Thinking Out Loud

April 18, 2015

Thinking Out Loud after PARSE

Link List - Out of Ur22 Months ago, an email from Skye Jethani changed things around here and forced me to raise the bar on what I was doing with the Wednesday Link Lists. He wrote,

I’m a fan of your Wednesday Link List. Not only is it helpful and concise, but I enjoy some of the wit and whimsy of your comments. I think the readers of Leadership Journal’s blog, Out of Ur, would benefit from what you’ve created. I wanted to explore the possibility of having your weekly link list published on our site in order to give it a wider audience.

Just days later, the first installment appeared at Out of Ur, later renamed PARSE.

I have always had great admiration for Christianity Today, and I wish there were space here to list the great Christian writers and leaders who have had staff positions with its various publications. I actually applied to be a columnist at Leadership Journal (their website is the parent to PARSE) in the days before the internet, and still have the rejection letter from Kevin Miller. If you’re going to be turned down, at least be turned by the best.

Out of UrI will admit that I got carried away at times. One of the lists had 38 links in it. So more recently we transitioned to a new format whereby there would be far fewer stories, much longer excerpts, and a twice weekly format that was originally envisioned as ten on Wednesday five on Saturday, but ended up being close to ten each time. I will admit that I still get carried away at times.

The biggest joy of writing for people at Leadership Journal was knowing that the material I selected was being seen by people in full time vocational ministry. It was, in its own small way, a means whereby an ordinary writer like me could be an influencer.  In an earlier lifetime, I had stepped down from a similar monthly column at Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine with the closing line, “While it’s a fine thing to write the news, I think it’s a better thing to make the news.”  (Actually, it was the dark ages, and italics had not been invented yet.)

Now I’m not so sure that was wise. Certainly, as a frustrated musician, it was hard to write of others’ successes, but this time around, in a world where everyone has a blog and is clamoring for attention, there is some honor in choosing what types of news stories and opinion pieces people see.

Working with people whose opinions and perspective on Christianity and culture resonate with me has been a blast, even if we’ve never met face to face. I can’t thank Skye Jethani enough for the opportunity, and also thank Paul Pastor, Drew Dyck and Tim Gioia for doing the legwork of making what I wrote visible to so many. 

But alas, things change, so last week I was abruptly told by Drew Dyck,

…After many years, first as “Out of Ur” then as PARSE, we will be shutting down our blog.  I’ve been incredibly grateful for the awesome job you’ve done for us. I still don’t know how you manage to track down all the relevant/interesting stories for church leaders around the web—and then do such a great job of setting them up. Anyway, with Paul Pastor gone, maintaining a multi-voice blog has been a challenge…

So as suddenly as it began, it ended.

Ironically, PARSE just won Third Place in the Blog category at an Evangelical Press Association awards night, and is also the #15 blog on the latest Top 300 list from Church Relevance. I’m not sure that dumping a relatively hot internet property like that is wise, especially when blogs are struggling to maintain readership numbers. But that’s their call.

Again, I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with a great team.

…And now we come to where I need your help. The Wednesday Link List will continue. I’m not sure about the Weekend Link List however. The question is, do you like the excerpts or would you prefer the original listing of nothing but bullet points?

Please email me via the contact page, or leave a comment right here or on Twitter.

And if you manage a Christian website that has a budget, use the contact page if you’d like to offer the Wednesday Link List a new home.

March 17, 2015

Here Come More and More and More Blogs

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:27 am

Back in October I dumped my entire load of bookmarks marked “Blogs” on unsuspecting readers. I’m not sure if anyone in particular really got a whole lot out of that, but now that my computer is definitely dying, I feel the need to preserve some of the newer entries in the cloud, while at the same time appearing to do something altruistic. Please note that this list does not include bloggers who themselves do regular link lists — I have those filed as “Aggregators” — or Christian news sites, which are already listed here in the margin. Oh, and some people are on this list simply because they have new addresses or the ones that appeared previously were incorrect.

Blogs
Philip Yancey | Author, Thinker, Climber
WorshipIdeas.com
Faith | Sue’s Trifles
GetBetterToday.com – Christian News | Inspirational Stories
Nearly Christian – A Christian community devoted to the journey
Blog – The Janet Mefferd Show
Michael May’s Adventureblog
Wineskins.org | Exploring the Heart of Restoration
KATE CONNER
The Blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship – intervarsity.org
Faith Archives – Faithreel.com
Power of Change
Ratanak International
The Morning Drive
Christianity 201 (I just snuck this in the list, it was already in the other one)
Blog | Tim Gioia
Blog – Deb Mills
Memes Archives | Catholic Memes
TN PRIME RIB
old time religion by Jim Linderman
Samuel’s Notebook – A Blog of Inklingations
Learning Domestic Discipline: The Blog (please don’t take this one too seriously)
Reflections – AllAboutReflections.org
Blog | KW Redeemer
Home – Ecelectic Contemplations
the Jesus Event | the blog of Tyler M. Tully
Soteriology101
Ken Wytsma
Desperately Wanting To Believe Again | From ashes to new life
Atlas Church
Sketches By Boze | An ongoing exploration of faith, culture, myth, life, art.
Café Seminoid | Inspiring the Aspiring
Archbishop Cranmer
David Santistevan | A Blog For Worship Leaders & Musicians
Then My Youth Said
Hope Stands | Never Without Hope
realsimplefaith
Paul J. Pastor
Tom1st.com
Christian Book Shop Talk (another one of my own)
Life’s a Journey
Ryan Huguley
Worthily Magnify | Helping Worship Leaders Lead Well
Phil Cooke « Engage | Influence | Activate Phil Cooke
Agnusday.org – The Lectionary Comic
Living On Tilt
Church for Men —
Live58
Bible Knowledge Ministries – Bible Teaching Website
ForeWords | Lectionary Musings within the Community of Christ
Tuesdays with Morris | Jason B. Morris
Christian Courier
Stand to Reason Blog
First Things | America’s Most Influential Journal of Religion & Public Life
Road Report by FarmingtonGlenn
The Heidelblog | Recovering the Reformed Confession
Not Ashamed of the Gospel – Share Your Faith
Alex Koo Blog – Staying Christian in a Millennial Generation
ParkingSpace23 – Carrying the tradition of boldly proclaiming the truth
Phil Cooke | Engage • Influence • Transform
subversive1
Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology
Innovate For Jesus | Grow the Church
Lead Small | A small group community
Children’s Ministry Curriculum | Orange 
Karen Zacharias | Karen Zacharias
Worship Tech Roundup | Worship Links
Jonathan Malm | Creator and editor of ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com
David’s Theology – Peering through the Biblical Lens
The Joyful Noiseletter
Home Brewed Christianity
Launch Clarity
Anxious Bench — The Relevance of Religious History for Today
Panorama of a Book Saint
mysteryoffaithblog
Story Time With Haley
In the Line of Fire
Loose Him and Let Him Go | Spreading the Gospel, ‘Bit by Bit’
Dirty Christians | How to serve God in a messy world
Discipline | &mirth.

 

February 24, 2015

Seven Years of Thinking Out Loud

Number 7 Quickview Bible

The first post, February 24, 2008 We began this journey as a response to comments I was getting from an email newsletter I produced that people “liked the articles.” The first post was titled “Honestly! The world DOES need another blog page!” and consisted of some excerpts from the 2003 book A is for Abductive by Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren and Jerry Haselmayer. Interesting to look back and consider that aspect of the blog’s beginning alone.

…It appears that God may be more active outside the church than in it. In other words, “inside the church” may not be the best place to share in God’s work, and if we want to be involved in God’s work, we may need to get out more.

…It may be more valid to celebrate this idea of God’s activity outside the church, because perhaps God’s purpose for the church all along has been to equip people to be agents through whom God works in the world.

…It may be helpful for us to distinguish between “church work” (i.e. our work inside the church to keep it going) and “the work of the church” (i.e. the church fulfilling its mission in the world). …The old complaint about 20% of the people doing 80% of the church work in this light may be misguided. If the minority (20%) can do church work, then maybe the majority (80%) can focus on serving God outside the box and boat.

First Anniversary, February 24, 2009 – Noted the day before that the first year I wrote 660 posts, an average of two a day.

I figured I wouldn’t write anything; I’d just use a huge backlog of articles I’d developed in other places for other reasons.    Boy, did I get that one wrong.   As every Israelite knows, the manna doesn’t stay fresh for long.

I also figured I’d read more stuff online, but didn’t realize that other bloggers would spur me on to read more books as well.   Do I get a diploma for doing this?   A little academic credit perhaps?”

Second Anniversary, February 23, 2010 – Had to celebrate a day early because the midweek link list was already becoming a priority.  It was noted that:

Thinking Out Loud began the same week as two other blogs, 22 Words and Stuff Christians Like…

…It’s also interesting to note that — as far as Canada is concerned — each day, I get to speak to six times as many adults than half of all pastors here see on Sunday morning…

Too bad those other two blogs never amounted to anything! My statement of purpose at this point was:

I also want to continue to make this a blog for the ‘spiritual commoner.’   That’s the person who feels he or she has a real contribution to make to the life of their church, Christian fellowship or broader community…

Third Anniversary, February 24, 2011 – Christianity 201 had launched that year…

I remember years ago participating in a discussion about the “emerging” internet where the main concern ran something like this, “How are they ever going to get enough content to keep those websites supplied with fresh material?”

How indeed?

In 2011, a better question might be, “How does one find enough hours in the day to read all the sites they are subscribed to or have bookmarked?” I figure a typical week lands me on about 1,000 different types of internet sites, and I don’t consider myself a heavy online user. Every single person reading this actually has a completely unique internet experience weekly.

Today, this blog enters year four. I have mixed feelings about that. I’m happy that this blog has become a voice albeit in a crowded room of voices all talking at once. I’m continually amazed — and somewhat humbled — that hundreds of you show up here every day, many just to see what’s been posted recently…

…There is much to be thankful for today. I actually oversee seven blogs now, of which the latest, Christianity 201, has arrived on the scene since we celebrated this time last year. It keeps me humbled. Very humbled. While some endeavors in the Christian life remind you how far you’ve come and what you have accomplished, C201 reminds me of how far I’ve got to go.  Jesus set the bar rather high.

A handful of you also read my book industry blog, Christian Book Shop Talk… Yesterday’s post had someone suggesting bookstores are going the way of record shops and video rental stores. Sigh. In that setting, I get to be a voice in an increasingly empty room…

Fourth Anniversary, February 24, 2012 – A rather light and concise post:

I decided to check the blog’s dashboard to see what other meaningful statistic I could parade out before you on this solemn occasion, and I found this:

Akismet has protected your site from 294,600 spam comments already.

I don’t know how that compares with the big boys, but I’m honored just to think that on 294,600 occasions Russian models and manufacturers of imitation European handbags found this particular blog so worth spamming. And while the rest of the blog stats may pale in comparison, just think how quickly they are about to rise now that we’ve used the phrase ‘Russian models.’

Fifth Anniversary, February 24, 2013This one is probably the most interesting and the only one I’ll actually link to here. I listed, in no particular order, ten things I’ve learned in the course of reading and writing Christian blogs. I might re-run this item later in the week, but in the meanwhile, here is the link. There was also a regular anniversary column the day before:

I am really happy that I launched Thinking Out Loud all those years ago. I have met some of the greatest people, been encouraged to read some of the most interesting books, have been kept abreast of some of the most bizarre religious news stories, and mostly, I have been forced to think about things that I might have never considered.

Sixth Anniversary, February 24, 2014 At this point the Wednesday Link List had become part of what is now called PARSE, the former Out of Ur blog.

I’m also thankful that this summer, Thinking Out Loud gained a greater platform itself by becoming a weekly part of life at Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today. I still believe it’s a greater thing to make the news (in a good way, not the weird stories) than it is to simply write the news. But I don’t mind playing scribe if it means I get to choose some things I think are worth noting as part of each week’s passing scene.

I am truly grateful for being able to be in online contact with an organization I have always respected and some people who I was already aware of. Thanks to Skye, Drew, Paul P. and Tim for your encouragement.

…which brings us to Seventh Anniversary, February 24, 2015 

 

7 is the perfect number

I thought of including a screenshot of the first column, but like the McDonald’s logo, not much has changed here visually. 3,094 published columns later, I’m still happy I started this little project.

As blog readership continues to wane as people have so many choices online, I’m pleased to report that Christianity 201 continues to attract new readers. If you ask me which blog I think about first thing in the morning, it really does vary. I enjoy doing both, and while I could have kept both types of articles on a single platform at Thinking Out Loud, I’m glad that separating them forces me to look at both types of writing on a daily basis.

If you read widely on the Christian internet, you know that the definition of evangelical is currently under the microscope, but I want to keep the writing at Thinking Out Loud somewhat mainstream evangelical as I believe that the voices from the margins tend to dominate. That said however, those voices have much to contribute.

There’s an adage that “even a stopped clock is wrong twice a day,” and I feel that instead of looking for the thing to criticize, we ought to look for the little gems — the nuggets of gold — where writers we might otherwise disagree with actually do get it right. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of grace online, even among Christians. This always saddens me.

I think that’s why doing the link list is so much fun. Again, I am forced to read the widest variety of Christian news and opinion pieces from a vast field of writers I might not otherwise consider. I may disagree totally with what they wrote Thursday and Saturday, but if they make some good points on Friday, I want to be able to celebrate that.

I’d like to think that I am capable of sitting down for coffee with any writer who has trusted in the atoning work of Christ on Calvary for salvation. I do know that some of them might not want to reciprocate that. That is unfortunate and I believe grieves the Holy Spirit.

In conclusion, I guess I’m just grateful for what this writing platform had done for my own Christian growth and understanding of the Church, the body of Christ. I’m also thankful for the books it compels me to read which enhance my understanding of God and His ways. And last, I’m thankful for you, the faithful readers whose page views and link clicks demonstrate a shared interest in these things.

Thinking Out Loud: Matters of Faith Because Faith Matters

Year 8 begins tomorrow with the Wednesday Link List

 

 

 

 

February 11, 2015

Wednesday Link List

The classic photo archive, Shorpy.com called this photo "Church of Meteorology." Here's why: "Going to church to pray for rain. Grassy Butte, North Dakota; July 1936."

The classic photo archive, Shorpy.com called this photo “Church of Meteorology.” Here’s why: “Going to church to pray for rain. Grassy Butte, North Dakota; July 1936.”  Click the image to view at source.

Each week we begin with a blank slate, never knowing what direction the week’s links are going to take.

  • When Bible Superficials are not Superficial – How words and paragraphs are set out on the page can affect the meaning we take away from the passage, so Bible typography — especially punctuation, paragraphing and chapter divisions — actually matters.  48 minutes; some of it quite humorous; and most of it is translation-neutral.
  • Taking the Plus-One Approach – Kevin DeYoung: “Are you just starting out at a new church and don’t know how to get plugged in? Have you been at your church for years and still haven’t found your place? Are you feeling disconnected, unhappy, or bored with your local congregation? Let me suggest you enter the ‘Plus One’ program of church involvement…In addition to the Sunday morning worship service, pick one thing in the life of your congregation and be very committed to it.”
  • Praying Together as a Couple – Last week the Stand to Reason blog had an excerpt from Tim Keller’s book on prayer, in which Keller, in turn quotes his wife on the necessity of prayer: “Imagine you were diagnosed with such a lethal condition that the doctor told you that you would die within hours unless you took a particular medicine—a pill every night before going to sleep. Imagine that you were told that you could never miss it or you would die. Would you forget? Would you not get around to it some nights? No—it would be so crucial that you wouldn’t forget, you would never miss. Well, if we don’t pray together to God, we’re not going to make it because of all we are facing. I’m certainly not. We have to pray, we can’t let it just slip our minds.”
  • When God is Silent – Tony Woodlief at InTouch Ministries: “[O]ver the years I have buried a child, ruined a marriage, and disappointed so very many people. In the midst of this life’s wreckage, there have been many long, dark nights when I scarcely had breath for prayer, let alone presence of mind to formulate the right words. Some nights I have lain across my bed, or on the floor, and I have wept, and hoped that tears suffice where words won’t come.” Tony at his blog: “I’ve talked about saudade, a Portuguese word meaning the presence of absence, which is how you feel, every day for the rest of your life, when you have lost someone you love. Their absence is a weight, it is a presence… This weighty nothing is also what you feel when you cannot discern God’s response.”
  • Saturday Morning at the Inter-Faith Service – This may resonate with some of you: “I am weary from a full and demanding week, and…to say that Sunday’s sermon is “unfinished” would be the height of understatement… I usually feel a little out-of-place at these ecumenical services, standing amidst all of my more impressive-looking clergypersons with their beautiful robes and vestments. I can only imagine how it looks from the pew. Who’s that guy with the scruffy sports coat who forgot to shave?  What’s he doing up there? Who let him sit amongst the real pastors and priests?”
  • Women in the Bible: Entirely New Metrics – “There are 93 women who speak in the Bible, 49 of whom are named. These women speak a total of 14,056 words collectively — roughly 1.1 percent of the total words in the holy book. These are the findings of the Rev. Lindsay Hardin Freeman, an Episcopal priest who three years ago embarked on an unprecedented project: to count all the words spoken by women in the Bible. With the help of three other women in her church community — as well as highlighters, sticky notes and spreadsheets — Freeman painstakingly dissected the Bible’s New Revised Standard Version.”
  • Religious Freedom in Canada – Television journalist Lorna Dueck devotes her half-hour program Context to the background story on the accreditation of the Law School at Trinity Western University by the various law societies in each of the Canadian provinces. At broadcast time, the legal battle was being fought on five separate fronts.
  • Is Christian Music Worth Listening To? – Is it worshiptainment? Jonny Diaz, a popular Christian recording artist, John Thompson, an executive with Capitol CMG Publishing, and Dr. T. David Gordon, a professor of religion joined host Julie Roys on the weekend for a sometimes heated discussion at Up For Debate, a program at Moody Radio. 48 minute audio. Which leads us to…
  • Where They Are Now – Jesus music and modern worship pioneer Kelly Willard talks about her battle with Bipolar Disorder and how it intersected life circumstances: “I KNOW that if I had not been on the correct medication(s) for my Bipolar Disorder, I would’ve ended up somewhere in a padded cell wearing a straight-jacket indefinitely. For you see, in 2004, my father died, my daughter committed suicide, my mother died, my 29 year marriage died (we divorced), and my stepmother took my inheritance from my father away from me.”
  • Finally, Just in Case You Need It – A directory of American churches — no doubt incomplete — where the lead or senior pastor is a woman. “I sense that some people would really prefer to have a woman in the senior pastoral role and the directory can help them find such a church.”

Short takes:

  • Vice.com gets into an in-depth article on Christians and pornography, including a focus on the ministry XXXChurch.com
  • Ten reasons why Jesus probably would be an outcast in today’s church.
  • A mission agency focused on Bible translation is using new methods to get the job done more efficiently as donor dollars decline.
  • David Platt talks to PARSE about his new book, Church and Culture.
  • InterVarsity has won a pivotal sex discrimination court case over hiring practices, with ramifications for other churches and Christian charities.
  • Pentecostal prayer gangs in prison: An interview with the creator of the documentary I Give My Soul.
  • K-LOVE goes video: “K-LOVE, the national Christian music radio chain, is launching a multi-platform video channel through a partnership with TAPP TV. ‘We are thrilled about K-LOVE TV creating another avenue for fans to connect and go deeper with K-LOVE, their faith and the artists they love,’ said Mike Novak, K-LOVE President and CEO. The service costs $9.95 per month.”
  • The band I Am They — named after passages in the New Testament — formed somewhat by accident.
  • And speaking of bands, our video of the week is the song My God by new Canadian band Caves featuring Amanda Cook.
  • If you’re having trouble beating the February blahs, why not relax and enjoy some lighter side reading from author/speaker Phil Callaway. (Though my pick was the more serious items in the interviews section.)

Leonard Sweet tweeted this on Tuesday, calling it “a different kind of last supper.”  The artist is Johan Andersson. Click the image for more information.

A Different Kind of Last Supper

January 18, 2015

Weekend Link List

Dan Phillips thinks that for many these are the doors to the ideal church:

Ziggy - zi_sun_c150111.tif

Weekend List Lynx

Weekend List Lynx

It turns out there are some links that ran at PARSE that we never posted here on Wednesday. So… here’s a weekend edition of the Link List; there are also some fresh links at PARSE you can read by clicking here, including a story about Karen Kingsbury becoming a university professor!

    • He Had Me With The Opening Paragraph – “I’m sitting in a donut shop.  I’ve been here many times and nobody has ever complained about this place, saying, “This donut shop is too donuty.”  It’s a donut shop; so you expect it to be donuty. No one ever said that a sporting event was too sporty, a library too booky, a concert too musicy, an airport too planey, a home too homey, a college too schooly, or a hospital too hospitally. Yet, I hear all the time, ‘That church was too churchy.'” A good reminder of our priorities, though I think you double the ‘t’ in donutty.
    • No I Haven’t Read the Latest Leadership Book, But I’ve Seen the Movie – Now you can actually say that: “We have all heard ‘leaders are readers’ but even though we know it’s true we just don’t have enough time to read the books we really want to. Our passion is to help other pastors and church leaders become more productive and effective. We do that by making short and fun video summaries of leadership books.” You can get that from a new subscription service at Ministry Library.
    • On Vanishing Numbers – Though using only anecdotal evidence, Wil Mancini’s conversations with leaders all seem to point to a single emerging trend: Church attendance is declining because of a decline in the frequency of attendance by members. “What does this mean? Simply that people who used to attend 4 times a month may only attend 3 times a month. Members who used to come twice a month will only come once a month.” He then offers some counter-moves churches can consider.
    • Sunday Choices: Church versus Watching the Big Game – “People have been skipping church for centuries. And though we may think we’re busier today than ever before, we should remember that in agricultural societies, harvest season sometimes interfered with attending church to the point congregations would gather for prayer in the fields. Pastors and church leaders expect congregants to miss from time to time due to health reasons, vacation, or occasional conflicts. But skipping church for football rubs pastors the wrong way, perhaps because they sense an inherent competition with the event itself.” Trevin Wax on worship attendance and guilt. (Also, some poll results at CT’s Gleanings page.)
    • Becoming The People We Have Despised – Benjamin Corey: “As I write in my forthcoming book, Christian Outsiders, once we begin to draw our identity from a Christian label instead of Christ himself, we quickly find ourselves in a destructive cycle of needing to police the borders of that label – correcting, chastising, and expelling those who cross outside of the lines the label has drawn. While fundamentalists and Evangelicals do this, progressives do it too – and I find it exhausting to deal with. Progressives do this mainly via the Progressive Twitter Police – folks who are probably well meaning, but have failed to realize they’ve just crossed over into a different kind of fundamentalism.”
    • The Military Model Church – David Murrow: “Have you heard about the church that’s building itself on a military model? It’s led by a general — not a bishop. Their clergy are not referred to as pastors, priests or vicars – instead it’s captain, major, colonel and commander. Officers go through seven years of training and are barred from earning outside income. This church even tells officers whom they can and cannot marry.” Okay, I think we know there is headed, but then he ends with a teaser that leaves me waiting for part two.
    • On Women and Girls Who Don’t Dress for Church When They Dress for Church – “I’m not sure if you’ve ventured into a Forever 21 or Abercrombie and Fitch lately, but being a young woman with a commitment to modesty and purity isn’t easy. Marketers aren’t pushing girls toward the ‘respectable apparel’ that Paul mentioned in 1 Timothy but toward the opposite. If the girls in your church are going to live like Christ has called them to in this area, they are going to need reinforcements. Care for her heart, first, through love and Bible study, but then help her give teeth to what she’s learning by venturing with her into the mall with ideas and encouragement.” However, the author says you don’t start with confrontation or with that shopping trip, but rather you start with an open Bible.
    • It’s Not Just Megachurch Pastors – “Clearly, ‘lifestyles of the rich and religious’ doesn’t cut it for Pope Francis. The pontiff has said it ‘breaks my heart’ to see priests and nuns driving the latest-model cars. He’s blasted ‘airport bishops’ who spend more time jet-setting than tending to their flocks. And he’s warned against church leaders who bear the ‘psychology of princes.’ The Vatican fired one such ‘prince’ last year: German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst — aka ‘The Bishop of Bling’ — who spent $43 million to remodel his opulent pad. (Bronze window frames? $2.4 million. Getting on the wrong side of the Pope? Far more pricey.)” A photo-research story from CNNs revamped religion page.
    • Hit Me With Your Best Shot – Every once in a while I find something online that literally leaves me without words. I waited more than a week wondering what to do with a couple of websites dedicated to help married couples learn the routines of “Domestic Discipline,” where the “Head of Household” (read: husband) disciplines (read: physically) the other partner (read: wife). I offer it to my readers as an internet curiosity first and foremost, and secondly as a glimpse into the world of some (adjective desperately needed here) Christian marriages. Reporting definitely does not imply endorsement.
    • One (really good one) for the road – “24 Things World Christians Wish North American Short-Term Missionaries Would Quit Doing” from the Pathways International blog, Becoming Indigenous.

January 14, 2015

Wednesday Link List

God Told Me T-shirt

It’s that time of the week. If you also follow the links at PARSE, the Friday installment will be moving to Saturday starting this week. I guess we’ll be giving the Saturday Ramblings at Internet Monk some competition.

  • Distinguishing Between Values and Faith – “Strong societies are held together by shared values, and shared conversation is a vital part of that community cohesion. I derive my values from my Christian faith, but in saying that, I’m not claiming that Christianity has an exclusive on human goodness. I believe that we all derive our values from our personal beliefs; I also believe that a shared conversation about our different beliefs leads to more understanding, not less. And in situations like 9/11, 7/7 and Charlie Hebdo, it’s often in the context of faith that people try to find answers to the question ‘Why?’” UK writer Gill Robins writes frequently on values-based education.
  • Discovering the Bible’s Bonus Tracks – “…[I]n 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul alludes to an earlier letter to fellow believers in Corinth. We don’t have that letter, nor are we aware of its specific contents. Let’s say, however, that archaeologists unearth a clay pot containing a manuscript dating from the mid-first century and fitting the description of Paul’s letter. Should the church welcome 3 Corinthians as the 28th book of the New Testament? Not so fast… So, what criteria did the early church use as a guide? [Craig] Blomberg notes three predominant requirements: apostolicity, catholicity and orthodoxy.”
  • When Our Theology of Suffering is Tested in Reality – “Two months ago we were shocked by the diagnosis of our thirteen-year old grandson’s extreme headaches. Yes, we heard the dreaded “C” word; he has brain cancer. Overnight our lives were turned inside out and upside down, and the once-in-a-lifetime Christmas on the island of Maui with our children and grandchildren was out the window. By God’s grace we have enjoyed a relatively tranquil life, at least so far as health issues are concerned. No one warned us of this, and we certainly did not ask for it, but suddenly the theories we had espoused in trying to help others were put to a test at home.” A Wheaton College professor offers five takeaways from this experience.
  • The Problems of Great Speakers Who Try to be Writers –  The writer begins with a jargon-laden introduction, then “This turgid, cliche-ridden paragraph is my own attempt to capture the flavor of much that passes for written communication in Christian circles these days. The style is quirky; topsy-turvy is the word order; and the passive voice is clung to for dear life. It defies the reader to read on… Most of us are speakers first and writers second. And it is natural, therefore, that some of the patterns and habits of spoken English should creep into our writing. This is especially true of those who speak for a living (like preachers). Very often, good preaching is characterized by elaboration, illustration, and a general ‘padding out’ of the material so that the audience can take it in. Good writing is quite different. It is sharp and economical.”
  • What Francis Chan Teaches His Kids – “My daughter did bring home a guy a few months ago from college and some of my friends asked her, they said ‘hey how serious are you with him’ and they told me her answer was so weird. They said her answer was ‘I just want to hang out with him long enough to see if God answers his prayers.’ That’s a weird answer but in her mind that was her gauge.” The California preacher went on tell listeners to John Piper’s podcast how in their home, answered prayer is the measure of strong relationship with God.
  • Worship Service Down-Time During Announcements – Thom Rainer offers 9 observations about that not so special time in the service: “Most church leaders believe that the retention rate of announcements by members is low. If retention is indeed low, it would indicate that most times of announcements are done due to pressure or tradition or both.”
  • Was this Board’s Action Discriminatory? – So there was a teacher fired, and there is the element in the story that ‘the student was asking for it.’ It’s hard not to let your mind make up the missing pieces, but in this case: “The Phillipsburg [PA] School Board fired [teacher Walter] Tutka after district officials said he refused to meet with them to discuss his giving a middle school student a copy of the Bible. Tutka handed the boy, who had been asking about a passage from the book of Matthew, a copy of the Gideon’s New Testament in October 2012.” The teacher was suspended in January, 2013.
  • We Take You Live to Our Reporter in the Field – I know some of you have heard stories from the missions front lines before, but I know this guy. He gave up a comfy career as a dentist to do something he and his wife believe in, and now he describes his work in Rwanda: “I walk in to see (as my first case ever in Africa) a sedated child with a massive hole in the side of his jaw. The hole was not caused by a object, no, it was caused by perhaps a simple ulcer or infection that kept spreading. Because the child is malnourished, and was also battling malaria, and also likely was not getting clean water, and was likely a low birth weight baby, and was also not easily accessible to health care… the list goes on, he developed one of two conditions. Osteomyelitis – which is an infection of bone… or NOMA – described as a disease of the poor, where this uncontrolled bacterial infection knows no limit and literally destroys one’s face… Oh I forgot to say that he is also an orphan. But you probably saw that coming.”
  • Those Problematic Worship Lyrics – We’ve seen articles before on songs like this one: “‘I want to touch you, I want to see your face, I want to know you more.’ It’s tough to sing lines like these when the song never mentions who you’re singing to, and this one never does. The vague lyrics could easily suggest a plan to sneak around and make out in the bushes or a desire to encounter Jesus.” But this was the first time we’d seen this one mentioned: “‘Yahweh, Yahweh, we love to shout your name, oh Lord.’ Jewish people don’t write or say Yahweh to refer to God out of respect — instead writing the name without its vowels, YHWH, or using the alternate Adonai, meaning ‘Lord.’ So, to sing a song that not only uses the name Yahweh, but emphasizes the shouting of it seems . . . odd. The Vatican agrees — in 2008, it removed/replaced the name in all of its songs and prayers, and the Christian Reformed Church removed every occurrence of Yahweh and Jehovah from its Psalter Hymnal.”
  • Short Story Department – An accusation of plagiarism against Christian author and possible Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson ended very differently than another high profile plagiarism case with which readers here are familiar. The source copied refuted the idea saying that the 16 attributions that did appear reflected Carson’s honest intentions.
  • Parting Shot – Okay, this is totally superficial, but I think this church has the coolest menu for searching sermon series archives.

 

Well Done

 

 

January 7, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Cathedral Repurposed as Skateboard ParkThe above is taken from a Wall Street Journal article about European Cathedrals being sold off, this one in Holland was re-purposed as a skateboard park. The story reads, “Two dozen scruffy skateboarders launched perilous jumps in a soaring old church building here on a recent night, watched over by a mosaic likeness of Jesus and a solemn array of stone saints.”

Cathedral Repurposed II


We’ll flip the order this week and start with some fun things, and then go for the PARSE links second…


Church Gro

For your own supply of Church Gro, click this link.


Here’s what we posted at PARSE today:

  • What One Woman Thinks of Women’s Ministry – “If I wanted to learn how to decorate cupcakes, I would take a class in it. If I wanted to be educated on strategies for decorating my home inexpensively from Winners, I would just, you know, go to Winners. Or Pinterest. But I’m here with you now because I want what the world cannot give me. We’re choking on cutesy things and crafty bits, safe lady topics, and if one more person says that modest is hottest with a straight face, I may throw up. We are hungry for authenticity and vulnerability, not churchified life hacks from lady magazines. Some of us are drowning, suffocating, dying of thirst for want of the cold water of real community.”
  • Pastoring Grief – “When we sit with someone who has encountered devastation it can be scary… This is one place I am helped by the Quaker tradition. In fact, I believe – if not always practice – that my role is not to have the answers, give good advice, or “heal” another person at all. All I am to do is create a safe space where he or she can begin – or continue – to listen to the Inward Teacher. My work is to create a space where their soul can be honored and held. This type of listening comes in the form of seeing each meeting as a divine “Opportunity.” In Quaker parlance, an Opporunity – with a capital O – is where both people sit, listen and discover where the Spirit is moving in another. Being comfortable with silence is essential, allowing the wounded person to be the focus of the conversation and to carry it where they will.”
  • Missing the Text Because We Know it So Well – “Unexamined familiarity will prevent you from looking at the Book. Because such familiarity crowds out curiosity, it imperceptibly stiffens necks, hardens hearts, and deafens ears. Familiarity may lead us to assume things that are not in the text, and it may blind us to things that are… the unfamiliar-but-wildly-curious folks see things I’ve never seen… My familiarity tricked me into thinking I knew the story, but I had missed the point.”
  • Time Travel: Before the Megachurch Set the Agenda – “I grew up in small churches that my father pastored, but when I moved into full-time ministry I was involved in mega-churches as an associate pastor. I have spent my adult life attending large churches, and it had been many years since I had not been in a church service where the crowd outnumbered a Friday night high school football game. Stepping away from the big-church scene and stopping by to visit a small church turned out to be a greater blessing than I ever expected. My memories had forgotten the close bond and camaraderie that one feels in a smaller group of people.”
  • Lament for a Closing Bible College – “I am sad for the broader trends that this decision reflects for Christian higher education. Sad that theological education is no longer the priority for young adults and their parents that it once was… I am sad for how the news of Bethany’s closing is, in many ways, symptomatic of far broader church trends… I am sad that more effort is often put into hyper-pragmatic church-planting techniques than the preserving of spaces for theological education that has as its goal the forming of Christian character and the training of Christian leaders. But most of all, I think, I am sad that the world will now have one less good place where young women and men can encounter Jesus and learn to love each other in the context of community.”
  • Inside Female Thought Processes – “Am I enough? Sometimes, I don’t feel like there is enough of me to go around, and it can be exhausting.  When I was teaching, I would wake up and pour into my husband and kiddos and spend some time in prayer.  Once I arrived at school, I would pour into my students.  Once I got back home, I would make dinner for my family, run my kids to their various activities, and end the day by pouring into my husband and kids once again.  I was honestly a shell of a person.  I had been pouring out all day into the ones I love and doing  something I loved to do, but I was completely spent.”
  • Rethinking the Bible College Degree– “From early on in my academic life, I was confused. I knew that a Bible college would prepare you to do the work of the Lord; I knew I wanted to be a missionary in post-communist Russia. I was prepared to be poor for the rest of my life, but I didn’t understand that one could live in deficit, that dreams could be deferred by the crushing realities of student debt. When the financial aid office of my Bible college draped their offers of loans in front of me, I confronted them. Do you really think you should be pushing debt onto missionaries and pastors? I asked them… While this might be a workable financial constraint for many, it can prove crippling to the very students that Bible colleges cater to—those who want to minister, either as pastors or teachers or overseas missionaries.”
  • Making the Case for The Local Church as Dating Site – The same week the Christian Mingle movie releases on DVD, we’re offered a different view: “Every year, between Christmas and Valentine’s Day, online dating registrations soar. There are a myriad of reasons for this: the difficulty of holidays spent single; New Year resolutions; desire to not be by themselves in dark, winter nights; pressure from family; and more. One thing is clear, it is written on the heart of every man and woman that it is not good for them to be alone.” A call for the church to prayerfully set up potential couples.
  • Moving Forward by Looking Back – “I set goals for every conceivable arena of life: spiritual, fitness, education, ministry, publishing, financial, language acquisition, and even reading speed. These give me items for which to pray, plan, and pursue. Holding the goal in mind helps me know when to decline otherwise enticing opportunities and when to apply for those that are not forthcoming. But equally important—a discipline I am less faithful in—is pausing to reflect on past accomplishments…” Take the time to raise your Ebenezer.
  • Question of the Week – “Instead of asking ‘What does this passage mean to you?’ we should ask, ‘What does this passage mean if you never existed?'” You’ll find this somewhere on Julie Roys’ radio program said by either Michael Rydelnik or Michael Vanlaningham.
  • One for the Road – While other Christian news items were more pressing, this was definitely the year of Christian cinema, making this year’s list of the Top 100 films looked up at the Christian Film database all the more important.

From Daniel Jepsen’s blog Sliced Soup (click image to link):

Sketchy Church

 

December 31, 2014

Wednesday Link List

First, here are some stories that ran at PARSE last week that you never saw here:

  • Your Moment in the (Local) Spotlight – In all the leadership articles I’ve combed, I’ve never seen this topic discussed, even though it is often a part of ministry life for local pastors and leaders: “At this time of year there are a myriad of opportunities to speak on local radio, and now even on local television channels. I was fortunate enough to do a media training course as part of my ordination training… If you are on for 2 or 3 minutes (a typical interview format) you might only have five sentences in total. Time flies on air! So decide what is most important, and get that in first. If you leave your most important point to second or third place, you might never get to say it…” In total ten solid pieces of advice.
  • The Gay Wedding Cake Challenge Moving Forward – “A Christian printer from Northern Ireland who came under fire for refusing to print a gay magazine is backing proposals for a conscience clause in the Province. Last year, Nick Williamson said he could not print a publication because its sexually explicit images would go against his Christian faith. But the magazine’s editor obtained legal advice and the case was referred to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. Williamson supports the plans to amend equality legislation to introduce a conscience clause. The proposals were prompted by the case of Ashers Baking Company, which is facing court for declining to produce a pro-gay marriage campaign cake.” The goal is to create a situation “where everybody’s rights can be upheld and balanced.”
  • There’s No Such Thing as Mental Illness – Voddie Baucham is a popular speaker and pastor of Grace Baptist in Spring, Texas. According to a recent sermon transcript, he stated, “Psychology and psychiatry — and they’re not the same thing, one’s a medical doctor who goes to medical school, a psychiatrist, gets a medical degree, k? And they can dispense drugs, and, and that’s pretty much all they do, just dispense drugs and [unintelligible] drugs — and the other one, a psychologist, you don’t go to medical school, that’s a complete different degree, k? But in both instances, psychology and psychiatry have never cured anyone of anything.” There’s a lot more of this on the transcript, as well as, on the same website, a personal response.
  • Redefining Reaching the World – “For decades, missionaries did not consider a people group “reached” until 20 percent of the population was considered ‘evangelical.’ Today, the statistical benchmark is 2 percent. What brought about this change of definition? And how has it impacted missions strategies? Dr. Robin Hadaway, professor of missions at Midwestern Seminary recently wrote an essay for the Southwestern Journal of Theology, in which he recommends a “course-correction” away from the two-percent threshold and back to something like 10 or 20 percent….The needs of unreached peoples to hear the gospel must remain an important factor in making these decisions, and yet Hadaway believes other criteria should be considered, including the receptivity of a people.” Trevin Wax reports on changes taking place, then offers, “I have misgivings about setting an arbitrary percentage for ‘reachedness,’ whether high or low. Every country or people group is different, with various needs and histories.”
  • When You Share Your Building with an Ethnic Church – One main issue for three Lincoln, Nebraska churches sharing First Baptist’s building had to do with the role of children in worship. “Jiang says the reason the Karen and Chinese worried so much was because, to them, the English congregation was kind of the leader of the whole church: it was their building, and they had been there the longest. ‘…the relationship is kind of like guest and host.’ No one ever said anything about their concerns — until a few months ago.” Text and audio at National Public Radio.
  • The Amish Television Interview – Although it’s a lot like the news reports where a whistle-blower is interviewed in silhouette, it is an actual eleven-minute video documentary of Amish life narrated by a carpenter and father of eight children. “Very, very few outsiders join the Amish, as far as leaving… there’s probably ten or fifteen percent that leave the Amish… they want their conveniences, their car and phone and things like that… If we are here as a pilgrim, traveling through this world for a better land then the less earthly possessions we cling to, the better off we are.”
  • Leadership Trials and Tribulations – “Someone who is not performing well on the team. You’ve warned them numerous times. They have exhausted their chances with you. You’re at the point where you believe it would be better for them to leave the organization. Before you release them (which is one of the hardest things a leader has to do)… Have one more meeting.” Ron Edmondson on the meeting before the last meeting.
  • No Staff Christmas Party Here – “Pope Francis issued a blistering critique Monday of the Vatican bureaucracy that serves him, denouncing some officials who lust for power at all costs and suffer from ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s’ that has made them forget they are supposed to be joyful men of God. The pontiff’s Christmas greeting to the cardinals, bishops and priests who run the Holy See was no joyful exchange of holiday good wishes. Rather, it was a sobering catalog of 15 sins of the Curia that Francis said he hoped would be atoned for and cured in the New Year.”
Christmas List Lynx arrives just in time to wish you a Happy New Year.

Christmas List Lynx arrives just in time to wish you a Happy New Year.

Today we have an economy edition of the link list, as we’ve been given the week off by our PARSE overlords.

December 24, 2014

Wednesday Link List

We Have Bacon

First, here’s last Friday’s list from PARSE

  • An Introvert Looks at Advent – “I’m willing to suspend my cultural cynicism for a moment and speculate that at the root of American consumer Christmas is a deep-seated desire for meaning. I may be way off on this, but I suspect the decorations, the music, the saturated social calendars, the capitalistic flurry, and the caloric overload are attempts at finding something true, something significant. Hopes for discovering community and transcendence… The problem, I think, is that our culture doesn’t know how to truly celebrate. Over-consumption and over-stimulation are the only ways we know how to mark a special occasion. Even though most of us implicitly know it doesn’t work and that we’re going to wake up with a hangover, it’s all we know how to do. When there is a significant event, we commemorate it by scurrying around, spending absurd amounts of money, gathering a crowd, and turning up the volume. If we’re not weighed down by anxiety and insomnia, then it must not be a very important occasion.”
  • Christmas Has Always Been Complicated – “[F]rom a historical perspective, controversy surrounded Christmas for the first five centuries of church history; and its effects still linger in some circles today… The Ebionites, a legalistic first- and second-century cult, denied the Virgin Birth… In the second and third centuries, the Gnostics likewise denied the incarnation…In the fourth century, the Arians affirmed the humanity of Christ, but denied His full deity… The Nicene Creed, in essence then, was a defense of the biblical understanding of Christmas.”
  • Material Possessions and Dependency on God – “Let’s be honest here, the American church has taken material wealth to levels never even dreamed by the founders of the New Testament church.  ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ was a genuine, heart-felt prayer reflective of a deep-seated daily need by the early church.  My church, on the other hand, raised $1.5 Million last year for a new air conditioner in our Sanctuary… The sad truth is, we just do not need God to meet daily needs when we have material wealth.” So this begs the question, where is the point at which we need God?
  • Not Sure What To Say – Most of us don’t have a handy collection of responses when one or both members of a couple announce they are dealing with infertility. Telling them they can borrow your kids isn’t helpful: “Now, there is lots of room in the world for great aunts and uncles. I have taught children for several years without having my own children. But when you dismissively offer to give away your children (or tacitly encourage the abduction of your children), you minimize their value and worth. Yes, we know that kids are hard. We are paying thousands of dollars to try to have one anyway. Either you are pretending that children are not really worth it, or you are just a miserable person who should not have had kids to begin with.”
  • George Whitefield Would Have Loved Twitter – Or, according to this article, Facebook and YouTube. You either loved him or hated him: “Actors felt threatened when Whitefield, an actor-turned-evangelist, decided to build a church called the Tabernacle in London just down the street from the theaters. ‘He’s lampooned in really popular plays, the most famous being the ‘Dr. Squintum’ play, which is just a total sensation in Britain,’ said [Thomas S.] Kidd of Whitefield, who was cross-eyed after a childhood ailment. He had rotten eggs, turnips and stones thrown at him and once was saved from a stoning by his beaver hat, wrote Kidd.” The article goes on to suggest that it was Whitefield and Wesley who started “the battles that continue between Calvinists and non-Calvinists.”
  • Persecution Up Close and Personal – American Pastor Saeed Abedini writes, “These days are very cold here. My small space beside the window is without glass making most nights unbearable to sleep. The treatment by fellow prisoners is also quite cold and at times hostile. Some of my fellow prisoners don’t like me because I am a convert and a pastor. They look at me with shame as someone who has betrayed his former religion. The guards can’t even stand the paper cross that I have made and hung next to me as a sign of my faith and in anticipation of celebrating my Savior’s birth. They have threatened me and forced me to remove it. This is the first Christmas that I am completely without my family; all of my family is presently outside of the country. These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me.”
  • Our Tabloid Fascination with Rob Bell – “This is precisely why Rob Bell has and still does connect with so many of us– we may have different stories, but we all know what it is like to be taken out into the Evangelical church parking lot for asking the wrong questions… Rob has come to symbolically represent so many of us who have experienced the deep pain of being told, there’s no room for you in this inn. As I have gotten to know so many out there…the one trend I have noticed is this: we all have a very similar stories of pain, hurt, and loss that immediately followed our questions. Some are kicked out of churches, some out of seminaries, and many have real-world friendships stripped away from them – often over areas that are clearly “secondary” theology where there is room for charitable Christian disagreement.”
  • Christian, Celibate, But Same-Sex Attracted – Julie Roys addressed this issue on a program for Moody Radio, and then profiled a counselor at Wheaton College who fits that description for an article at World Magazine. In turn, that produced a reaction from Carl Trueman: “Indeed, to say that those who use the label ‘gay’ should not find their identity in their sexuality is akin to saying that people who declare themselves to be Democrat or Republican may do so as long as they are not making a statement about their political sympathies and allegiances.  If you do not find any part of your identity in your sexuality, then you should not use language which exists solely for the purpose of expressing identity through sexuality… One wonders what exactly the thinking on this issue is at Wheaton.”
  • Someone Had to Go First – Just a month after approving women as bishops in the Church of England, the first such bishop, Reverend Libby Lane was appointed.

Next, we have today’s list from PARSE

  • Government Agency Determines What Church Can Afford – There was a promise that mandatory closed captioning of television programs would be waived by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) if it would place an economic burden on independent producers. Despite issuing hundreds of such waivers, a local church was refused. “This month’s ruling was against one of those re-applying for a waiver:  Curtis Baptist Church, which produces a weekly Sunday morning program on a TV station in Augusta, GA.  While the church claimed the extra $26,000 per year for closed captioning would up its production costs by 61 percent and could threaten the continuation of this ministry of more than 30 years, the FCC rejected that argument.  Notably, the FCC looked past the specific budget for the program, and instead at the church’s total balance sheet.”
  • Understanding the People You Want to Show Up – “If you’re waiting for unchurched people to show up because their life is falling apart, you might wait a long time. Sure, there are always people in crisis who seek God out. But many are quite content with their lives without God. And some are quite happy and successful. If you only know how to speak into discontent and crisis, you will miss most of your neighbors.” (Italics added) Additionally, North Point affiliate pastor Carey Nieuwhof states, “Old school ‘revival’ meant there was something to revive. Now that we are on the 2nd to 5th generation of unchurched people, revival is less helpful to say the least. You can’t call them back to something they never knew.” 15 Things to know about those you want to reach.
  • The Two Sins of Multi Site Video Venue (MSVV) Churches – In the wake of what some consider the key Evangelical news story of 2014: “Multi-Site Video Venue (MSVV) is prone to decontextualization. When one franchises either a teacher or a church model based on one location and transfers it en toto to another location, one has in essence disregarded the local context, its culture and instead assumes that who we are and what we say as a church applies to you with no dialogue or presence needed. It asks people to come to me on our terms. We have what you need. It is a profound act of colonialism.”
  • When the Big Christmas Pageant is Past Tense – “For over 20 years, I was an integral part of designing our Christmas services at Willow Creek, and some of what I remember still makes me break out in a sweat!  I remember the panic of no time to shop for gifts, of wrapping presents late at night on Christmas Eve, of disappointing some friends or family members when I just was not available for certain holiday gatherings… I am somewhat surprised to admit that there are some aspects of the entire experience I do miss.  So maybe it will encourage you to know what they are – a quick list because none of you has time to read much of anything right now!”
  • Facebook Loved This Diversion – “Two professing atheist authors recently held a contest in which they asked followers to ‘rethink the Ten Commandments’ and come up with ‘an alternative secular version … for the modern age.'” The top ten submissions included the maxim, “There is no one right way to live;” and an exhortation to “Leave the world a better place than you found it.” – No word if the atheist big ten will spark a movie with a Charlton Heston lookalike.
  • Do People Need Reminding to Attend Church? – For years I attended a small group in Toronto, Canada that met on the 18th floor of a highrise apartment. Despite the fact I never missed, and despite the fact that seating in the small one-bedroom unit was at a premium for the thirty people who showed up, two nights before I would get a phone call from the small group leader reminding me that small group was approaching. So in my opinion, in a world with email, the concept of churches making contact on Saturday in reference to Sunday morning is a no-brainer. So I’m not surprised that, “57% of the churches that sent emails saw a week-over-week increase in attendance. The average attendance increase in those churches was 13%.” Check out four samples of the emails sent.
  • Verses We Remember – Because the Bible has verse numbers, and because computers can store search stats, and basically, because we can, YouVersion has another annual list showing that when it comes to favorite verses, the U.S., Nigeria and Brazil have something in common, and that’s Philippians 4:5. But it was Romans 12:2 that received the greatest combined number of social media sharing and bookmarking. There’s more at the YouVersion annual report, but if you’re thinking that John 3:16 should be at the top of the list, then you are in agreement with the year-end statistical report at BibleGateway.com (containing a couple of impressive graphs, one resembling a Periodic Table of sorts.)
  • It’s Like Herding Cats – I clicked through to read “Are House Cats Smarter Than Humans” not realizing it was a religion-themed website. “[G]etting two humans, ten, a thousand, or considerably more, to do the same thing at the same time is remarkably easy, and it’s successfully accomplished on a daily basis: Just put a TV in every home. Or set up a religious meeting in a football stadium. Or announce that some electronic device is on “sale” during a limited time period — say, between 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving — and get out of the way when the doors open.” And then, there’s where the writer took the subject next.
  • Quick Take – In a recent Wall Street Journal infographic, clergy rank in the second highest category for obesity. Christmas dinner; just sayin’.
  • Online Bibles – I actually had someone ask me yesterday what ever happened to Bible software? Basically, it up and moved to the cloud. Everyone has an online Bible site that works best for them, but here’s a list of the Top 20.
  • Christmas Time Travel – Okay, the song itself isn’t very Christmas-y, but what’s more Christmas Eve than time traveling back a century to listen to the latest Christian music release 100 years ago; CCM in the year 1914. (And Jon Rivers was hosting 20 The Countdown Magazine even back then!)

Best Christmas wishes to you  from Buck, Marney, Jern, Destinia, Rayleen, Cubber, Lareetta, Roscoe, Honalee, Tustin and all the rest of the Thinking Out Loud gang.

There will be a Friday Christian news roundup at PARSE this week, with some of the best stories we’ve seen all week.

December 4, 2014

Post #3000 — Reflections on Writing

Filed under: blogging, internet, writing — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:33 am
Yes, that averages to less than two comments per item, and bloggers at all levels of engagement report that comments are in decline.

Yes, that averages to less than two comments per item, and bloggers at all levels of engagement report that comments are in decline.

You write a short email to a friend dealing with a specific topic when it occurs to you that you know someone else who might be interested in the same topic.

You copy them in and then you add a name of someone who lives outside your state, and realize you need to clarify some local references.

You then think of someone with whom you have had this conversation before, but they are an older person and you need to explain a tech reference.

You have a friend overseas who might want in on the discussion, but you’ve used a word here and there that means something different where they live.

You copy your father-in-law in on the email, but realize you’ve used a word that he finds too edgy and so you rewrite that sentence.

…You now have an email that started out going to one person, but now you’re sending it to twelve, and while what you have is probably more polished and objectively better, it’s nothing like the email you started to write.

In a sense, that’s blogging. Unless you use a password-protected site, or password-required posts — all possible with WordPress — there’s no such thing as narrow-casting. You’re broadcasting to the whole world, everyone who wants to read, everyone who wants to leave a comment, and all the people misdirected to your site because the same word can have many different meanings.

Tuesday night I forwarded a link to a page about guitarists to five people I know who are guitarists. Using the ‘reply all’ function, there was a brief interaction even though the people don’t know each other.

It occurred to me later that it might have been beneficial for them to leave their comments on the site itself. Engagement and community in the blogosphere ain’t what it was. Perhaps the drive to ‘write on someone’s wall’ isn’t the same as it was in the early days of the Internet.

As I write this, I can think of one Christian blogsite where there a great deal of engagement, almost a continuous party going on in the comments by people who have the common denominator of having survived one particular type of oppressive church environment. But I can also think of another one that is, if anything, a victim of its own success because there are so many comments that need to be moderated from a much wider swath of readers, so much administration, and so great expectations for more quality content each day.

Tempted as I am to say, ‘But readers here have no such expectations,’ I am grateful for the number of people who stop by here and allow Thinking Out Loud to enjoy enough traffic to land on a few Top 200 or Top 300 Christian blog lists, but not enough where it becomes an idol.

In Kenneth Taylor’s original edition of The Living Bible, Proverbs 27:17 reads, “A friendly discussion is as stimulating as the sparks that fly when iron strikes iron.” The second part of the verse is also translated, “one person sharpens the wits of another;” in the NRSV and “a person sharpens the character of his friend” in The Voice. Several translations talk about a person “sharpening the countenance” of another which the CEB modernizes to “so friends sharpen each other’s faces.”

I can’t exactly apply the verse about people “dwelling together in unity,” because there is a lot of disagreement online, even among Christian writers. (Or is that especially among Christian writers?) But even there, I feel there is much to be gained in the discourse.

To my fellow online writers: I am richer for having gotten to know all of you.  To readers here, thanks for your interest, and a special thanks to those of you who visit the devotional/study blog I curate, Christianity 201.

So on then, to post 3,001.

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