Thinking Out Loud

March 21, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Probably not your grandmother’s idea of church: A series titled “Villains, Bad Guys and Minions” at Church by the Glades in Coral Springs, Florida. (Source: Museum of Idolatry)

You would have recognized St. Catherine without reading the caption if you owned a set of SaintCards trading cards. See the Kickstarter preview below.

Welcome to our first ever Springtime edition of Wednesday Connect, where all the cool get people get their Christian news and opinion pieces. (If you missed the first one last week, it’s here.) You can also stay in touch during the week here at the blog and @PaulW1lk1nson on Twitter. (Just remember the number one substitutes for the letter I.)

► We don’t usually lead off with a video, but this piece by Andrew Peterson, based on Revelation 5, is especially powerful. There’s also a story behind the song, Is He Worthy?

► Andy Savage announced yesterday his formal resignation from Highpoint Church following the revelation of his abuse of power with then youth-group-member Jules Woodson.

► Persecution Watch: “Over the last three years, the anti-Christian persecution in India has continued to increase.  Open Doors’ World Watch List ranked India as the planet’s 25th worst persecutor of Christians in 2015.  Yet in 2017 it was found to be the 15th biggest persecutor and, this year, it climbed to 11th place. An Open Doors spokesperson informs us that before Christians face overt physical violence—in 2016, 15 Christians were murdered in India and many more beaten and threatened—’there [is] often…a long process of re-converting them to Hinduism, during which they faced discrimination, social exclusion and other types of pressure.’ A chief cause of the oppression, according to Open Doors, is the resurrection of Hindu nationalism.  The Hindu nationalist holds that only Hinduism should be observed in India.”

► Word of the Week: Christaphobe.

► Box Office Surprise: “The third-biggest movie in America this weekend was I Can Only Imagine, a Christian movie that shares a title with a Christian song that first charted 17 years ago…The movie’s success was unexpected for some, with analysts calling it ‘the big surprise of the weekend,’ given that it didn’t screen for critics and wasn’t widely marketed.(Pushing A Wrinkle in Time to 4th place.)

► By the numbers: Comparing 2015 to 2018, a look at Roman Catholic approval ratings of Pope Francis in various categories.  (Some rather significant declines.)

► American History: “Senator [Theodore] Bilbo used that power to craft an amendment (to the 1938 work relief bill), which would have relocated 12 million American blacks to Africa. The amendment failed, but Bilbo would defend it for the rest of his life. And he would do so in the name of God. His ideas of white supremacy and racial separatism were both advanced by making extensive biblical references. He really seemed to think he had God on his side.” 

► Youth leaving the church? Peter Enns says, “They have lost interest in what amounts to a shallow, quasi-biblical expression of Christian faith, one that focuses far too much on the not yet.

► Conundrum: Jesus never told Caesar how to run the federal government, correct? But what about the Religious Right today? “Let’s put it this way: their entire purpose for existing is to tell Caesar what to do.” So it wasn’t something Jesus did, rather, as Jerry Falwell, Jr. puts it, “That’s our job.”

► Christian apologist John Lennox reflects on the life and writings of Stephen Hawking. (24 min. video.) 

► One of my favorite authors (Michael Frost) quotes one of my other favorite authors (Skye Jethani) and the concept of “Fear-vangelicals.” Frost sets it up uniquely, however: “In the conservative Australian state of Queensland it was recently decided to remove any reference to a person’s height or gender on their driver’s license. That’s actually no big deal to those of us from other states where height and gender hasn’t been included on our licenses. But among the ultra-conservative evangelicals in that state it was cause for moral outrage.

► Albert Mohler, Jr. writes that sometimes controversy is necessary. “The New Testament is not evasive, as it reveals serious and consequential controversies within the earliest congregations and even among Christian leaders. The Apostle Paul defended the gospel against compromise as he entered into a controversy with the Galatians. He inserted himself into a moral controversy as he wrote to the Corinthians. Paul faced down Peter over the issue of the Gentiles and circumcision. Jude warned of the perpetual challenge of defending the truth against its enemies. John warned of a church that was so lukewarm and uncommitted to the truth that it could not muster a controversy. The history of the church also reminds us of the necessity of controversy when the truth of the gospel is at stake.”

► Stating that, “It is my religious conviction that a male cannot have a husband,” the publisher of a local newspaper northwest of Lubbock, Texas scrubbed the name of a grieving son’s partner from his mother’s obituary. The story adds that, “The newspaper’s publisher, Phillip Hamilton, says he’s a bi-vocational Baptist pastor.” So believing that a same sex husband is somewhat of an impossibility, Hamilton leans on his conviction that, “A newspaper cannot knowingly or recklessly publish false information.”

► The Wheaton Thunder football player involved in a March, 2016 hazing incident is now suing Wheaton College for $50,000 in legal costs and damages.

► Notwithstanding everything we wrote about Christian radio here yesterday, here are few ‘new’ CCM songs: First, Freedom Hymn by Austin French (which was actually posted last September) and second, Christian rapper Zauntee’s God Taught Me (originally recorded last May and also available at YouTube in a Chipmunk version.)

► In your younger days did you ever want a major role in the class play only to be cast as a tree? Well, it could be worse: “‘Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’.’ [John 12:20-21] I wish I knew more about these Greeks. They’re the bittest of bit parts, most extra of extras, to the story of Jesus. They wander into view, tell Philip they want to see Jesus… and then we never hear of them again.”

► Regular readers of Thinking Out Loud know that for years I championed the cause of Saeed Abedini when he was imprisoned in Iran for evangelism. Sadly, as this weekend headline reminds us, things have not worked out well for the pastor since his return to the U.S.

► Admittedly, it’s an advertisement, but for free you can read Barna Research’s top five American cities in three denominational categories: Catholic, Non-Mainline Protestant and Mainline Protestant.

► Not wanting to be outdone by conventional religious broadcasters, Scientology launched its own network last Monday. (At the same source, a rather cynical review of its programming.)

► Ever wonder what the choir director is doing when he’s waving his arms? This one doesn’t have a clue.  

► Kickstarter Preview: It’s actually launching at the crowdfunding site on Easter weekend. After years of distributing their baseball-card-type saint cards through Parish schools, SaintCards is getting ready to ramp things up a notch.

► Finally, you can breathe a sigh of relief: There’s been a major breakthrough in the manufacture of Mormon underwear for women.

The latest Twitter parody account had no problem approaching 1,000 followers. @DesiringDog echoes the name of John Piper’s website.

The question all our readers are asking; see if you agree with the answer!

“So where does all this Wednesday Connect stuff leave me? Do I still have a job?”


March 14, 2018

Wednesday Connect

■ We’re back with a new name and a slightly different format which I hope will evolve and improve over the next few weeks. Your comments and suggestions are always helpful. Welcome to Wednesday Connect #001.

► The Liabilities of Christian Celebrity. This short piece was one of the most frequently mentioned article in the past few days. “This is a fickle expression of faith, one that is based not in the Gospel, but in humans who have limitations and will change. Christian celebrity culture creates in and out groups based on the collective belief in faith leaders, as opposed a universal belief in the teachings of Christ.”

► Ravi Zacharias Update: The apologist will not face any sanctions from the organization which holds his ministry credentials, The Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination and said that “available evidence does not provide a basis for formal discipline under the C&MA policy.

► Question of the Week: “Here’s one way to test the teaching you’ve received and the lenses you’ve been given: were you taught that David’s sin with Bathsheba was primarily sexual? Or were you taught that his sin was the way he abused his power?” The writer goes on, “If you were taught to view David’s relationship with Bathsheba as a consensual, sexual liaison, I believe you’ve been taught to misread the story.”

Left Behind co-author Jerry Jenkins is signed up for a new series releasing this fall. “Dead Sea Rising features Nicole Berman leading an archeological dig in Jordan to search for the first concrete sign of the biblical patriarch Abraham. During the excavation, she discovers a 4,000-year-old complex that includes evidence of Abraham and his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael.” (New Testament scholar Dr. Craig Evans is “Biblical Consultant.”)

► They weren’t trying to be provocative, but…this headline: Is Déjà Vu Prophetic or Psychic Paranormal Witchcraft? “Déjà vu is mentioned nowhere in the Bible, but one thing is certain: It is not a spiritual gift. This is not the gift of prophecy. It’s not the word of knowledge…[It] does not belong in a prophetic person’s spiritual vocabulary of God expressions. At best, it’s likely a similar memory that’s buried in your subconscious. At worst, it’s witchcraft.”

► Essay of the Week: She plunged herself into an investigation of ‘prosperity gospel’ teaching. “I followed my interest in the prosperity gospel like a storm chaser, finding any megachurch within driving distance of a family vacation… I was traveling the country interviewing this movement’s celebrities for my doctoral research… I wrote the first history of the prosperity gospel from its roots in the late 19th century to its modern mix of TV preachers..” Objectivity went out the window: “No matter how many times I rolled my eyes at the creed’s outrageous certainties, I craved them just the same.” Then life intervened and it was time for a reconsideration.

► Two Men, Two Different Paths: A look at the divide in thought which occurred between Billy Graham and Charles Templeton (with whom my father worked back in the day). 

► A Sure Cure for Low Blood Pressure: Take this 20-question Bible Doctrine and Trivia (to make it an even 20) and provided you agree with the shameless bias of its creators, you’ll get 100%. One comment: “I got an 85 but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong Biblically, just means I didn’t answer all questions according to the question-posers’ doctrine.” (Me, too!) And they don’t even give you the ‘right’ answers or tell you which ones you missed. (The “About” page quotes MacArthur. That should tell you enough.)

► Parenting: That fear and dread when you find out your child is getting a ride home from someone who is not the one you had been told would be driving.

► Karl Vaters, the patron saint of small churches guests on the UnSeminary Podcast with Rich Birch. Don’t have 35 minutes? There’s also an executive summary at the link.

► Testimony Time (1): Her husband left her and then he left God.  An inside look at the pain that resulted.

► Testimony Time (2): Convinced he had the wrong god, he quit the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and built a new spiritual foundation on what the Bible teaches. “It was important because this church, with all it’s beautiful buildings and all it’s property, in the message that sounded so similar to Christianity and terminology, it taught me and continues to teach others another Christ. A Christ that cannot save. It’s a different Jesus. It’s a Jesus that doesn’t have any existence whatsoever. It’s a Christ that cannot save…” (An interesting sidebar to this article was the discovery of

► Trouble in Domain-land? The American Bible Society controls the domain “.bible” which means deciding who gets to use it and who is doesn’t.

► One More Time!  If your church participated in the Global Hymn Sing two weeks ago, or even if it didn’t, here’s another listen to the Getty’s arrangement of Jesus Shall Reign.

► One More Time!  If your church does modern worship, you’re probably aware of the song Reckless Love which has become very popular in a short time. A few days ago, Israel Houghton offered a fresh arrangement of the song.

► A new genre of Christian Music:  They call it Christian Ambient Music. (There’s a part two to this as well.)

► Practical: 3 Steps in spotting spiritual pride; 3 steps in undoing spiritual pride.

► At the Movies: We looked briefly at the film A Wrinkle in Time here on the weekend, inasmuch as there are similarities in the way its being received by conservative Christians and that of the movie The Shack. I never got around to linking to a review however. This one, from the National Catholic Register covers it well.

► A longtime reader here who spent 30+ in marriage and family counseling recently posted this list of seven things implicit in being defined as an emotionally healthy person.

► Sadly, stories of sexual assault involving a church staff member and a teenager are all too common. What makes this one different is that charges were laid against a father and son, both working at a Baptist Church in Texas.

► Connect to More Connections: We had a “My, how you’ve grown!” moment recently when we checked the index to all the Patheos Evangelical bloggers. But don’t stop there, you’ll find an equally large number of Patheos Progressive Christian writers. (There’s more as well: Catholic and Eastern Orthodox blogs.)

► Finally, it’s that time of year again. Take a look at the contenders in the American Jesus Madness 2018 Bracket. Jen Hatmaker versus Lifeway Stores; Eugene Peterson’s backtracking versus The National Statement; and of course, Jerry Falwell Jr. versus Shane Claiborne. Many other interesting face-offs in the first round.

Spotted this week: Stephen Colbert holding “‘Doing her best’ Barbie” in a classic Godspell T-shirt

Spotted earlier this Year: The Biebs reading his Bible sans shirt.

And so it begins. This week was a transition between what was and what this column will become. Your feedback is always welcomed. Special thanks to Martin Douglas of Flagrant Regard for three of this weeks suggested items. The graphic at the top is from the UK’s Dave Walker. Click to connect. Items below are from Sacred Sandwich and Post Secret.


September 6, 2017

Wednesday Link List

For the superhero fan at your house. Click the image to learn how to order.

Again, some great articles you may have missed in the past 168 hours.

This church serves as an image for a line of Greek foods sold in a British supermarket. Lately, the cross has been airbrushed out of the picture.

August 6, 2017

Sunday Link List

An even rarer species than the Weekend Link List, the Sunday list has never been seen in the wild before. Images: Above: Wayne is a pastor in Hawaii, hence the lei (garland). Below: Click the picture to learn more about this coffee franchise whose name is inspired from a story in Daniel 3.

  • Breaking news this past week: YouTube to limit “controversial religious content.” An announcement on the official YouTube blog reads “…If we find that these videos don’t violate our policies but contain controversial religious or supremacist content, they will be placed in a limited state. The videos will remain on YouTube behind an interstitial, won’t be recommended, won’t be monetized, and won’t have key features including comments, suggested videos, and likes. We’ll begin to roll this new treatment out to videos on desktop versions of YouTube in the coming weeks…” All this in the name of “fighting terror online.” Is fear being used as an excuse?My son Aaron [ ] saw this and noted they are now “repressing content for the vague crime of being ‘controversial.'” Read the full statement on their blog.
  • Also this week, a major ruling from the state Supreme Court of South Carolina regarding Anglican parishes which joined up with an alternative denominational group which formed in 2009: “Dozens of parishes that split from The Episcopal Church over theological issues including the ordination of gay priests cannot take valuable real estate with them, according to a split ruling issued Wednesday by South Carolina’s highest court… Both sides have 15 days to ask the Supreme Court to rehear the case if they choose.” Full report at a local ABC News affiliate.
  • Some are spinning a story involving a Quebec, Canada nun who officiated at a wedding as proof that Pope Francis is softening his stance on women as priests. However, “the wedding was carried out according to a long-established provision of canon law. It allows an exception for a layperson to be permitted to officiate at a wedding when a bishop, priest or deacon is unavailable. That layperson can be a man or a woman.”
  • The Broader Culture: The headline reads, “We All Need to Admit That America Has a Tattoo Problem.”
  • Your Money: “A celebrity pastor offered a day-long talk on church finances. He promoted an idea I had never heard before; not in Bible school, in seminary, or from any other pastor(s). He began a practice early in his ministry of knowing the names of people in his church and the amount of money they gave. With this knowledge, he would make appointments with people and talk openly about their giving. I experienced ecclesial culture shock. This pastor’s approach was an invasion of financial privacy.” Should the pastor know what you’re giving? Also check out the — at this writing — 80+ comments.
  • Arts and Crafts and Cottage Industries: Religion News Service looks at people of different faith tribes sharing their belief through selling their wares on Etsy.
  • The book by a University of Missouri history professor officially published on Friday by no less than Oxford University Press. The title: PTL: The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Evangelical Empire.a precis by the book’s author Religion News Service offers .
  • ♫ New Music: Never Giving Up On You by Matthew Parker is the #2 Christian song in Australia.

March 5, 2016

Weekend Link List

The Bible and Rockets to the MoonSee our essay of the week re. this book!

Welcome. #26 in a continuing series.

God has filed for divorce from the Republican Party. Click image for story.

God has filed for divorce from the Republican Party. Click image for story.

December 30, 2015

Wednesday Link List

The creator of Veggie Tales and What's In The Bible has a thing for Truck Stop shopping.

The creator of Veggie Tales and What’s In The Bible has a thing for Truck Stop shopping.

Normally we take a week off around this time, but there were a few things in the file; and then we found a few more. And then a few more.

The Unofficial Bible for Minecrafters

August 5, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Filed under: Christianity, links — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:52 am

The Salvation of Doctor Who

‘Twas the night before Link List and all through the house…WordPress wasn’t posting the URLs correctly and Paul was freaking out.

We’ll try to get our link problem fixed for next week; in the meantime, if you feel short-changed this week, this guy has 44 more links.

Bless This Post


July 29, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Filed under: Christianity, links — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 am

Consumerist Church

Not sure which is better, giving you more links or concentrating on a smaller list of about twenty or so…

Don’t forget the summary of things most clicked appears late Thursday or Friday on my Twitter. Not sure I’ve ever mentioned that before; sorry!

Both our opening and closing images today were sent by reader and fellow-blogger Clark Bunch whose own image collection appears each week at his blog The Master’s Table at a feature called Happy Monday. Kinda feel sorry for the woman in the picture below; ya gotta pick your subway/bus seat carefully.

She's Thinking Out Loud

July 1, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Pastor Priest Rabbi

Before we begin, as a public service, here is your horoscope for today:

Your Horoscope

Of the things I clicked this week, here’s what I bookmarked to share this Wednesday:

Coke Name Bottles

April 18, 2015

Thinking Out Loud after PARSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So as suddenly as it began, it ended.

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

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

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

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

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

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