Thinking Out Loud

October 2, 2019

Wednesday Connect


This modern worship leader and author of five books is running for Congress in California. See story below. *

The Union Theological Seminary faculty member behind #plantgate. “We processed into the chapel carrying plants and placed them on soil. Immediately people started to come to the plants, to confess their forms of relation or non-relation.” See story below. **

Welcome to the Long-Haired-Newsmakers edition of WedCon, aka Wednesday Connect #75. Don’t forget to try to get your link suggestions in by Monday evening.

■ The danger of accepting public funding: “Some ATC [Adult and Teen Challenge] centers are trying to walk a dangerous tightrope. They’ve instituted short-term, state-licensed programs, which usually come with more funding. But state-attached strings can make that programming look more like clinical rehab plans instead of the Christ-centered message ATC has always brought to its students.” ATC co-founder Don Wilkerson is worried for people accepted into the program, “They need to be surrounded 24/7 in a spiritual atmosphere…

■ Rethinking the Sermon (1): A trainer for TED Talks comes to Nashville and meets with local pastors.

…Every pastor in the room felt a certain amount of vindication when her eyes went wide with surprise as she found out we, the pastors, have to write a new “speech” every week.

“No way,” she said. “No one can do that. There’s not enough time”.

We agreed, and then, it was our time to be stunned. How long do you work on a TED Talk?

Three months, she said…at a minimum.

Mike Glenn guests at Jesus Creed.

■ Rethinking the Sermon (2): Essay of the Week — Skye Jethani writes at the UK’s leading Christian magazine:

I am a preacher. For hundreds of years my craft was in high demand. People travelled inconvenient distances to hear my sermons, they paid for my training so I could improve my skill, and they sacrificed to supply me time and space to study and write my weekly monologues.

But now the forces of modernity and technology have conspired against me. Seemingly overnight the conditions that made my vocation valuable have disappeared. I feel like a lamplighter at the dawn of the 20th Century, watching the cold glow of Edison’s lights replace the warm flicker of flames across my city. People still need light, just not mine…

…An audit of virtually any Protestant church will reveal a massive percentage of the institution’s resources (space, funds, leadership) are devoted to the Sunday preaching event and its related activities. In other words, most churches have inherited a 16th Century model that is increasingly unsustainable with 21st Century realities.

■ Students are being handed gender-neutrality by progressive educators, but rather than protest, push back quietly by creating unspoken, more traditional structures. The children “are pushing back against the delusions that adults are imposing on them.”

■ The end of “evangelical” – an expanded book review: Alan Jacobs discusses Tommy Kidd’s Who Is An Evangelical? A History of a Movement in Crisis. ” So we now have a peculiar situation in which people who don’t know what the term evangelical historically connotes and who massively distrust one another—God-and-Country moralistic therapeutic deists on the one hand, and a press that simply doesn’t get religion on the other—have combined to take the term away from those of us who know and care about its history.” 

■ Amanda Opelt reflects on the last few months and on heading out to the Evolving Faith Conference that her sister, Rachel Held Evans, helped to organize. “Woundedness wasn’t a status for her; it was a tool with which she could better love and serve others and fight for justice.”

■ These are times most challenging for Bible translators. Bill Mounce reflects on the specifics of “Gender Neutral,” “Gender Inclusive,” and “Gender Accurate.”

■ Maybe they should have called it ‘Know Where You Believe.” This is the book that fellow Moody Press author Drew Dyck called “genre bending.” “…each community had its own way of doing Christianity, and usually did not understand how others could think differently.” The title is Not From Around Here: What Unites Us, What Divides Us and How We Can Move Forward.

* This isn’t a Babylon Bee article: Bethel Worship musician Sean Feucht is running for a congressional seat in California.

■ Suffering with the little children: “When I was preparing in seminary to become a pastor, I was offered an internship at a local church. The pastor asked me what area of ministry I was interested in focusing on most. I told him I would do pretty much anything – teaching, adult discipleship, student ministry, missional living, worship and liturgy, or polishing the pastor’s shoes and being his errand-boy – whatever the church needed me to do would be fine. I told the pastor that there was just one group I wasn’t interested in working with – little children.” You can guess where he was assigned.

■ Your Acronym of the Week: DMM = Disciple Making Movements. If nothing else, watch the 96-second video and see how this fits with what your church is doing.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Franklin Graham: The Apple That Fell Far From the Tree.” Sample: “To turn ‘The Hour of Decision’ into a thinly-veiled promotion for President Donald Trump (or any political candidate) betrays the passionate, singular cause that Billy Graham espoused in more than 400 crusades in 185 countries.”

■ Unique Podcast: Gabe Lyons, host of Q, welcomes his wife Rebekah Lyons who shares the story of her second book Rhythms of Renewal: Trading Stress and Anxiety for a Life of Peace and Purpose (Zondervan) which officially released yesterday. Moving to New York was the beginning of her first panic attack. (Audio, approx. 15 min.)

■ Church History Department: Ever heard of Renée of Ferera? Born in 1510? “She was the daughter of King Louis XII of France and Anne the Duchess of Brittany, the richest woman in Europe.” She figures largely into the story of Charles d’ Espeville, a.k.a. John Calvin. Yes, that John Calvin. And it’s not a story which casts him the best light.

■ Academic Alley: With Christmas approaching, resolving the differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus.

■ As devotional literature gets increasingly specialized, this one for families involved in service of all types: “Though the book does specifically address families that serve in the military, as first responders, and in other ‘front line’ ways, it is applicable for EVERY family that is serving the Lord and others in their home, church, and community.” 52 Weekly Devotions for Families Called to Serve.

** The answer to the question we’re all asking, from the leader of the chapel service in question: Dr. Cláudio Carvalhaes, Associate Professor of Worship at Union Theological Seminary on Why I Created a Chapel Service Where People Confess to Plants.

■ When joining a church is conflated with joining a particular political party. “ gives those considering the Christian faith the strong impression that to be converted, they need not only to believe in Jesus but also to become members of the (fill in the blank) Party. It confirms what many skeptics want to believe about religion — that it is merely one more voting bloc aiming for power.” complicated by this: “…Increasingly, political parties insist that you cannot work on one issue with them if you don’t embrace all of their approved positions.” Timothy Keller in the New York Times.

■ Canada Corner 🇨🇦: “Eight months after declining to ban conversion therapy, the Liberal party is promising to do just that if re-elected in October…In its platform released Sunday, the Liberal party said it will criminalize the practice.”

■ Shameless Internal Link: This week we were blessed to have a guest post here from Dr. Robin J. Dugall on how local churches succumb to the temptation to over-program, trying to be all things to all demographics.

■ A rabbi, an imam and a pastor walk into a plot of land: Flashback to 2013 and the unique Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha, Nebraska.

■ From high (church) to low (church), Ten Minute Bible Hour, in a video that may not be as interesting as their Catholic and Orthodox visits, decides to check out an Evangelical Free Church in Colorado. (Video, 16 min.)

■ What “hard core Evangelical” looks like to K. P. Yohannan of Gospel for Asia. For me at least, church never looked like this.

■ Newish Music: ♫ An indie Christian band based in greater Cincinnati; enjoy Where You Are by Mere Vessels. (From March, 2019)

■ New Worship: ♫ The former Dove Award-Winning band, Soulfire Revolution is now G12 Worship. This is We Invite You by G12 Worship.  (Released last week.)

■ New Music: ♫ An acoustic version of a song we featured previously, I Feel Bad by Hollyn. (Released two days ago.)

■ New Music ♫ Thought we’d end the collection with something LOUD! This is the song Premonition by Becoming Bristol. (Released two weeks ago.)

■ Oh, my! A recent poll confirms that Britain’s favorite hymn is the one recalling the time that Jesus visited England.

■ Update ICYMI: The band had in-ear monitors and simply kept playing for a few seconds after the cross fell off the wall and landed on the drum kit and the drummer.

■ Baptist “pastor” Robert Jeffress says there will a civil war if Donald Trump is removed from office. Then he gets the opportunity to dial it back a little, and doesn’t.

Do it yourself link. What’s a weird and wonderful story, or a good and beautiful essay that you read this week? Comments are open. You remember comments, right?

■ Finally, for those who have often wondered, here’s what happens if you’re speaking in tongues and checking your phone at the same time:

A concluding new-way-to-do-ministry image from this week’s Happy Monday:

Last week’s top clicks: Click here to read last week’s WedCon:

1. Purge Sundays
2. World Vision new sponsorship paradigm
3. Is Greta Thunberg being used?
4. Cameron Strang stepping back from RELEVANT
5. TBN founders’ granddaughter keeps $900K
6. Racism charges at RELEVANT
7. Universalism
8. 10 Redemptive Films


September 25, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Well, that was rather cruel, wasn’t it.

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #74. Your comments and suggestions via email or Twitter are always appreciated.

■ The U.S. President, amid walking out during climate change presentations at the United Nations, comes out on behalf of worldwide religious freedom. “The United States of America calls upon the nations of the world to end religious persecution, to stop the crimes against prisoners of faith, to release prisoners of conscience.”

■ Disrupting the child sponsorship paradigm: I saw this earlier in the week and sent it to some people involved in missions. Pictures of kids waiting to be sponsored on a table in the church lobby? Not this time. It’s the kids looking at the pics and making the choices, turning ‘I hope someone chooses me’ completely upside-down.

■ Climate change is not exactly a Christian news story, but if you missed young activist Greta Thunberg’s speech to the United Nations, you really need to take the five minutes…

■ …But if you don’t believe in climate change, and its consequences, you’ll probably react like this.

■ Trinity Christian Center, the parent of Trinity Broadcasting Network, must pay $900,000 to the founders’ granddaughter Carra Crouch who said she was drugged and raped during a telethon in 2006 when she was just 13.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “What If Universalism Were True? A Question for Evangelical Christians Especially.”

■ Then again, maybe this one, charging racism at RELEVANT Media Group, is more provocative: “Black Christians Deserve Better Than Companies (And Churches) Like Relevant Media Group.”  … and then …

■ … an announcement Monday from Cameron Strang that he is taking an extended leave of absence from RELEVANT following the racism charges, which he does not dispute.

Essay of the Week: “…I also learned that the reason leaves fall from the trees is because the tree is trying to prepare itself for winter and, eventually, for the coming spring. Wherever a leaf falls from a tree, a new leaf will grow in its place. So, the mother tree must push its own leaves, those little extensions of itself, from the branches so that life can continue. If the earth is always doing what is necessary to keep the seasons, to keep going as is her custom, to keep creating and breathing life and dying and creating again, maybe we can do the same.”

■ Okay readers, this one’s not new. In fact this 2005 article predates this blog, let alone the Wednesday Link List. But it’s been the object of several discussions I’ve been part of in at least three locations during the last two weeks. It’s the idea of “Purge Sundays,” a daring ‘culling the herd’ which separates the passive from the committed, practiced by the church mentioned to this very month. Pastors, your thoughts?

■ Nothing ‘newsy’ in this link, either, but I really enjoy (when I remember) listening to A. J. Sherrill. The sermon begins at 36:00, but if you’re interested, there’s a thing at the beginning describing Mars Hill Church leasing their building long-term to a local school board which is bursting at the seams.

■ Want to start a blog of your own? Dee at Wartburg Watch writes, “One of the things people always ask me about is insurance. If you have a homeowners insurance, yo might check to see if they cover you for blogging and even leaving comments on Google, restaurant reviews, etc. My USAA insurance policy covers me for this. I did not have to buy it separately.”

■ I always think of Passion plays happening in the spring season, but this one rolls out each summer, has an extra 30 minutes devoted to the birth of Jesus, makes the audience part of the Sermon on the Mount story, and boasts an ecumenical cast, 80 percent of whom return each year.

■ Movies with a Message: “Here then, from a long-time movie buff, are ten recommendations from various eras and genres that hold forth the ancient ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty.”

■ Persecution, American style: “[F]our Wheaton College students pushed back when [Chicago’s] Millennium Park instituted rules they believe undercut the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech and free exercise of religion.” They are now suing the city. Their lawyer says that one of the restricted areas is the sculpture Cloud Gate, commonly known as the Bean; adding that, “The Bean is one of the highest tourist attractions in the United States … that’s where you want to get your message out.”

■ Persecution, UK style: The headline reads,”Christian doctor lost his job after refusing to identify a six-foot-tall bearded man as ‘madam’, tribunal hears.” Well, almost true, except there was no actual “bearded man” in the story. He was being asked ideological questions about hypothetical clients.

■ If you follow Christian Fiction books, here are your 30 finalists for this year’s Christy Awards.

■ Leadership Lessons:  7 Errors in thinking that can hinder your church’s growth. 7 ministry “Thinkholes.” However, on the topic of growth…

■ …There’s strength in numbers. Big numbers as well as small numbers.

■ This is rather unsettling: “The Sept. 13 disclosure that the preserved remains of over 2,200 aborted babies had been found at the rural Illinois home of the recently deceased Indiana abortionist Ulrich “George” Klopfer has sparked outrage and demands for immediate investigations by authorities.”

■ Biblical confirmation or wishful thinking? A Christian archeology and research group claims to have found the boat anchor dating back to the Apostle Paul’s shipwreck on Malta.

■ For the (Married) Guys: 10 Ways to stay attractive to your wife. Five are about physical things, and five are about character.

■ New Music: ♪ From the author of Build My Life, Pat Barrett – Hymn of the Holy Spirit.

■ New Music: ♪ The Good Music Blog writes, “We recently met up with singer-songwriter indie worshipper Tina Boonstra at her church, Soul Survivor Watford, where she treated us to a live rendition of her new song ‘Second Chance’, a bold and honest song about God’s gracious love despite our constant struggles.” Tina Boonstra – Second Chances.

■ New Music ♪ From the same source, “We’ve been supporting Cortes since day one, and have loved seeing him grow as an artist over the years… Just like his latest releases, the vibe is smooth as ever, but lyrically he’s still coming strong with challenging the culture and not afraid to use the platform to point people back to the riches found in Christ, which he does in this song by reminding listeners of the truth that in all things, including our difficulties and struggles God is still working things for our good. Cortes – For The Best. (Audio).

■ New Music ♪ A heartfelt rendition of a song “dedicated to brain injury warriors, caregivers, and families.”  Cristabelle Braden – Not Giving Up (Piano Version). (Like the song? Here’s the full band version.)

■ Having dinner in the V.V.I.P. section with T.D. Jakes in Nairobi would set you back the equivalent of $723.30 US. “Those tickets were out of reach for the average Kenyan considering the per capita gross domestic product of Kenya is $2,010.”

■ Briefly anyway, last week’s story about Union Seminary students confessing to plants became a hashtag, #plantgate.

■ Finally, here’s the entire article, headlined “Priests spray holy water from plane to stop ‘fornication’” —

(ABC NEWS) — Russian Orthodox priests in the Central Russian city of Tver took to the skies in a small airplane to save citizens from “drunkenness and fornication,” reported a Russian local media outlet.

On Sept. 11, Sobriety Day, an unofficial Russian holiday, the priests carried 70 liters (about 18 gallons) of holy water onto the aircraft.

Once the plane reached an altitude of 200 to 300 meters (approximately 800 feet) the blessings began. Clergymen held a prayer service before pouring the holy water out of the plane’s open door.


September 18, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Every six months or so I drop in at Church Stage Design Ideas to see what’s new. The very fact that we have (for many years now) a site like this shows how different the modern church has become from what many of us remember in our youth. But wait a minute, Haran Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia is taking the opportunity to do something more than retro, a stained glass window motif. What does this say about our hunger for a more classical faith? (Click the image to see more pictures.)

Since we last met it appears you survived the full moon falling on Friday the 13th, which I know, as good Evangelicals, was top of mind that day. We’re back with a shorter list this week. It’s our ‘All Wheat, No Chaff’ list, accomplished through the process called winnowing, and I’m not talking Winnows 98, either; this is Winnows 10.

■ After five years in jail, a Christian couple in Pakistan — ranked as the 5th worst nation in the world for religious freedom — faces the death penalty for blasphemy, but they may be holes in the prosecution’s case, “including the allegedly blasphemous messages being in English even though Emmanuel and Kausar don’t speak English.”

■ This time around WORLD magazine looks at the ECFA, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. The organization appears to have been nothing more than a rubber stamp for member charities. Julie Roys writes:

As the WORLD article notes, this shameful pattern at the ECFA goes back decades. In fact, the criminally fraudulent spending involving the PTL Club and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker in the 1980s occurred while PTL was a member of the ECFA.

Start at Julie’s article, then click here to read the piece at WORLD.

■ 10 Minute video: “The Church of the Godless;” a look at the rise of the “nones” who now exceed the number of Evangelicals.

■ On Friday, 200 Liberty University students staged a protest demanding an investigation of Jerry Falwell, Jr. following the article in Politco.

■ Financial improprieties? Catholics have them, too. “Some parts of West Virginia are so poor they can’t afford running water in their homes, and their shepherd took ‘necessary breaks’ at Palm Beach penthouses

■ One of the things for me that makes Jarrid Wilson’s death so hard to take is that just one day earlier, he had officiated the funeral for a woman who had committed suicide.

■ On a variation of ‘Was that the Lord, or last night’s pizza?’ a pastor notes that we need to discern the difference between the leading of the Holy Spirit versus the latest trending insights of church leadership experts.

■ Respected Christian journalist Jana Reiss provides a thorough look at David Kinnaman’s new book Faith for Exiles (co-authored with Mark Matlock.) The book looks at the faith of Gen Z-ers and Millennials.

■ We mentioned the job posting at Willow Creek last week for a senior pastor. Scot McKnight critiqued the job description and found some things over-emphasized and at least one thing seriously lacking.

■ If you did a 500-mile pilgrimage, can you imagine doing it for a second time? I can’t, but it must have been special since Brian Zahnd and his wife are again walking the Camino Francés pilgrim route.

■ The United Methodist denomination: When God wants to write a new chapter, the previous chapters don’t always have a verse which anticipates the change. (That sentence isn’t in the article, but you get the idea. I hope.)

■ Women’s Workshop: “Yes, it is good to be independent but it’s also good to be interconnected. We can do it alone, but we don’t have to – we can belong to each other and this makes life so much richer.”

■ “Churches are using targeted ads on social media to convert and recruit.”

Katie Allred—co-founder of the group and assistant professor of software development and digital media at the University of Mobile, a Baptist-affiliated school—cites the Parable of the Lost Sheep, in which a shepherd leaves his flock of 99 sheep to recover the wandering one, as biblical inspiration. According to Allred, “If your church has a marketing budget, you don’t want to use that budget to reach the 99. You want to use your ad budget to reach the one, so that someone who is far from Christ might be interested in learning more.”

■ Parent of a high school student already thinking about September, 2020? The Christian University College Fair tour has kicked off for another year. (I mention this annually because one of these events was extremely helpful to us a few years back.)

■ Worship Musician-ing: In our present environment flow is everything. However, “Silence between songs is not the kiss of death. If the Glory of God is revealed in your worship service it’s because He’s chosen to show up. No amount of liquid, musical fluidity can coax Him. No amount of choppy chord changes can deter Him.”

■ Time to sell the church? A Jacksonville congregation has had that epiphany. “The fact of the matter is that an institution that is spending 53 percent of its budget on plumbing and heating and buildings and facilities, that is not a church anymore. That is a property management organization.”

■ New Zealand wants to greatly restrict access to pornography. You can guess who isn’t happy about that.

■ Parenting Place: This particular forum on Reddit doesn’t usually see this type of engagement. The question asks people who grew up in the church and are still following Jesus if there’s anything in particular they feel their parents did right.  Closing in on 400 responses.

■ Seeing God Work: Earlier this summer the people at Southeast Christian Church heard pastor Kyle Idleman share the history of the rapid growth of their church.

■ New Music ♫ – Until last night I had never heard of Lindy Conant, though her band goes back several years. Check out the latest, Stand in Awe by Lindy and the Circuit Riders.

■ New Music ♫ – One of my personal favorite artists. Butterfly by Josh Garrels. (This is a really cool song.)

■ New Music ♫ – Is it a music video or a graphic novel? Check out Dreaming of Eden by Skillet.

■ New Music ♫ – One of the most anticipated albums this fall in mainstream CCM is the one for which this is the title song:  I Give Up by Laura Story. A companion book was released by Thomas Nelson and is already available.

■ First there was Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Now there’s Christians in Cars Getting Spiritual. But it will not have that title. And judging by the one-minute trailer, there might not be cars. But there will be Kirk Cameron. (Actually, it looks like fun!)

■ Confessing your sins to plants. You’ll think it’s an Onion article. Or Babylon Bee. But Union Theological Seminary was serious. Don’t miss the comments, either.

And people say there is no God. Explain this.

■ If you’re into the whole church sign thing, we found 42 of them at this link.

Vaping Throwback.jpg

September 11, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #72. This is where all the cool get people get their Christian news and opinion pieces. • 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 if you’re typing it in from scratch.) • Image (above) from this week’s Happy Monday.

Apology — The list was pretty much locked in on Monday night, and then on Tuesday, like most here, I read of the untimely death of Jarrid Wilson at age 30. I considered adding it last night but just figured there was no escaping the reports online. This morning I feel bad about seemingly ignoring this story. So for any who missed this, here is a link to the story at CT and you’ll also find it in many other media outlets.

■  AdditionAgain, subscribers will not have received this one, either; but I wanted to mention that Willow Creek has posted the call for resumés for the position of Senior Pastor. There are many requirements, but also this, the only entry in the section labeled ‘education:’ 

Willow Creek values candidates who are life-long learners. Proven leadership experience is important, and this individual should be theologically grounded, but a formal theological classroom education is not a requirement for selection. 

The piece notes that the candidate will wear the “dual hats of pastor…and CEO” leading “a complex organization with more than 350 employees.”

■ Ultimately, this may be the most important thing I post today: “Archaeologists believe they might have discovered the location of the town of Emmaus, where Jesus was said to have first appeared before two of his disciples after His resurrection.”

■ Mega baptism service: Thousands are baptized in at least 28 different pools in a gigantic event in Bocaue, Bulacan, in the Philippines and at more than 100 sites worldwide. (We’ll include a link to your service the next time it takes a drone to capture it all in a single image.)

■ Another one returns! Pete Wilson has been teaching at a church in Michigan. In the sermon linked, he’s seen starting a sermon series on vocation. The story at Wartburg Watch is fresh, but the linked video is from May, as is another video from the same church with Willow’s former teaching pastor Steve Carter. The article notes that Wilson joins a long list of ‘comeback’ pastors.

■ Even at Wesleyan University, where the author of this piece is president, discussion of faith are fine if it involves the type of facts and figures you’d see on Wikipedia. But when he tries to make it personal, students basically shut down

■ Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids is selling a sizeable portion of their building, a former shopping mall, to the local public school, with an agreement to have the use of baby and preschool rooms free for 15 years. The announcement comes at the beginning of the service video.

■ Before you say, “Here I am, send me;” note the 7 types of Christians God can’t use.

■ Rachel Held Evans put a lot of work into the upcoming Evolving Faith conference in Denver, October 4th and 5th. Her husband Dan posted a link to this newsletter

Essay of the Week: Karen Spears Zacharias uses the weekend hurricane as a metaphor for the greater trials we face. “We need people who will ride out the storm with us.”

■ Did he let him off too easy? It’s easy to armchair quarterback this pair of episodes of Ten Minute Bible Hour:

■ Blogging at its Best: Getting your readers to help you put together your Sunday sermon. (To be clear, I liked this, and learned much from some of the comments. Bruxy Cavey did this a few weeks earlier on Twitter for a sermon on Abraham’s ‘sacrifice’ of Isaac.)

■Your new Word of the Week: Christoformity. Scot McKnight explains in this 2-minute book teaser.

■ One of his best blog posts, Aaron Wilkinson on The Ten Commandments as Narrative.

■ If it looks like a duck… Gospel for Asia’s “K.P. Yohannan says there isn’t a ring kissing practice” in an interview with Francis Chan that Warren Throckmorton was forced to remove from YouTube (but it’s embedded in this post) discussing the practices of Yohannan’s Believer’s Church. Throckmorton also has more on Gospel for Asia asking past donors to return the settlement money from the $37M lawsuit.

■ ♫ Have you heard of the band half•alive? Listening to the song Creature, I’m reminded of Owl City from a previous generation. Here are some lyrics:

i’m looking forward to the day
when life can grow without decay
humanity is not alone
when Jesus Christ sits on the throne

■ For part of our New Music feature, we offer you the winners in the Christian category of the Unsigned Only Music Competition. More details at this link.

■ ♫ More New Music: New from Integrity Music, Stillman, and the song Draw Near.

■ ♫ Also from Integrity Music: Thrive Worship, with the song I Still Believe.

■ Admittedly, Charisma Magazine is biased, since they share the same parent company as the publisher of Oracle, this week’s hottest selling Christian book by Jonathan Cahn. That said, if you’re looking for the 411 on this half-prophecy, half-fiction title, this article well covers the book’s premise.

■ Yes, I know. Benny Hinn has renounced prosperity gospel teaching. But haven’t we seen it all before where he repents of certain doctrines, only to have them pop up again — in Whack-a-Mole style — in subsequent teachings and books? Think back to his 9-part godhead, where each member of the trinity is itself triune. (Sorta like a fractal, I guess.) So for this one we bring you:

■ Leadership Lessons: “Leading your church through a time of sexual questioning.” Half hour podcast with Bruce B. Miller the author of a book by Thomas Nelson by the same name.  …which brings us to…

■ …Becket Cook’s turnaround from being gay in Tinsel Town, started with seeing a book on a table:

…Six months later Cook was at a coffee shop in Silver Lake with his best friend, also gay. He glanced over at the table next to them and noticed something akin to an extraterrestrial encounter — five young people with Bibles on their table. “It was strange because I had never seen a Bible in L.A., ever. It was a sighting. We just thought it was so odd; we were intrigued. My friend urged me to turn around and talk to them. He liked to stir things up and engage in crazy conversations.”
Cook felt compelled to ask the $64 question. “What does your church think about being gay?”
“We believe it’s a sin,” one said.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.  (More on the book at his website.)

■ They sold the church’s two properties for $1M U.S.
On the day of the funds transfer, they bought a lake house for $1M.
Months later they transferred title to the church.
Because of its status, the church is not required to file annual returns.

■ Parenting Place / Puppy Place: “There are times in parenting that are like little deaths both because they slay your heart completely and because you have to die to your basest instinct to Control the Shit Out of a Situation That Is Causing Your Child Pain and instead provide leadership and kindness and gentleness and guidance so they can slay their own dragons.”

■ Trans books for kids:

In a book aimed at seven-year-olds called Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity?, the protagonist Kit says: “the best thing about hormone blockers is that if I change my mind then they won’t hurt my body”. [Researcher Susan] Matthews however points out that this is “misleading”, as the notion that puberty blockers are fully reversible lacks any medical foundation. (emphasis added)

■ Adults making friends: 2 authors, 4 tips for extroverts, 4 tips for introverts.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Before Washington Was, I AM,” Trump Tells Reporters. [Note: Eye of the Tiber is the Catholic equivalent of The Babylon Bee.]

■ At Christian Forums, this one caught my attention: “How to assimilate all of evolutionary theory into a literal 7 day creation without changing anything.” This topic is more widely discussed than you might think.

■ Former U.S. Presidential Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders considers herself a Christian. Now she may be running for Governor of Arkansas

■ Looking for more? check out Michael and Eric’s link list, especially about six or seven in the first half.

■ The real estate agent never mentioned they were buying a house practically next door to a nudist camp. Once you’re past that, the article is a serious look at the spirituality of nudist culture.

■ You thought Baptists don’t dance? Pictures of Beth Moore dancing leaked to Twitter by… Beth Moore.

■ Time for another Worship Leaders Fantasy Draft. (You’ll need to know who are the major players in the worship ‘industry.’)

■ Finally, months later, his $25,000 fundraising goal at GoFundMe is still stalled out at $215. I wonder why?

When people share their most intimate secrets, as they do at, matters of faith and belief often get included in the mix.

Calling versus Living: Also from this one is especially sad.

One last one from PostSecret (we’ll visit again in six months): This either reflects a great satisfaction with life as it currently consists, or a very low view of heaven.

September 4, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Hillary Price’s Rhymes with Orange panel for 12.16.18

I go to a variety of sources to choose what appears here. This week I found an article alleging that a Christian textbook publisher was just a front for a large secular publisher hoping to make a profit of the homeschooling industry. It could have been our lead article, except that it went on to promote the product line with which the author was affiliated. It’s unfortunate when that happens, but increasingly on blogs and websites it’s all about someone trying to sell you something, in particular their something. 

Clicking on some items this week will earn you double reader points, but you won’t know until you click.

■ Quotation of the Week: “Youth ministry is more than a stepping-stone; it’s a viable lifelong ministry. In the same way no one asks a high-school English teacher when he’s going to start teaching college students, we need to stop asking youth pastors when they’re going to leave youth ministry.” A youth pastor reflects on four reasons he’s stuck it out in student ministry for 21 years.

■ It’s not about the Bible; it’s not about the Church; it’s not about dogmas and creeds; it’s all about Jesus. If that’s where our focus lies, that’s enough. Dr. Claude Mariottini,  Emeritus Professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary offers his own take on why people leave the Christian faith.

■ Rant of the Week: “I’m tired of a sermon on, say, the essentiality of baptism, being presented to a church of 80 souls, all of whom already agree with the preacher on the subject, and then someone later congratulating the preacher on having the courage to “preach the truth.” That’s not courage. It’s not courageous to tell 80 people something you know they (likely) already agree with you on.” On sermons lacking any edge or tension.

■ Authors accustomed to editors correcting their books, should have editors screening their tweets. Dr. Albert Mohler spectacularly insults the singles, the childless, calling non-parents less than human.

■ Persecution in Nigeria. This is a hard story to read.

■ Persecution in America: “San Francisco employees on official business won’t be permitted to travel to states with restrictive abortion laws under a new law…”

■ Are there two testaments in the Old Testament? According to this author, yes; “the old covenant given through Moses, and the original covenant given to Abraham.”

■ From the same author, if you want a visitor-friendly church, you need to be conscious of the 6 unwritten rules by which local churches operate.

■ Justin Bieber, Worship Leader: The pop singer led the midweek congregation at Churchome, a network of churches started by Judah Smith who has known Bieber since he was eight years old. FOX News adds that he also shared a ‘vulnerable’ testimony

■ Still looking for a Fall adult curriculum? Check out Scot McKnight’s review of this new DVD-based product featuring N.T. Wright and Michael Bird.

■ No gay gene? The Catholic News Agency reports that “a major scientific study found there is not a singular genetic marker for homosexualty…I t examined data from several large genetic databanks in multiple countries, and surveyed nearly half a million people about their sexual partners and preferences. Previous studies on the matter have only examined sample groups of hundreds of people.” (Or read about the study at

■ Singer Randy Travis has written a memoir, which this reviewer says chronicles “decades of spiritual highs and soul-wrenching lows.”

■ Is there such a thing as too concise? If so, I think this summary of Paul and Barnabus having a disagreement over John Mark* proves that ’25 words or less’ can leave you with an outline too simplistic. (And readers told him so.) (*Not a reference to John Mark Comer.)

■ Losing their religion: It can happen every bit as much at a Christian college or Christian university as it can happen at a secular one. CT’s report on students’ crises of faith.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Liberal Indiana United Methodists Stand with Tarot-Practicing Lesbian Activist Minister.”

■ I didn’t end up with a specific link this week, but as we kickoff a new season, I want to remind readers here that if you want to know more behind the faith-focused stories you read in mainstream media, bookmark the site Get Religion, where you’ll find excellent analysis.

■ Part insider, part outsider, he discovered four things about the denomination after attending his first Mennonite Church USA convention.

■ It should have been a routine youth group trip. But the boy whose birthday was being celebrated possibly suffered a seizure in the wave pool and later died. (The youth pastor adds details on Reddit.)

■ Randy Alcorn shares an excerpt from God, Greed and the Prosperity Gospel, a new book from Costi Hinn, nephew of Benny Hinn; which includes a rather awkward rationalization for the times that people do not get healed..

■ After listening to a song by Christian band Big Daddy Weave, a man in Tennessee confessed to murder and robbery

■ New Music: Cody Carnes – Run to the Father – one of the top sheet music downloads this week by worship leaders at

■ New Music: Will Retherford – Human – “orchestral dream pop and electronica with mild flavors of folk and indie rock.”

■ New Music: Urban Doxology – The Earth Shall Know – their name says it. 

■ New Music: Beach Chapel – Sweet Water – indie worship project from California.

■ This UK writer (who we frequently link to here) believes that if you’re moving, instead of trying to find a good church, you should consider trying to plant a good church.

■ Leadership Lessons: When pastoral staff are fired from a church.

■ First Impressions: 9 Indicators that it’s time to work on your church’s interior design.

■ Here, one year ago: Remembering the “Teaching Tapes” years in church

■ Not the words I would have chosen: Revisiting Robert Capon’s 9 word summary of the Bible.

A 7-year-old has admitted to setting a fire which damaged a Louisiana church.

■ Anything but the Bible, I suppose. So a Missouri city councilor takes the oath of office on a Dr. Suess book, leading a friend of ours to post:
I would not, could not
Swear on The Book
Not in a port
Not in a court
But swear I will
On Dr. Seuss
For I am such
A silly goose

■ Finally, it can happen to the best of us: “Pope Francis begged the pardon of the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square Sunday, explaining that he was late because he had gotten stuck in a Vatican elevator and had to wait for help from the fire department.”

■ Way, way past “finally” in a category by itself: Matthew Pierce’s Baptist Fan Fiction.

An abandoned LifeWay. Dark. Dirty. Lifeless, like a Lutheran VBS. Stacks of books, all of them ghostwritten for football coaches or Duck Dynasty cast members. In the corner, a single Mandisa CD gathers dust like so many Promise Keepers.

For the record, I just read the printed text, I have no idea what’s in the podcasts at the end of each.

This got your interest? Then click the image to read more at Facts and Trends.

■ At 8:30 last night I thought I was done, but Eric and Michael provided some links that were irresistible. (Including three I’d already included.) Check out their link list which appears the day before this one.

August 28, 2019

Wednesday Connect

A packed list this week with about 36 links to stories and opinion pieces carefully chosen. Many of these appeared earlier this week on my Twitter account, as I was attempting using my phone to compile links.

■ I really felt bad this got left off the list last week since it had just been posted. It’s a very candid, very intimate 22 minute interview where Stephen Colbert and Anderson Cooper talk about death and loss and grief.

■ Reading the Bible from a screen: “…Furthermore, despite findings that digital Bibles result in increased Bible reading by many users, challenges to memory and comprehension ‘persisted even when the frequency of reading actually increased.’ As one survey participant reported, “I probably read the Bible more (more often) but possibly less deeply…”

■ Going Deep: Without doubt the most detailed article I’ve read about the “Render unto Caeser” passage. Adapted from a 2010 lecture, so not new, but it was making the rounds 2 weeks ago.

■ The woman who, in her own words, “was armed only with ‘a library card and a blog,'” Rachel Held Evans is honored at Christian Century, where she receives this comparison: “She is the most influential mainline theologian of her generation, the C. S. Lewis of her time. Ask any seminary admissions officer who their applicants—especially women applicants—have been reading, and you’ll see that the claim is not overstated.”

■ A most transparent confession from Tullian Tchividjian originally posted in February in the context of the anniversary of the death of his grandfather (“Daddy Bill”) Billy Graham and re-posted on Twitter yesterday:

…[T]ears began to flow as I thought about how his hands which gripped so many pulpits also held me as a baby….

…I was in college many years ago…I got down on the floor—face down—and begged God to make me into a man like my granddad. I asked God to keep me humble like him, to make me a man of integrity like him, to develop the same kind of character in me that he developed in him. God’s call put my granddad’s feet on a path from which he never wavered. And he fulfilled that calling without ever being guilty of any sexual, financial, or other moral scandals. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.

It was amazingly sweet for me to listen to and read all of the tributes that came in, but they were also a sour reminder of how NOT like Daddy Bill I had become. I failed to become like him when I grew up. Having myself been entrusted with a call to preach the good news of God’s boundless love to a broken world, I blew it. I had it all: the influence, the gifts, the charisma, the platform, and the audience. But what I apparently did not have was the character to handle it all

■ Transubstantiation? Okay, I’ll buy in, but how does it work? “…Still, we must admit that Jesus’ insistently realistic language is also very mysterious, too. That the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ is beyond dispute. But how they are so—this most Anglicans choose not to delineate.”

■ Leadership Lessons: For churches in transition, new data from Barna indicates that communication with parishioners is key

■ “[C]an you imagine joining a Christian institution that limits your constitutional right to free speech as an American citizen?” That’s the case at Louisana College, a Baptist school, with its “chilling” new social media policy.

■ More on the Preachers in Sneakers: “Almost half of people on earth live with a combined household income of £2 a day. I can complain about the super-rich all I like. But what would the world’s poor make of the fact I just spent £3 on a takeaway coffee this morning?

■ Over the years one of my most frequently ‘linked-to’ authors here has been J. Lee Grady. He travels widely and knows the state of the church globally. To North Americans he writes,

…Methods we used just 10 years ago have become embarrassingly ineffective. Our “box” may work for some people, but we need fresh strategies. In the United States, we’ve developed a church model that discourages authentic New Testament discipleship. We assume that just because we have cool stage lights, huge projection screens and contemporary worship music, we are on the cutting edge of what God is doing. But the truth is we are stuck in an old-fashioned rut.

We are building monolithic, top-down structures instead of spreading the gospel outwardly in multiple directions. We are afraid to empower people to branch out into their own ministries because we need everyone to stay in their padded seats to support a system that is expensive and underperforming

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Josh Harris & Sola Homeschoola” wherein the author says, “His apostacy wasn’t a result of slow rot from bad or weak doctrine, it was a matter of being convinced he was converted when he never was. The self-deception was so deep and took such a firm hold of him that he pursued vocational ministry…”

■ A bookseller in Iran has been sentenced to 3 months plus a day for selling a Bible.

■ After we’d posted last week, the story came out about the Mexican pastor shot and killed waiting in his car after a service had ended. (A quotation in the story says, “he was targeted while in the pulpit,” which has caused confusion.)…

■ …and this past weekend in South Carolina one man was shot when a robber entered the service demanding money before “his gun appeared to stop working.”

James MacDonald returning to ministry? …

■ …meanwhile Moody Radio cancelled an appearance by Vertical Worship on the MBI campus due to the worship ministry’s “financial ties” to MacDonald.

■ Analogy of the Week: Comparing the congregational singing to the kiss at the end of the date.

■ IVP has issued an anniversary edition of Philip Yancey’s Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, written with Dr. Paul Brand, now titled Fearfully and Wonderfully: The Marvel of Bearing God’s Image. Enjoy a sample Yancey’s transcript of Dr. Brand’s thoughts. (For you publishing trivia nerds, yes the original was Zondervan, and yes, this one is IVP.)

■ Quotation of the Week: This belongs to Danielle Strickland, “All hands raised in worship should have the dirt of service under their finger nails.” (Twitter)

■ In Real Life: The Pope meets an Autistic girl, but isn’t immediately aware of what her particular challenges include. This article is about dissecting his response.

■ No longer officially premillennial: The Evangelical Free Church of America revised statement of faith says, “We believe in the personal, bodily and glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Christianity Today adds, “Whether or not Jesus will set up a literal kingdom on earth for a millennium is left to individual discretion.” (The Canadian counterpart made this decision eleven years earlier.)

■ Burning (or equivalent) Your Record Collection: Alan Noble is now over 360 responses, asking people “What’s the best album you threw away because you felt guilty owning secular music or for some other extra-biblical reason?”

■ At the Movies: CBN reports that “Overcomer surpassed all expectations during its opening weekend with an impressive $8.2 million from just 1,723 screens across the country.

■ Music artists and special guests at the 30th Anniversary of the Southern California Harvest Crusade included For King & Country, Passion, Lecrae, Graham Saber, Jeremy Camp, Phil Wickham, Dennis Agajanian, Chris Tomlin, and Darryl Strawberry. This makes it one of the longest-running evangelistic events in the nation.

■ Question of the Week: “If I’m a Christian, do I have to hate people?”

The Trump Prayer Coin referred to in the article can be referenced at this RNS story from May, 2019.

■ We’re on a Mission from God: The U.S. President did indeed proclaim himself as ‘the chosen one.’ “…You can see the problem. The president’s self-congratulatory moments resulted in real consternation for both atheists and believers alike.

■ On the consequences of sin: Somewhere shortly after the 13:00 mark in this video, Greg Boyd states, The seeds of the punishment of sin are built into the sin itself.”

■ And while we’re linking to sermon videos, I don’t preach often, but here’s the audio with the slides for a sermon on Philippians 2.

■ Charisma Magazine unearthed a 2014 by The Meeting House pastor Bruxy Cavey to remind us of the foolishness of trying to set rapture dates. (To clarify, Bruxy wasn’t setting dates either.)(Yes, that’s his dog in the corner of the screen, but that was a one-off, George doesn’t usually come to church.) 

■ Our Changing World: Remember, this is a Baptist Church.

Rob Bell’s ‘Introduction to Joy’ tour is now in the UK.

■ Uberevangelism: I guess once you’ve got them trapped in the back seat, you’ve got a captive audience with whom to share The Four Spiritual Laws.

■ New Music ♫ Leeland’s title song from the album Better Word.

■ Live Music ♫ The Late Show music director Jon Batiste and Tori Kelly perform Amazing Grace without any rehearsal. 

■ New Music ♫ Psalm 121 in Hebrew performed by Joshua Aaron in front of live audience at the Tower of David in Jerusalem, apparently with Aaron Shust on piano.

■ New Music ♫ Rapper Andy Mineo’s I Don’t Need You (in 8-bit visual).

■ New Music ♫ Or, if you’re looking for something at the other end of the musical spectrum from Andy, you’ll enjoy 6-year-old Claire Crosby’s Consider the Lilies. (Thanks to Kathi at SSB for pointing me to her video one year prior for Peace in Christ.)

William Ryan III, formerly with KLTY, is named the new host of “20.”

■ Music News ♫ Heard on radio stations everywhere, Jon Rivers, the host of 20 The Countdown Magazine is retiring after 35 years. On the short audio clip, he also announces his replacement.

■ If the U.S. tariffs against China proceed, Bibles and religious books are now exempt. (But all that kitschy giftware could get hit hard. No more Willow Tree for you.)

■ Usually I report things here, but now I’m looking for feedback. Has anyone been watching The Righteous Gemstones on HBO? Here’s what you’ve been missing.

■ Dumbest Excuse Ever: It’s the dog’s fault the black woman didn’t get the job at the church. Because the dog is racist. Right.

■ Finally, Church of the Holy Redeemer has decided it’s time for a re-brand. “After much effort I have solved this enormous enigma. Recently I commissioned a heterodox marketing firm with no understanding of what it means to be the church to help us become a more appealing church to the unchurched in our midst.” Video below (or if it’s not showing, here.) “We must choose a church name that is both meaningless and meaningful.”


Check out that cover!
Order your copy today!

3 Years ago, on Facebook, Jon Acuff had so many questions about this sign.
1. Do sheep die when you make a sweater? I thought they just got a haircut. I’ve been completely wrong about sweaters my whole life.
2. Vegans can’t wear wool? I’m just going to say right now that if the Vegan recruitment pamphlets said “Go vegan, wear more polyester!” signup numbers would drop.
3. Can I please meet the “daring one?” How amazing is that description of a sheep? I see an old farmer with his son leaning against a fence. “Careful with that sheep over there son. That’s Carl, the daring one.”
4. Can I post this without the Internet getting all offended? Am I like the daring sheep? I am!

August 21, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Each Saturday for several years, Religion News Service sends me the top pictures of the week in the wide world of religion and faith. To see all from the last week, click the image.
Caption: An Indian boy scavenges for reusable items amid idols of Hindu goddess Dashama lying in the river Sabarmati after the end of Dashama festival in Ahmadabad, India, on Aug. 11, 2019. The ten-day festival celebrated in the Shravan month of the Hindu calendar culminates with the immersion of the idols of the deity who is worshipped for good health and prosperity in this western state of Gujarat. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

We’re back. You’re back. Let’s begin…………………………………………………………………………………………………………(random bunch of dots to mess with the Twitter preview.)

■ Houston, we have a problem: Too many people are interpreting stories posted on the Christian satire site, The Babylon Bee as being real news.

■ British children are going hungry during the summer holidays. Churches are stepping in. “This year, more than any before has seen a growing recognition that the school holidays present significant challenges for low income families reliant on free school meals. In addition, tax changes and welfare cuts made over the past decade have compounded the situation – often hitting those who are most vulnerable, the hardest.”

■ …Meanwhile in the UK, the iconic — first broadcast in 1961 — weekly BBC television show Songs of Praise, which normally features…wait for it…songs of praise instead presented a same-sex wedding.

■ This story adds to my hypothesis that the reason many people who left the ministry under less than desirable conditions return to preaching is because they really can’t do anything else. “As he gets ready for the fall launch of his unaffiliated The Sanctuary church in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Billy Graham’s grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, who was stripped of his preaching credentials in 2015 due to extramarital relationships with former congregants, says they were all ‘consensual’ and not an abuse of power.

■ Peter Enns is sorry to disappoint you, but America is not in the Bible. (Or maybe he’s not so sorry.)

■ It’s fiction, but not Christian fiction; at least not overtly since it’s published by Simon and Schuster, not Zondervan or Bethany House. A mainline Protestant church is the subject of a new book, The Dearly Beloved. “First-time novelist Cara Wall tells the story of two ministers and their wives, who are called to a large Presbyterian church in New York City in the early 1960s and spend their lives ministering there. Each individual in the foursome gets equal treatment—their stories, their inner lives, their histories, and their perceptions of each other are handled like a cube that is slowly turned over in the reader’s hands. They become increasingly interconnected…” (Review may contain spoilers.)

■ Recent stories of de-conversion: Scot McKnight weighs in, “…a person apostasizes or leaves the faith to find independence. This autonomy can be intellectual, psychological, or moral (or behavioral) or more than one or all of them. My study leads me to believe we should be looking through the statements of someone like Marty Sampson to what he wants to do, how he wants to behave, to whom he wants to answer. He’s looking for independence for something.”

■ 10 Questions to find out if you’re prepared for marriage. Just maybe not the 10 questions you were expecting.

■ Steve Carter on last month’s statement from the elders at his former church, Willow Creek. “…Regardless of intention, the elders chose to step over and sidestep the women who had already been so victimized by the leadership of Willow. The truth wasn’t named, but reconciliation was advised again and again. Reconciliation is a beautiful word and so close to the heart of God, but scholars will tell you reconciliation isn’t possible if the truth is not named…”

■ Parenting Place: From the wider internet, this article on ten things you need to establish as a new school year begins.

■ This October InterVarsity Press (IVP) is re-issuing, in its Signature Collection series, two classic books: How to Give Away Your Faith by Paul Little and Basic Christianity by John Stott. See all the new IVP releases at this link. (Announcer: A long time ago, in a world before subtitles…)

■ For Pastors: 5 Things I learned as a pastor’s kid.

■ One-minute video message: Who wrote the book of Jonah?

■ Dating Dilemma: Don’t go to church looking for a mate, at least not according to a new study by Lyman Stone: “Just 12% of prime-age unmarried men both believe basic Christian teachings and are meaningfully practicing Christian piety. The figure is about 18% for women. This means that for both men and women, majorities are not in any meaningful sense practicing or believing Christianity.” An article about the study notes, “That means that if you are a devout Christian looking to marry another devout Christian, the number of potential spouses is tiny. Stone believes this explains why today only four percent of Americans meet their significant other at church – whereas it was still 12 percent in 1940.” The author writes, “Finding a good spouse requires a considerable volume of options…”

■ Essay of the Week: We don’t usually get political, but for the sheer poetry of this article it’s worth the read, regardless of your stand: If Migrants Were Handguns

■ …which brings us to… Who is behind the National Prayer Breakfast? A new Netflix documentary examines ‘The Family’ in a 5-part series. John Fea at The Washington Post” Many viewers will inevitably equate the Family with American evangelicalism. And who would blame them if they did? Some of the Family’s most troublesome practices reflect an approach to religion and politics that led 80 percent of American evangelicals to vote for Trump in 2016. Many of the politicians who gravitate toward the Family have run campaigns designed to convince evangelicals that gays, Muslims, Barack Obama and immigrants are eroding white Christian America.”

■ As a follow-up to the article we posted here yesterday, Sarah Bolme at Christian Book Marketing asks, How Many Christian Bookstores Remain? …

■ …Steve Laube also weighed in on the same subject, pointing to a new website that helps U.S. consumers locate existing stores

■ …which you can find here.

Veggie Tales is back! “The iconic Christian children’s program, which has attracted millions of fans with its mix of Bible lessons, trademark silly songs and, yes, Monty Python-esque humor, is undergoing its latest revival this fall on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. The Christian broadcaster will air 18 new episodes of VeggieTales, beginning with a Christmas special that will debut in late fall.” TBN applied to “license the show from NBCUniversal, which now owns VeggieTales.”

■ …Buried in the above story, Veggie Tales co-creator Mike Nawrocki “started his own creative company­ — one of his projects is a new series of kids books called “The Dead Sea Squirrels”…

■ New Music: Jason Gray – I’m Gonna Let it Go

■ New Music : Hollyn – I Think We Should Break Up (this one’s different, that’s for sure.)

■ The movie Overcomer opens this weekend. If you missed the trailer, here it is

■ …and we can now reveal that six months ago, the Kendrick Brothers talked to The Wally Show. (But you can’t really call this an interview.)

■ Scandalous! You’ve heard of the Preachers ‘N Sneakers account on Instagram which reveals how much megachurch pastors paid for their shoes? Wait ’til you see what Andy Stanley paid for his.

■ Finally — and remember not everything on “Finally” is true — Donald Trump tells Jesus to “Go back to Galilee.” ““Why is so much glory given to Jesus when Galilee is the worst run, most infested rathole in Israel? It’s a backwater. A complete and total catastrophe. And this guy tells the people of the United States how to live?” 

And now…Bible Illustrated presents, “When Christians Write Fiction”





August 14, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Found this through this link on Reddit. The artist produces movie-style posters for a summer sermon series his church is doing. (A link takes you to three more.)

After many weeks away, welcome back to Wednesday Connect. There’s some great articles linked here, so slow down and take the time to click at least a dozen of them!

■ A real labor of love: Michael Frost chronicles great movies that weren’t religious films, but Jesus showed up anyway. “I’ve gone for more incidental Jesusy characters, individuals you might not immediately think of as Christlike, but who’s story turns out to mirror the gospels in some way.” Stealth Messiahs: Christ Figures in Film

■ …On the other hand, an apologetics website suggests caution in using film illustrations in sermons. “…[W]e need to make sure that cultural engagement means we influence the culture with the gospel, not influence the meaning of the gospel with pop culture.”

■ A university affiliated with the United Methodist denomination has hired a Muslim chaplain. “United Methodism has over 100 universities and colleges. But very few of these schools have, dating back many decades, taken very seriously their church association.” “As United Methodism divides and reconfigures, traditionalists will have to think through what effective Christian education in universities and colleges should entail.”

■ First there was Joshua Harris. Now it’s Hillsong’s Marty Sampson. “I am not in any more… All I know is what’s true to me right now, and Christianity just seems to me like another religion at this point.”…

■ … but then in this Christian Post article he walks it back slightly. He  “clarified that while he hasn’t ‘renounced’ his Christianity, it’s nevertheless on ‘incredibly shaky ground.’” [Link added 8:55 AM]

■ …and if you’re wondering about Harris, there’s this

■ …and also this response from John Cooper, lead singer for the rock band Skillet where he says they are basically saying, “I’ve been living and preaching boldly something for 20 years and led generations of people with my teachings and now I no longer believe it..therefore I’m going to boldly and loudly tell people it was all wrong while I boldly and loudly lead people in to my next truth.”  [Link added 8:50 AM]

■ Pew Research: Only a third of Roman Catholics believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation. “The vast majority of those who believe that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ – 28% of all Catholics – do know that this is what the church teaches. A small share of Catholics (3%) profess to believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist despite not knowing the church’s teaching on transubstantiation.”

■ Yes, he did do another list; as in Joshua Reich’s annual summary of the best 200-or-so quotations from the annual Global Leadership Summit. Samples:

  • “If you want to change things, you have to change the right things.” – Danielle Strickland
  • “Fear is part of every negotiation because we’re hardwired to be afraid.” – Chris Voss
  • “Too many of us struggle with impostor syndrome.” – Jo Saxton
  • “To be a leader, you have to have awkward conversations.” – Patrick Lencioni.

■ If you wish to insist that civic meetings open in prayer, that’s one thing. But be prepared for it to be a type of prayer you weren’t expecting.

■ Running ahead of the law? “After 20 years leading Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, Alex Schadenberg is unsurprised by news a B.C. doctor has been exonerated for sneaking into an Orthodox Jewish nursing home and terminating an elderly resident.

■ New Music ♫ / KidMin: This appears further up the list for a reason, ya gotta watch this. Rend Collective introduces RendCo Kids in a video that will remind you of something Coldplay did awhile back.

■ As humble as he was, John Stott’s writing reminds us that Jesus was constantly talking about himself.

■ Making a difference: In 3 short points, something you say or do this week could prevent the next mass shooting.

■ FREE! Read the first two chapters of John Mark Comer’s new book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry at this link to a 36-page .pdf.

■ Culture Watch: “YouTube has democratized the ability to make and share art.” (A column we missed back in May which is worth reading now.)

■ If he’s not the Pope… then why does it appear that people are kissing the ring of Gospel for Asia founder K. P. Yohannan?

■ The God who is “not like Jesus.” Roger Olson responds to the “watershed difference” between Calvinism and Arminianism.

■ We tend to think of church-planting as a Charismatic or Evangelical thing, but Anglo-Catholic church planters? I liked this sentence: “Like Jay, the 19th century Anglo-Catholic priest who built a boxing ring to reach people in his local context, many of today’s church planters are using both innovation and tradition to reach their local context in fresh new ways.”

■ Essay of the Week: When Christians suffer. “So why do our stories so often tend towards the triumphalistic? I prayed and: it got better, ‘x’ went away, the relationship was stronger, the addiction was broken, I was saved from… the list could be endless.”

■ If you think The Bible Project videos are just about books of the Bible, you haven’t tracked with what they’ve been up to lately. “The New Humanity” looks forward to a future reunited heaven and earth.

■ Scanning the Plugged-In movie reviews at Focus on the Family, I was reminded of the Unstoppable (another ‘Un-‘ title) movie which played in theaters in July. Did this movie appear where you live?

Memo to young Mormons: Vaping is not permitted. Does the youth ministry department of your denomination have an official position?

■ Parenting Place: Keeping the kids from squirming during church services doesn’t seem to end as they get older.

■ New Music ♫ – Apollo LTD – Man I Used to Know (click description for full lyrics).

■ New Music ♫ – Fresh Life Worship – Many Waters – recorded live.

■ Old Music ♫ – If you were aware of alternative Christian music in the 1980s, especially bands from England, you’ll want to know that Spotify has released a collection by The Technos (aka The Techno Twins). (Sample song.)

■ John Piper, again. Only this time, Relevant notes the revival of a 2012 clip where the Pipester addresses a group of Christian counselors. Awkward.

■ Headline of the Week: “This Cathedral Installed an Amusement Park Ride So People Could Get A Better View of The Roof.”

■ Runner Up: The Fairway to Heaven.

■ Finally, your favorite Bible stories retold as “Florida man” stories, as in, “…In other news a Florida man was arrested today for…” Don’t ask me, apparently it’s a thing.

Sourced at Happy Monday. This link will take you to several of the more recent installments.


June 26, 2019

Wednesday Connect

David Hayward, aka The Naked Pastor sells his original artwork, so if you buy now, you could be presenting this one to your minister at this fall’s Pastor Appreciation Sunday.

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #66, so we’re calling this the Route 66 edition. This week wraps up with some great alternative Christian music videos from artists I’d never heard of until last night!

Essay of the Week: “During my teenage years, I experienced periods of intense disdain for my physicality. In becoming fully aware of my sexuality and my existence as a sexual being, I came to oppose such an existence. I envied the sexual unawareness of my prepubescent self. I began to believe my sexuality to be more a curse than a gift…Growing up in a Christian home, I might be tempted to blame my upbringing for my bodily and sexual antipathies…Looking back, I know, in part, what drove me: consumerism and marketing. I experienced sexuality through American advertising and internet pornography. The American machine had to be built, and my body with its sexuality represented a good to be extracted, purchased, and consumed by the leviathan of the liberal economy…”

■ Ravi Again: “Following the story coming out about Ravi Zacharias and his fall from grace, I felt it was time to tell my story and experience about this hypocrite. About his using his pastoral position to influence a 16-year girl (me) to have an abortion. Because his brother Ramesh Zacharias (then 20 years old) was the father.” Shirley Steward tells her story almost 50 years later.

[Do not read the linked article on a mobile device] After being mentioned briefly in the James MacDonald saga, Ed Stetzer is another one to keep a watchful eye on. The tone of the article is harsh and unmistakably anti-Christian, but the reporting seems about right. I was aware of Ed Stetzer, but just in print. I first ‘saw’ him on Phil Visher’s podcast and found his arrogance beyond detestable and said so. (Another reason I dropped the podcast; anyone that would give this guy airtime was totally lacking discernment.) Within an hour he’d found the comment, so he must be constantly tracking references to himself. And that’s this author’s point. The man is full of himself. If the author isn’t a Christian, he’s at least doing us the favor of highlighting the possibility that Stetzer may be doing the cause more harm than good. [Re. the phone thing: I mentioned before that we were done with Patheos links, but this article had me curious. As of last night there were 38 advertising elements in this one, and they pop up between each paragraph. Earlier in the day, I accidentally clicked one, and then it took about ten minutes to restore my phone from an assortment of all-white and all-black screens. Patheos is the worst. I hope some of its better writers will find a home elsewhere. Soon.]

■ “Though people like to talk about the ‘culture wars,’ Christian colleges today are more endangered by economic forces. Higher education is increasingly dividing into winners and losers as the number of thriving schools is shrinking and a handful grow in prestige, enrollment, and endowments. Small colleges, in particular, are hurting because they are more tuition-driven and less able to weather the storms of economic cycles.”

■ All the tweets in one place: Relevant Magazine collates what different Christian leaders are saying about the U.S. child detention crisis.

■ Infuriating Headline of the Week: “New Survey Shows Rise in Number of Americans Who Believe Refusing Service to Jews Should Be Allowed.” (Biting my tongue on this one…)

■ Equally Disturbing Headline: “Alabama Quietly Passes Law Allowing Church With History of Racism and Homophobia to Form Its Own Police Force.”

■ Apparently, when it comes to secularizing the landscape, in the case of religious monuments, historical conservancy outranks humanistic neutrality.

■ The Liberalism You Never Knew: “[Richard] Rorty ought to know something about liberalism, and something about man-made utopias. His grandfather was Walter Rauschenbusch, the liberal Baptist who pioneered the Social Gospel. Rauschenbusch rejected cardinal Christian doctrines on the deity of Christ, the sinfulness of humanity, and the need for personal regeneration, calling instead for the ‘salvation’ of social structures through political activism. Rauschenbusch believed turning Christianity away from a supernatural gospel would ‘rescue’ the faith for enlightened moderns.”

■ Intriguing Headline of the Week: Food, Fat, Faith, and the Gospel: Reflections of an Overweight Christian. Five reflections that you or someone you know may need to read.

■ Worthy of Recognition: “The Queen is to celebrate the work of UK faith and belief groups in bringing local communities together during a reception at Buckingham Palace.”

■ Coming eventually to a city near you, we have a report on the Make America Straight Again Conference, which happened (of course) earlier in Pride Month. “Steven Anderson, well-known for his calls for the murder of LGBTQ people, spearheads the New Independent Fundamental Baptist Movement (New IFB), whose ministers spoke at the gathering. But it was the inclusion of Anderson’s lesser-known associates that revealed the breadth of the New IFB’s growing influence.”

■ The labels that the parents of an autistic child use to describe themselves apparently offends other parents.

■ Declining church attendance? J. D. Greear believes there’s one thing that can reverse any church’s decline.

■ Following his decision to invite Vice President Mike Pence to speak at Taylor University, President Paul Lowell Haines has resigned.

■ Last year at this time, the #1 faith-based news story in Canada had to do with Christian charities being shut out of the summer job grant program. This year, the problem was rectified, but some groups were still refused.

■ Giving “opening in prayer” equal time, an Alaska government meeting began with “Hail, Satan!” As you might expect, several people walked out.

■ The church in Plains, Georgia where 94-year old former U.S. President Jimmy Carter occasionally teaches Sunday School, Maranatha Baptist has it’s first black pastor.

■ Testimony Time: She was raised Assemblies of God. He was raised United Pentecostal. Today they pastor a Southern Baptist Convention church. (“Well, he pastors; I pastor-wife.”)

■ Yes, Brad Lomenick still does his Young Influencers List. Here are another seven younger people to watch.

■ I asked my wife what her church was doing for Petertide. She said, “Same as last year.” This Sunday is Petertide.

■ Burned out on church right now? Find some connection in The Lasting Supper online community. (Learn the background here.)

♫ Weirdest Christian Music Ever: Radical by Ecclesia. (Maybe someone can explain this one to me.)

♫ Recently Discovered: Posted in January, I Give You My All by Isla Vista Worship. (Again though, can someone explain the last 30 seconds?)

♫ A Most Prolific Artist: Jaisua – Breathe featuring Adanna Duru.

■ Finally, understanding the Bible in its context; Olfactory Observations: “The report states that, though it is not intended to insult the disciples of Jesus, fact remains that they most definitely stank like holy hell, and that, had not everyone else at the time also reeked, no one would have come within two miles of them to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Don’t you hate it when you leave the house with some copies of The Four Spiritual Laws, or Steps to Peace with God? This guy found a permanent solution.

June 19, 2019

Wednesday Connect

It’s Pride Month in New York City, but apparently even some gay residents of NYC think this is ridiculous.

This image is from Pastor Dave Gipson. Click the image for more. It’s not new, though; so why are we featuring it today? Because there really is a Bacon Bible available now, but just not what Dave had in mind. See below.

No, it wasn’t that the sermon was really boring, but who reading this hasn’t been tempted to stretch out during the pastor’s 5th point of a 3-point sermon? Click the image to find out why these people are sleeping.

Every once in awhile, as in The Truman Show, former cast members try to sneak on the set and make a surprise appearance.

If you read yesterday’s post you know we had a major crisis on the technical side of the blog, and there are enough complications producing this weekly list without having to learn a new editing system. But somehow it all came together at the last minute.

■ Liberty University has made some big cuts to its Faculty of Divinity.

Some of those let go were well-loved professors who’d been at Liberty for over a decade. The terms of their departures include offers of severance and also nondisclosure agreements. Some changes were likely overdue, Falwell said in an interview Friday. He believes the divinity school needed to adapt to a changing culture where students are less likely to work full-time for churches… Unlike most universities, where faculty members can earn tenure and the job security that comes with it, almost all Liberty faculty members teach under one-year contracts that are renewed annually… Some pointed out the timing of the non-renewals came long after the academic hiring cycle’s peak, potentially making it difficult for affected professors to find full-time employment…”

With faith teaching such a big part of its heritage, it looks like “the largest Christian university in the world” is today a little less Christian.

■ What’s the first thing you think about when you see the acronym, CBD? Even for readers here, that might be shifting, and it’s affecting Christian Book Distributors who’ve lost their edge on search engines, as they point out:

Over the last 12 months, there has been a rise in popularity of a medicinally used product derived from the cannabis plant—cannabidiol, commonly referred to as ‘CBD.’ Across the country, people see signs for ‘CBD sold here,’ which creates brand confusion. In the past, a Google search for ‘CBD’ would place our company at the top of the results page. Now “our CBD” is nowhere to be found in the search results, only sites for the cannabis product are listed, and paid ads are no longer allowed. As this wave of popularity over the “other CBD” is not likely to subside, we will stop referring to ourselves as ‘CBD’ and will also drop the word “Distributors” from our company name. Going forward, we will operate under the name of ‘Christianbook.’

■ The NET Bible (New English Translation) is the latest to fall under the spell of Thomas Nelson Publishing, but hopefully the relationship lasts. “Thomas Nelson has a history of snapping up distribution of new, innovative translations. Looking back over the years, one remembers: The Everyday Bible (New Century Translation), The Voice Bible (a translation using dramatic script) and The Expanded Bible (an alternative to the Amplified Bible), but sadly, within 2-3 years the company loses interest and suspends marketing and the printing of new editions.”

■ The Southern Baptist Convention Convention: Let me get this straight, “Messengers strengthened their stance against sexual abuse and racism by overwhelmingly approving two amendments to the SBC Constitution” But, “The constitutional amendments will require a second two-thirds … vote at next year’s SBC annual meeting.”So basically, nothing is in place for another 365 days. Granted, they took a much-needed step, but a crisis of these proportions requires a crisis response.

■ Family of boy with autism asked to leave the church: This story from across the pond has been creating some heat. The father of the boy writes,

Tristan is nine years old, and is a clever and joyful child, who loves church buildings, services, and choral music. He is also non-verbal, and expresses his excitement by calling out and laughing. His expressions are often loud and uncontainable. It is part of who he is, so there is no realistic way for him to be quiet. Many autistic people are like Tristan in this way. Right before the Kyrie, one of the ushers informed me that you had instructed him to remove us. Tristan’s expressions were apparently interfering with the enjoyment of some of the other visitors, which was very inconsiderate on our part, because tourists come from all over the world to hear the Evensong.”

There has since been an apology from the Dean of Chapel at King’s College, Cambridge.

■ Oh no! It runs in the family! Jonathan Osteen makes his debut at father Joel’s church, fathered by his grandfather John Osteen. “Jonathan Osteen stepped into his parent’s shoes on Saturday night, speaking for the first time. The 24-year-old son of Joel and Victoria Osteen spoke from the pulpit with a Father’s Day message at services at 7 Saturday evening and on Sunday morning at 8:30 and 11.” Fast forward to the 1hr 8min mark.

■ Coming soon to the Roman Catholic Church: The pastor’s wife. “In a potentially groundbreaking move, the Roman Catholic Church on Monday cracked open the door to ordaining married, elderly men to the priesthood to meet the pastoral needs of Catholics in remote areas of the Amazon. The proposal would respond to the dearth of priests in the region by ordaining viri probati, or men of proven character, as they are known in Latin. It is the kind of exception to the celibacy requirement that church experts say — and church traditionalists worry — could be a step toward the ordination of married men in other areas of the world.”

■ A 13-year old girl with courage: Addison Woosley spoke against abortion at her city’s council meeting. She summed up the passion of the pro-life movement so very well, but was not well received when she compared it to slavery. A five minute video from the frontlines of this highly-charged debate. (Seriously, watch all of this, even after she stops speaking.)

■ Only God knows whose are his, right? But is there some minimum standard, or some necessary experience, or some basic knowledge requirement necessary before we can call someone a Christian?

■ If your national newscast this week didn’t report on the protests in Hong Kong, you’re watching the wrong channel.

■ Leadership Lessons: Not sure if I’ve seen this one before or not, Should pastors share the criticisms they receive with their spouses? Discuss among yourselves.

🇨🇦 Canada Corner: The article calls it “Quebec’s strict secularism bill,” noting, “A new law in Quebec prohibits the wearing of religious symbols or clothing by some government employees, including public school teachers, state lawyers, judges and police officers…Quebec’s majority government passed the bill, 75-35, using closure June 16 after long hours of deliberation. Some last-minute amendments concerning surveillance provisions made the law more stringent than anticipated…Bill 21 includes a notwithstanding clause overriding some parts of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

■ The South Carolina Pastor’s wife and three children were in the van while he was outside with a friend changing a tire. It was the last thing he did. The suspected drunk driver who killed both men outside the vehicle was free despite unresolved charges for an attempted murder.

■ The Bacon Bible, pictured here and recently published, is not the same concept as the one pictured at the top of today’s column.

■ Behind the LifeWay closure decision: Brad Waggoner, acting CEO, explains “the toughest decision in our 128 year history.” Retail losses in the last 5 years have been 50 million dollars. (5½ minute video.)

■ Philanthropy: “Giving to religion — perennially the biggest sector — is estimated to have declined by 1.5% in 2018 (a decrease of 3.9% adjusted for inflation), with a total of $124.52 billion in contributions… Una Osili, an associate dean at the Lilly philanthropy school, said giving to religious institutions has been lagging behind other sectors for several years. Reasons including declining attendance at church services and a rising number of Americans not affiliated with any particular religion.” The RNS headline states that a $3 Billion drop

■ How our teaching sounds to the uninitiated: “The content of the message? I have to admit, listening to it as an unbeliever might, it was so irrelevant I can’t imagine why anyone would listen. It would make sense to Christians, but to anyone else? Would anyone else ever start to find it interesting or worth believing? It was just a way to spend time yacking. Logic, reality, honesty. Not on the radar screen. We’re talking about filler for the weakened mind, and nothing for the serious thinker or seeker.”

■ Ever knocked a few years off your age when someone asked? Research indicates people want to feel younger, because they have a fear of being old.

■ After 16 years, Drew Marshall, the host of ‘Canada’s most-listened-to spiritual talk show’ is calling it quits. The last decade of the show has not been without controversy. “He kept his struggles with faith to himself until 2010, when he “came out” on air about not being sure if there was a God…” At the end of the radio journey he says, “‘I’m a hoper, not a believer,’ he said, explaining that he ‘hopes there is a Creator.’” (Full disclosure, I was once a guest on the show, and my wife was on the show on two different occasions.)

New Music: From the Christian reggae band Christafari, Kokopo (Broken Spears) from the forthcoming Musicianaries album tells an amazing story about taking the good news to the people of Melanesia…

…and don’t miss their new 11-minute short film, The Love of Jah., as the band celebrates 30 years in ministry this year! (Note: Film contains disturbing scenes of drug use, etc.)

New Music: From the band Trinity, Tryin’ to Live. The band consists of four Dutch guys mixing South American and Irish folk with African beats; and is the latest from Dove award winning producer Ian Eskelin.

♫ New (Old) Music: For those of you who prefer something more conservative, at the K-LOVE Fan Awards Matthew West and Mandisa team up to sing Blessed Assurance.

■ Far from the sister publication to Vogue Magazine you remember, “Teen Vogue, however, has shifted gears from the usual glamour magazine fare to progressive indoctrination, including advising teenagers how to circumvent state laws and parental consent to attain abortions, advocating normalization of LGBTQ lifestyles and even promoting prostitution as a viable career choice.”

Don’t miss this one. The Pipester is always with us. In this Twitter item, the real gold is in the comment thread as people recount the silly things John Piper has said over the years

■ Move over, Jerry Jenkins; these California nuns shared your love of gambling; but they also gambled their personal reputations. (And lost.)

■ A Catholic priest says the ridiculous practice of burying a statue of St. Joseph upside-down in order to sell your house drives him nuts! “I respond, ‘I will bless this statue, but I will not bless it if you plan on putting it in the ground.’

■ Today’s closing item is for all the church sound tech guys, people who were sound tech guys, and people who were asked to be sound tech guys and ran in the other direction: Friends don’t let friends wrap up microphone cables incorrectly.

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