Thinking Out Loud

July 18, 2018

Wednesday Connect

A shorter list this week, as we’ll be taking our first ever break from the blog in a few days. The above image is from yet another Calvinist cartoonist, Reftoons. Click image to link. Them Reformers love them their comic panels.

► Essay of the Week: Given concerns about the role of patriarchy in Bible translation, which version of the scriptures is the best

► Provocative Headline of the Week: “Clergy Consider Handing Out Morning-After Pill in Church.” “The thing most of us have been talking about is to encourage the use of medical technology, the morning after pills and very good new drugs. We need to get some wise pharmaceutical company to make money off distributing them so people don’t need abortions, and/or smuggling the drugs in from Mexico and Canada. There are already very interesting groups of women my age feeling we could take the risk of loading up our vans to take road trips and give them out at churches.” 

► Misleading Headline of the Week: “UK refuses to accept any Syrian Christian refugees in latest statistics.” Yes, statistics can be spun. The article actually reads, “The newly obtained statistics revealed that the UNHCR (UN High Commission on Refugees) recommended 1,358 Syrian refugees for resettlement in the UK of which only 4 were Christians. The Home Office agreed to resettle 1,112 of these (82 per cent) all of which were Muslims and refused all recommendations of Christians.” So the headline is correct, but it simply means the 4 people weren’t part of the package.

► The revolt in the UK you didn’t hear about last week: “Bus ads promoting an upcoming evangelistic festival with Franklin Graham in England were pulled in response to outcry from LGBT communities.” A petition is circulating calling for him to be banned from the UK altogether.

► Clay Scroggins and John Crist. Together as they were meant to be… 

► …Okay, actually, the thing on the Zondervan YouTube channel I intended to feature was this 6-minute preview of the study curriculum based on The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

► From our own archives: My son, the engineer in training takes an analytical view on Calvinism and Arminianism, circa 2013.

► Parenting – The role of Fathers: Missed this on Father’s Day as Philip Yancey pays tribute to Frederick Buechner, followed by a short book excerpt on fatherhood

► Another Denominational Fracture: “Windsor Village United Methodist Church of Houston, which has approximately 18,000 members, …a predominantly African-American megachurch in Texas, says it might leave the United Methodist Church amid the denomination’s ongoing debate over issues like homosexuality and same-sex marriage.”

► It’s not exactly the latest fad to hit Christian culture because it’s been around too long for that; but there’s no denying that everyone is currently nuts about The Enneagram

► New Music ♫ Francesca Battistelli’s “The Breakup Song.”

► Chuck and Andy’s Boat Tour: Charles Stanley and Andy Stanley recently wrapped up another Alaska Cruise. (Twitter pic) 

► Finally, from the first sentence, you get an idea of the improbability: Fan Fiction: Pastor Justin Bieber and Homeschoolers in Space. (Of course it’s Matthew Pierce; who else?)  

Book and Music Highlights:

Last week’s top clicks:



July 11, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Remembering: Psalm 91 was always one of Maggie’s favorites. Click image to link.

This was a week where we were consumed by concern for a boys soccer team in Thailand. At the same time as Christians were praying for the Wild Boars team, many were crediting their Buddhist meditation for keeping the boys calm in the middle of the storm. Does it matter which religion gets the credit? I’ll leave that for another blogger to take on! 

Here are this week’s articles which I chose just for you. Take the time to select a few and dive in!

Billboard magazine updates this chart regularly. It shows song titles, not albums; airplay, not sales.
Click the image to see all 50 of this week’s most active Christian songs.

► A much better TULIP: This is the article also referenced in Dee’s tweet below. It’s included twice here so nobody misses it. “…Sometimes it can seem like the safest thing to do with a new Calvinist is lock him in a cage for a few months (perhaps even a couple years), until his spiritual maturity can catch up to his newfound theology. The ‘doctrines of grace’ are explosive — first mind-boggling and then, if they truly take root, inevitably life-transforming. When they land on a young and restless person, they can make him a kind of liability for a season…Maybe we could use a second TULIP to pair with the first. What might it look like to encourage young Calvinists — and all of us — to the kind of spiritual virtues that should accompany the biblical theology…” You know Thinking Out Loud has come full circle when our first link today is to the Desiring God website.

► Essay of the Week: Scot McKnight’s second piece on the mess at Willow Creek is in many respects much better than the first. This time he looks at the management structure of churches like WCCC and why he feels it was absolutely necessary for the people involved to go to media such as The Chicago Tribune. “Willow’s process, however, lacked the wisdom of denominations or outside unbiased voices and its process was profoundly imperfect and corrupted.” Beyond the analysis, there is some implicit advice here that may apply to the place where you worship.

► A different type of church service: With Andy away, North Point campus pastor Clay Scroggins launched a 3-week series based on the movie Wonder. But this service is different, based on an entirely different paradigm which is more like a multi-media presentation. (Watch at least the first 15 minutes to get the idea.) 

► On an entirely different end of the video spectrum, “No Alcohol, No Musical Instruments, No Voting: Montana Mennonites Share Their Life.” After driving to Portland and passing through Montana, this documentary filmmaker spent some time with a Mennonite husband and wife and their four kids, leaving with hours of interview footage which was edited down to 22 minutes.

► With the first one now graduated from high school, blogger Tim Challies reviews (again) his (and his wife’s) decision to send their child to public school, when so many in their tribe prefer Christian schools or homeschooling.

► Apparently The Babylon Bee does NOT like satire, when it’s their own website being spoofed; as the folks at The Babylon Cee discovered when they were hit with a Cease and Desist Order.

► Michael Brown talks to Andy Stanley about the latter’s latest controversial message, on “un-hitching” Christianity from the Old Testament. (50-minute video podcast.)

► Inclusion here does not imply endorsement. Systematic theology guru Wayne Grudem offers a Biblical argument for the morality of building a border wall

► Church closings in Minnesota: “Church was a bedrock of daily life. Its absence leaves a large gap — spiritual, social, emotional — that for many seems almost impossible to fill.” And this quote: “It’s not uncommon for me to hear, ‘We had a funeral last week and the congregation had to revise its budget…’” An entire way of life disappears in this northern state.

► Illustration of the Week: A tale of two captains; a boat captain and an airplane captain who took two very different approaches to an emergency situation.

► This isn’t a faith-focused link, but I believe it’s helpful for those who want to know where the current technology is taking us. The CEO of search engine explains how his company remains profitable when not tracking individuals as does Google, which now has trackers on 76% of all websites.

► The Episcopal Church in the U.S. may end up spending as much as $8 million to update their prayer book with more inclusive language.

► A great writer and reporter, Jonathan Merritt has left Religion News Service, following a number of other departures. (Just me talking, but Merritt and Katelyn Beaty could spearhead an awesome news gathering organization.)

► CBS is burning off the remaining, never-seen episodes of Living Biblically on Saturday night (and one on the 21st) after canceling the series based on A.J. Jacobs’ bestseller.

► Getting to know your cousins: “In his classic book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis compares Christendom to a large hall in a house ‘out of which doors open to several rooms.’ These doors represent the traditions and branches of historic, orthodox Christianity; a follower of Christ may open a door and find behind it a chair and fire with which to make oneself comfortable… Curiosity is just generosity plus energy. Aren’t you a little curious who shares this “great hall” with you? What similarities and passions you might share with your neighbors in the faith? What distinctives and cultural quirks you might learn from? What new friends you might discover?” A new series is introduced at the blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  

► Interest groups in Canada caught in the crossfire of the “attestation clause” in their summer job grant applications are now taking action against the federal government. Example: “Sarnia Concrete makes concrete… The government is forcing them to take a position on something they don’t have a position on.”

► The Calvary Chapel Association conference started yesterday following a split in the organization created by Chuck Smith. Michael Newnham writes,”These are the true believers, the ones who preach chapter by chapter, verse by verse through Numbers and Leviticus, the ones who preach the pre tribulational rapture of the church, then have conferences about the pre tribulational rapture of the church… They will invoke the founders name and pray for his ailing widow because without wrapping themselves in his mantle they are mere mortals, simply power hungry schismatics who took their toys and went home.” But hey, Michael, tell us what you really think!

► Opinion Piece: Does the number of Christian denominations — 40,000 or so — grieve the heart of God? “I think you could mount a good case for a small set of core beliefs being important, but the diversity in the world and among people suggests God likes diversity.”

► Happy 10th Birthday to the YouVersion Bible app. “The app, which initially launched with 15 versions and two languages, has since partnered with publishers and Bible societies to offer more than 1,700 different versions of the Bible, including Bible text in more than 1,200 languages.”  ❿

► The Canadian Bible Society is reinventing the way we imagine Christian bookstores.

► LifeWay research claims that our loyalty to our local church has little to do with music or the preacher’s powerful rhetorical abilities. Rather, it’s all about the theology.

► A prankster with 2.2 million YouTube subscribers, and 361 million YouTube views. That’s Justin Stuart. But look closer and his “about” page says, “All the Glory goes to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Faith Today’s youth magazine Love Is Moving caught up with Justin.

► The investigative site, Spiritual Sounding Board takes a different tone on weekends, when Kathi presents “Sunday Gathering” which always includes scripture readings two music videos. In this week’s post, she introduced us to Urban Doxology performing Father, Let Your Kingdom Come.  ♫ 

Four Christian movies releasing in the second half of 2018.

► A classic: Nice to see this song by J. J. Heller reach a million views on YouTube. ♫ 

► The Biebs’ fiancée Hailey Baldwin speaks out on her faith. Well, at least she did in 2016, and Relevant Magazine had it on file. 

► Finally, it was satire, but many took it seriously.

To the tune of “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” —

July 4, 2018

Wednesday Connect

July 4th: A day to gather round the red, white and blue.

F O U R T H  o f  J U L Y  E D I T I O N

► Should Christian churches observe Canada Day or the 4th of July? “[W]hen you add that patriotic song, display that flag, or invite that politician to offer a special word to your church gathering, you risk working against the Great Commission. Jesus commissioned us, ‘Go into all nations.’ That means he was establishing a people not bound or defined or constrained by this world’s national borders. He was building something multinational.”

► The more wealth a nation accumulates, the less it depends on prayer. I guess they don’t need God at that point. However, the United States is a glaring exception, with a huge GDP and high incidence of daily prayer. (Click the image to see full size. The link to Pew Research takes you to full 97-page .pdf of the full report.) 

► Essay of the Week: Recent events are nothing new. “We have a dark history – a sordid, sinful pattern even – of taking children OUT of their families.” The author then lists these:
African-American children
Native American children
The Stolen Generation
Orphaned Children
Refugee children
“…It is time to turn away from this pattern. It is time to repent.” 

► Illustration of the Week: “Las Vegas, the consummate sinner’s town… a deeply broken place where people get really messed up. But we can put aside our moral misgivings and choose to look at the gambling dens with more missional eyes. We might ask, what is the person who is sitting at the slot machines really searching for? Perhaps it is the search for redemption but in the wrong place. It is the belief that to win the jackpot means to be changed and transformed into a new life. This search might also be driven by a now pathological need to take risks because life has lost its sense of real adventure.” Author Alan Hirsch on how the Gospel addresses Las Vegas’ issues.

► Will a change at the U.S. Supreme Court trigger a new hearing on Roe v. Wade

► “Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland, believes that babies shouldn’t be baptized. To baptize an infant, she said, “imposes lifelong obligations of obedience to the Church’s Magisterium.”
In an interview with the Irish Times, McAleese expanded upon her objection, calling the children “infant conscripts.” There has to be a point, she said,
“…at which our young people, as adults who have been baptized into the church and raised in the faith, have the chance to say, ‘I validate this’ or ‘I repudiate this.'”
Is it just me or does this sound a lot like adult baptism or confirmation? 

► For the Mothers: That moment where you realize you’re becoming your mom aka The Mom Curse.

► Parents, kids and smart phones: “It’s difficult to say how many kids are pushing digital boundaries this way, not least because the whole point is to escape adult detection. Social media accounts are easy to establish and discard. Particular apps also rise and fall out of favor among teens with lightning speed, making them a moving target for researchers…Parents are clearly outmatched. Exposed to tablets and smartphones at an increasingly early age, kids are correspondingly savvier about using them and easily share tips with friends. Parents, by contrast, are both overwhelmed and often naive about what kids can do with sophisticated devices…”   

► In a black-and-white world, Chaplain Mike calls himself “a both/and person.

► He describes this 58-minute message as “the most compelling call to mission sermon I have ever heard.” Location: Sydney, Australia. Speaker: Michael Ramsden from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

► The Druids were out in New York again for Summer Solstice, but for a better NYC experience, there’s always Manhattenhenge on July 12 and 13. Here’s a unique Catholic perspective from a pastor whose church windows captures some of the effect.

► On the short list for the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy is Amy Coney Barrett, a charismatic Catholic.

► Does your church have a philosophy of food? A statement-of-faith type of item on the importance of food? Vancouver’s Christ Church Cathedral spells out the connection between faith and food in no uncertain terms…  

► …which, although I wasn’t intending this is a great opportunity to link you to this sermon from a few weeks ago by John Mark Comer on the topic of Hospitality: Eating and Drinking Together. (Listening to parts of this one-hour sermon for the 2nd time!)

► Religion Dispatches, a news source from which we derive many items here, is now part of Rewire.News

► His book pulled from one publisher after a marital affair, Tullian Tchividjian’s book is now being published by Fortress Press.

► Hyperbole? This article from Fox News suggests that contemporary worship music — Bethel Music is mentioned — is leading us into the next Great Awakening… 

► … Or consider this rather tongue-in-cheek piece which also had Bethel Music in view. 

► On a more upbeat music subject, why had I never heard of AccuRadio before? The Christian music page offers 15 Christian music channels. Streaming playlists allow you to skip to the next song. Creating an account allows you to vote on songs. This could be the best thing online you discover this week. ♫♫♫

► Testimony Time: “While our daughter was in school, we still weren’t sure about [Grenville, SC’s Evangelical Institute] for our last child, because he wasn’t academically inclined… Heart-breakingly, this son also wasn’t a Christian and was willing to say so… [O]ur son decided he was willing to go. ‘This is God’s last chance to show up in my life,’ he said to me. We told him not to pretend to be a Christian when he applied, but to be honest with the dean of men. He was, and he was conditionally accepted…” 

► Canada Calling: A graduate of Trinity Western University in Canada offers her opinion on that country’s recent Supreme Court decision effectively denying that institution a law school.

► The 22-year old daughter of Lysa TerKeurst discusses the pain of her parent’s divorce.

► Chris Tomlin introduces his forthcoming album, Resurrection Power releasing late September.

► Finally, in an item I’m sure is totally unconnected to the previous link, we return to the blog Ponder Anew for A Prayer for Those Forced to Listen to Contemporary Christian Music in the Car.

Sadly, this adult-oriented animated TV show, What Would Jesus Do?, is probably coming to TV networks in Europe soon. Click the image to read the story at

June 27, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Isn’t this the very thing every preacher said you would never see? From our friends at Happy Monday. Click to link.

A shorter list this time. This week we’re using a slightly different formula to come up with our featured stories and articles. Let me know what you think.

► Yesterday morning, a former member of David Berg’s Children of God cult — now known as The Family International — spoke at length on NBC-TV’s Megyn Kelly Today about her ordeal. Listen and watch Christina Babin’s story. (Contains explicit discussion.) 

► The science of life: This article on when life begins should be a real boost to pro-lifers. (The subject of the article, Dr. Tracey Wilkinson, is not related.)

► Things pastors deal with: “By the time you read this, I’ll know how the story turned out. I know the decision and the timing. A person has a brain that is dead. And people who love that person are wrestling. With God, with tests, with dreams.”

► Things children’s ministry workers deal with: “With the news of children taking their lives because of being bullied, I want to talk about how we in Children’s Ministry can take a stand against bullying.”

► Pastor to Pastor: “Nearly 800 New York Catholic priests received a message about how to maintain their moral integrity from Pastor Rick Warren, who used Scripture passages and his experiences from 40 years as an Evangelical Christian pastor, to speak personally to fellow pastors. His talk, “Maintaining the Moral Integrity of the Ministry to Which God Has Called Us,” was delivered… June 6-7… A report on the address said the temptations ministers face can be boiled down to passions, possessions and positions

► Update: I had to add this item mid-morning, as the title is rather captivating: Why Are the Religious More Fertile? (The answer is somewhat surprising.)

► Churches are stepping up to help communities deal with the affordable housing crisis. In Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Hughson Street Baptist learned that when you’re serving the broader community in this way, there are benefits to your local church congregation, but don’t expect a huge (or any) return on investment.

► Most provocative book title: The Devil’s Music: How Christians Inspired, Condemned, and Embraced Rock ‘n’ Roll. The author argues that Pentecostal worship gave birth to rock and roll, which of course provided the basis for today’s modern worship. Full circle we have come.

► A world away: “Scores of people died in central Nigeria during vicious weekend clashes between mostly Muslim herders and Christian farmers, with one report citing police saying 86 people were killed. By some accounts, the growing conflict over resources has become deadlier than Nigeria’s Boko Haram extremist insurgency.”

► A hymn for social justice: “When Jesus Went To Egypt.” Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, the writer of this new hymn (sung to the tune of “O Sacred Head Now Wounded”) has seen children screaming as they have been taken from the arms of those they love. The song is free to churches who are supporting immigrant families.
When Jesus went to Egypt,
Safe on his mother’s arm,
His parents stayed beside him
To keep him safe from harm.
And when they crossed the border,
They were allowed to be
Together – seeking refuge –
A Holy Family.
…Link here for print music.

► Worship Workshop: “Lament is a biblical way to process grief. It gives us the opportunity to face and name our pain and then to create space for future hope—all without glossing over tragedy. It allows us to cry and rage and even protest life’s difficulties to God and others without fear of judgment…That’s why we recently added a corporate prayer of lament to our public worship. It’s not a weekly dirge, but an honest, biblical cry we pray every few months to express our grief over the suffering in this world and in our lives. It’s been invaluable.  

► Finishing off our music trilogy here, I thought we’d give you something completely different this week: A choral group from West Coast Baptist College sings “The Cause of Christ.”

► The cake baker won his round with the Supreme Court, but the case of the florist in Washington state is going back to the state level. The florist is quoted: “I serve every customer that comes into my shop, but the government is trying to force me to create artistic expression that violates my beliefs.” The baker’s case was decided in such a way as to not set a precedent, so these things will continue to drag on.

► New blog of the week: Muddy Shoes. Tag line “Life Gets Messy – But There is More To It.” 

► This is not in the least a faith-related story, but it shows the mentality of people using the internet in general and social media in particular. When Sarah Huckabee Sanders was refused service at The Red Hen restaurant in Virginia, ten other completely unrelated Red Hen restaurants were the object of people flying off the handle and posting negative reviews and nasty comments. I’m not sure why people thought the White House Press Secretary was in Ontario, Canada or Muntinlupa City, Philippines. That’s a long way to go for dinner. (Let’s start a rumor she took Air Force One.) People need to check first. (“Quick to listen, slow to speak;” as Andy Stanley has been preaching for the past 4 weeks.) You really should have to pass an intelligence test to get on the internet.

► Creative: A 15-second visual illustration of God’s perfect timing

► Quite convinced I need new glasses after straining to read this, but this infographic on the influence and comparative size of world religions is worth a look.

► Catching up with Rob Bell in advance of his UK and Ireland tour.  

► Mentioning things here does not imply endorsement. I don’t know quite what to make of this long, long open letter to Vicky Beeching following the release of her coming-out story published by HarperCollins. Some of the comments are charitable. I just wonder if Vicky will ever see this, or if articles like this only serve the blogger’s immediate readership.

► The priest in this location-unconfirmed baby baptism definitely appears to slap the baby who won’t stop crying, despite being told by members of the audience that it was inappropriate. This is really disturbing to watch

► Finally, you’d think the one celebrated case of a fresco restoration would be a warning to art-restorers worldwide. Nope. This time it was a statue, also in Spain. “As news about what happened spread, Twitter users likened the St. George statue to Tintin or to a Lego character.”  (see below)



June 20, 2018

Wednesday Connect

A spinoff product for Brant Hansen’s Blessed Are the Misfits book, or just a coincidence?

Usually the pictures and graphic images we open and close with have an element of humor to them, but I wanted to share this because I think this pastor — who I happen to know — has touched on something that doesn’t get discussed enough.

I know this is a theme which resonates with so many. Over and over again I hear of sons and daughters who grew up in Sunday School, but are now far from the Church, with many also far from God. I like what Ewen’s church is doing here and I think more churches need to think of ways to mobilize prayer. Also, if that’s you and you know someone in a similar situation, offer to become prayer partners for this particular concern. 

Now we resume regular programming:

.► Canadian Christians are still reeling from the decision in the Trinity Western University Law School case, which we covered here extensively on the weekend. “A portion of Christian freedom of expression loses big time in this ruling, which implies that in Canada, sexual identity trumps religious identity.” 🇨🇦

► An American looks at Canada’s Supreme Court decision in the Trinity Western University law school case: “Here’s why we’ve been raising our voices for so many years and why we’ve said that those who came out the closet want to put us into the closet. It’s why we’ve said that LGBT activism was never simply about ‘tolerance’ – it was about the silencing of competing views.” 🇨🇦

► Just my opinion of course, but I think social justice advocate Danielle Strickland is the hottest news on the rack right now. Just a few weeks after her Sunday at Willow Creek, she was back there for a Wednesday night, speaking on Zephaniah. Watch the entire sermon as I did and enjoy.

► Essay of the Week: Arrested Development is “an illustration of what theologians call generational sin…Is sin passed from generation to generation, or are we each responsible for our own actions? The answer is “both and,” a painful truth illustrated by Arrested Development. We are shaped by our families. Every family, from the Cleavers to the Bluths, is dysfunctional to some degree. We all inherit sinful ways of seeing the world, relating to each other, and understanding God. This is why Jesus insists his Church is a spiritual family, one that even supersedes our biological families.” An essay in making the body of Christ a family for those whose own is stuck in Arrested Development

► Churches and Social Media: If your church is pursuing Millennials, having a Facebook account may not be helpful. But having one on YouTube, Snapchat or Instagram means you’re going to have to have the resources to maintain it and post frequently.

Winning the 2018 Generation Award at the MTV Movie and TV Awards, Chris Pratt had three faith-filled points, but also two or three which I felt took away some of the impact from those. Hear his 4-minute ‘sermon,’ in full

► Small Group 2011 Flashback: The writer of the majority of the piece wrote the words 7 years ago. The title earns our ‘provocative’ award: Why Churches Should Euthanize Small Groups. (Not new, but 2nd most popular post at Sermon Central.) 

► If you’re looking up your family tree and mailing your spit to doesn’t do it for you, it’s a well-known fact that the best authority on who married or begat who in North America is the Mormon church. Now comes word that their genealogical database will begin recording same-sex marriages.

► There have been many recent discussions about the contagion associated with suicide. Roger Olson looks at the question, ‘Is Suicide Sin?’

J. D. Greear

► After being elected the 62nd President of the Southern Baptist Church, J.D. Greear writes at his personal blog that his prayer for the SBC is for greater humility and greater hope… 

► … However, did everyone at The Summit Church, where Greear is the pastor, realize they were attending a Southern Baptist church?*

► … In less stellar SBC news, an all-white church has been kicked out of the denom for incredibly strong racist attitudes toward a black church with which they were sharing facilities and partnering for the purpose of guaranteeing their long-term survival after having dwindled from 250+ members to only 20. Perhaps now we know why people weren’t attracted to that particular congregation.

► If you can’t get enough of Hobbits and Middle Earth, here’s a website dedicated to all things Tolkien: Check out Kaitlyn Facista’s Tea with Tolkien.

► Church membership covenants, a membership roll, or just showing up each week? Scot McKnight raises the point and even though this article becomes a book teaser, it’s worth considering.  

► “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” That’s the working title of an address I am giving next month, so you can imagine my reaction in seeing this article. Inevitably, when the story is told of how things went south in a person’s life, it often begins with the time they met _____________ .

► Decriminalizing blasphemy: In Ireland, “any utterance or the publication of indecent, blasphemous or indecent matter is regarded as an offense.” The country wants to remove this crime from its constitution

► Fixed Prayer Times: On a more serious note at Reddit (than the item we end today’s list with) someone asked if Muslims are the only religious group having fixed prayer times. These short answers are actually quite helpful, especially reading them altogether.

► If it’s true what people are saying, at this time you should probably read this. (Doesn’t sound very forceful, does it?) A look at three phrases which reflect weak leadership

► Don’t think we run enough Catholic items here? Last night I rediscovered Big Pulpit. (It’s like Real Clear Religion but with more items and each one having a Catholic connection.)

► The sister of gospel music singer Kirk Franklin has been sentenced to 30 years in a Texas prison.

► Worship Leading: “Have you ever had someone on your music or tech team that you hoped God would call to the mission field? Or Toledo? Or just anywhere but your church?” 5 Preventative measures to keeping what the author calls “the crazies” off your team.

► The number of LGBT employees at the BBC is four times the national average. Also, “Almost one in 50 of the corporation’s staff identifies as transgender, but in the general population, only one in every 14,000 people has legally changed sex. The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director Ciarán Kelly said the news was further evidence of the BBC’s ‘obsession with political correctness’.”  

► “Let my building go!” — It could be the only way to keep the church alive is to jettison the historic real estate that’s holding you back

► In the artist spotlight on Jon Rivers’ show is Pat Barrett, with the song, The Way (New Horizon) also available in a 7-minute version from Housefires. ♫

► Releasing June 29th, this new Hillsong Young and Free video from the album simply titled III, shows the musicians in a very digital environment. ♫

► Religion Problems – 2018 Style: When you partially identify as Pastafarian and you want to get your new drivers license picture taken with a colander on your head but (a) you can’t find one that fits, and (b) you have to first prove you’re Pastafarian. Assuming you can find one that fits for next time, how do you prove you’re part of the fringe religion?

It would be nice to think that a year from now, when people scroll by this, they will have forgotten what the panel below was all about. Others will say it’s already too late for that, what’s happened is now seared into history. Either way, I love what David Hayward, aka Naked Pastor has done with this news topic. Click here to link.

*J.D. Greear video: We take no responsibility for the speaker damage that may occur when auto-play sends you to the video which follows. (If you have a blog, don’t use whatever video embed thingy that is.) Auto-play is destroying families and lives and must be stopped. Join the campaign by sending your money to me, or calling 1-800-STOP-IT with your pledge.

June 13, 2018

Wednesday Connect

The Week That Was: Trump at the G7 meeting in Canada. To see who is featured in the picture, click this BBC News story.

Scripture Faith Christian Shirts

Several of this week’s links are from Canadian sources. Events at the G7 weren’t connected to my decision to include them, but it’s a good place to remember that we are all brothers and sisters on both sides of the border.

We try to avoid sending you to sites with annoying pop-ups. Excluded this week was Thom Rainer, whose page allows you to do nothing until the pop-ups are finished. Anyone old enough to remember the Christian blogosphere before all this nonsense started knows how frustrating it is today.

Here’s this week’s collection of stories you may not see elsewhere.

► Faced with a dying congregation, an ailing building and poor finances, this Montreal pastor shut down the church for 9 months and then reopened it as a multi-faith community center providing a home for five different churches and addressing the fact that the 20,000 sq. ft. of urban space was only being used less than 5% of the time. “When it reopened, the masses were pared down. New people started coming. Before Singh took over St. Jax, the congregation was about 30 people. Now, there are about 80 there every week.
And groups have begun to start renting the space. There have been salsa dancing, choral and tap-dancing events. Long-overdue repairs have begun.” This revolutionary approach is worth reading.

► Coming soon to a computer near you: Crowd-funding continues for what is planned to be a summer launch of what founder Steven Andrew calls an alternative to Facebook and Twitter, USA.Life

► …And on a rather similar-looking page (featuring the swearing in of President Trump in the background) an alternative to Google,  (The vision for both sites obviously ends at the U.S. border. Sigh!)

► This will be outdated by the time you see it on Wednesday, but I was still rather amazed at this article — appearing in no less than Christianity Today — calling for the election of Beth Moore for President of the Southern Baptist Convention. (Aren’t these the same guys who turned their chairs when Anne Graham Lotz spoke not so long ago?) …

► For the record, at age 45, the SBC-ers elected J. D. Greear.

► Decided this week: “Printing ‘In God We Trust’ on US currency does not force a Satanist to spread Christianity, federal judges have ruled.”  (History: The first motto challenge took place in 1970.)

► Could you pass as a Christian refugee? Swedish “officials did not believe that [Aideen] Strandsson was a true Christian because her knowledge of Christianity was apparently insufficient;” and wanted her deported back to Iran. I wonder what their test was and if the average North American Christian could satisfy them.

► So…Are there fewer weddings booked at your church this year? “Clergy are solemnizing fewer and fewer marriages. Instead, couples are turning to civil magistrates or even loved ones who obtain credentials. In 2009, 29 percent of couples had a friend or family member solemnize their wedding. That number had increased to 43 percent by 2016.” …

► …The article was based on a May article at Facts and Trends. “In 2017, 15 percent of weddings were at barns, farms, or ranches. Fourteen percent were at historic homes. Seventeen percent were at a banquet hall. Hotels (12 percent) and country clubs (12 percent) were also popular.”

► Increasingly, the term vacation is coming to mean vacation from the internet and social media. “More and more travelers seem to want to unplug. Terms like slow tourism, off-the-grid trips and unplugged travel are popping up on tourism-related sites. Travel firms have even started offering trips that require clients to leave their phones at home (or at least tucked away in their suitcases)… Ironically, resorts that once used Wi-Fi access as a selling point are now touting features that allow guests to unplug. For example, the Four Seasons Costa Rica lets guests log off by offering a 24-hour tech detox program. The luxury resort locks your device in their safe, and they provide tech-free activities such as dancing classes and boating trips.”

► When Wednesday Connect is all finished, I check Eric’s list at Phoenix Preacher to see where we doubled up (if we did) or if there’s something vital I really should include. This time around he noted that Charisma Magazine just one day apart, had two different takes on the Jesse Duplantis jet story which he heralded with this pithy one-liner with two short hyperlinks: “Charisma rag mag divided on Duplantis jet… nay, yea

► An athiest Indiegogo campaign raised 130% of its goal to place the booklet, Disproving Christianity in hotels. “I will send a petition to some of the top hotels in Los Angeles, indicating that the Bible should be accompanied be a secular equivalent. I hope the hotel owners will see that having the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, and the Bible in clients’ rooms is OK, but that we should have the opportunity to point out the discrepancies in those holy books, too.” Will the hotels be forced to give the book equal time?

► Is Junia the same person as Joanna, mentioned in Luke 8 and Luke 24? One thing’s for sure, she’s not Junius (a male name) as some would have it; in fact don’t even think of that if you ever meet this author. (For the record, she didn’t mention it either.)

► The Billy Graham era may have come and gone, but Greg Laurie is still packing in people at arenas for events such as this past weekend’s Harvest America crusade in Arlington, TX. (Link takes you to event’s Twitter feed.)  …

► …On the same day as the crusade, Greg Laurie posted his reflections on the sudden passing of CNN’s Anthony Bourdain. He compares Bourdain’s journey — raised, as he was, without religion — to his own.

► Moral failure warning signs: I’ve seen lists like this before but the five in this list contained some different indicators that are out there, such that afterwards people say, “Looking back, we see what was going on.”

► Cath Stats (Catholic Statistics): “With only 23% bothering to engage in the central tenet of that relationship, the Eucharist, it is easy to say the relationship is severely damaged. If more that 3/4 of the family doesn’t see being with the family as important, then something has gone wrong.” On the other hand, “with only 23% participation, the Catholic Church runs a vast array of schools, hospitals, and services for the poorest of the poor. We are able to do a great amount with just 23%. Imagine what could be done with 50%, or 75%, or even 100%.

► Never underestimate a young person’s desire and interest in God, the Bible and spiritual truths.The Ontario Director of the Canadian Bible Society reflects on 12 years of working with youth.

► An iconic church in Toronto has been offered the opportunity to do a land swap with a condominium developer that would also include sufficient funds to build an all new auditorium, offices and classrooms.

► Third Culture Kids (TCKs) are always discovering that Americans have an abysmal knowledge of world geography, as the opening illustration here so well illustrates.

► Poco (Good Feelin’ to Know)/Buffalo Springfield (For What It’s Worth) singer and guitarist Richie Furay pastored a Calvary Chapel in Colorado for 35 years. Retired now at 74, he’s still doing concerts.

► Parenting: “At least two new animated television shows about drag queens, one featuring children characters, are set to debut in America, drawing high concern from conservative commentators.” (Watch, if you can, a trailer for Drag Tots.)

► Christian Reggae band Christifari is back with a new music video. ♫

► Your deep theological questions answered: Seven reasons why Mennonites hold hands to pray.*

► Finally, not baking cakes for gay weddings? That’s just the start of the list this guy won’t bake cakes for, which includes just about everybody.*

*Mennonite satirical news site.

At age 91, J. I. Packer isn’t too old to cruise the J. I. Packer section in the Regent College bookstore this week, making sure his bestsellers are properly displayed. (Facebook – click to link)

Resurrected from 2013 at the Facebook page of twentyonehundred Productions, the media wing of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. (Facebook – Click to link)

June 6, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Today’s Wednesday Connect rates a 95 on the Evangometer.

This one’s from the old Theologygrams site…before the two Theologygrams books, I think.

Our goal each week is to present you with stories and opinion pieces you might not see elsewhere, but this week I had a few emails asking me not to overlook the Supreme Court decision on the (former) wedding cake baker Jack Phillips’ refusal to design a cake for a gay wedding many years ago. The two I decided to go with were actually the two which were forwarded to me, this summary of the entire case history at Baptist News, and an analysis by Skye Jethani. (The latter is a Facebook link, for which I apologize. There was a web-equivalent to Skye’s mailing list version, but the link was particular to my subscription, and Skye didn’t post to his blog.)  

Also, before you read further, we need to let you know that this was a Weekend Link List weekend. Seven items that couldn’t wait until today.

► Essay of the Week: The nature of cover-ups which protect a particular institution, and the resultant fall when the truth is exposed. “For justice to be done, the village had to be broken because the village was not a true community but was simply a made-up idea that powerful men came up with to protect their status.

► The American Bible Society “has decided to adopt such a statement [which “requires employees to embrace a host of Christian beliefs and practices”] after functioning for 202 years without one does make this development noteworthy. As the author of perhaps the only scholarly history of this storied Christian organization, I can attest that the “Affirmation of Biblical Community” represents a definitive break with the vision of its founders. It also represents the culmination of a roughly 20-year transformation of the Society from a diverse Christian organization to a ministry with strong ties to American evangelicalism.

► Technology impacting U.S. churches: After having to stop using their wireless microphones in the 700 Mhz spectrum, now the 600 Mhz band is being impacted. Yes, “…you have to do it again. In a nutshell, most of that affected wireless spectrum in the U.S. has been sold to mobile broadband and similar carriers for their exclusive use, meaning that no one else may broadcast radio signals to potentially interfere with their services. The clock began ticking last spring on the 39-month transition period to clear the spectrum, and it’s not a given that you have that entire period to react. If the purchasers start using a particular band in your area earlier, you must stop using your competing devices. Importantly, T-Mobile – a major purchaser of that 600-MHz spectrum throughout the U.S. – is already deploying and testing its new system using those frequencies in many markets. If you’re using wireless microphone systems (or in-ear monitors or intercoms) in the specific frequency bands in which they are deploying in your area, their new services legally have priority and you are obligated to stop your transmissions – with hefty fines for non-compliance.  Not to mention that the stronger signals from these 600-MHz broadband services might begin to cause interference with your Sunday service...” (Seems a bit unfair to me.)

► Canada’s national news service, the CBC, covers the story of longtime Christian blogger and pastor Jamie Arpin-Ricci who is “a father of two and married to a woman he loves deeply. He’s also bisexual and leads Little Flowers Community, an Anabaptist- and Franciscan-inspired church… In the past two years, he has opened up with his small congregation and the broader Christian community about the fact that he is bisexual.”

► What are home-schooled kids really being taught. I wish the author, himself home-schooled, had done this as a blog post, rather than a Twitter thread, but the photographed pages from a single Abeka book are very interesting, to say the least. Apparently we did a lot of good for the Africans by colonizing their homelands and bringing them here to pick cotton in nice warm climates.

► Bible Tribalism: Your current translation of choice says a lot about you, according to Scot McKnight who reminds us that, “there is a distinction between the text and a translation of the text. The authority is with the former; those who know that text are informed enough to decide about translations.” 

► Vocational ministry can be dangerous: “A Protestant pastor was killed by a crocodile during a baptism ceremony in an Ethiopian lake… Lake Abaya has lately had a shortage of fish, and the crocodiles have become aggressive toward humans, who have little chance to spot them in the lake’s murky red waters.”

► Resigning: Amid some tears on the weekend, the founder of the humanitarian organizations One Day’s Wages and the author of Overrated, Eugene Cho felt it was simply time to step down from his position of Pastor at Quest, the church he founded.

► Is he nitpicking or providing an important clarification and reminder? Stephen Altrogge says we’re not saved by faith but we’re saved by Christ. The phrase is actually somewhat lacking.

► Provocative Headline: “Why the Catholic church is ‘hemorrhaging’ priests.” The article notes that, “the pope has suggested filling the gaps in the priesthood with something markedly similar to an existing institution, the diaconate. Also known as “deacons,” these men complete a two- to four-year course and are ordained to assist priests and bishops. They can baptize, marry, preach and administer the Eucharist, but they cannot take confession. Though the concept is as old as Christianity itself – the Church traces it to the apostles – the diaconate has garnered renewed interest in recent years as priests have become scarce.”

► Ever found yourself saying, ‘Well…that’s a gray area.’ Or, ‘Scripture isn’t really clear on that.’ In this article, the author gives 6 reasons that some so-called gray areas are really quite black-and-white.

► “Christine Caine grew up revering the Bible, and even kissing the Bible, but never reading it for herself. In her family’s Greek Orthodox tradition, reading the Bible was reserved for priests. When Caine—an excited new follower of Jesus at age 22—came home with a Bible, her mother was mortified. ‘Christine, who do you think you are?’ her mother exclaimed. ‘You’re being brainwashed!'” A profile of the author’s life and ministry at Bible Study Magazine

► …from the same source, in case you wondering, the answer to the question Why the Ark of the Covenant will Never be Found.

► “Danielle Strickland is passionate about serving and loving the marginalized all over the world, at one time holding the most unusual job of acting as chaplain for brothels across Canada.” Two amazing five minute video segments

► …If that leaves you wanting to hear more of her, she recently spoke at Canada’s Peoples Church. 41 minutes, audio only.

► The Great Gay Divide: This time it’s the United Methodist Church, with the same result as others know too well. “Some conservative churches have already voted to leave, including a few of the denomination’s largest and wealthiest; their departures would mean the loss of significant financial support and raise complicated issues over how to divide up local church property, which is held in trust by the denomination.”

► (re)Defining Our Terms: A short, six-point reexamination of the idea of being “called.”

►Snopes of the Week: No, the Pope did not order white women to breed with Muslims.

► If he were alive today, C. S. Lewis would probably earn a “Farewell, C. S. Lewis” from John Piper.

► No, we haven’t forgotten you, Michael Pierce; we’re just trying to maintain a certain level of dignity now that we’re the more upscale Wednesday Connect and not a mere link list. But this one was good: The 7 People You Meet at Baptist Church Picnics. (Hardcore fans will want to read the one he posted after, though.)

► Finally (and you know this is bizarre if the Michael Pierce link isn’t the “finally”) at the Bethel Church BSSM — Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry — there is the “Drive-through fire tunnel” where “On the way into the church the 2nd year [BSSM Students] were blessing, praying for and prophesying over leaders arriving for the Leaders Advance.” See for yourself.  (This video isn’t current, but the items linked were, with the implication this is an ongoing practice.)

May 30, 2018

Wednesday Connect

From (click to link) by Kris Straub

In addition to bulletin announcements and signage, churches dealing with congregants who have perfume allergies can also place subtle reminders in musical selections.

Welcome to the 12th Wednesday Connect. Also my birthday, if that matters. Our focus is connecting you with stories and opinion pieces you might not see elsewhere. Let’s see what we found for you this week:

► Who will be your church’s next pastor? “Of all the issues the church needs to deal with in the next ten years, succession is near the top of the list. So many of the churches started in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s are led by (now) older leaders. A similar reality is also facing established churches who have had a leader in place for decades.” The writer also sees a surprising root problem: Existing pastors who are staying too long.

► How does it feel to be a guinea pig? “…It’s not that the Amish view technology as inherently evil. No rules prohibit them from using new inventions. But they carefully consider how each one will change their culture before embracing it. And the best clue as to what will happen comes from watching their neighbors. ‘The Amish use us as an experiment,’ says Jameson Wetmore, an engineer turned social researcher…”

► Going overseas involves more than buying a plane ticket. “…the existence of an issue in the world—be it social, political, humanitarian—does not mean a certain individual is called to engage it or help solve it… the call does not necessitate the readiness. Or put differently, even when we are we called, it doesn’t mean that we are prepared to go.” 

► She was the only schoolgirl kidnapped by Boko Haram who wouldn’t renounce Christianity to gain her freedom. She was discussed in meetings between U.S President Donald Trump and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. But why is CNN the only network following the story of 15-year-old Leah Sharibu?

► What happens to the blank fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls? “Back in the 50s, hundreds of scroll fragments were stored in cigar boxes. They were never analyzed because they did not appear to have anything printed on them. Why cigar boxes? They were the archaeologists’ Tupperware® containers of the 1950s…” But now, infrared technology is finding there’s writing on those fragments, some of which help complete existing texts.

► Coinciding with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Dallas, “At the For Such A Time As This Rally, women and men will be raising their voice to say, NO MORE. We must follow the example of Christ who valued and respected women in a way that was uncommon in his time.” and also this About page

► At the American Bible Society, “Employees are resigning in protest of the new policy, which will effectively prohibit sexually active LGBT people and couples in cohabitating relationships from working for the American Bible Society. But the organization stands by it…” Nine have quit so far with other departures pending. The code of conduct goes deep, requiring employees to “seek spiritual maturity through regular Bible engagement, participating in worship and prayer with others, and being involved in a local Christian church.”

► Catholic Corner: “Are we allowed to touch the Host when we receive it? And is it okay to chew it? A caller explains that when she was growing up in the Dominican Republic, she was taught that she could not touch or chew the Host during Communion. She is surprised to see people in the U.S. doing so, wonders if this is appropriate.” The Busted Halo Podcast answers Mass-related questions recorded on a live radio show.  (Even if you’re not Catholic, or don’t care about this, listen for a few minutes to what a Catholic talk radio show sounds like.)

► Literary Lane: The role of religion in the Sherlock Holmes stories.

► Practical for Parents: 3 Principles for leading family devotions.

► Provocative Headline of the Week: “The Age of Apologetics is Over.” The article continues, “Christian apologetics has plenty of traction left – for Christians. But just as the early 90s reruns of Billy Graham on the big screen across the country proved, it’s the already convinced who are turning up to to events and conferences in order to be further convinced.” 

► Are you Pro Choice? In this graphic, it means something a little different.

► I was able to get to Pennsylvania for a number of music festivals in the late 1970s where a frequent speaker was Larry Tomczak, a dynamic communicator who was converted from Catholicism in a storefront church. In this piece, he offers five issues he has and five things he would desire to tell Pope Francis.

► The Vote: “Ireland’s overwhelming vote to legalize abortion is viewed as the last main social taboo to fall in this Catholic-majority country, but the church’s hold on Irish life has been weak for some time, experts say… The referendum removed the Eighth Amendment, added to Ireland’s constitution in 1983 by the urging of the Catholic Church, that gave equal rights to a woman and an unborn child.”

► An Arab Evangelical, who also attended the April summit in Wheaton, Illinois, offers some words to American Evangelicals.  (Printed in both English and Arabic.)

► There’s still division over the lyrical motif in the worship song Reckless Love by Cory Asbury

► …but this response to a condemnation of the song by John Piper, just makes me want to say, Farewell, John Piper. (The Pipester — who I refuse to link to here — calls the song “defective.”)

► Called “a pop culture ghost” the primitive technology of Genesis Story Time — which featured 10% Bible stories on video but without sound — is hard to verify, but 2 minutes of it recently turned up. (If you’re reading this in the UK, you’ll probably compare it to Ceefax and Oracle.)

► “Artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological innovations must be so employed that they contribute to the service of humanity and to the protection of our common home, rather than to the contrary, as some assessments unfortunately foresee.” So who said that? A futurist? A leading scientist? No, it was Pope Francis! “Some observers are concerned Catholic theology hasn’t caught up with modern advancements to participate productively in the AI debate. ‘Pope Francis is absolutely right in raising the bar of our attention to technology;’ said Sister Ilia Delio, a Catholic nun and head of the science-and-theology focused Omega Center.” Other respondents look at faith and tech in this RNS story by Jack Jenkins.

► Regular CT columnist Karl Vaters says that it’s not a matter of churches trying new programs or innovations, but rather, getting better at what they’re already doing.

► Tongue-in-cheek: Why don’t restaurants advertise upfront the unique flavors they have to offer? (Hint: This article isn’t about restaurants.)

► New Worship Song: Majesty, by Collin Baxter, seen here performed live at Perimeter’s 40th Celebration.

► A top-selling book in Canada on basic Christian doctrine, (re)Union by Bruxy Cavey, pastor of Canada’s fastest growing church network, The Meeting House, now has a companion study guide.

► A few weeks late perhaps, but on his first Mother’s Day without his mom, the author of The Shack, Paul Young reflects on his loss, resulting in 60+ comments from those who understand.

► At 7-years-old, Gracie was the youngest transgender child the reporter had ever met.

► The band MercyMe claimed the top spot at last week’s Billboard Music Awards.

► Major TV networks followed the story of the student in Kentucky denied the opportunity to give his valedictory speech, just ten years before the ceremony. They say it was due to content and deadlines, but it seems more likely it’s because he is gay.

Tweet of the Week

► Oh, my! After 6+ years of relative silence, Phil Johnson, the man who knows all of John MacArthur’s secrets, is back blogging at Pyromaniacs. (Yeah, that same Pyromaniacs blog from a long time ago in an internet far away.)

► Another prosperity preacher, another offering being collected to buy him a $54M jet. (No, wait! Let’s call this out for what it is with all the zeroes: $54,000.000.00 .)

► Finally, the NRSV Pride Bible, shown below. Available in paperback and hardcover from

May 23, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Places with “Saint” in their name; sourced at the Brilliant Maps Twitter feed.

Never one for dull sermon series titles, the Church by the Glades in Florida doesn’t disappoint.

Welcome back! It was a week of ups and downs. First of all, in case you missed it, we had a Thursday Link List last week — yes, the very next day — featuring eight stories/articles you won’t see here.

► Our top item: CNN explores the intersection of Christianity and dealing with chronic depression.

► The Royal Wedding Sermon: “It was so post-modern that everyone could take their own meaning from it. Atheist, agnostic, or Christian – it didn’t matter. You could take that sermon ‘all you need is love’ and quote it in support of your own views… We were told that marriage is ‘a solemn, public and life-long covenant between a man and a woman, declared and celebrated in the presence of God and before witnesses’. But Bishop Curry does not believe that. Not only does he believe in same-sex marriage, but he has led the American Episcopal Church to go against the rest of the Anglican Communion (including the archbishop of Canterbury) so that it is now in the process of removing references to procreation and husband and wife so that the marriage ceremony can be non gender-specific. This was a traditional ceremony conducted by a man who seeks to undermine the theology, liturgy and practice of that ceremony.” …

► …Or for more, a review of the sermon by the Queen’s former chaplain. “[B]ishop Curry is a great preacher. And it will change nothing; because it wasn’t Christianity. It was ‘Christianity-lite’…

► …Or for a response to that response, this article at Premier Christianity which reminds us that this was a sermon watched by two billion people. (And that was just the estimate of the live audience; many have watched it since.)  

► Did the Billy Graham preaching gene actually skip a generation? Some say that grandson Will Graham is carrying on in more of a direct line from the late evangelist. In an Australian Christian news site, he talks about his grandfather and the challenge of having to preach one of his sermons in a movie. “The good thing was that I didn’t have to act – I only had to do what I was naturally doing anyway,” says Graham, “But what was hard was I had to preach a sermon that’s not my own.” He continues, “[Universal Studios] came back to me earlier this year and they said, ‘we actually want to make the gospel a little bit stronger.’ They said ‘we’ve already shot the movie, so we’re going to do some audio, so you’re going to go in and say these words and we’re going to overlay it with some scenes that we’ve already shot because we want to make sure that people hear a clear message of the gospel.’ When have you ever had anyone in Hollywood say, ‘we want it stronger?’”  

► On The Paulcast, Kurt Willems responds to those accusing Andy Stanley of Marcionism.  

► Winging it: “The central problem with evangelicals, as is illustrated with our ‘winging it’ approach to spirituality, is that we are unaware of our roots (especially our most toxic and problematic roots). We don’t know much about what came before us. The many denominations and off-shoots of denominations in Protestant Christianity should give us pause… In fact, as I read about the history of the evangelical movement, I was struck by how often groups split off from each other under the auspice of calling themselves ‘Christians.’ They thought of themselves as somehow preserving a pure version of the faith and didn’t see how they had any kind of bias or distinctives that set themselves apart.”

► I have long contended that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) acts as a surrogate religion in the lives of the participants I have spoken with. So this article piqued my interest. “While AA presents itself to the public as a mere program of recovery from alcoholism, it’s actually best thought of as a particular moral community, offering a comprehensive conception of how one ought to live one’s life… AA surreptitiously presents itself as a program to help one with their drinking, when, in actual fact, it’s offering a moralistic program that holds implications for much more than simply what one chooses to consume.”

► Reports are now saying that twenty Evangelical pastors were among the dead in last week’s plane crash in Cuba. (Other reports, over-shadowed by the Santa Fe shooting and the Royal Wedding noted that the American embargo with Cuba makes the purchasing of parts or better aircraft impossible.)   

► Watchdog/Investigative blogger Warren Throckmorton has left Patheos. “Patheos leadership informed me yesterday that my blog no longer fit their ‘strategic objectives.’ Since I don’t know what those are, I can’t say how I didn’t fit them…What a strange turn of events. Patheos was at the center of the Mars Hill Church and Gospel for Asia stories and now they host Mark Driscoll and K.P. Yohannan. All of the those Patheos links about Mars Hill and GFA are now erased. The content is here and archived elsewhere but admittedly, it will be harder to find.”

► In case you haven’t picked up on this, Christianity in Nigeria is quite different than where you’re reading this on so many fronts. Several Christian groups are demanding the release of Leah Sharibu, now 15-years-old who was kidnapped by the “Boko Haram Islamic terrorist group along with 109 other school girls in Dapchi in February. A federal government negotiation secured the release of 104 other girls but Leah was not released because she refused to [renounce] Islam during their weeks in captivity, according to her school mates. Five other girls reportedly died during the captivity.” The warning is that if she “dies in captivity, her death could result in ‘religious war’.”

► Rethinking the Invocation: At Patheos, David Rupert argues it might be a good time to retire this tradition at graduations, and the like. “With great flourish, the invokers often sound like the Pharisee, calling attention to a god of love and hope and joy, but rarely the God of the Bible. They are supposed to cause us to think about Divinity, to order our human business around his will. But too often, they are showcases for mediocrity and in today’s culture, invitations for mockery of God.” 

► Fuller Theological Seminary will relocate in 2021. “The cost of living in Pasadena is an increasing challenge for many of Fuller’s faculty, staff, and students. As we build a new campus in Pomona, we will have an opportunity to reimagine and reinvent Fuller for the 21st century, unencumbered by a campus that was designed for a previous era in theological higher education and in a location so costly that it limits our ability to reach many potential students. In addition to this, selling the campus in Pasadena resets the financial foundation of the seminary by eliminating all debt, increasing Fuller’s endowment, and generating seed funding for a new campus that is both high-tech and designed to foster student-to-student, student-to-faculty, and faculty-to-faculty collaboration.”

► Condensing the Conversation: Giving each approach just two or three paragraphs, the author looks at the four types of responses to the question, “What happens to people who have never heard about Jesus?”   

Bitterness: Five things it is, five ways to kill it.

► Many voices are saying that the new children’s movie Show Dogs is actually grooming children for sexual abuse. [UPDATE: This link now takes you to a drastically updated version of this story at CBN News.]

► Beyoncé Buys a Church: The 7,500 square foot church “is said to be over 100 years old and was listed for $850,000… The church…has not been active as a place of worship for believers due to members of the congregation reaching age and passing away. This New Orleans site is destined to become a tourist spot for those who are fans of the superstar from all over the world.” And then the report contradicts that with, “No word about whether Beyoncé will actually turn the church into her own, or flip the property into something else.”

► ‘Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and Matt Redman songs’ is a directive given in Ephesians 5; one author asks, “But why does this come after an exhortation not to be drunk? Perhaps I am making something of nothing, but it is not an intuitive sequence of discussion to my modern sensibility. As it turns out, however, it may be more intuitive to an ancient Greco-Roman sensibility.” A look at the music/drunkeness connection. (Part one of a two-part article.)  

► Polyglots and Pentecostals: Speaking in tongues as a political threat to Rome. A lot to consider here in four short paragraphs.

► Smoking is fairly taboo among Christians, but in the UK, Christians smoking cigars is a bit of an exception

► In praise of multi-generational churches: “In a world where kids spend 8 or more hours a day with children “their own age,” adults in the work force are surrounded by individuals who are largely their generational peers, and seniors often live in “senior only” housing, the Church is one of the few places where people of all generations have the opportunity to share space.
And in this, I am not raising my children in the church because they get to hang out with “their cohort” or go to age segregated Sunday School rooms. I am raising them in the church so they can be part of a multi-generational community in which they can be seen and known and loved, for who they are, as full and equal members of the Body of Christ.

► Adam Ford is no longer the force behind The Babylon Bee, a Christian satirical news site. His reasons are lengthy, but for one, he didn’t want to have to sell his soul to Facebook and Google to insure it’s continued success. Also his heart now lies with his news feed project, The Christian Daily Reporter.

► Film: The half hour documentary Godspeed invites you to follow the story of an American pastor whose desire to change the world grinds to a halt in a Scottish parish. An ode to simplicity, ordinariness and a slow paced life, with commentary by Eugene Peterson and NT Wright

► A year after Donald Trump’s appearance, former President Jimmy Carter spoke at the Liberty University graduation.

► Preston Sprinkle’s 13-year-old daughter wrote this. He described it: “One of the beautiful byproducts of encouraging your kids to not get on social media at a young age. They explore life with more creativity and depth. “

► FOBTs. Or if you prefer, Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (as pictured at right). England is reducing the maximum bet from a high of £100 to £2 “because of the impact on vulnerable people.” 

► Need a hug? If you’re in Fullerton, California, you could always go to HUG Church.

► If you’re single, looking for a life partner, and ‘hold to the Doctrines of Grace,’ then Sovereign Grace Singles, which we reported on a year ago, is still going strong. Because sometimes, dating just a normal, committed Christian isn’t good enough.

Communion on the Go

After 300 episodes, The Phil Vischer Podcast is now the Holy Post Podcast. Click image to link (hopefully by mid-morning Wednesday!)

May 16, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Welcome to Wednesday Connect 010. Grab your coffee and sit back and we’ll see what happened since we met last week. First, what got clicked last week? We try to keep you posted by posting the list weekly at Twitter. Also, our opening graphics today originated with our friends at The Master’s Table and their weekly feature, Happy Monday.

► First Get Religion quotes Religion News Service: “The gold standard for church leaders – the Master of Divinity – is losing some of its luster to its humbler cousin, the two-year Master of Arts… The reasons for the decline in the Cadillac degree, required by most mainline denominations as well as the Catholic Church for anyone wanting to serve as pastor or associate pastor, are many and multifaceted. One is the growth of seminaries affiliated with evangelical and Pentecostal denominations. These religious groups don’t typically require the Master of Divinity for men and women who want to be ordained.”
…Then the piece goes on to add, “Actually, a lot of Pentecostal/charismatic groups don’t require any theological degree for a lot of their pastors. Case in point: Bill Johnson, pastor of the popular Bethel Church in Redding, Calif. doesn’t have such a degree…” Excellent excerpts from the original article and analysis by Julia Duin.

► Church leaders who wouldn’t be caught dead “proof texting” a passage of scripture seem to have no problem doing the same with Andy Stanley’s sermons. Relevant Magazine gave him a platform to defend against his accusers (though nothing beats listening to the whole Aftermath series, as we did.)

► Preachers: Beware the ‘data dump.’ “The pursuit of a deep messages that are deeply edifying, can unintentionally lead to the dreaded ‘data dump.’ By now, every expositor has been warned of the ‘data dump’ sermon, and most congregants have been on the receiving end of an exegetical unloading. It is a sermon brimming with details about the context of a passage… saturated with observations about the verses… and drowning in cross-references related to the text … It is essentially a verbal commentary. The preacher has simply filled his notes with a collection of information he has gleaned throughout the week with little effort to make any connections between the text and God’s people.  

► A consequence of the #MeToo Movement: Some of you know Anne Marie Miller, formerly Anne Jackson, who wrote Permission to Speak Freely and Mad Church Disease. “One of the stories I’ve shared through my years in writing and speaking was of my sexual abuse when I was sixteen. The man who abused me was a 25-year-old youth pastor. I learned on March 20, 2018, that this man was not appropriately reported to law enforcement by the organization who investigated him internally (in 2007) and found him to have abused me. This man was also given a chance to resign instead of being terminated. Within days of me learning he was not reported, I reported him to both CPS and law enforcement. I have been working with them over the last six weeks as they conduct this man’s criminal investigation… This amount of “re-hashing” what happened has caused the trauma to resurface in my life, hitting my mental health very hard. In the last few months, I have been extremely anxious, depressed, and at times, wishing I was not alive.” Anne is asking for help on GoFundMe to raise $28,000 in treatment and counseling costs.

► A big announcement happening on Episode #300 of The Phil Vischer Podcast! But why does it say “Farewell?” And what is the Holy Post? I guess you’ll have to listen to find out.

► “A podcast about the craft of sermon preparation.” This time around, John Mark Comer share his philosophy of preaching and ministry at Sermonsmith. (57 minutes; if you don’t have that to spare this week, check out his personal study process at about 32:00 to about 37:00.)

► Important reading: “Though my husband and I have enjoyed a faithful marriage of nearly 39 years, the sexual sins of our church leaders have been like a series of boulders being catapulted into our lives at regular intervals… I’ve wondered if my husband and I were sending off some kind of beacon that drew these troubles to us like moths as though we were lamps on a summer night. I don’t wonder anymore.” While unable to provide a quick-fix, the Michele Van Loon offers her thoughts on what to do in the aftermath of improprieties and transgressions.

► An America Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop will preach at the Royal Wedding on the weekend.

The Blue Parakeet, a classic by Scot McKnight gets a second edition: “There are whole new sections, and this much-revised edition is nearly 100 pages longer than the original. New sections on reading the Bible as narrative, new material on slavery in the Bible, on science and faith, on the gospel … and more!  …Ah, yes, and the long section on women in ministry has been a highlight.”

Roger Olson reviews a 2017 book by Roger Olson in which he would argue that the Bible contains more than just theology; it contains an entire worldview.

► Catholic mothers trying to keep the kids Catholic: “Many of the good Catholic mothers I have talked to are just as bewildered. They did everything in their power to raise children in their faith only to see them adopt other religions or reject God altogether. Some say they were defeated by a culture that increasingly values the material over the spiritual, or they point to the rigidity of doctrine, failures of individual priests, sexual abuse scandals, boring services and bad music. Many blame themselves, although they struggle to say where exactly they went wrong.” As I said on Twitter on Monday, this article has implications for Evangelicals as well. I especially appreciated the part about kids seeing the male parent engaged in faith. Great in-depth writing at American Magazine.

► With all the focus on Israel and Jerusalem this week — a reminder of the prophetic significance of both — is this a bad time to mention that you missed the rapture?

► It’s been six months since a gunman killed more than two dozen people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Now, construction is beginning on a new 250-seat facility

► I love the title: Preschool Pneumatology. “We aren’t doing kids any favours by dumbing down theology to a point of meaninglessness. And, just in case you are wondering if kids need to really understand the nature of the Triune God, I would say a resounding yes, and here is why: we believe God is love. Love is communal – it is something experienced between persons. God in his very being is love, and we know God is communal his mysterious and wonderful 3-in-1 way. To take away from that reality and attempt to ‘simplify it’ is to remove something so significant to the character of God.”

► Internal link: As the song grows in popularity, here’s our own look at the song Reckless Love, posted in December.

► A different type of church planting: “Founded in 1996, Crossroads has always built on its business background. Only a small fraction of staff members have seminary training, because the church seeks diverse staff to fill roles that go beyond preaching, music, youth, and children’s ministry. While in-house graphic design and branding are nothing new for megachurches, Crossroads has a team that functions like an ad agency—stocked with designers, copywriters, project managers, public relations managers, and social media strategists…
“…At least 38 groups meet together for Crossroads Anywhere in far-flung cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, and Houston. The church spends over $100,000 a month to keep the app’s digital infrastructure running…In January, the newest Crossroads campus opened in one of the outlying Cincinnati regions where the staff had seen growing interest—and 8,000 people showed up the first weekend.”

► A comedian-turned-preacher offers pastors six things they can learn from the world of comedy.

► “The release of three Americans held prisoner in North Korea is being hailed as a sign of increased goodwill heading into next month’s U.S.-North Korea summit, but a leading group assisting persecuted Christians is imploring the Trump administration to make human rights and religious freedom an important part of the conversation as well.” World Net Daily asks, “What about Christians in North Korean labor camps?”

► Endorsed: Oprah’s website offered a Top 15 books list from the last 30 years of titles dealing with 15 life issues. #11 was from Moody Press, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

► In the UK, a voice from an unexpected source, “Transsexual people have spoken out against Government plans to make it easier to change sex. In a letter to The Guardian, seventeen transsexuals who have undergone full sex reassignment surgery said they were ‘deeply concerned’ about removing safeguards from the Gender Recognition Act.”

► …but liberal ideology is alive and well in this video for kids.

► A horror story out of Columbia. The Newsweek headline: “Nuns Tortured 60 Children by Burning Their Skin, Shoving Faces in Toilets.” The home was described as “a hell house by neighbors and local media.

► A mainstream publication reviews last month’s Lynchburg Revival organized by Shane Claiborne (and others) who noted just days before the rally when he was served with a notice of trespass from Liberty University, “I’ve been arrested plenty of times in direct actions and protests and such, I’ve been banned from places, but I’ve never been banned from a church.”

► After a brief shutdown, the Twitter account Unvirtuous Abbey is back in business.

► And then there was this text, an un-credited paraphrase of 1 Cor. 1:
“I follow John Piper.
I follow John MacArthur.
I follow R.C. Sproul.
But is Christ divided? Was Piper crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of R.C. Sproul? When we say these things are we not behaving merely in a human way?”
…It’s actually a report on potential divisions in the Young, Restless and Reformed (YRR) movement from someone who attended Together for the Gospel (T4G). 

► Friendly Atheist aka Hemant Mehta wasn’t terribly impressed by this explanation of disease by Pat Robertson. “All of this is nonsense. Some diseases come back for the simple reason that our bodies remain susceptible to them. Even certain vaccines require booster shots, right?”

► Canada’s Glass Ceiling: For the first time, a woman will become an Archbishop in the Anglican Church of Canada. Melissa Skelton will hold the highest position representing the province of British Columbia and Yukon Territory. “Skelton was raised by civil rights advocates in the Southern United States before moving to Canada and has a background in business, working in brand management for Proctor and Gamble…”

► Stephen Worthey was a senior in a freshman English class. By his own admission, not a smart person. Tormented by questions, he asked God for wisdom (James 1:5) and shares his testimony on what will become a new YouTube channel, Standardized Apologetics.  (8 minutes)

► Did a home motion-sensitive security camera capture an image of an angel in Michigan or was it a moth?

► For last weekend’s Mother’s Day in a number of countries, “Say it With a Kiss” by Amy Grant. ♫

New worship artist Anna Petrillo’s song “Joyful” releases in June. ♫

► If you like music with lyrics that repeat and repeat and repeat — inducing a trance-like state as evidenced in the video — a song from the Dallas, Texas worship and prayer ministry Upper Room, “This is How I Fight My Battles” and “Surrounded.”


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