Thinking Out Loud

December 2, 2009

Best of this Week’s Links

Before we get into this week’s lynx links, I want to refer back to something on this blog a few days ago.

When I wrote a post a few days ago questioning some aspects of the Samaritans Purse Christmas shoebox project, I was simply giving voice to some things that were rumbling in the back of my mind.   I was hesitant to formulate much more than a few random thoughts because I really thought I was alone in criticizing a program that is so widely subscribed to by local churches.

I was wrong.   When Sarah’s comment came, I realized I had only begun to scratch the surface of issues raised by the program.   Here’s a reprint of her comment, but I want to strongly recommend you visit the link, which documents why in one Canadian province, a large denomination isn’t encouraging support of the program.   It takes you to a 16-page (.pdf file) report of which pages 4 to 11 are most important and will only take you a couple of minutes.

Thanks for this article–I think all your questions and concerns are excellent. If you’re interested in more, with a powerful eyewitness story about shoebox problems, see http://ucskco.sasktelwebhosting.com/TheGiftMattersSchoolkit.pdf

It shouldn’t be about followup for the giver at all; that’s a form of strings-attached giving.

Additional questions:

Does this encourage children to value Western cultures more than their own?

Do “shoebox” gifts become better than something simpler made lovingly by a family member?

Are they introducing commercial gift-giving into a culture that doesn’t celebrate Christmas in that way?

Do they respect people of other faiths who don’t celebrate Christmas at all?

Do they portray one race/culture as being better or more successful than others?

Most importantly, how do they work to bring about real change, in places where the needs are for justice, peace, and access to the necessities of life?

~ Comment by Sarah Shepherd

Your responses to this can go here or in the comment section of the original post.    If anyone has seen other good pieces online where the program has been critiqued, feel free to put the link in a comment as well.

Other links this week:

  • Bill Kinnon looks at youth culture ministry and points out that, “What we win them with, is what we win them to. Win them with entertainment, and you’ve created customers – who expect to be continually entertained.”
  • Here’s a book that’s got me curious.   Trevin Wax reviews Chris Armstrong’s book Patron Saints for Postmoderns. “Chris focuses on ten ‘saints’ from Christian history and offers insights from their lives that can be learned and applied today.”
  • Some of the Christian cartoons I use here are a lot of fun.  This one digs a little deeper, and could only be written by someone with an intimate understanding of life in the Charismatic or Pentecostal environment.  So some of you are going to really, really connect with this, and others maybe not so much.   But if you’ve been in those circles, you won’t want to miss this.   Check out World of Dod’s blog.
  • Speaking of all things Charismatic, over a week ago Christianity Today did a really good article on that community’s voice of reason, Charisma magazine editor J. Lee Grady.   I also recommend subscribing to Lee’s weekly e-mail, although it’s bundled with other things from Strang Communications, so it’s an all or nothing subscription.
  • Our iKettle still needs the support of our Canadian readers.   Money given to the Salvation Army stays in the donor’s community.   Click here.
  • Jessica at the general-interest blog, Indexed accurately sums up why people feel the way they do about their wealth.    It’s all relative.    Ain’t that the truth!
  • Paul Stoecklein, author of the general market humor book You Had Me At Idiot, has a very irreverent post about surviving the Thanksgiving holiday in a ‘religious’ family.  Sample:  “Protestants are different. With them, saying grace is like really bad performance art. I swear, I think these people believe that saying grace should have been one of the categories on Star Search… Read — if you dare — the whole piece here. [HT: Shallow Frozen Water blog]

  • Christian apologist Josh McDowell and coauthor David Sterrett discuss why they wrote a book, titled ‘O’ God, about Oprah Winfrey and why they don’t think Christians are equipped to respond to Oprah’s ‘teaching.’  This link takes you a four minute video on YouTube.
  • Speaking of Christian Apologists, New York Magazine profiles Timothy Keller and his Redeemer Presbyterian Church in the Big Apple.  “Although relatively few secular New Yorkers know about it—Keller prefers to keep Redeemer mostly under the media radar… —an Evangelical Christian megachurch is growing in the heart of Manhattan.”
  • Carlos Whitaker invites readers at his blog, Ragamuffin Soul, to leave their favorite quotation.   So far, over 80 responses, but plenty of room for you to add yours.
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August 21, 2009

Scene and Herd: Life Around the Blogosphere

linksHere are some random things that caught my attention this week.   If you have a must-see post you want to contribute, feel free to add a comment with the appropriate link.

  • The visual blog Churchy Design has moved to its new home at Tumblr.   It’s not entirely about church architecture, but more related to just about anything concerned with  “…how designers within the big-C Church are using their aesthetic sensibilities to communicate, illustrate, critique, expose, and explore matters of their faith.”

  • Want to settle all that worship music tension at the place you call church?  Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger suggest six guiding principles in a Christianity Today article, Here We Are To Worship“The best array of worship forms will illustrate that the church is both embedded in culture, speaking through its constantly changing forms, and also a countercultural community, one that represents transcendent values and truths that confront culture’s fallenness.”
  • In one of his best posts ever, earlier this week Jon Acuff  at Stuff Christians Like looked at the Evangelical cultural oddity we know as The Husband and Wife Ministry Team.   “My wife isn’t a big bun fan, but from what I can remember, the two hairstyle options for the wife in the Husband & Wife Ministry Team are either buns or a beehive with the thickness and girth of a car radiator.”
  • It’s been two years now since the Interstate 35 bridge collapse in Minnesota, but a  post of John Piper explaining it to his daughter is still hanging in the air, especially the air around blogger Bill Kinnon.   Piper: ”  God did not do anything wrong. God always does what is wise. And you and I know that God could have held up that bridge with one hand…with his pinky. Which means that God had a purpose for not holding up that bridge, knowing all that would happen, and he is infinitely wise in all that he wills.” What role does God play when things like that happen.   Darryl Dash keeps the discussion going this week at Dashhouse.com.
  • From our totally-outside-the-box department, comes a link to, of all things, The New Humanist blog with their predictable poke at all major religions in the form of a card game called God Trumps.   You’ll want to click on the individual cards to read them in detail.   You’ll find set one here and set two hereThe weapon of choice for JWs is listed as “foot in door”, while for Anglicans it’s “tutting loudly”. For the Catholics – “the Pope mobile”, Born Again Christians have “televangelists” and “threats of hell fire” …. gulp – did someone say hell fire? [HT: Mark Randall at Pragmatic-Eclectic from whence the quotation comes.]
  • Bo's CaféKeep your eyes posted on Windblown Media — the people who brought us The Shack — for a new novel, Bo’s Café, authored by Bruce McNicol, Bill Thrall and John Lynch.   Advance publicity describes it as “… a model for all who struggle with unresolved problems and a performance-based life. Those who desire a fuller, more authentic way of living will find this journey of healing a restorative exploration of God’s unbridled grace.” Street date: September 1st.
  • Finally, if you can handle another John Piper disaster-related story, it seems the the ECLA, a Lutheran denomination, is joining many Anglicans  in a softened stance towards homosexuality.   But as they met in Minneapolis, a tornado roared through.   Piper — and he was probably not alone — suggested that God may be trying to tell them something.  He blogged, “the tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin.” But another pastor in the same town, Greg Boyd, just doesn’t see God working that way. “I have an alternative interpretation of tornado behavior to offer. They have nothing to do with how pro-gay or how sinful people are and everything to do with where people happen to live.” and “…there are over 400 distinct passages encompassing over 3,000 verses in the Bible that address issues related to poverty…  In light of this, wouldn’t you assume that if God was going to send warnings and/or inflict punishment with tornados he’d strike some of the many American churches and denominations that condone, if not Christianize, greed and apathy toward the poor?”

August 12, 2009

We Are The People Formerly Known As The Congregation

bill kinnon

Bill Kinnon put this up on his blog in March, 2007; back when I was reading blogs but not writing one.   I rediscovered it while housecleaning e-mails yesterday.   Based on the piece byJay Rosen, it still still stands up well 2.5 years later, and perfectly describes the place in which many find themselves in relation to “church.”   Some have been in this place for awhile, some others are just arriving there now.  The post also produced a lot of follow-up activity including additions composed by other bloggers (for which parts two, four and five are still valid links)  not to mention many, many comments.  I would suspect it’s one of his all-time top posts; so if you want to link directly, which will also give you the full set-up, do so here; otherwise read on:

Let me introduce you to The People formerly known as The Congregation. There are millions of us.

We are people – flesh and blood – image bearers of the Creator – eikons, if you will. We are not numbers.

We are the eikons who once sat in the uncomfortable pews or plush theatre seating of your preaching venues. We sat passively while you proof-texted your way through 3, 4, 5 or no point sermons – attempting to tell us how you and your reading of The Bible had a plan for our lives. Perhaps God does have a plan for us – it just doesn’t seem to jive with yours.

Money was a great concern. And, for a moment, we believed you when you told us God would reward us for our tithes – or curse us if we didn’t. The Law is just so much easier to preach than Grace. My goodness, if you told us that the 1st century church held everything in common – you might be accused of being a socialist – and of course, capitalism is a direct gift from God. Please further note: Malachi 3 is speaking to the priests of Israel. They weren’t the cheerful givers God speaks of loving.

We grew weary from your Edifice Complex pathologies – building projects more important than the people in your neighbourhood…or in your pews. It wasn’t God telling you to “enlarge the place of your tent” – it was your ego. And, by the way, a multi-million dollar, state of the art building is hardly a tent.

We no longer buy your call to be “fastest growing” church in wherever. That is your need. You want a bigger audience. We won’t be part of one.

Our ears are still ringing from the volume, but…Jesus is not our boyfriend – and we will no longer sing your silly love songs that suggest He is. Happy clappy tunes bear no witness to the reality of the world we live in, the powers and principalities we confront, or are worthy of the one we proclaim King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

You offered us a myriad of programs to join – volunteer positions to assuage our desire to be connected. We could be greeters, parking lot attendants, coffee baristas, book store helpers, children’s ministry workers, media ministry drones – whatever you needed to fulfill your dreams of corporate glory. Perhaps you’ve noticed, we aren’t there anymore.

We are The People formerly known as The Congregation. We have not stopped loving the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Nor do we avoid “the assembling of the saints.” We just don’t assemble under your supposed leadership. We meet in coffee shops, around dinner tables, in the parks and on the streets. We connect virtually across space and time – engaged in generative conversations – teaching and being taught.

We live amongst our neighbours, in their homes and they in ours. We laugh and cry and really live – without the need to have you teach us how – by reading your ridiculous books or listening to your supercilious CDs or podcasts.

We don’t deny Paul’s description of APEPT leadership – Ephesians 4:11. We just see it in the light of Jesus’ teaching in Mark 10 and Matthew 20 – servant leadership. We truly long for the release of servant leading men and women into our gifts as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. We believe in Peter’s words that describe us all as priests. Not just some, not just one gender.

We are The People formerly known as The Congregation. We do not hate you. Though some of us bear the wounds you have inflicted. Many of you are our brothers and our sisters, misguided by the systems you inhabit, intoxicated by the power – yet still members of our family. (Though some are truly wolves in sheep’s clothing.)

And, as The People formerly known as The Congregation, we invite you to join us on this great adventure. To boldly go where the Spirit leads us. To marvel at what the Father is doing in the communities where He has placed us. To live the love that Jesus shows us.

Addendum: This is a polemic. The first-person plural pronoun, “We”, is not used as Pluralis Majestatis (the Royal We) but rather is based on the post-charismatic/post-evangelical conversations that are occurring in the blogosphere. I have no more right to speak in this voice than any other person living in the liminal reality of the church in 21st century.

Please note also that I have many good friends who lead within a more traditional church context for whom I have great love, as well as deep respect. They are doing their very best to be missional within their worlds.

~Bill Kinnon, originally posted March 28/07

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