Thinking Out Loud

April 21, 2021

Wednesday Connect

Christianity and Culture

Some insider humor.

Welcome to #95! We’ll get there eventually.

  • Ole Anthony has died. The head of the Trinity Foundation single-handedly exposed televangelist Robert Tilton and is beloved by many for purchasing The Wittenberg Door, a Christian satire magazine. (Yes, well he always thought your first name was strange also.)
  • The UK’s popular Spring Harvest music and teaching festival is launching EC-GO, a Christian streaming service. It goes live May 3rd. I don’t have a final price, but for £77 you can have unlimited access to all the sessions from this year’s festival, and get the first year free.
  • Hendrickson Publishing of greater Boston, which four years ago purchased Rose Publishing of southern California (someone earned a lot of frequent flyer miles negotiating that one) has now itself been purchased by Tyndale House Publishing. Each company will maintain its own location and autonomy. Hendrickson was owned by members of the same family that owns ChristianBook.com.
  • The funeral for Prince Phillip, at his request contained, “no homily, no sermon, no preaching.” Yet there was a strong spiritual tone through the music and the readings which the Prince chose himself.  It was midnight in Melbourne Australia when this writer observed, “The television presenters spoke of Prince Philip’s ‘faith’. For a moment, one commemorator referred to Duke of Edinburgh’s ‘Christian faith’, but quickly corrected his social faux pas by returning to the vague universal category of ‘faith’.”
  • With artists like Carrie Underwood and Harry Connick, Jr releasing faith-focused albums, it’s easy to ask if it’s real or if it’s a marketing stunt. And then there was Justin Bieber‘s surprise EP that dropped on Easter. And what if the message is solid but the language is a little too crude? …
  • …And the writer of the GQ cover story on Justin Bieber says sitting down to interview him was more like being in a confessional booth with him. Key quote, “Being famous breaks something in your brain.
  • No surprise: That jailed pastor in Alberta, Canada who refused to shut down his church services, got a letter of commendation from John MacArthur. But then, he’s a graduate of MacArthur’s seminary. (Plus, I don’t think this qualifies as what the Bible calls persecution “for the sake of the gospel.”)
  • The debate on homosexuality continues in the Catholic Church, with some voices saying it’s time to change the catechism.
  • From last week, ICYMI, Hillsong has shut down its Dallas campus. And as Julie Roys reports, there are stories implicating founders Brian Houston and wife Bobbi have misused funds and were involved in a $1.4M real estate deal.
  • Which is it? “Liberal Christian?” Or “Progressive Christian?” Roger Olsen wants to write a book about the former, but his publisher wants to call it the latter. He thinks the latter just means pro-LGBTQ and pro-egalitarian.
  • Having emancipated herself from LifeWay, author and speaker Beth Moore‘s first curriculum project is Now That Faith Has Come, a study of the book of Galatians.
  • Is this statement a tautology? “Joe Carter of [The Gospel Coalition] and Johnathan Leeman of 9Marks appear to have the cure for this decline in church membershipformal church membership!
  • …However, that story might be related to this story: One popular Reformed pastor believes churches should delay immersion baptism to age 18.
  • Newsworthy: “After nearly four decades of work led by Deaf Missions and collaborations between American Bible Society, Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, Deaf Harbor, DOOR International, Seed Company, Pioneer Bible Translators and the Deaf Bible Society, the Bible was completely translated from original sources into American Sign Language last September.
  • Remember that story from April 7th where a man and his wife and two of their grandchildren were shot and killed? The man was Dr. Robert Lesslie, a doctor and Christian author who wrote medical-themed collections of real life miracles such as Angels in the ER.
  • Admittedly I don’t do these roundups very often anymore, but you can always check out my Twitter which is updated a few times a day.

February 21, 2021

My Life in the Twitterverse

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:39 pm

I realize not all my blog subscribers do Twitter, so here’s a few things I’ve been tracking there, since things have been rather quiet here.


In addition to being one of the world’s coolest Christian music stations (mixing Christian and mainstream song) Brisbane, Australia’s “96five” is also a news outlet, so as part of their retaliation against a government decision, Facebook shut down their Facebook page. All their history was lost, it now says “No Posts Yet.” The station reported, “The new laws will require social media companies, such as Google and Facebook, to pay media outlets for using or posting their news… Facebook, however, has argued it should not have to pay anyone.”


@justinsytsma: Stop putting the word Grace in your church if you’re planning to be a people devoid of it.


The power grid in Texas is completely independent of the rest of the US which allowed them to bypass federal standards which include “cold weather safeguards.”  Forgive my Canadian smugness but where I live federal standards are federal standards. That’s what those words mean.


@joshcarlosjosh: Maybe the Billy Graham rule should actually be to never be alone with power, not women.


A Statement from the Board of RZIM Canada: “It is with heaviness of heart and after much prayerful consideration that we are compelled to begin winding down the operations of RZIM Canada.” Click this link for statement.

meanwhile:

The board of the U.K. branch of Ravi Zacharias’s ministry has declared its intention to separate from the organization. “The response of the RZIM US Board does not go nearly far enough in terms of actions relating to leadership and governance.” Click this link for statement.


@LeeGrady: Christian singer Carman Licciardello died [Feb 16th] . He was only 65. He was a legend in the 1980s. I never knew until today that Carman gave his life to Jesus at an Andraé Crouch concert.


When churches want out: Someone put a lot of work into researching this video. 12 ecclesiastically-packed minutes. Click here to watch: Congregations Leaving Denominations: How Hard Can It Be?


Women (especially) and everyone else: Looking for a good podcast, but don’t have time invest in researching what you might hear? Check out The Godly Pod Podcast by Doreen Eager. She does the work for you! 


• The top news story in the Evangelical world this month is the findings of a report concerning the moral life of a celebrated man who is no longer living.
• The top news story in the broader news cycle this month is the result of an impeachment hearing involving a man who is no longer President.


Finally: Listening over the past year to people like @MattWhitmanTMBH
and @SkyeJethani talking about the future of the term “Evangelical” reminded me of this brief comedy routine:

December 9, 2020

Wednesday Connectivity

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:24 am

“Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, strength.”
I don’t usually get excited by stained glass windows; but this one, from the Salvation Army in St. John’s, Newfoundland is special.
Photo: Sheldon Bungay

The last formal Wednesday Connect was on March 11th and then it seemed like there was just one story dominating our thoughts and mind. I still intend to get to #100, but columns 94-100 will have to wait for another day. But there were a few items I wanted to note here…

The blog Internet Monk, founded by the late Michael Spencer will shut down at the end of the month, though the site will remain archived. I tried to find a specific link to a formal announcement, but for now you’ll have to settle for a general link to the blog itself. Although I weighed in rather infrequently, for me Internet Monk was a type of blog community rarely seen these days. They explored a variety of topics related to two topics: Theology and Culture. I know the blog, not to mention the ritual of reading the Saturday Morning Brunch, will be greatly missed.


HarperCollins Christian Publishing seems to think there is some life yet still for the Thompson Chain Reference Bible. That surprises me. I never did get into the concept of having to flip pages back and forth to follow the word study chain of references. Study Bibles, with their notes on the bottom of the page, had already spoiled me for how I got thematic information. Not to mention the online world of hyperlinks and drop-down menus; You Version, Blue Letter Bible, Bible Gateway, etc.

Then there’s the tension in some churches over whether teaching and study should be thematic in nature, drawing from a variety of selected texts, or expository (verse-by-verse) examination of a single text. Expository preaching has its advantages, but in the extreme, it can draw away from word study.

Harper bought the product line from Kirkbride and plan to release new versions in 2021, adding their Comfort Print® editions in 2022. The official announcement is here. There are currently editions available in five popular translations.


Here’s a cheery book title: “‘Why Your Children Won’t Get To Heaven’ tackles the widespread fear among today’s Catholics that our children and grandchildren may not be on a clear path to heaven…”

I can’t imagine not knowing your eternal destiny for certain. My wife just finished writing a graduate-studies paper on Islam, and the situation is not dissimilar to that of Roman Catholics. So how can Evangelicals be so sure? It’s all about trusting in the already-demonstrated faithfulness of our God to his promises. We have that assurance.


Another blog shutting down at year end is the humor and satire blog, The Salty Cee. They were founded at time when The Babylon Bee was changing its tone and losing some of its original plot. I don’t think I’ve clicked on Bee articles in more than a year. However, through reading The Cee’s formal announcement, I discovered The Damascus Dropbear which originates in Australia. Christian satire, when done well and lovingly, can really help us focus on key issues. I remember one Christian musician telling me a long, long time ago, “The Wittenburg Door is my conscience.”


While his popularity is ten times greater in the UK, over the years I’ve often given space to highlight the Christian-themed songs of music icon Cliff Richard. Though this one has no direct reference to Jesus, it’s amazing to see Sir Cliff producing music of this caliber at age 80!


Over the years, Thinking Out Loud has covered some of the “lowlights” of Christian authors’ and pastors’ ministry careers. This year seems to have been especially eventful in that respect. Last night on Twitter I challenged five Christian journalists to an exercise which may seem a rather dark or futile pursuit, but I think it’s important to see the actual names assembled in one place. Here’s how I framed it:

This is the time of year for highlights, and top book lists, but I would very seriously like to see a scorecard listing the many whose brand suffered in 2020 whether due to financial, marital or political missteps.

As someone who works in and around Christian publishing it’s important to me to have a list of authors who could come back to bite us as the general public is aware of certain events; or books which, displayed prominently simply serve as a distraction at this point in time. For example, Bill Hybels’ books still contain much truth, but for a Christian retailer to aggressively display them right now still seems like poor timing.

Also, with the election this year, the list of authors with question marks next to their names simply grew longer.


Annual Christmas photo with Santa:
One of my favorite authors, Michael Frost in Sydney, Australia posted this on Twitter. “Lynnie and Noel Wraight win my 2020 award for best family Christmas photo.”


O, Christmas Tree, O, Christmas Tree
This one is also from Twitter, from John Spencer at “Not the Bible” in the UK, caption: “That’s my Christmas tree done.”

July 29, 2020

Wednesday Things

Filed under: Christianity, links — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:47 am

“Will I ever get my job back?” asked the Wednesday List Lynx.

Most of my attention during the pandemic has been on our companion blog, Christianity 201. But I haven’t forgotten readers here. No this isn’t a Wednesday Link List or a Wednesday Connect, just a few things I’ve posted on Twitter over the last 30 days. But we’ll get there…

Dennis Hanabarger posted this yesterday. The sign above these books doesn’t say Christianity. It says Christian Living. In other words this ain’t no Barnes & Noble. This pic was taken in a Christian bookstore. These were the titles they were featuring on a top shelf. This was the best they had to offer. I find this extremely worrisome. For readers outside the U.S., this is Christianity in America. I’m sure there are some good thoughts in these books. But there are so many other things this store could be recommending.


The death of Texas pastor John Powell is heartbreaking enough, but made more so when you look at online pictures of his wife and four very young children. (I opted not to include those here.) He stopped on I-75 to help a motorist having a car fire and was hit by a transport truck. He was a former student of Russell Moore. More details at Religion News Service. A GoFundMe page is just 4K short of its 350K goal, but of course that won’t bring him back, and while I might have said that better, it’s just reflective of the sadness I feel.


Ross Brotman is a songwriter and musician based in Phoenix, AZ.  He writes, “I have been working professionally as a drummer for 25 years and have been writing songs in many different genres all along. I have been very active in music ministry over the entire course of my playing career in large mega churches and small cafeteria start up churches alike.” Check out this song.


The EFC (Evangelical Fellowship of Canada) is Canada’s equivalent to the NAE. Yesterday at 3:30 they reported their financial management service provider had a data breach (ransomware virus) including names, addresses, emails and contribution records of donors, but thankfully not credit card information. The breach actually happened back in May and donors found out yesterday. Details here.


Also in Canada, probably the biggest faith-based news story last week concerned a Toronto Baptist pastor who was male when hired six years ago, and then in June came out as a transgender woman. She was immediately fired by the church.


Tish Harrison Warren became the unlikely victim of a book counterfeiting scam last year involving her title, Liturgy of the Ordinary. We reported on that almost exactly a year ago. 2021 is looking better. She writes “We have a cover! Prayer in the Night deals with darkness, suffering, vulnerability, theodicy and doubt. It’s framed around one nighttime prayer. ‘Keep watch, dear Lord, w/those who work or watch or weep this night, & give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; & all for your love’s sake. Amen.‘ Releases late January.”


In light of this weekend’s church service, one writer compared John MacArthur to “a petulant teen slamming doors in his parents house.”


I’ll bet you don’t have this topic covered in your library. Often Christian/Religious publishers are tripping over themselves offering similar product. So I gotta say, Acts Against God: A Short History of Blasphemy got my attention. Chapters look at: Ancient Worlds, Medieval Christendom, Reformation, Enlightenment, 19th Century, 20th Century, Contemporary World.


This multi-faceted artist is both writer and musician. She has a book releasing this month with Harvest House Publishers with the provocative title, Getting Naked Later: Making Sense of the Unexpected Single Life. This music video is much different; an excerpt from a live worship album.

March 11, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Finally, a cure! And Jim Bakker has it. Call while supplies last. But first, see story below.

Seemed to be no shortage of people under the microscope this week. I’ve included some, ignored others. Don’t forget that you can always play the home version of Wednesday Connect, just follow @PaulW1lk1nson on Twitter

Also don’t miss our 404 pages in the graphics below.

■ Where did all the Christians go? Alarming new stats from Barna Research shows nearly half as many Americans consider themselves “practicing Christians” as in 2000. Of those who aren’t, about half are non-practicing, and the other half would now be considered non-Christian. However there is hope: People are still reading their Bibles and praying at the same rate they were.

■ Despite a number of revisions to its youth curriculum, a close examination finds the Mormon doctrine that being black is the mark of a curse remains relatively intact.

■ When Jesus told his disciples he was leaving, is it better to say he was “changing location” instead of “changing form?” I ask because Steven Furtick says both in this short clip, but people are jumping all over him for the latter but ignoring the truth of the former. I think people are just predisposed to condemn him. (Pastors: What if your every sentence was widely posted online? Are your messages really that word-perfect? Could you stand up to the criticism?)

■ David Jeremiah was inducted into the National Religious Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame, but historically, that would not have been possible as he’s not in membership with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability over a claim he gamed the New York Times Bestseller lists, in a scheme similar to the one which brought down Mark Driscoll

Get ready for a string of COVID-19 stories…

Breaking: The Attorney General for Missouri is the latest to come after televangelist Jim Bakker for peddling a cure for coronavirus. He’ll have to stand in line behind The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, The Federal Trade Commission, The New York Attorney General and others. It remains that “there are no known vaccinations or over-the-counter products approved to treat or cure the virus.” …

■ In Europe, “Cases of coronavirus infections have multiplied since Thursday, March 5, 2020 throughout France, especially among the faithful who participated in a large Evangelical gathering of the ‘Christian Open Door’ in Mulhouse from February 17 to 24…” Furthermore, “Participation in this Lenten Week, organized for 25 years, did not require prior registration, which complicates the identification of potential patients.” (Story is in French-language media.) …

■ COVID-19 scare? Bethel Church closed their Redding campus healing rooms recently. Skeptic/atheist websites are having a field day with this one. …

■ Six Christians were among the 100,000 released on Monday from Iran’s prisons in order to stem the tide of the virus. It included Mary (Fatemeh) Mohammadi whose story needs to be shared. …

■ And earlier this week Bobby Gruenewald the founder of YouVersion and Craig Groeshel the founder of Life.Church entered self-quarantine after attending a conference in Germany.

■ Three items this week from The Christian Institute:

■ How Christian books come to be: Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn have a new book about finances, but guess what? It’s not about money. (And this is from a couple that freely shares that they disagree about some aspects of financial planning, which gives the rest of us hope!) (Actually, she gets top billing on the book’s cover.)

■ Redeeming the Arts: In a world where a banana taped to a wall sells for $120,000, a short look at the God-intended role of artists, crafters, woodworkers, metalworkers, designers, engravers, stone-cutters, weavers, embroiderers; and anyone else engaged in what the author calls Presence-Centered Art.

■ Labels: “We need to take care who we label false teachers. It’s okay to name names—but we should do so only when we’re certain. And when we do wrongly label one another false teachers, we need humility to confess and repent.” Check the list of 9 marks of a false teacher.

■ Parenting Place: Concerned that Google is taking your children where you don’t want them to be? Try Kiddle.co for safe-search results, bigger fonts, larger images, and (to repeat) safe-search results.

■ More on the situation re. John Ortberg and Menlo Park Presbysterian

■ 🇨🇦 Canada has begun the process of making conversion therapy against the law in every province. “The legislation would also authorize courts to order the seizure of conversion therapy advertisements or to order those who placed the advertisements to remove them.”

■ After nearly 30 years as President of Bread for the World, David Beckmann is stepping down to be succeeded by Eugene Cho.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: Jesus Isn’t a Death Star.

■ The Book of Alternative Services: The Sound Bath Evensong.

During sound bath Evensong, ethereal voices sing sacred texts as a musician pumps a Shruti box, creating a low, steady hum. A single pitch from a singing bowl dissolves into sonorous overtones from a large gong. It penetrates to the core. The sounds are primal and soothing. For those who sit in quiet contemplation in the pews, the unique acoustic experience offers a chance to clear the mind.

Get Religion looks at what this Associated Press report included about the service, and what is left out. Is this even about God?

■ If you missed all the public service announcements, this church included one in their choir selection.

■ Christianity is a religion, not a relationship. Wait, what? Isn’t that the opposite of what you’ve been told is true?

■ Finally, don’t forget I Still Believe — the Jeremy Camp story — opens in select theaters on Thursday; others on Friday.



The website Church Pop thinks the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has the best 404 page, given that St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things. Sourced at churchpop.com



March 4, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous: Whose house is this house? See story * below.

We’re back with our weekly look at faith-related stories, as they appear to us living one international border removed from much of the action. I told my wife that the U.S. network TV shows weren’t on last night because it was Super Tuesday. She asked, in all seriousness, “That’s football, right?”

■ Coronavirus and the Shincheonji Church in South Korea: “In the largest outbreak outside of China, the majority of the country’s more than 4,335 confirmed cases are members of the secretive group, labeled a cult in South Korea and by the Christian community, according to a spokesman for the church. ‘You would be 5 centimeters away from the person who sits next to you, and have to say ‘Amen’ after every sentence the pastor speaks — it’s the best environment for the virus to spread,’ An So-young, a 27-year-old who left the group, told Reuters.” …

■ …And the virus means some SBC missionaries may need to be redeployed to other countries. International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood said, “For missionaries who are at the epicenter of the virus, in places where the risk is high and also where interaction with other human beings has almost been totally shut down, what we have said to them is, ‘If you have small children or health issues, we want you somewhere else quickly.'” …

■ …and in Italy, in the all-important season of Lent leading up to Passion Week, the Roman Catholic Church has congregations scrambling for alternative ways to say the Mass, including streaming live on the internet.

■ Nagmeh Panahi, former wife of Saeed Abedini, shares her story with Pastor Neil McClendon and the congregation of Grand Parkway Baptist Church in Richmond Texas (58 minutes). (Interesting quote: “The first time I saw a commercial airplane it was really scary; I couldn’t understand that there could be airplanes that weren’t meant to drop bombs.”)

■ Tornado hits Nashville: Joel and Luke Smallbone of for King and Country report, “Many of us were up through the night listening to sirens, searching for information on what was taking place around us, and checking in with loved ones around Nashville. By God’s grace, we’re all unharmed, but the same cannot be said for our city- which has taken quite a hit.”

■ N. T. Wright on what the Bible says about women preachers. “Wright said the same question would elicit a yawn in the U.K. ‘We settled this one years ago,'”

■ Parenting Problems: Why it’s increasingly difficult for Christians to work within the constraints of publicly funded fostering programs. This is a devotional article, but you want to at least read the anecdote.

■ Polyamory: In 2020 this is a definite “no” for Evangelicals. But 2030? Look what happened with homosexuality. To consider this:

■ Know anyone in this category? “There is a tendency for the parachurch to become a quasi-church. In other words, the tendency is for the parachurch to become the functioning church of its participants. It becomes the hub around which the Christian lives of its participants revolve.” The writer says such organizations are not a proper substitute for the local church

■ If you see someone on Twitter or Facebook asking for prayer, pray for them. And then let them know you’re praying. Prayer request of the week is for Olivia, daughter of @BibleBacon. (See Feb. 21, 22, 25, 26.)

■ A prominent Reformed writer asks his denomination if they are taking the Bible seriously when it comes to teaching on Satan and the demonic realm. (Kicks of a series of articles.)

■ Your Church is not a cafeteria: Thom Rainer offers seven reasons the two are not the same.

* Got $1.9M? James MacDonald’s house is for sale. (More info in the comments section.)

John Ortberg returns to Menlo Presbyterian this week after completing a “Restoration Plan” with church leadership.

■ Honored: On May 5th a Christian publisher’s association will award Stormie Omartian for “the outstanding contribution of The Power of a Praying® series, both to the industry and to society at large.” “The series’ collection of 20 books, published by Harvest House Publishers, has achieved more than 31 million in sales worldwide.” (Note to self: Don’t forget the ®.)

■ Lauren Daigle and Hillsong topped the list of the top Christian songs streamed on Spotify in 2019.

■ New Music ♫ This item got omitted last week, but apparently some people must thing the new Hillsong Young and Free song isn’t Jesus-y enough for worship use. At least, something sparked this short article. (Video embedded.)  

■ New Music ♫ Paul Baloche is back with a new album, Behold Him. Check out the lyric video for What a Good God

■ New Music ♫ Back on October 2nd, this Bethel Worship musician’s picture topped our Wednesday Connect column with the announcement of his run for Congress. Check out his new song, Raise Our Voice.

■ Meet Naomi: Not a faith story, but on the climate change front, Greta’s got competition.

■ Finally, last week’s burning theological question: Was Jesus buff?


Someone wasn’t taught to close their eyes for prayer.
Photo: Reuters News


■ Tweet of the Month for February:


Top Clicks from last week’s Connect feed:

  1. If there were only 100 Christians…
  2. Guest Post at Julie Roys: What happened at Willow Creek
  3. Julie Roys at Julie Roys: Son of John MacArthur in trouble
  4. At what point do we say that the “unreached” have been “reached?”
  5. The Akiane art theft we never knew about
  6. American Idol contestant leads judges in a prayer

Click to see them all at this link.

February 26, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Crossing the Red Sea – 21st Century Edition



Today is Ash Wednesday aka the first day of Lent. Again, send us your recommended links; especially those ‘off-road’ blogs where you feel someone is writing something significant so it can reach a wider audience.

■ Starting off: What if there were only 100 Christians? What would we know about them? Gordon Conwell seminary has envisioned this in an infographic for people who might not grapple well with %-age stats, but can see it more clearly with a manageable number. Language, ethnicity, income and a host of other parameters are covered. (You can’t do justice to this on a mobile phone, however.)

■ Curiosity scandal of the week: This time it’s Mark MacArthur, son of John MacArthur and a Grace To You board member; and a $16M investment scheme. Sigh.

Breaking: Mass Coronavirus outbreaks at Chinese prison spark concern for imprisoned Christians

■ …Also from China, new rules which were due to be implemented on February 1st, would require all “religious personnel” to pledge loyalty and “total submission” to the Chinese Communist Party.

■ Question of the Week: When will the ‘unreached’ be considered ‘reached?

■ Trouble at The Holy Land Experience tourist attraction in Orlando, Florida, with most of the staff laid off.

Not Linked: I’ll let you find this one for yourself. It’s rather dark and depressing. Dan George guests at Julie Roys’ blog and reveals the contents of a meeting he attended as an elder at Harvest Bible Chapel. James MacDonald is again revealed to be the person that we now know he is and it’s not pretty. (Some days you wish this story would simply go away.)

■ A great commission (so to speak): ♫ Our friend David Wesley, known for his acapella and virtual choir videos on YouTube was recently invited to be part of the 40th Anniversary celebrations at Saddleback Church in Orange County, CA for which he produced the latest in his “Evolution of Worship” videos. For this one, Pastor Rick Warren compiled the song list and David arranged the 12-minute medley

■ Separation of State and Church: In England, The Humanist all-party parliamentary group, which is affiliated with lobby group Humanists UK, is calling for “removing the automatic right of the 26 longest serving Church of England bishops to sit in the House of Lords, arguing that bishops have changed the outcome of votes and have privileges over other members, such as when a bishop wants to speak and other peers are expected to give way.” They argue that only 14% of the population is Church of England…  

■ … Meanwhile, the Church of England is encouraging churches to be able to accept “contactless” (what we call “tap” where I live) credit card donations in lieu of traditional cash offerings.

■ The story of “Just Sam,” age 20 who led the American Idol judges in prayer. After, Luke Bryan joked that they should all get baptized.

■ For one bakery, people giving up sweets for Lent means packing all the inventory of decadence into a donut feast called Paczki Week, which falls between the Polish and American observances of Paczki Day. The Chicago bakery expects to sell 25,000 Paczkis.

■ I’m confused. Randy Alcorn is now at Patheos. (Or is that not new.) Just last month I reported that Scot McKnight had left Patheos for Christianity Today. However, Randy Alcorn’s blog is still updating at Eternal Perspective Ministries with different content. Can someone explain this to me?

■ Parenting Place: “Be careful of the amount of news you discuss in front of your children.” This, and other advice on keeping sane and keeping safe.

■ Stories We Missed Department: I was unaware that the painting of Jesus titled Prince of Peace by once-child-prodigy Akiane Kramarik had been stolen. In December, the artist viewed the picture for the first time in 16 years. [In a longer version of the story, check out what’s she’s painted more recently.]

Essay of the Week: A historical look at Willow Creek: “[A]nother unintended consequence was virtually guaranteed: the spiritual maturity of any new leaders would likely not rise above the level of the current leadership.” This is an excellent overview for people who don’t know the full Willow story.

■ KidMin: Lent activities, Bible lessons and coloring pages for kids.

■ We often hear stories about the growth of the church in Nigeria, but at the same time, the country is struggling with an increase in incest, even though it goes “against the teachings of both Islam and Christianity.”

■ Pop Culture / Kids Korner: The gospel in Frozen 2. Love is the one thing that’s permanent.

■ Hey, Pastor People: Do you preach from the Lectionary? Now you can bust a rhyme in the middle of your sermon with Lectionary Poetry.  

■ Finally, this:


Top stories from last week:

  1. What’s on the mind of America’s Pastors
  2. Michael Newnham on the SBC’s new sub-group
  3. The Timothy Keller tweet called a “train wreck”
  4. Internet Monk’s crazy Valentine cards

February 25, 2020

Celebrating 12 Years of Thinking Out Loud

Filed under: blogging, Christianity, writing — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:35 am

Early sidebar piece (widget) circa 2012. Notice the quality of the graphics.

As children get older, they are less consumed with their annual birthday observance. By their late teens they are too cool to celebrate, unless the day includes the granting of a new car.

On a parallel track, the Christian world is less consumed with Christian blogs. “I never got into the blogs;” a friend shared last month, and his words speak for so many.

But about 15 years ago, attending a monthly — or every six weeks as it worked out — meeting of church planters and alternative church dreamers, the blogs were all the rage. ‘Did you read what ____________ posted on Monday?’ someone would ask.

It also became a conduit for information about books, a passion I was all too eager to engage.

My wife had a blog long before me, and then I started one in the then religion blogs corner of USAToday. It was a great way to meet other writers, too; and a few of the conversations continued over a longer time period.

Thinking Out Loud was the natural next step following a series of emails I was mailing out monthly. Truly I did this backwards: Most built a blog following and then started stressing subscriptions.

There was a fresh post every day for ten years. The Christian blogosphere was at its height for those first few years, but other platforms, particularly Twitter, dwarfed the remaining few on Blogspot or WordPress or SquareSpace. Today, I post less frequently, though I have friends who still make a point of having a daily post.

The Original Wednesday List Lynx

I think that having the Wednesday Link List carried at Christianity Today for 22 months was this blog’s greatest achievement. That, and launching its sister blog, Christianity 201.

But as I said a long time ago in another lifetime when I stepped down from writing a monthly column for Contemporary Christian Music Magazine, “It is a far better thing to make the news than to write the news. (Unfortunately today, as Wednesday Connect testifies on an almost weekly basis, too many are making the news for the wrong reasons; but that is another topic.)

Moving forward, Thinking Out Loud will still be here. It’s nice to be able to weigh in on Christianity and culture, but I no longer feel compelled to weigh in on every issue. Plus, Twitter provides an opportunity to keep in touch on an hour-by-hour basis if something breaks. If you’re not on it, sign up and follow a few key people, even if you never Tweet anything yourself.

The next most natural evolution in my online ministry life has been Reddit. I’m not very active, but it’s nice to know when you start to type something that you are answering a specific question asked by a specific person. I urge you all to drop by the subReddit “Christianity,” as I did for a full year before joining.

Thanks to all of you who read this for your continued support. As  Queen Elizabeth might say, “I hereby declare the 13th year of Thinking Out Loud officially open.”

How the blog appears on other planets.

February 19, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #90 aka Wednesday Link List #490. We just returned from Cuba, so forgive me if the list is a bit shorter today.

Wednesday Connect - color swap■ What do American pastors feel are the major concerns facing the church today? Barna Research releases its latest survey. (Personal aside: It’s interesting to read down the list and consider how many of these concerns would be worldwide, and how many are unique to the U.S.)

■ No doubt all owing to his not being on the pro-Trump bandwagon in a denomination where supporting the President is de rigueur, the SBC’s Russell Moore, and the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of which he has been president since 2013, will be the subject of an SBC task force which will study its finances and policies. There have been “anecdotal accounts of churches withholding money or reducing their giving because of concerns about the ERLC.” …

■ …Meanwhile, a splinter group has formed within the SBC. Meet CBN, the Conservative Baptist Network

■ …Michael Newnham brings his Calvary Chapel experience to bear on why the Conservative Baptist subgroup may not be a good idea.

■ Essay of the Week: Just as pastors are called to minister to the people who can’t be physically present in the weekly service, they are also called to those who, while present, are not entirely there. They have “heard it said,” but either don’t know or don’t take next steps. “And just as you are all bound together in your sin, so you are also bound together in your inability to save yourselves.”

■ History-making: After the Reformation, the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre de Genève was taken over by John Calvin’s Reformed Protestant Church, which destroyed the cathedral’s statues and paintings, and banned Catholic worship. On Leap Day, February 29th, the first Catholic mass in 500 years will be celebrated in the building

■ …And a longstanding Catholic tradition may be changing. “Currently Papal law dictates that non-Roman Catholic Christians, for example Anglicans, cannot take part in the Eucharist (sharing of the bread and wine) at a Catholic service and similarly it directs that Roman Catholics should not take Holy Communion in other Christian churches.” However, a UK theologian is challenging this position. The stumbling block to change would be the Catholic position on transubstantiation.

■ Some Christians have been challenged by the intellectual concepts advanced by mainstream author Jordan Peterson. It turns out the man has not been well for several months and is in Russia improving after undergoing a detox process from meds which produced the opposite reaction to the one intended.

■ A doctor whose practice is 100% devoted to providing abortions boasts about getting repeat customers.

■ LGBTQ themes, characters and ideas continue to be omnipresent in popular culture, including at Marvel Comics which introduces. “a character named Phastos who is Marvel’s first openly gay superhero.”

■ First there was the book Your God is Too Small. Next, someone should write Your Church is Too Loud. After paying $105M to purchase a former event center, Transformation Church in suburban Tulsa has been told their services are too loud. The church was given 15 days to turn down the volume or make adjustments to the building.

■ Jonathan Merrit called the comment section of this Twitter thread by Tim Keller “a dumpster fire and visual explanation of why American evangelicalism is in such a perilous state.

■ At the Movies: A review of First Lady – A Modern Fairytale, produced and directed by Nina May. (It rhymes with Tina Fey.) “It’s not very often that you see a faith-based rom-com like May’s.”

■ “Jimmy Carter was way ahead of the rest of America when he put solar panels on the White House…Unfortunately, Ronald Reagan, who was no fan of alternative energy took the panels down form the White House when he took office a few years later… [I]n 2017, [Carter] leased ten acres of land near his home in Plains, Georgia, to be used as a solar farm with 3,852 panels… Three years after going live, Carter’s solar farm now provides 50% of the small town’s electricity needs, generating 1.3 MW of power per year. That’s the equivalent of burning about 3,600 tons of coal.”

■ Bizarre Conference Department: The Mentors and Mantles Solemn Assembly is your chance to receive “THE IMPARTATION” [their all-caps] to “serve this present age.” It’s also “for those who want to know how to be empowered by God to operate both in the sacred and the secular.”

♫ Music Time Travel: A look at the Reliant K song Mood Rings, and how songs like this influenced attitudes toward women.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: Department of Justice Awards Federal Grant to Anti-Homosexual Group Hookers for Jesus

■ Finally, scroll down to the middle of Saturday’s Sunday Brunch at IM, and realize that sometimes Valentine’s Day Cards have been rather creepy.



Some links this week from Ann Brock or Mad Church Disease.

Articles used on Wednesday Connect frequently originate with Religion News Service (RNS). Two months ago I made a small donation to show support, and I hope that those of you who are able to do more will consider tossing money into the hat as well, to keep this service available.

February 5, 2020

Wednesday Connect

posted by @Bruxy on Twitter

For those of you who read this on the blog, in just a few days Thinking Out Loud will celebrate 12 years of never changing its basic blog theme, Gray is the New Black. Oh, and writing some articles also. Last week was music week here at Wednesday Connect. Scroll back ICYMI. It contained some really great music, but apparently that’s not what draws people here. So I’ll be phasing those out.

■ Hurry! It’s the bees knees! Be the first kid on your block to visit the new website for James MacDonald Ministries.

■ Parenting Place: With a pre-teen and two teenagers, you wouldn’t expect this family to make their next church Episcopal. “Questions permeate my thoughts, how will our children endure this shift, especially at this stage of their spiritual development? Is this even the right choice for our family? … I glance over at my children—wide-eyed, and we’ve only just begun.

■ The advertisement you didn’t see on the broadcast of the weekend game. FOX-TV refused to sell the airtime

■ …Opinion: Should anyone really have been shocked by halftime show?

■ Regulated to Death, Literally: Michael Frost writes,

A recent Australian government enquiry into child sexual assault by clergy recommended that there be tighter regulations around who can be called a “pastor” and what minimum training is required for such a role. I understand why those recommendations were made but they make it very difficult for those churches that want to encourage all members to see themselves as missionaries (or sent ones) in their own neighborhoods. One of the fathers of the missional movement, Lesslie Newbigin was well known for talking about the declericalizing of the church. That is, the blurring of the line between clergy and lay people, and “ordaining” all people to mirror the work of God in the world.

It’s one of five cultural trends that are killing the efforts of the local church.

■ A completely oxymoronic title: “The Comforting Doctrine of Election.” There was nothing comforting in this sentence of a Christmas post we’d missed earlier: “And often after the last present is unwrapped and the left overs are cleared away and you are in the car on the way home often a wave of sadness comes; those people you love so much are headed to hell.” No! No, it’s not over yet. Sorry, this isn’t what I believe. And how is this “comforting?” This is ‘election’ run amuck.

■ If you’ve followed the career of Rob Bell, you know that Mars Hill launched with an unlike series on the book of Leviticus. Now, he’s selling a Leviticus audio commentary titled Blood, Guts and Fire.

■ I’m quite sure the Harvest Bible Chapel saga continues to help sell newspapers for the Chicago Tribune. My favorite sentence, “While MacDonald’s style led some to bristle, he remained an extremely talented preacher who attracted thousands each week to Harvest locations.” Bristle. That’s the word we’ve all been searching for. The article quotes a church spokesperson saying that the church has lost about 6,000 people across six campuses.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Hillsong Worship Is Going on Tour, But Don’t Call It Worship.” Sample:

I’ve said before that there’s a reason the contemporary pop-worship church holds such a low view of Holy Communion. It just doesn’t understand the point. Music is their substitute sacrament. Through commercial music, they allow themselves to be carried away on an emotional level into a perceived sensory connection with the divine. When you interpret worship through the lens of emotional stimulation, the bread and wine don’t make sense. It doesn’t compute.

■ Persecution Watch: Pastor Lawan Andimi was part of the Church of the Brethren in northern Nigeria, and chaired the Christian Association of Nigeria in his local district. A few weeks ago he was abducted by Islamic militants affiliated with Boko Haram. “On Jan. 20 he was beheaded by his captors. Sources said Andimi refused to renounce his faith in Jesus. He paid the ultimate price.”  …

■ …Meanwhile China uses a facial recognition system to keep track of who is attending church.

■ It’s all Greek to me! Seriously, here are 5 Greek words that every Christian should know.

■ Pastor Worship: It’s apparently more of a male thing. “But when you ask a man about his church, the first (and often only) thing he talks about is the pastor. He doesn’t talk about the facilities. He doesn’t talk about his friendships. He talks about his pastor and the quality of his sermons. ‘Oh, Pastor Jimmy is just a regular guy. His sermons are awesome!'” “So what are men searching for? A leader they can look up to and respect.”

Essay of the Week
Unreached People Group: MAGA-Nation.

We need to bring the real good news of Jesus to rural Trump supporters and FoxNews-weaned Evangelicals and Conservative single-issue voters and to people embracing a white America-centric theology—because the truth is: the compassionate, generous, diverse, barrier-breaking movement and message of Jesus are as foreign to them as anyone on the planet.

■ Kevin Makins is the pastor of Eucharist Church in downtown Hamilton, Canada and he’s chosen a unique way to introduce his June title with Baker Books; so we get to let him tell you himself! The book is Why Would Anyone Go to Church: A Young Community’s Quest to Find and Reclaim Church for Good.

■ In other book marketing news, Zondervan figured out a great way to tie-in your interest in Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s Boundaries series, depending on your favorite social media.

■ Dey not bein’ idle, man: Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky announced recently that they are launching their 10th campus.

■ Conspiracy theories? Connections between Coronavirus and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the implementation of 5G technology.

■ Next time you’re driving around while skipping church on a Sunday morning, slow down as you pass different churches and count the cars.

■ Newsy-political links we don’t here: The Atlantic looks at the confirmation bias of Wayne Grudem.

It is rather stunning to me that a person who has written a major textbook on Christian ethics can’t distinguish between a lawful investigation by American law-enforcement authorities or Congress and a president pressuring a foreign government, over which he has tremendous power, to announce an investigation into his political opponent—especially when the president’s team makes clear to that foreign government what the outcome of the request is supposed to be.

Title: “There is no Christian Case for Trump.

■ It’s personal: Over the years I’ve posted a variety of music links, but last year I discovered this one which is in a class all by itself. So yes, I’m repeating it. This is an arrangement of Psalm 104 from Psalm Project Africa. (Love how they pass the lyrics back and forth.)

■ New Music – Zauntee – Center Stage (Let love take center stage) – lyric video.

■ Hot Music – We the Kingdom – Holy Water – lyric video. 

■ New Music – Isla Vista Worship – Opened Up the Heavens.

■ Finally, just when I thought the satire writers had exhausted every possible premise, the Vatican Boy Choir defected to Japan

See you back in two weeks.


Last week’s top links:

  1. Worship leader accused of playing well-known song.
  2. First, Willow founder Hybels; now, Hybels mentor Dr. Bilezikian
  3. American Pie parody ode to Facebook
  4. Audrey Assad new song
  5. Movie trailer: The Road to Edmond
  6. Responses to Philip Yancey from NYT article
  7. Priest: Kobe Bryant attended Mass on the day of his death
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