Thinking Out Loud

February 25, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Family Circus 02-22-15

First, the PARSE links for Pastor People:

Carl Trueman on Evangelicals as Johnny-Come-Latelys to Lent – “I suspect that the reasons evangelicals are rediscovering Lent is as much to do with the poverty of their own liturgical tradition as anything. American evangelicals are past masters at appropriating anything that catches their fancy in church history and claiming it as their own… I also fear that it speaks of a certain carnality: The desire to do something which simply looks cool and which has a certain ostentatious spirituality about it…” Hmmm…

The Church and Beer Combo Meal – This time it was PBS’ turn to highlight the trend: “At Pub Theology in Washington, most believe that traditional churches are too rigid and confining… It’s estimated there are upwards of 130 church pubs in the US, many more in Europe, and that the number is growing.” But not all clergy interviewed for the story were supportive.

Debriefing the Sermon You Just Preached – Of the four points in this article, the second addresses the great vulnerability of a pastor right after speaking: “Any criticisms you hear need to be received, graciously acknowledged, and then honestly considered, but not one hour after your sermon.  Most of us who have just poured our hearts out in preaching are not at a good place to evaluate criticisms.  Always graciously receive all comments.  However, those comments that may be particularly hard or even harsh to hear are better evaluated after two good nights of sleep.  Write them down.  Leave them on your desk.  Try to forget about them until Tuesday…

New Church Construction at its Lowest Since 1967 – In a four minute audio segment, NPR looks at the house church movement. “The Bible says, ‘What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has has a hymn, a word of instruction, or an interpretation’ — all of this done for the strength of the church,” [Greg] Stultz says. “Where is that being done?” Furthermore, one of the groups would actually qualify as multi-site: “Three years later, Redemption now has three house churches that meet around Bristol. Once a month, they have a group service…”

Memo to Pastors: Knowing Your Audience when You Preach on Sex – “In your congregation are numerous people who have committed adultery. There are hundreds of porn addicts and fantasizers of both genders. We are not a sexually pure people. So please don’t preach like we’re riding on your high horse with you (whether or not you mean to be up there). The Bible is clear about sex and its place in marriage, and it is your job to preach it. But when you stand up there and preach like ‘we all know fornication is evil’ it shames us. When you lay low the adulterers with your scorn it shames them. And are you even thinking of those who became sexually active by force through rape or molestation? How low must they feel when you speak of the “loss of purity” like it’s a candle that was blown out?”

Revisiting the President’s Conversion Story – Within the church we call it a testimony. We call it a conversion. So when Get Religion — a website that reports on how religion is reported — looked at a recent statement by Governor Scott Walker, it also hauled out a 2007 transcript of Obama’s own description of the day he responded to the altar call: “…I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity [United Church of Christ] one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany…But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works.”

Writing a Book for Limited Distribution – Every once in awhile, an article surfaces which is more than six months old, but would be new to many of you. So even though older things online aren’t as cool as things written yesterday, here are 5 Reasons to Write Books for Your Own Congregation.  Sample: “You know your audience. Few writers get to target so specific an audience because most mass market books are geared for the widest readership possible. But when you write for your own congregation, you can tailor your subject, approach, illustrations, and suggestions to your unique ministry setting.”

Poll Results – Not entirely scientific, but Thom Rainer asked his Twitter followers for reasons why churches today seem to be less evangelistic than in the past. Here’s some random samples: “Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.” “Many church members think that evangelism is the role of the pastor and paid staff.” “Church membership today is more about getting my needs met rather than reaching the lost.” “Some churches have theological systems that do not encourage evangelism.” “Our churches have too many activities…” He grouped the many responses into a list of 15 reasons.

Rob Bell on Gay Marriage – Excerpt: “One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness,” Rob Bell said. “Loneliness is not good for the world. Whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It’s central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with.” That statement prompted a question from Oprah: “When is the church going to get that?” “We’re moments away,” Rob Bell said. “I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and co-workers and neighbors and they love each other and just want to go through life with someone.”

40 More Recommended Articles – If you’re a pastor trying to balance vocational ministry with marriage and parenting, David Murray, author of the just released book The Happy Christian has 40 online resources you don’t need to search for.

Counseling for Pastors – “The counselor assumed I was making a referral. He was surprised that I was scheduling myself. That first appointment was so healing, so fresh, so needed… In our next church board meeting I presented a proposal about the church both requiring and paying the cost of each staff member seeing a counselor at least twice that year. After a healthy discussion, they agreed.

Please remember that inclusion of items here or at PARSE does not imply endorsement.

Water into Wine Birthday Card

Short Takes

  • Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas is now a multiple award-winning movie, though these may not have been the type of awards they were going for
  • …In other movie news, the creators of Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and Courageous have a new title in the works. Check out the preview for War Room, releasing in theaters August 28th…
  • …But when the history of Christian movies is written, the one story that won’t get left out involves the classic, The Jesus Film, which has now been translated into 1,300 languages.
  • In a more detailed look at Rob and Kristen Bell’s comments on gay marriage, a response from Line of Fire host Michael L. Brown: “So, according to Rob Bell, the Church of Jesus should follow worldly culture and deny the plain teaching of God’s Word in order to be ‘relevant…’ I guess what’s trending on Twitter trumps the timeless wisdom of the living Word of the living God, I guess an emotional appeal carries far more weight than transcendent Truth.”
  • I do not, for one minute, understand what people get from reading Chris Rosebrough, even though I might agree with him on a number of issues. He recently created these faux-billboards. Some of them are funny and also quite true, but what is gained here? Yet, as the author of the piece linked here points out, people do need more discernment. (But I wouldn’t want this to be the tenor of my discernment ministry.)
  • Twitter is reading our tweets. (It’s probably in the agreement when we signed up.) So based on your Twittering, an analysis of the top 100 things we gave up for Lent.
  • Jamie the Very Worst Book-Reviewer on that… that book… which became a movie.
  • A Detroit doctor refuses to treat a baby who has two moms.
  • What to do when you don’t know what to do: Setting personal parameters for the issues that aren’t black and white.
  • This summer, Pope Francis be a plush doll from the same company that does Yankees’ pitcher Derek Jeter and the Green Lantern, Bleacher Creatures, announced just as we’re hearing that a figurine from the Playmobil toy company of Martin Luther — aka “Little Luther” — is shattering sales records.
  • KidMin Korner: Ideas for sharing St. Patrick’s Day with children.
It was a funny joke, and now, apparently, also a product.

It was a funny joke, and now, apparently, it is also a product.

July 23, 2011

Campus Crusade? No, Just Plain “Cru.”

Campus Crusade for Christ International (CCCI) is embarking on a nine-month mission to change its name to Cru, years after its founder, Bill Bright, wondered whether the evangelistic ministry should alter the brand. ~Christianity Today

They’ve taken the military theme out of Campus Crusade.  Can the hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers” be next?  That’s a discussion for another time.  Right now it’s about one organization.  And Campus Crusade (CCCI) has been taking some heat for this decision as indicated on its website:

Recent media reports have questioned our commitment to Jesus and our calling as ministers of the gospel. Those who know and partner with us realize that this is simply untrue. As an organization, we are unswervingly committed to proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ in all that we do. We are committed to the centrality of the cross, the truth of the Word, the power of the Holy Spirit and the global scope of the Great Commission.

As Christianity Today points out in an article this week, it’s a change that CCCI founder Bill Bright had talked about making but never implemented.  The move is part of a general trend:

Campus Crusade is not the first organization to distance itself from the term. In 2000, Wheaton College removed its Crusader mascot and eventually became the Thunder. Only this year, the school unveiled a physical mascot, “Stertorous ‘Tor’ Thunder,” a 2-person mastodon costume weighing 99 pounds (the largest mascot in the NCAA). In 2002, evangelist Billy Graham began using the word “mission” to describe what he always called “crusades.” His son Franklin Graham and evangelist Luis Palau call their gatherings “festivals,” while Greg Laurie uses “crusade.”

But many of the 80 people who left comments after reading the story aren’t convinced that “Cru” is the best they could come up with, even though the name was used internally by staff for many years; while some of the same respondents freely admit that it was time for “Crusade” to be retired.

  • If the problem is that the word Crusade is offensive, how does just shorting the word help?
  • So…we get rid of an organizational name that had name recognition that is the envy of almost every other Christian organization…Name recognition on par with World Vision or Red Cross….AND, we remedy all of this by SAVING three letters out of the offending word…and, make THAT our name?
  • What is with the trendy names? My own denomination the Baptist General Conference changed their name to Converge Worldwide. I guess I am now a “convergist.” What is that? What does it mean? What an idiotic name. “Cru” is another name that communicates NOTHING.
  • The thing about tattoos is that by the time you realize they’re stupid… its too late. Fortunately, this is not so with a stupid name. Change it; never should have had the dumb name to begin with.

Meanwhile, over at Faith and Reason, the religion blog of USAToday, Cathy Lynn Grossman focuses more on the dropping of the “…for Christ” element of the former name; a point which CCCI (or Cru) addresses at its website.

We were not trying to eliminate the word Christ from our name. We were looking for a name that would most effectively serve our mission and help us take the gospel to the world. Our mission has not changed. Cru enables us to have discussions about Christ with people who might initially be turned off by a more overtly Christian name. We believe that our interaction and our communication with the world will be what ultimately honors and glorifies Christ.

This is of course the thing that the “discernment blogs” are jumping all over.  I checked out a few of them.  But we’re not linking to them here, and we’re not posting their comments.

But Cathy Lynn also raises a point about the “Campus” element of the name:

And it turns out that “Campus” had become passe. The web site touts that the movement launched by Bill and Vonette Bright as a campus ministry in 1951 is now on 1,029 campuses. The group claims 37,900 new souls for Christ over the last five years.

That sounds exciting until you do the math — about seven converts per campus per year. However, the campus side of “Cru” — as it will be known next year when the re-branding is finished — is not the primary focus any more.

So what’s your take?  What’s in a name?  Do you like the sound of “Cru?”

April 10, 2010

Currently Reading: Reborn To Be Wild

It was 11:30 PM Thursday, I was getting into bed when I suddenly remembered that about twelve hours previously, I had received a delivery — a white cardboard box — which I had never got around to opening.   I knew it contained books from David C. Cook, but decided to walk back to the living room to open the package.

The book that caught my eye was Reborn to be Wild: Reviving Our Radical Pursuit of Jesus. I had never heard of Ed Underwood.   Never heard of the book.

The back cover offered this question:

Why did the Jesus Movement stop moving?

I was hooked.  By midnight I was about 50 pages in, and I was up early on Friday morning to squeeze in another 50 pages before heading out of town.

Underwood was part of the Jesus People scene in California.   No not that Jesus People scene in 1972.   He was there for the earlier grassroots events that sparked the whole thing in the late ’60s, 1968 in particular.

He tells his story.  But he weaves lots of good scripture into his text. It’s a book that is autobiographical in nature.   It’s a book that has teaching as a primary goal.

And I’m hooked.  And this isn’t even the book review I’ve yet to do when I’ve covered the next 200 or so pages.    Here’s a sample:

Picturing Revival

One sentence inside the story of Paul’s work in Ephesus describes its impact in words I would use to tell people what happened in the Jesus Movement.  “And this continued for two years so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus.”  (Acts 19:10a)

Nowhere in the entire Bible is there another report of the love and knowledge of Christ growing so quickly and deeply into a culture.  In only two years everyone living in the Roman province of Asia — today’s Asia Minor — had heard the word of the Lord Jesus.   It’s amazing to me that most of the people who speak in order to help us understand God’s Word, try to explain it away.

In one of my “only for preachers and other smart religious people who know Greek” books about Acts 19:10, the author drones on about how the time reference is obviously hyperbole because it really isn’t possible for God to do something that big, that fast.  He concludes that Paul must have meant to say, “a lot of people” instead of “all.”  In bold red ink, I wrote in the margins, “That’s because you’ve never seen revival.”

I have and it moves just that fast and it penetrates just that deep.

The book releases in June in paperback from David C. Cook.   In the meantime, here’s their rundown:

A long-time pastor ponders why the Jesus Movement stopped moving…and challenges all generations of believers to the radical commitment that fuels revival. Long before becoming a pastor, Ed Underwood was a “Jesus Freak”–a young man transformed by the Jesus Movement in the 60s and 70s. He and his friends threw their hearts into a revival they thought would change the world. But somehow, the Jesus movement stopped moving. How did these radically committed young people morph into today’s tame, suburban evangelicals?

That’s the question that sparked this passionate, provocative book, which aims at nothing less than fanning the flames of enduring revival today. Underwood draws on his personal revival experience and his study of the New Testament to expose six seductive lies that can easily sidetrack a movement and affirms five life-changing truths that can keep it going.

Ed Underwood is a pastor and author whose life was transformed by the Jesus Movement and has never lost his passion for revival. He oversees the ministries of the historic Church of the Open Door in Southern California.

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