Thinking Out Loud

May 17, 2016

Without Words

Filed under: Christianity, graphics, Humor — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:09 am

…At least not words that I had to type…

We’re stealing from tomorrow’s graphics since, as of 11:15 last night, I didn’t have anything else prepared. Images from two Facebook pages, Church Meme Committee, and Word of Faith Shenanigans. I think you’ll know which is which.

VBS - Half Time Show


Sermon - Offended


Guitars in Church


Jesus Was Wealthy


Jesus is Here


If it be Thy will


Jesus existed only as an image

May 15, 2016

Open But Cautious

There’s a phrase that I think I first heard used in some Christian and Missionary Alliance settings about the gifts of The Holy Spirit: “Open, but cautious.” Simply put, it represents people who are open to Spirit-led expressions of faith and doctrine but with the caveat of keeping their eyes wide open (or perhaps having one eye on scripture).

While my wife and I don’t attend weekly worship in a Charismatic or Assemblies of God-type of setting, I would say I am very much onside doctrinally inasmuch as I (a) am not a cessationist1, (b) believe in the limitless power of God to do the things people count as impossible2, and (c) believe that the things of God should touch our emotions as well as our minds3.

That said, when info about this camp came across my Twitter feed last night, I found it disturbing:

Signs and Wonders Camp

As regular readers know, I’m a huge believer in summer camp ministry. Find a camp, make sure it’s affiliated with Christian Camping International or Christian Camp & Conference Association or your denomination; and then send the kids as soon as they’re able to be away from home for a few nights. (I even wrote recently about some long-term benefits to be gained, apart from the spiritual immersion value.)

I also recognize that in Children’s Ministry (or KidMin as its now often referred to) there needs to be a point in the curriculum where you emphasize the distinctives of your doctrine, and if your kids are being raised in a Charismatic church, you want them to both have an education and have experiences with different facets of that environment.

So, I like Pentecostals, like camping and like KidMin. So what’s the problem?

Open, but cautious.

I’m not sure; I would just rather it was an adventure camp, or a horsemanship camp; or if you must title it after the teaching theme, a discipleship camp or a Christian leadership camp. I’d rather pin the emphasis on the giver rather than the gifts. I would prefer to focus on the normal Christian life rather than the occasions where God breaks in with the supernatural. I also don’t want to raise expectations for kids about the whens, wheres, whys and hows of sign gifts that could lead to disappointment.

Maybe I’m just a lousy Charismatic. Maybe I’m not attuned enough to the language and culture of some of today’s popular doctrinal streams.

Hopefully I am a realistic Christian who still believes in the ability of God to do the impossible; but with the awareness that the thing that makes the exceptional the exceptional is that it doesn’t happen every day.  So parents, would you send your kid to Signs and Wonders camp?

Signs and Wonders IHOP


1 I have actually never owned a Cessna, nor do I have a pilot’s license. More seriously, I do not see the end of the apostolic age or the completion of the canon of scripture signalling the end of certain gifts.
2 This said, my faith can be as weak as the next guy’s in certain situations, not to mention a trademark Canadian pessimism that at times permeates my prayer life.
3 The things of God should touch our hearts and our emotions, but often they don’t. Spiritual complacency and apathy are always crouching at the door, and when a preacher tries to rev up an audience into emotional frenzy, I am often the first to want to shut down completely.

October 1, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Gospel Van

Photo: Drew Dyck

A fresh crop of October links! Mind you, they’re all dated September. But they’re new to you.

Yes! The links are still also at Parse, the blog of Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today. Click here to read there!

For our closing graphic we return to TwentyOneHundred Productions’ Facebook page, the gift that keeps on giving. 2100 is the media division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  (We poached another one from them for tomorrow…I feel like I should make a donation to my local IVCF chapter…) Click the image to link, or follow them at this page.

Books of the Bible

July 2, 2014

Wednesday Link List

hypocrites

A Happy Independence Day to our U.S. readers and a one-day belated Happy Canada Day to readers in the land north of the 49th. On with the linkage…

When not playing one of the 820 Solitaire variants while listening to sermon podcasts, Paul Wilkinson blogs at at Thinking Out Loud, edits the devotional blog Christianity 201, and provides hints of the following week’s link list on Twitter.

October 19, 2013

Holy Spirit Falls on Strange Fire Conference

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:36 am

John MacArthur FBThe following report is unconfirmed.

Minutes before the end of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference, with attendees all together in the convention hall, suddenly there was a sound like the rush of a giant wind, which filled the entire auditorium where they were seated. People reported seeing flashes of fire that subdivided and landed on each person. Everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit, and began speaking in other languages as the Spirit empowered them.

Conference delegates included people from other nations who were baffled by the sound of their mother tongues being spoken. Amazed, they asked, ‘Aren’t all these people Americans? How then are we hearing them in the national languages of our countries?’ Confused, they started saying, ‘What the heck is going on?’

Some, however said perhaps after three days of this, some of them had a few drinks during the Friday supper break.

Then John MacArthur stood up and went to the microphone and addressed the crowd.

“Well,” he said; “This is ironic.”

Thinking Out Loud is looking for readers who can corroborate this story.

January 26, 2013

Defining Charismatic

Yesterday afternoon, I ran a post at Christianity 201 where the author gave seven reasons why he believes that the gifts of the Holy Spirit have not ceased to operate.

But Michael Patton, ever analytical, had blogged just the day before at Parchment and Pen about six characteristics he believes identifies Charismatic Christians. (He used a lower case ‘c’ but I have chosen to capitalize this where it refers to an admittedly diverse denomination, in the same way some are now arguing that Evangelical needs to be capitalized.)

1. Unusual attention given to the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer

2. The tendency to seek and expect miraculous healings

3. The tendency to seek and expect God’s direct communication (dreams, visions, experiences, personal encounters, etc.)

4. Unusual attention given to the presence of demonic activity in the world

5. Very  expressive worship

6. Belief in the continuation of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit

He spells out each of these, and then describes the entire spectrum of belief as to the gifts of the Spirit, ending up with this chart.  (I do appreciate his calling both extremes as unorthodox; you can tell me that the tongues and interpretation aren’t for today, but don’t try to tell me they never happened!)

Belief Spectrum - Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Read the entire article here.

I think his analysis is good, though his terminology is a bit intense.  Perhaps the charismatics I know are more conservative, or possibly he is envisioning charismatic believers in Africa or South America. I would rephrase his six points this way:

1. A distinct emphasis on the limitless power and work of the Holy Spirit in the world today

2. Expectant, faith-consumed prayer even in the face of great odds and obstacles

3. A belief that God speaks into the hearts and minds of his people through dreams, visions, circumstances and a ‘still small voice’

4. An acknowledgement that the Christian is always embroiled in spiritual warfare

5. Passionate worship

6. Belief in the continuation of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit

The problem with any doctrinal emphasis is that it always takes place at the expense of something else. So if you speak of an “unusual emphasis” on the Holy Spirit, or on demonic activity, are you doing so at the cost of not emphasizing the work of redemption on the cross, or the call to love our neighbors, or the priority of world missions? (Points 1 and 4)  The Charismatics — albeit with a few exceptions — that I know haven’t thrown the baby out with the bath water.

And if you believe that God is still in the business of impressing things on his people (Point 3) that doesn’t mean it is at the expense of not prioritizing the role of scripture. Most of the Charismatics I know have a good working knowledge of scripture.

I did leave one (Point 6) intact.  Good comments on the blog, too; one more time here’s the link.

November 20, 2012

The Church is Changing, But is it Changing Fast Enough?


Heard on U.S. election night:

The Republican Party needs to realize that the country is changing faster than they are.

As soon as she heard this, Mrs. W. saw an immediate connection to the church, or rather, The Church. While some within the institution are somewhat resistant to changes taking place — changes which include

  • midweek meeting to small home groups
  • traditional hymns to contemporary choruses
  • suit and tie to casual dress
  • Authorized Version to the NLT and The Message
  • sanctuary decorum to coffee cup holders

— these superficial changes either belie attitude adjustments which never happen or are simply too superficial, not drilling down to the bedrock of the decision-making process which guides objectives and intentions.

In other words; “Yes, we’ll add drums and electric and electric guitars as long as understand that we’re just doing this to reach out to the community, and not because it’s our first choice. And we’re leaving in Amazing Grace and Blessed Assurance.”  Which is to say that we don’t really embrace change, it is simply something that has been thrust upon us.

At a certain level, that’s okay. Reaching the community is a valid goal. But the world at large does embrace change; you could say the broader culture thrives on change.

So we change, and the pace of change is increasingly accelerating, but meanwhile the pace of change in the wider marketplace is accelerating faster. All of which leaves us with churches with ‘relevant’ preaching that is becoming irrelevant and contemporary music in a world where ‘contemporary’ is somewhat of an adjective fossil.

Or worse, we go casual and informal only to discover that the next generation actually craves liturgy or even pageantry. Or we go with slick multimedia not realizing the cry of peoples’ hearts is for interactive communication. Or we add some rap to the opening song in a city where the top radio station plays country. Or we address employment needs in a place where the greatest issue is depression and mental health. Or we build gigantic mega-churches which mitigate against the authentic community life some are seeking.

Like the Republican Party, we’re left with a system that simply hasn’t responded to a changing world, because we’ve become so expert and so efficient at being the church to speak to the culture as it existed in 1995.

Make more changes? I can hear the groaning at that thought, but as changes come faster and faster to every facet of life, we need to rewrite the playbook and the rulebook continually.

Now excuse me while I nail this to a door somewhere.

 

April 27, 2012

Drawing the Body Together; Tearing The Body Apart

For years now I’ve been carrying on an ongoing dialog with a Pentecostal minister.  He was the one who first used the term, “the Charismatic-ization of Evangelical worship music,” while at the same time indicating that in many Assemblies of God and Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada churches, there is a decreasing presence of the gifts of utterance (particularly tongues and interpretation) such that the weekend service at a Pentecostal church now more resembles that of a mainstream Evangelical denomination, and the worship at the mainstream Evangelical church is slowly adopting elements (worship flow, extended songs, hands raised, etc.) once found only in Charismatic churches.

I was explaining that to someone this week when it suddenly occurred to me that the same time as there is a drawing together taking place along the charismatic axis, there is an increased distancing taking place along what we could label the Reformed continuum.

I call it the Reformed continuum and not the Calvinist-Arminian continuum because the issue is not predestination or eternal security. Those differences have always been, always will be, and do not come as a surprise to our Heavenly Father.  I’m referring instead to the way in which the New Calvinists, militant Calvinists, or YRR (Young, Restless, Reformed) crowd are slowly inching away from everyone else; slowly separating themselves from mainstream Evangelicalism, if — as some will want to argue — they were ever there.

I have written before how one of their number refers to insiders in their movement as “real friends of the gospel;” implying that the rest of us are not friends of the gospel; and how a popular online book distributor had to create a Reformed boutique site to earn the trust of Calvinist customers.

In August of 2010, I called this phenomenon the Cultization of Calvinism.

The larger picture is that it takes Reformed people and Reformed literature out of mainstream Evangelicalism, and takes mainstream Evangelicalism out of the Reformed sphere of awareness. It increases compartmentalization; a kind way of saying it advances what I’ve termed here the cultization of Calvinism, which, I would think from God’s perspective at least, is rather sad.

I believe one of the healthiest dynamics of Evangelicalism has been the cross-pollination that takes place through inter-denominational dialog (Br. – dialogue) and worship. Instead of conferences where only one theological brand is raised, we need to encourage events in which a variety of voices are heard. Instead of bloggers posting blogrolls where they are afraid to list someone who is outside their faith family, we need to be familiar with the much wider Christian blogosphere. Instead of encouraging Christian young people to only read certain authors and one or two particular Bible translations, we need to encourage them to study the wider compendium of Christian thought.

Two years later, I don’t want to return to that discussion here except to say that it’s notable that there is a shrinking of differences taking place along the Charismatic axis at the same time as differences become more pronounced — or perhaps, better to say borders become more pronounced — along another; not unlike the situation where the earth is at times closer to some planets and farther from others.

The subjectivity in this is huge. If you are old-school Pentecostal, and mourn the loss of tongues and interpretation, you have reason to be concerned. If you are Baptist, and find it genuinely upsetting when people raise their hands in worship, then you will dig in your heels and seek a more conservative faith family. If you are Reformed, you may find yourself become intolerant of mainstream Evangelicals if you view their views as heretical.

How this effects the corner of the Christian universe you call home I suppose depends on what potential interaction you have with people of both groups, or in which group you personally reside.

A wise person is one who will step back far enough to see the big picture, and note the trends taking place.

Image: Although the book in the graphic isn’t referenced in the article, the image was priceless, and I decided it was only fair to use the full jacket, acknowledging author Mark Johnston and Christian Focus Publications.  Learn more about it by clicking here.

November 28, 2011

A Refreshingly Different Guest Speaker Contract

While logging into my blog this morning, I checked to see how we were doing on Christian Blog Topsites — yes, I do check stats now and then — and noticed that Supernatural Truth was registering a very high number of visitors for such an early hour.  (The link is to their homepage, the blog link is below.)  I decided to investigate Art Thomas Ministries a little more closely.

He’s obviously a Charismatic — his book, published by Destiny Image, is titled The Word of Knowledge in Action — and it’s easy for non-Charismatics to jump to conclusions when they see spiritual gifts and evangelists on the same page.

So I decided to check out his page labelled “Financial Compensation.”  If you haven’t been party to guest speaker contracts, it’s a very dark world, not unlike the dark worlds in the video games my kids are forbidden to play.  Like rock star contracts.  M&Ms in the dressing room with all the red ones removed.  A pre-service snack with three types of imported cheese.  A minimum three star hotel.

I was figuring, here’s the catch, this is the page where I roll my eyes and click away to something else.

Instead, I found this:

Financial Compensation:

The most common and obvious question I receive from pastors and ministry leaders who invite me to speak is in regard to financial compensation for ministry.  What do I charge?  What are my expectations?

The answer is very simple.  All I ask is for simple travel and lodging to be covered.  If food can be included, that’s a blessing.  Outside of these, I do not request any payment whatsoever.  If a church can provide beyond these, then I consider it a blessing.  But nothing is required.


Travel:

If the church or event is within a half-hour of my home (in Plymouth, Michigan), I do not need any compensation for travel.  If traveling by car, I will usually come with my wife and son.  If the church or ministry cannot afford lodging for all three of us, then I will be happy to come alone. The current “business” rate-per-mile is preferred.  If distance requires air travel, then I’m happy to travel alone.  Economy class is fine–I don’t need any special treatment.  If I do travel by air, I’ll need someone to receive me at the airport and provide for my return.


Lodging:

If the church is within a one-hour drive of my home (in Plymouth, Michigan), then I’m happy to commute for each day of meetings.  If, however, distance requires lodging, I am happy to sleep on the floor of a tent in the church’s backyard.  Anything beyond that is a blessing!  I do not have a problem staying with a host-family or sleeping at the church.  I would, however, like to be able to shower so as not to offend the visitors!


Food:

I can be happy with peanut-butter and jelly, three meals a day.  Anything more is a blessing.


In Summary:

While some of these statements may have seemed like humor on my part, I truly do mean them.  I care more about ministering and representing Jesus than I care about my own personal comfort.  I lived for twelve days in the bush of Uganda, traveling about an hour each day down muddy roads with three of us on one motorcycle.  No electricity.  No running water. The least accommodations in America can surpass that in quality.  My desire is to love the Church rather than be a burden to my brothers and sisters…

Well that was refreshingly different.  So, okay; now if this is true, and he means this, which I Cor. 13 tells me you have to accept at face value, then this guy could not only have a blessed ministry, but he could change the world.

I mean that.

BTW, he also has a blog, and the most recent post on this morning was a very lengthy piece about the verse that says, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…” (I Corinthians 14:33.)  I know that disorder is the first thing most mainline Protestants or mainstream Evangelicals think of when we picture a church bringing in a Charismatic or Pentecostal guest speaker.  But he addresses this issue in a balanced way, and I encourage you to read it.

I’m sure there are d1scernment ministries (spelling mistake intentional to avoid attracting certain types of comments) who would love to spend a quiet afternoon jumping all over Art Thomas’ doctrines and theology, although personally, I have more sympathies for the spirit-filled crowd than most of you imagine. But if you hold your fire and simply examine his financial compensation page, which is all we’re asking you to do today, you find something rather faultless, rather blameless.

And it needs to be held up as model.  For all of us.

May 26, 2011

Small Is Big: Exploring the Simple Church Concept

As churches of all size discover the ‘small group’ or ‘cell group’ concept, many choose to call what they do ‘home church’ or ‘house church,’ the latter term heretofore reserved for entirely different.  So Tony & Felicity Dale, longtime pioneers and advocates for the other kind of house church, have chosen to go with the term ‘simple church’ to describe their efforts and their vision. 

The full title of the Barna Books paperback is, Small is Big: Unleashing the big Impact of Intentionally Small Churches, and is itself a revision of a title from two years earlier, The Rabbit and the Elephant.  (A gratis copy was provided by Tyndale House.)   Unlike its oft-confused counterpart, a true simple church is a freestanding model lacking nothing in terms of resources that a larger church might have to offer, though with obvious downscaling of programs and amenities such as nurseries, youth ministries, worship bands, etc.

Having said all that, toward the end of the book, the authors relate ways in which simple churches and megachurches are in fact sharing resources, and how megachurch staff are studying the intimacy and community of the microchurch to see what might be learned. 

But in another section, where there is discussion of people exiting larger churches missing the diversity and excitement of the larger crowd, they refer to a period of ‘detox’ while withdrawing from the large church experience.  Personally, I think the language might have offered a better term, because whether or not the authors intended it, there is the implicit suggestion that there is something ‘toxic’ from which the former parishioner must be cleansed.

The authors’ experience and knowledge of this movement both in the UK and the USA is probably quite unrivaled. As I read it, I thought of people I know who are doing this very thing, and considered that this could be a ‘calling card’ of sorts to fully explain what they do to anyone curious.  This book defines both the blessings of this rapdily growing type of church experience, as well as the pitfalls and dangers of beginning incorrectly.

One of my concerns about the house simple church movement has always been that it tends to attract those from the charismatic end of the larger evangelical spectrum.  Several times here, the language used to describe their gatherings talks about ‘prophetic words’ and ‘moving in the gifts of the Spirit;’ terms that are familiar enough to many of us, but equally unfamiliar to, for sake of illustration, Baptists.  And I suppose that if the simple church movement is really going to sweep across a broader or more mainstream Evangelical landscape, I’d like to see people doing simple church in a way that, for sake of illustration, a Baptist would be comfortable attending. 

Or maybe I’m wrong on that altogether.  Perhaps the simple church movement is in fact a movement in a slightly more Charismatic direction; that in the absence of structures and programs and hierarchies, dependence on the Holy Spirit has to be elevated.  This is reinforced when you consider that if you were to attend a simple church with Tony and Felicity, one of the first two things you might notice is that no one individual is in charge and there is no prescribed ‘order of service.’  While the worship might consist of a few songs you know, there is also spontaneous worship and what we know as ‘sermon’ is often replaced by a much more interactive time of people sharing insights into God’s word, and linking testimonies to teaching.

There are some aspects of Small is Big that reiterated material I had already covered in books by Michael Frost and Frank Viola and Wayne Jacobsen, and reinforced many things I already believe.  But if the simple church concept is new to you, I would suggest (a) read the book, as it is a complete encyclopedia of everything you need to know about this subject; and (b) find out if there is a simple church meeting somewhere nearby and make arrangements to attend.

It might be the closest you get to experiencing what the early church in Acts experienced.

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