Thinking Out Loud

May 15, 2017

A Golden Age of Christian Blogging

Blogging introduces you to a worldwide collective of people you will probably never meet in this life.   Nonetheless, the online connection means that you can be a source of encouragement to many, many people. The right words, fitly spoken at the right time, can really make a difference in a person’s life.  That’s why I like this picture. The words are coming off the page to bring comfort. Everybody needs a bit of that now and then. The best things that are happening in the blogsphere aren’t always happening on the blogs themselves, but in the meta. When you get to follow-up with someone who has a particular interest. Or try to offer some direct, offline advice to someone who might appreciate a bit of a challenge.  Or know of a third-party resource that could be of great help. Or just to say, “I really don’t have a clue about your whole situation, but I want you to know someone is reading your blog who really cares.” Or offer to pray for them. To actually pray for them.

Words communicate. People are listening. You can have a part in what they hear.

~ Thinking Out Loud, September 2008

Recently I was thinking about the writers who inspired me to start doing this…many of who are no longer writing online, or are doing something completely different. After leaving comments on other blogs, I decided to start one of my own. We started on a platform called e4God, but fortunately were able to migrate the content to WordPress.

Honestly, I think this was a golden age for Christian blogging. Twitter wasn’t a force and podcasts were rare. Today, many bloggers simply post videos or podcast links or have abandoned their platform altogether in favor of the 140-character alternative. 

Travel back in time with me; except where noted these are in no particular order.

  • 22 Words — Not the blog you now know, but in those days, Abraham Piper actually confined each post to exactly 22 words.
  • Sacramentis — Sally Morganthaler’s website was a hub for people who wanted to discuss worship ideas. The church was going through a period of accelerated change, and people like Sally, Nancy Beach and Robert Weber were all speaking into that change.
  • Stuff Christians Like — The mind of Jon Acuff knew no boundaries. Think Babylon Bee for a previous decade. I think of Jon every time I’m in church and need to give someone a side hug. The blog spun off a book deal with Zondervan.
  • Stuff White Christians Like — …well, let’s be honest; there were a number of spin-offs from Jon’s blog, Stephy’s was one of them.
  • Lark News — The original Babylon Bee.
  • The Very Worst Missionary — Jamie Wright provided a missionary’s perspective on short term mission trips which many of us will never forget.
  • Fred McKinnon — What avid worship leader didn’t visit late Sunday night or midday Monday to find out what other worship leaders had posted to The Sunday Set List?
  • Puragtorio — Can someone help me remember this one? Seriously.
  • ASBO Jesus — From across the pond, Jon Birch’s website was delightfully cynical. The initials stand for Anti Social Behavior Order.
  • Flowerdust — The writer formerly known as Anne Jackson gained a huge following early on and was a reminder to us all that it was okay to be broken or wounded or both.
  • Evotional — The original blog of Mark Batterson, bestselling author and pastor of National Community Church in DC.  (When he called his first book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, I thought, “That’s a real dumb title. So much for his writing career.”)
  • Letters from Camp Krusty — My first initiation into the wonderful strange world of Brant Hansen.
  • Greg Boyd — This guy had a huge influence on us. We spent endless road trips throughout the U.S. popping discs in the CD player of downloaded sermons from Woodland Hills Church on the Gospel of Luke. Great memories. “Now go out and build the kingdom!”
  • Skyebox — Skye Jethani would later play a pivotal role in my own life for which I am most grateful. Today, he’s a regular on The Phil Vischer Podcast and an important analyst and commentator on the state of Evangelicalism in North America.
  • Out of Ur — The blog of Leadership Journal at Christianity Today and for 22 months, the home of the Wednesday Link List. (See previous entry.)
  • Tall Skinny Kiwi — As I write this, Andrew Jones and the girls are heading back to Europe mid-June. His unique, ongoing story continues and he has my utmost respect and admiration for carrying on despite the loss of Debbie to complications from malaria and typhoid.
  • Donald Miller — I don’t think it was called StoryLine back then, but I can’t remember. He’s been at this a long time!
  • Bene Diction Blogs On — Investigative blogging in an era before Warren Throckmorton. But who was Bene Diction? I have a friend who claims to know and says I knew her. Wait, what? Her?
  • Naked Pastor — David Hayward migrated his blog to Patheos but then moved back to his own domain. I love his writing, but I’m sure he’s best known for the pictures: Original artwork which you can purchase.
  • Without Wax — Pete Wilson is still blogging. Back then, they were like family; I can still name all three of Pete’s boys.
  • Trevin Wax — (no relation to the above) Trevin is now more aligned with a tribe I no longer follow, but I tracked with his writing for many years.
  • Challies — Tim Challies must have been in the right place at the right time, because today his blog regularly ranks in the Top Ten Christian blog lists in the U.S. though, like myself, he is Canadian. Must reading for the neo-Calvinist set. (Tim lives just about 90 minutes from me. Sometimes in the early morning we drive by his house and root through his recycling bin.)
  • Take Your Vitamin Z — Zach Nielson’s blog had a cool title. Three years ago this month, like many others, he switched his primary focus from blogging to Twitter. 
  • Desiring God — The Pipester was a force to be reckoned with! You never actually had to read it though, because for a time, the Calvinist world faithfully re-blogged every word J.P. wrote.
  • Reformissionary — The original name for Steve McCoy’s blog. Many nights at supper we prayed for Molly.
  • DashHouse — Another Canadian, Darryl Dash now writes primarily for fellow pastors and church leaders. He left a comfortable church in the Toronto suburbs a few years back to church plant in the urban core, albeit a more upscale neighborhood.
  • Team Pyro — Note that we clustered all the Calvinist bloggers together here. These guys helped convince me that there was a type of Christ follower I wanted to be, and that tribe wasn’t it. (At this writing, the blog has been inactive for about six weeks. Don’t people need their weekly dose of Spurgeon?)
  • CenturiOn — Frank Turk from Team Pyro. (Not to be confused with apologist Frank Turek.) I have to give them credit for the excellent illustrations and images.
  • Vintage Blog— Another one from that era who is still writing; Dan Kimball aka “the guy with the pompadour haircut.” If you’re ever in Santa Cruz, look up Vintage Church.
  • Eugene Cho — Another writer who’s been at this for a long time. Korean-born Cho is an author, lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle and founder of the charity One Day’s Wages.
  • Jesus Creed — Scot McKnight is another writer who has been faithfully at his computer producing a large number of columns each week since the world was flat. (With enough book sales, perhaps one day he’ll be able to afford the second ‘t’ in his first name.) 
  • John Shore — I tend to think of John today in terms of one particular issue, but in the early days his blog was home for all those who had gotten burned out in their church experience.
  • Michael Hyatt — Better known today for his writing on leadership issues, on building platform and on writing itself, it was his pieces on the publishing industry I enjoyed most back in the day.
  • Blog In My Own Eye — Keith Brenton was another writer who snagged a great blog title. It’s been four years now since Angi, the love of his life was taken from us; yet each day at 3:00 PM, Keith goes on Twitter to offer to pray for anyone with a need or a request.
  • Fire in my Bones — From the then-editor of Charisma Magazine, Lee Grady who still has a blog at the magazine. Right now I can’t think of a more balanced Pentecostal/Charismatic writer. (Maybe Jack Hayford, but he never blogged, did he?)
  • Monday Morning Insights — Over the years, the Wednesday Link List borrowed a number of story leads from Todd Rhoades’ blog.
  • The Idea Club — You never heard of it, right? Actually it was the original name for Cathy Lynn Grossman’s religion blog at USAToday. (Thinking Out Loud actually began as a USAToday blog as well.) An excellent religion reporter. You probably remember better from Faith and Reason. Watch for her byline where quality journalism is sold.
  • Internet Monk — Still updated daily, but sadly without its founder, the late Michael Spencer. This one resonated with a lot of people at a transitional time for the church at large.
  • Boar’s Head Tavern — Another blog Michael Spencer started. 
  • Shlog — The original name for musician Sean Groves’ blog.  
  • One Hand Clapping — Julie Clawson was an important voice in those early days. I wonder who reading this knows how the blog got its name?
  • …Help! I can’t stop…

…This ended up longer than I planned. Those were great days. Through these and other writers I got to read some great books and think about things related to God, Jesus, The Bible, Church, Evangelism, Doctrine, etc., that I otherwise might never have considered.

My life is richer because of all of you…

…So…who did I miss from that era who was big impact on you?


And now, a Best-of… moment from those early days:

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January 9, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Paul's Other Damascus Road - Cuyler Black

Remember, “The just shall link by faith.”

  • Our artwork today has no specific link, but is in celebration of artist Cuyler Black’s newest greeting card releases from his Inherit The Mirth collection and Nicole Brayden Gifts
  • Passion’s Louis Giglio will pray at the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama. Now it’s not happening. Read this update.
  • Shane Claiborne talks about his 2012 trip to Afghanistan on two videos at Red Letter Christians.
  • After several years silence, James Duncan returns to his blog to document his side of the lawsuit he filed against Perry Noble‘s New Spring Church.
  • Also on the subject of lawsuits, at the end of December a court weighed in on the dentist who fired his assistant for being too ‘hot.’  Dan J. Brennan offers a Christian perspective on men and women working together.  [HT: Pastoralia]
  • Michael Gungor has a very lengthy, very thoughtful essay on the state of the Christian music business. Or you can read ‘The Becky Part’ in this excerpt at Vitamin Z. You might actually know her.
  • Stanford University has an atheist chaplain — apparently that’s not an oxymoron — but Get Religion editor Terry Mattingly thinks the reporting on this misses a bigger story: What are the spiritual needs of atheists?
  • Without books like Heaven is For Real at their disposal, where did Old Testament saints think they were headed after death? C. Michael Patton answers this one.
  • Mark Galli at Christianity Today provides an updated profile of Francis Chan. “I’ve got five kids (ages 17 to 1)… My one daughter had to drive on the same day that I taught my other one how to walk. So it’s a weird, weird phase.”
  • If you’re using a computer right now, you are among the world’s richest people. Congratulations! You won the life lottery. Here’s some pictures that ran here two years ago that illustrate your prizes.
  • …And January 2011 was a good month here for several reasons. If you’re new to this blog, another one you missed was this challenge to summarize the gospel in a single sentence
  • A classic book by Louis Giglio is now updated and available in paperback. I am not, but I know I AM is both the book’s rallying cry and its title. (This item was slotted here before item #2 was added late Tuesday night!)
  • Never thought of this one.  With all the gay-friendly churches out there today, do gays really need their own denomination?  A look at the Metropolitan Community Church movement.
  • Meanwhile, a Roman Catholic church in London has ended their gay-friendly service. “Archbishop Vincent Nichols said in a statement that gay Catholics should attend Mass in their local parishes rather going to separate services.” So it’s about the parish system.
  • Sometimes when someone does something silly we jokingly say, “Are you off your meds?” But mental illness is a serious problem that the church needs to be more aware of.
  • The Christian Post weighs in on the thorny issue of how much pastors get paid. Some salary quotations are comparing apples and oranges.
  • A new generation of video game designers wants to launch a new generation of video games that aren’t lame.
  • Do you reach out when new neighbors move in? Here’s a brilliant essay with everything you need to know about how not to do this. Or maybe you’ve already done something like this.
  • Finally, a video for a song from Chris Tomlin’s new — released yesterday — album, Burning Lights, gives us weekend guitar players onscreen guitar fingering charts to play along.

Mrs. Goliath - Cuyler Black

August 2, 2012

The Value of Words

At this blog and at Christianity 201, I frequently re-blog material from other writers, sometimes in part, but at C201, usually in whole. Only once in a combined 3,000 posts at both have I ever had an author request their material be removed.

But heaven help me should I decide to use a comic or a cartoon here without permission. You may have noticed that the Wednesday Link List is not adorned with as many comic panels as it once was. I don’t know if the cartoonists are as litigious as the people who own rights to photographs, but their “permissions” pages are rather threatening and I don’t need the added tension.

Cartoons and comics take more technical savvy than just sitting at a keyboard typing words. It either requires expensive software or a drawing table with many types of pens and markers. But does the technical sophistication mean the finished cartoons are somehow worth more — and to be protected more — than the ideas and concepts conveyed in words?

Local churches increasingly use clips from popular movies to illustrate a sermon point or draw in listeners. Those movie clips have to be licensed for public performance, even if they’re only 90-seconds long. But the same churches that pay fees to show a brief scene from Spiderman don’t think twice about streaming a clip of Francis Chan teaching.

Does that mean that the technical sophistication of a major film — with sounds, costumes, lighting, big name cast, etc. — gives it a value that a man simply talking on a stage to a group of teenagers does not possess?

Similarly in church we pay license fees to project the lyrics to modern praise and worship choruses. I have no problem with this, and encourage churches to join CCLI. Better safe than sued. But then later, in the sermon,  the pastor’s onscreen notes will include several slides’ worth of an excerpt from a book by Max Lucado or N.T. Wright.

The books are actually subject to copyright, but no pastor ever thinks twice about copying out a couple of pages of text for use with PowerPoint or printed out for a sermon outline or for quoting in the church newsletter. Does that mean that worship song lyrics are somehow worth more than an author’s prose?

What I’m saying here is that I think we tend to worship the product of more complex technology more than the more simple rendering of straight talking or written text.

By so doing, we ascribe more value to things drawn, composed, acted out, etc., than we ascribe to the power of words.

April 18, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Welcome to WLL #100 !!  The list lynx is back for the party.

  • Okay, the story of the church in Corpus Christi, Texas that gave away cars and flat-screen TVs on Easter Sunday is so incredibly stupid that I absolutely refuse to link to it.
  • How much information is too much for six and seven-year-olds when the subject at hand is VBS stories of the persecuted church from the files of Voice of the Martyrs?
  • Here’s the Christian movie you didn’t hear about: The Church Team is a group of very astute gamblers who use their skills for good and not for evil. The film is The Holy Rollers. [alternate link for preview]
  • A woman with eight kids takes a very different look at the subject of how many kids to have and comes up with a very balanced answer. For some, maybe two is too many.
  • Author David Gregory changes publishers for the third book in the Perfect Stranger brand, Night With A Perfect Stranger.  You can enjoy a free .pdf download of chapter one at this link.
  • Cross Point Church (Nashville) Executive Director Jenni Catron shares the church’s seven staff values.
  • And do you know a new pastor just starting out?  Trey Morgan has 21 tips for a young minister, from a not-so-old minister.
  • Jamie Wright continues looking at the liabilities of short term missions: “Where Jesus appointed, we take volunteers. Where Jesus sent pairs, we send herds. Where Jesus admonished for danger and quiet humility along the road, we opt for vacation destinations and loud self-congratulations.” Amen to that.
  • The latest Top 200 Christian Blogs list is out, but once again, finishing at #201 as I’m sure we did, you won’t find this one listed.
  • Phil Johnson: “It’s my conviction that the worst, most persistent hindrances to the advance of the gospel today are worldly churches and hireling shepherds who trivialize Christianity.”
  • An update from Donald Miller on how the Blue Like Jazz movie is doing at the box office.
  • It’s been five years since BC cartoonist Johnny Hart left this earth, and blogger David Rupert reminds us of Hart’s great conversion story.
  • Looking for the perfect getaway?  You could always rent the home of Robert A. Schuller and his wife Donna for $700/night or $5,000/week which includes continental breakfast.
  • If you sponsor a child through Compassion, here’s what your sponsored child would like to know about you.
  • I finally got to hold a copy of The Voice complete Bible in my hands this week. It’s a really, really different type of translation.  Here’s a passage from Proverbs; I never knew Lady Wisdom was so attractive.  Here’s more about this unique version came to be.
  • UK cartoonist Dave Walker has created another repository for his unique gifts. Check out Dave Walker’s Guide to… which will featured non-church-themed musings. Of course, for everything else there’s the blog we know and love.
  • John Fischer blogs on the “God believes in you” theme that got me in a lot of trouble here when I tried to reiterate Rob Bell’s version of it. Let’s have another go.
  • Kurt Devine steps into a Malaysian brothel only to find that the stereotypical customer isn’t a middle-aged businessman, but someone more like himself.
  • Agitators at Indiana University try to shut down Douglas Wilson’s two lectures on sex and culture, but the show must go on.
  • And now it’s time for… Devotional Apologetics for Scientists, Engineers and Math Geeks. Enjoy Dark Matter and Layered Assumptions.
  • Tween Mania Department: It may not be The Disney Channel, but your 10-16 year olds can audition to be part of iShine this Friday in Nashville.
  • Because People Want to Know Department: Do you and your spouse go to bed at the same time?  Pete and Brandi Wilson do.
  • Speaking of which, of the writing of rather explicit books on sexuality for Christians, there is no end. Here’s an introduction to Canadian author Sheila Wray Gregoire, author of The Good Girl’s Guide To Great Sex, from her blog To Love, Honor and Vacuum.
  • Here’s a 3.5 minute conversation with God on the subject of prayer from Worship House Media uploaded to GodTube. I love the concept; hope the audio is fixed by the time you visit.
  • Not exactly the deepest list ever here, but… have your suggestions in by Monday night for next week’s list.

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