis at Good Shepherd United Methodist in Charlotte, NC has some sure-fire ways to make sure you have a bad church experience.
  • An old friend of ours has scored a finalist position in Session 2 of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest.   Go to this page, select the 5th category (gospel/inspirational) and click on the song “On That Day.”   (You can also buy the song at iTunes.)
  • Canadian Dave Carrol, with help from Pete Wilson and others, addresses the loner/rebel mindset among pastors .
  • I know a lot of churches want to identify as gay-friendly, but Texas Baptists?
  • Jonathan Brink catches Francis Chan asking the question, ‘What is our primary motivation for following Christ?’ with this video.
  • Chris Hyde reviews The Vertical Self by Mark Sayers.  (Sayers is the co-creator of The Trouble With Paris DVD which I reviewed recently.)
  • An article credited to John N. Clayton at the Don Cole Cartoons blog uses funny pictures to address a sobering topic, What is Hell?
  • Kathy aka Kaybee quotes 17th century Puritan author Thomas Brooks on the sufficiency of Christ in this short post at The Well.
  • Speaking of Thomas Brooks, you might want to read this article at Wikipedia about the Conventicle Act of 1644.   So much for house churches.   Or the Act of Uniformity of 1662.
  • Author John Shore says if you’re going to be passionate about Paul said about gays, you’d better be equally passionate about what Jesus said about wealth.
  • Michael Krahn catalogs and categorizes the works of C. S. Lewis at his blog, The Ascent to Truth.
  • Trevin Wax often includes classic prayers in his blog Kingdom People, such as, from the Book of Common Prayer, The Litany of Penance.
  • Andrew Nordine repeats a popular — but worth repeating — series of four questions on the topic, Abortion and Christianity at his blog, Seeking The Face.
  • If you miss those classic Christian films from the mid-1970s, Krista McKinney offers you the story of Edith Easter in this 20-minute short.
  • Blog Name Change:  Charlie Pharas, lead pastor of Stonecrest Baptist in Woodstock, GA, was known as Dear Charlie until yesterday when he became Adventures in Ignorance and Apathy.  (Subtitle: I Don’t Know and I Don’t Care.) (His link day is Sunday night!)
  • Blog Spinoff:  The daily prayers from the Daily Encouragement devotional website (always at the top of sidebar at right) is now a blog of its own at A Daily Prayer.
  • Our cartoons this week are from Baptist Press.   Church of the Covered Dish is from Thom Tapp, while Church People is by Frank Lengel.


March 29, 2009

After the Church in the UK has Disappeared

Several months ago, I wrote about alternating between contemporary Christian books and classic Christian titles.   This time around, I’m writing about a 2004 book that’s already out of print.   Not sure where that fits in…

For reasons I won’t attempt to list, I think Christian Canadians resonate to a greater degree with British Christian writers.    That’s if they can find them.   We have no true marketing machine here, so we simply have the spillover affects of American marketing and promotion, which means that we end up with U.S. titles accounting for around 95% (or more) of Christian book sales.

But given the opportunity to hear of a UK title, most Canadians will say they enjoyed it.   Some of my favorites include apologist Michael Green, humorist Adrian Plass, songwriter Graham Kendrick; not to mention a rather obscure chap who simply goes by C. S. Lewis.   And then there’s Nick Page, author of over 20 books, of which I’ve been fortunate enough to read four.

nick-pageNick’s prime visibility in North America is owed to a book called The Map; a Bible handbook published by Zondervan,  built around a graphic theme which resembles most European train or subway maps.    (His harmonization of the gospels is thereby most interesting, with the story running on four parallel tracks.)

church-invisibleSo several months ago, I spotted The Church Invisible in a pile of remainder books; two weeks ago I took it to Atlanta with me; and after returning home not having cracked the cover, I finally finished reading it over the weekend.

In it, Page, writing a story in which he plays himself, is transported forward to the year 2040 where he meets Lydia, who takes him on a quest to see what has become of the Church in England as he knew it.      Lydia provides commentary on the before/after relationship between what Page is seeing versus what he remembers:

“The church of your time rightly rejected the nominalism, the archaism, the general lack of understanding.   What it didn’t do was incorporate the depth, the richness, the artistry.   It didn’t become a regular part of people’s lives.  And it too assumed that people understood the language and the forms it was using.”

and

“Leadership…That’s what you need to lead a church.   That’s what you need to take people forward, you need to be a leader.  You need leadership skills.   And what did we teach them?  Theology.   …The assumption is that those who teach are always going to be the ones who lead.   We so combined the teaching and preaching role with the leadership role that we couldn’t imagine one without the other.   Those who lead the churches had to be the ones who preach…”

and

“So often what we wanted to do was to talk rather than act.   We were too busy telling people what was wrong with them, telling them what to think…  We had so much doctrine and dogma to stuff them with, we never noticed they were scared and desperate and lonely.”

and

“…So many people were put off church because there was simply no variety in how it was done.    …That’s not how Jesus taught.  Sometimes he preached.   Sometimes he led discussion groups.   Sometimes he just told stories.   Sometimes he just did things and left people to draw their own conclusions.   So why did we assume that one person talking to a room full of other people was the best way to teach?”

and

“You couldn’t have a worship song unless it was filled with sheep and swords and banners and people being ‘refined by fire.’   I mean, what was with all that refining fire bit?   How many people understood the image?  Did I miss something?   Was the 21st century church filled to the brim with an in-depth knowledge of smelting?  …What we really needed were new metaphors; new images to convey God’s love.  …We should have kept checking that the words were working.   Instead we were sloppy and lazy.   It was far easier to fill our sermons with antiquated images that meant nothing.   Thinking up new metaphors is hard work.”

…and from another character who appears near the end describing the change that has taken place:

“You keep thinking of the church like a warship, with a captain on the bridge and the crew obeying orders.   But we’re not an aircraft carrier anymore; we’re a fleet.   We’re hundreds of little boats, going where they will, doing what they think is right.   We’re not the navy, you know.  We’re pirates.

There are so many more great sections.   The book also deals with the practical matter of municipal councils listing buildings (i.e. designating them as historical) eventually forcing their owners to maintain them.   Something already problematic both in the UK and North America due to dwindling attendance.

In addition to the fictional fast-forward narrative; each chapter also contains a lengthy critique of the manuscript in the form of letters between two other parties.

In North America, the end of mainline denominations is equally predictable, even as the megachurches appear to continue to blossom in the suburbs.  In the UK, where the Church of England (i.e. Anglican for my Canadian friends; Episcopalian for my U.S. friends) so greatly dominates, the impact is more critical.

It’s too bad this book went, as booksellers say, OP.   It was a slight bit ahead of its time.   If you’re ever in England and you see remainder copies, bring me back a half dozen, okay?

December 8, 2008

Dave Walker’s 12 Days of Christmas in a Modern UK Church

Filed under: Christianity, Christmas, Humor — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:53 pm

12-days-christmas

Dave’s cartoons are distinctively British, where he he appears in various publications, his own books, and online at The CartoonChurch.com while in other circles he is known as the perpetrator behind the Dullest Blog in the World.   The last post was March, 2006, but Dave recently discovered he had 1800 comments awaiting moderation.

December 6, 2008

Anglican / Episcopal Church Heading for Major Split in the U.S.

episcopal_churchGiven that American English seems to modify every noun from British English, it seems only fitting that those we Canadians, the Brits and other people know as Anglicans (a.k.a. the Church of England), Americans know as Episcopalians.

But the Episcopal Church is charting its own course in another way, as this USAToday story I was reading earlier this week revealed.    The converative wing of the church in North America has had enough of the recent (and not-so recent)  liberal leadings of the British group in particular, and is writing its own declaration of independence  (sound familiar?) with the formation of a new North American body, or what the Anglicans call a “province.”

Our friend Jon Rising at the Word and Spirit blog, had just completed a series of general interviews with charismatic Episcopal priest Peter Davids, and today asked him if he would comment additionally on this week’s developments.    You can read that comment here.

There are 2.1 million Episcopalians in the U.S., but a higher per capita 640,000 in the Anglican Church of Canada.

A key factor in this story is the issue of ownership of church property.   The California Surpreme Court is expected to rule on cases there in January.

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