Thinking Out Loud

July 13, 2015

CT Article Gives Insight into Local Church Culture

I’m not going to provide any spoilers here, you’ll have to read the article; but in the July/August issue of Christianity Today, sociologist Bradley Wright unveils the results of a study that involved contacting nearly 3,200 churches by email using fake accounts belonging to people with distinct ethnic-sounding names, to see if the nature and volume of the replies said anything about racial attitudes in today’s churches.

Rather, I want to look at two things that were peripheral to the research results.

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2015-06-17 19:09:04Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.com

The article was also CT’s cover story. Their cover was nearly blown, however when one pastor, relocating from Alaska to Texas got the same email in both locations.

First, only 59% replied. Now in statistical research, for all I know, that might be a fairly decent response rate. But these are churches and that type of response is to me, very disappointing. For a faith that follows One who taught that a shepherd will leave 99 sheep in the pen to go after the one which is lost, that 41% did not reply is really close to abysmal. (Elsewhere on this blog, we’ve noted the same is true of Christian publishers, media outlets, and parachurch organizations in general.)

If you or someone you know oversees the general email box of your church, or gets the inquiries generated through an online form, make sure they have a mechanism in place where every legitimate email is getting a reply.

Second, it was interesting to note the definition of what constitutes racial diversity in a religious group. If 80% or more of a congregation is of a fixed race (i.e. White, Hispanic, Black, Asian) then that church is not diverse, regardless of how prominent a role some families may be given. Overall, among all religions the rate is 15%, but if you pick a Protestant Church this Sunday the rate is only 5%, in other words, nineteen-times-out-of-twenty, that congregation will be four-fifths or more of one race.

It was noted that one church body, Willow Creek, which also provided the greatest number of responses (and was declared “the winner,” assuming this was a contest) has been intentionally looking for ways to diversify its attendance.

The article is available to subscribers, or in print at newsstands. A number of charts also break down the research results.

 

April 18, 2015

Thinking Out Loud after PARSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So as suddenly as it began, it ended.

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

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

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

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

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

August 6, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Mega Christian Wedding B I N G O

Another week that started with, “I think we’ll only do about 20 links this time;” and ended with…

Oh oh! The internet meter just ran out again and I’m out of quarters.

Paul Wilkinson is widely regarded as the world’s best writer who does a column called Wednesday Link List for PARSE, and blogs the rest of the week at Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201.

Calvinist Problems on Twitter

July 17, 2013

Wednesday Link List

noah-called

Actually, a little rain would be nice.

Week three of our Wednesday Link List adventure at Out of Ur, a blog of Leadership Journal which is a ministry of Christianity Today.  Just under 30 links this week…

Click here to read the list.

Given the weather system that has blanketed much of the Midwest and the northeastern States and adjoining provinces we thought this doctrinal outline from the Twitter feed of Church Curmudgeon was most appropriate, though we think the original was TULIP not TALIP:

Total Humidity
AirConditional Malfunction
Limited Grace
Irresistible Temper
Perspiration of the Saints

Maybe that describes where you live.

And just before you click over to Out of Ur, take a glance at this Bible app infographic from YouVersion:

youversion-app

December 13, 2012

The Wonderful World of CT

A couple of interesting goings-on at Christianity Today (CT) this week.

First, there was the piece, Should Churches Discourage Belief in Santa Claus? This is one of those pieces where they simply ask a handful of experts and then arrange their answers on a spectrum, which one expects in this case would run from ‘no’ to ‘yes.’  I had actually seen this when it appeared online and given it the requisite 10-seconds I needed to digest it.

But the I listened Tuesday night to The Phil Vischer Podcast #29, and Phil mentioned that he had been quoted:

“The notion of getting back to a ‘pure Christmas’ is misfounded; the holiday was a hodgepodge from the beginning. We should take those fun Santa traditions and link them back to St. Nicholas rather than getting rid of the fun part of Christmas and stick with the somber part.”
~ Phil Vischer, creator, VeggieTales and What’s in the Bible?

And so had Wheaton College associate professor Mary ‘Scottie’ May who teaches Christian Education and Family Ministry:

“The key word is belief. Emulating Saint Nick is awesome, but I have problems with parents duping their children into believing that Santa exists. A church could acknowledge in a family context the historical person of St. Nicholas. But the figure the culture has created does not belong in church.”
~ Scottie May, professor, Wheaton College

And then he dropped this: Scottie is Phil’s mom.

And the reporter didn’t know.

And neither interviewee knew the other had been interviewed.

And — yes there’s another and — they were quoted at opposite ends of the five-answer continuum even though their answers were very similar if not identical. (Podcast subject begins around 11:30 to about 13:30)

…Meanwhile, over at her.meneutics, the Christianity Today women’s blog, profiles OMG Tees, a product line described as “spiritual and sexy.”

I thought of including the picture that they did, but that would just be gratuitous. We would never do that here.

OMG Tees 1

Okay, too late. But not to worry; some people don’t scroll down this far.  Writer Michelle Van Loon notes:

OMG has created a line of casual tanks and tees designed for Saturday night parties and Sunday morning worship. Founded in 2010, the California company’s website features teen models giving the camera their best PG-13 “come hither” looks, often wearing little more than tees and tanks splashed with slogans like “A Date With J.C.”, “God Knows My Secrets,” and “Worship Crew.” Who knows? Perhaps the “come hither” is intended to be a non-verbal evangelistic tool.

There have been at least two generations of the Christian T-Shirt–the derivative-yet-earnest variety and the darkly ironic–but OMG has created a brand-new category: Sexy ‘n Spiritual. Christians have a long, ignoble history of trading in all manner of religious tchotchkes, but OMG, with its Second Commandment-bending name, takes this bad habit of ours in a new direction, with its products’ odd syncretism between pop religion and hyper-sexualized pop culture.

She then uses this as a springboard to discuss what she calls ‘fan behavior’ recalling the premise of Kyle Idleman’s popular Christian book, Not a Fan which we reviewed here in May.

She concludes:

I doubt that the Christians who are suiting up for this year’s round of court battles on behalf of their local town hall’s manger scene see themselves as kindred spirits with companies like OMG. I think they have one thing in common: They both appeal to the fans of Team Jesus. It might just be time to quit the team, and follow the captain instead.

…Because we’re considered a more progressive blog by some, I thought I’d toss in an extra gratuitous picture; however please keep in mind that (a) this is for educational purposes only, and (b) honestly, this is the only other picture at the site I considered remotely safe; the others being a sequence of pics that begin on a church platform and end with the same three girls lying on a bed together. And no, I am not making that up; the rest of the stuff is mildly pornographic, and the “Princess of Peace” product line is equally blasphemous.

OMG Tees 2

…All of this begs the question as to whether or not we need CT to bring us these articles or if we would be better served by them simply taking an online pass if it’s a slow evangelical news day.

September 8, 2012

A Christianity Today Link List

A few weeks ago I lamented that Christianity Today (CT) seemed to be moving toward a platform where only subscribers would get access to certain stories. Since then, I haven’t run into that so much.

It’s possible someone there had the good sense to say, ‘Magazines as we know them will soon disappear, and paid subscriptions will go with them, so we would be better to just build a loyal internet following over the next several years.’

Or something like that.

I know that’s what I’d say.

These links go back to early August, but represent a colorful mix of stories I followed recently.

It’s a rainy day here in the Great Lakes region; hope these links provide some reading to keep you busy.

May 31, 2010

CNN Increases Focus on Faith-Based Stories

I’ve really appreciated the Religion page at USAToday, not to mention The Christian Post and Christianity Today Online.   These sources have  provided me with access to stories that I felt were both (a) significant and newsworthy; and (b) under-reported in the Christian blogosphere.

But CNN has really taken the reporting of religious stories to the next level with their Belief Blog.    While some older stories have been backdated into the blog, you’ll find the official welcome on May 19th, where after considering several recent general-interest stories, the editors continue:

…Faith isn’t incidental to these stories; it’s the driving force behind them. Covering those faith angles is this blog’s mission. CNN’s Belief Blog will focus on the places where faith bumps up against the rest of the news and the rest of the world, from breaking news to entertainment, from business to politics, and from foreign affairs to sports.

We’ll also shine a light on religion as most people experience it in daily life. In a shrinking world, knowing what it’s like to undergo an adult baptism or to pray to Mecca five times a day is essential to understanding the world’s most powerful leaders – and, perhaps, the person in the next cubicle.

And as the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated grow, we’ll cover the rising voices of atheists, those who call themselves “spiritual but not religious” and others who are religiously conflicted or confused. Covering the faithful necessitates covering their critics and rivals.

To do the job, the CNN Belief Blog has enlisted CNN’s international newsgathering team, with correspondents, producers, and writers all contributing. We’ll also be posting the opinions of guest bloggers and will feature regular posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero, an expert at revealing the hidden faith angles that explain so much about American life and world geopolitics.

You can read the full introduction here;  or better yet, visit the May 24th post containing a three-minuite video tour of the new site.   You’ll find the expected bias toward U.S. stories, but also a fairly wide worldview, presented in a clear, clean and straightforward manner.  (Many CNN-staffers attend Evangelical churches; as Atlanta is one of the most “churched” cities in the world.)

If you are a blogger who wants to stay current to breaking news, or are simply a reader who enjoys uncovering the spiritual significance behind some of the headlines, you will want to bookmark CNN Belief and check it daily.

On this blog, I’ll do the same, and I expect at least one CNN story to turn up in the Wednesday Link Lists here weekly.

April 15, 2010

Gay and Christian: The Jennifer Knapp Interview

By the time you read this there will probably be over 300 comments.

Christianity Today posted a long, online interview on Tuesday afternoon in which Jennifer Knapp ends a 7-year media silence, announces her new album, and admits to being involved in a gay relationship for several years, though maintaining it was not a factor in her original decision to take a hiatus.

First of all, let me say that I applaud CT’s decision to run this.   Jennifer Knapp was at the top of the “most wanted ” list of “missing in action” Christian singers.   Turns out she was in Australia for five years, but has been Stateside since September.   Interviewer Mark Moring asked all the right questions and wasn’t afraid to ask a few of the harder questions, too.

The magazine has endured some persecution in the comments, but I was more challenged by their decision to link to a GayChurch.org commentary on the “clobber verses” used against Christian gays.  (The hyperlink doesn’t work however, it’s meant to take you to this page.)  Any “reporting” of this kind is often considered “endorsement;” possibly including the very blog post you’re reading now.

This is the tough issue for the (capital C) Church.   If it hasn’t hit your church yet, it will at some point in the future when you least expect it.   My personal view is that it raises two issues:

  1. Can a person be following Christ and be gay at the same time?  Notice I didn’t say “struggling” with being gay.   Those very same “clobber passages” will yield one answer, but I challenge you to get to know people in this situation and then tell them that they are not moving toward the cross.    It’s complicated I know, and many will mis-read the statement I just made.   Which brings us to the next question…
  2. What is the measure of our compassion and what kind of face does our version of “grace” wear?    Many, if honest, “Hate the sin and hate the sinner.”   That’s just sin of another kind.   I’m not saying that if someone is caught in what we view as sin we should do anything other than what scripture says, “restore them gently,” but when and how we do this is going to say a lot more about us as local church or as the (capital C) Church in general than it’s going to say about the gay person.

In the meantime, the new album, Letting Go releases May 11, though she says. “The Christian bookstore thing is probably not going to happen; this isn’t a Christian record, and it’s not going to be marketed to Christian radio.”  Jennifer is back on tour, describing her audience in these words:

My concerts right now include the ultra-conservative hand raisers that are going to make this bar their worship zone. And there’s a guy over on the left having one too many, and there’s a gay couple over on the right. That’s my dream scenario. I love each and every one of them. At the end of the day, it’s music.

Her Wikipedia article claims that she recently announced tour dates with Derek Webb.    This blog mentioned Webb’s appearance at the Gay Christian Network conference early in the year.    Chris, a gay blogger writing about Webb drew this comment from Jon:

I was at said gay christian conference in Nashville this year, when Derek Webb said “If the church were to force me to pick sides [about where he stands on homosexuality], I’d be on y’all [gay people] side”. We also have very popular Christian speakers coming there. This year we had Tony Campolo as our keynote, next year, we have Philip Yancey as the keynote. Those names mean nothing to people who aren’t a part of evangelical subculture, but in the evangelical world, those are big names coming to talk at the Gay Christian Network conference.

(Sometimes these blog posts evolve as I’m writing — suddenly we find Philip Yancey’s name invoked in connection with next year’s conference.)

Another Gay blogger posts the lyrics to Webb’s What Matters More along with the music video.    I recall Webb saying at the time — but cannot locate it for you here — that he had a friend who was gay, possibly referring to Knapp.

I recognize that I’ve probably given more space to this issue than some feel it deserves, and there will be blog readers who think I’m being soft on the moral issues of homosexuality.  I’m just trying to take the focus off item #1 above and focus on item #2.

The point I want to make is that there are a number — a growing number — of people out there who are truly striving to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ but are also involved in a gay relationship, are dealing with the issue of friends who have come out, or are dealing with latent gay feelings.   Some of these were gay before they investigated Christianity, others were Christians before they confronted with the gay issue.

This issue matters.   How we interpret scripture is one thing.   Most people reading this blog would agree that scripture is very clear on this issue.   How we respond to gay and gay-inclined people in the Church at large is a very, very different issue altogether.   In fact, a poor, wrong or ill-chosen response could leave us in as sinful a state as those we would condemn.

And remember, you can’t obsess about Paul said about homosexuality and ignore what Jesus said about materialism.  And gluttony.  And hypocrisy.  And worry.  And so on…

Here’s the CT link again to the Knapp interview that started all this.

Two really good blog posts at Mere Orthodoxy on this topic:  The Objectification of Jennifer Knapp (April 13) and Why Jennifer Knapp Matters (April 14). Also Justin Wise’s post at BeDeviant, Unfriending Jennifer Knapp.   As of 10 PM last night, these were the only mentions in Alltop Church and Christianity pages, but you’ll find dozens of blog posts at this WordPress link.

UPDATE – JANUARY 2011 — At the end of 2010, I was asked to be part of a blog tour for a definitive book on this subject, Turning Controversy into Church Ministry by W. P. Campbell.  You can find my review of a small section of the book, and links to the rest of the blog tour here.

April 14, 2010

The Wednesday Link List

“Officially voted the finest Wednesday Link List on any blog called Thinking Out Loud”

Here’s some places my computer took me this week.   What about you?

  • Here’s a reprint from a few days of ago of what would be Michael Spencer’s final blog post on February 22 at Internet Monk.
  • My choice for in-depth article of the week is Ted Olsen’s online-only piece at Christianity Today suggesting that the annunciation may be more important than Christmas and Easter, especially in view of its relationship to the abortion debate.
  • The Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act of 1860.  It’s a little-known law in the UK — and some places closer to home — but as this person found out, it’s illegal to disrupt a worship service, as reported at Answers for the Faith.
  • They’re “disgusting and disturbing” but does that mean the Hutaree militant fringe group are not Christians?   Julie Clawson at the blog One Hand Clapping tackles an interesting subject in Militias, The Church & Christians.
  • David Hayward, aka Naked Pastor, resigns after 25 years at a Canadian Vineyard church.
  • The journalism blog Get Religion looks at the story of a church which offered love and compassion to a mentally ill man who later set fire to their church.
  • Sometimes I think we get too hung up on the “latest” thing in the blogosphere.   Here’s a post from January of last year about churches coming together to help with a funeral at the blog, 300 Words a Day.
  • If you remember my piece on bullying, republished here just a few days ago, you might also appreciate this piece by Mike Furches at The Virtual Pew.
  • At the blog Arminian Today, the blogger known as The Seeking Disciple asks the musical question, Does Calvinism Make it Easier To Sin?   Easier may not be the right word, but he makes an argument for complacency.
  • Brian McLaren plays the piano and discusses eschatology and open theology in a video series about his book posted at The Ooze TV.
  • Jeffrey Overstreet looks at Christian publishing with a little help from C. S. Lewis, Oscar Wilde and this gem from T. S. Eliot:

    “[T]he last thing I would wish for would be the existence of two literatures, one for Christian consumption and the other for the pagan world. What I believe to be incumbent upon all Christians is the duty of maintaining consciously certain standards and criteria of criticism over and above those applied by the rest of the world; and that by these criteria and standards everything that we read must be tested.”
    Continue reading here.

  • Shaun Groves returns to the U.S. from Canada and is readmitted only after he gives the border patrol a mini-version of his Canadian seminar on poverty for Compassion International (complete with Q&A time!)
  • Author John Shore finds out late in March that his mother passed away — five years ago.
  • Cynthia Ware of the Center for Church Communication guests at UrbanMinistry.org with a piece of 5 Trends affecting Church communicators.
  • Academic story of the week:  Evangelical scholar and author Bruce Waltke finds his job at Reformed Theological Seminary over after he posts a video which supports evolution.   Details at USAToday, or you can read more at Jon Rising’s Word and Spirit blog.
  • Blog discovery of the week:  Confident Christianity by Mary Jo Sharpe who has just signed a book contract with Kregel Publishing.
  • Classic video discovery the week:  Christian music veteran Kathy Trocolli and the Beach Boys (yes it’s really them) team up for I Can Hear Music.  Posted in 2007.  Turn it up loud.
  • Jon Acuff is back in classic form as he examines that most unusual species: The Youth Pastor.  “#52. Tells youth group that the Psalms are kind of emo.” Check out Stuff Christians Like # 747.
  • Our cartoon this week is from the usually-not-so-religiously-oriented cartoon blog Beartoons.com where he also discusses the whole concept of atheist missionaries:

HT for Jeffrey Overstreet piece:  Nathan Douglas at Cinema Truth.

December 23, 2009

Link Letter

Art Linkletter was famous for doing something on TV, but I can't remember what

You’ll never know unless you click on these links, right Art?

  • I never thought the day would come when I’d link to John MacArthur’s blog, but he does a good job of separating out the nuances between “Word-Faith” doctrine and “Prosperity Gospel;” perhaps as only a non-Pentecostal can do.   All this follows the passing last week of Oral Roberts, and is a rebuttal to a (linked) Christianity Today article by Ted Olsen.   Check it out at Grace to You.
  • Speaking of Prosperity Gospel, and how it raises lifestyle expectations, The Atlantic magazine asks the question in a lengthy, in-depth article, “Did Christianity Cause The Crash?”

    Demographically, the growth of the prosperity gospel tracks fairly closely to the pattern of foreclosure hot spots. Both spread in two particular kinds of communities—the exurban middle class and the urban poor. Many newer prosperity churches popped up around fringe suburban developments built in the 1990s and 2000s,…precisely the kinds of neighborhoods that have been decimated by foreclosures… Zooming out a bit,…most new prosperity-gospel churches were built along the Sun Belt, particularly in California, Florida, and Arizona—all areas that were hard-hit by the mortgage crisis. … “financial empowerment” seminars that are common at prosperity churches…pay lip service to “sound financial practices,” but overall they would send the opposite message: posters advertising the seminars featured big houses in the background, and the parking spots closest to the church were reserved for luxury cars.

    Read the whole article here.

  • New Blog of the week:  Redeem the Time by David Mercier.
  • Rob Bell item of the week:  “Christians Shouldn’t Fear Controversy Over Doctrine” by Drew Nichter at Associated Baptist Press.
  • Quote of the week: “Good preaching is like a belly button, every person has their own idea of just what it should look like.”  – One of several observations by Clint Cozier, who marks the occasion of the end of his Presbyterian pastorate in Grand Rapids by starting a blog.
  • YouTube video of the week:  “O Come All Ye Faithful” by the online sensation, Pomplamoose Music.   The music’s great; the video itself is excellent.    If you like it, which you will, you can check out “Always in the Season” at this link which is a combo music video and World Vision fundraiser.  (It means “grapefruit” in French.)
  • Speaking of Christmas, why are the genealogies of Jesus in Luke and Matthew so different?   Grant Osborne answers that one in “Who Was Jesus’ Grandfather?” at Christianity Today.
  • Wanna see if you could make the cut for your church’s handbell choir?   Handbell Hero is the liturgical version of Guitar Hero.  Okay, look at the first four keys of center row of your keyboard:  A, S, D, F.   Those are your bells.   Ready?  Click here.
  • YouTube runner up:  The Amazing Grace House. The display has 50,000 lights and is computer controlled by 180 channels.  (I think this was done last year, too; but this is a new video.)
  • Congratulations to Stephy at the blog, Stuff Christian Culture Likes which is now part of Beliefnet.
  • By the way, just to update you — especially our Canadian readers — our iKettle got a couple of direct donations yesterday that bypassed the site, and were picked up by the Salvation Army yesterday.  They totaled $250, which brings us to $380, but still $620 short of our $1,000 goal.   You can still donate (securely) here.
  • Some of the blogs with larger readership are ‘monetized,’ that is to say, they make money because they accept advertising.    The key to this has been the Beacon Ad Network, and your organization or business can reach 450,000 blog readers (guaranteed!) by clicking here.

HT: Pomplamoose at Zach’s.

Today’s cartoon is another from Jon Birch at ASBO Jesus.  Click the image to link the site.

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.