Thinking Out Loud

March 14, 2015

Weekend Link List

Found online in 2009, this Taco Bell menu board was not made up.

Found online in 2009, this Taco Bell menu board was not made up.

Featured Links
Don’t miss the bonus short takes at the bottom.

The Pastor in the Larger Community – This is one of a series currently running at Pomomusings: “…I thought it was some Christian youth thing, but found out it was a free community event that was requesting people to give five minute presentations about something they were passionate about. Liking microphones and sharing my passion it was a perfect fit… That night, in a community space surrounded by people I didn’t know, most of whom didn’t go to church, many of whom didn’t want anything to do with church, I gave a presentation about changing the perceptions of Christians in the public square, suggesting that we weren’t all like Fred Phelps or Pat Robertson, and that some of us were open to having conversations, not to convert people but to learn from people. That event sparked several relationships that expanded my role as pastor to a part of the community that I would never have had access to in the church.”

‘Amen’ is Now Replaced by Applause – “No congregation should be faulted for wanting to make some sort of response in a service of worship. Worship in many places needs more of that. But applause is known in virtually every other context as affirmation for performance. Thus, the question: is applause during worship our best choice to affirm what is happening? …Applause is a way of saying ‘We like that,’ or ‘You did a good job.’…One isn’t required to declare what is said or sung as the truth. One isn’t required to put the weight of one’s character behind applause. …When a prayer ends with the Amen of the congregation, we are saying ‘That is my prayer too,’ or ‘I own that as the truth.’ That seems to me more potent than applause that says, ‘I like that,’ or ‘Nice going.'”

If Jesus Addressed the U.S. Congress – “Jesus is introduced. (Standing ovation.) He stands before Congress and begins to deliver his speech. ‘Blessed are the poor…the mourners…the meek.’ ‘Love your enemies.’ ‘Turn the other cheek.’ After a few perfunctory applause early on, I’m pretty sure there would be a lot of squirming senators and uncomfortable congressmen. The room would sink into a tense silence. And when Jesus concluded his speech with a prophecy of the inevitable fall of the house that would not act upon his words, what would Congress do? Nothing. They would not act. They could not act. To act on Jesus’ words would undo their system… In the end, the U.S. Congress would no more adopt the policies Jesus set out in the Sermon on the Mount than they were adopted by the Jewish Sanhedrin or the Roman Senate…” An excerpt from A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd.

Four Sermon Types You Don’t Want to Preach – Sample (#3) on the type of sermons which seem to best serve to reflect the pastor’s seminary education: “The sermon sounds like a lecture because it is a lecture. It titillates the intellect, but fails to minister to the affections. Its delivery even (perhaps unintentionally) suggests that only the few—those endowed by special wisdom and insight—can possibly be trusted to understand what the Bible says.”

Meditations, Devotions and Prayer Books, Oh My! – Starting with My Utmost for His Highest, Publishers Weekly looks at the devotional book genre both within and outside a Christian context and finds things trending toward shorter readings, while customers choose the books for visual appeal. Also noted: “‘Religion books in general are somewhat insulated from the digital shift,’ says Andrew Yankech, business development manager for Loyola Press. ‘But prayer books in particular tend to be print-focused because readers are more often than not seeking a respite from the pressures of the daily grind, and that includes modern technology.’ At Loyola, Yankech says, the sales ratio of print prayer books to digital ones is 10-to-one—’or higher.’ The figures at Harvest House tell a similar story. Of its top 10 nonfiction e-book categories, devotionals have the lowest percentage of sales in e-book format, with e-book versions accounting for just 6% of total sales for all devotionals.”

Why Didn’t They Just Book a Last-Minute Substitute? – “They canceled the retreat because I am a Mormon. My initial response was shock. After nearly a year of planning this retreat, they’re canceling now? For this? (And how could they not know from a two-second Google search that I am Mormon? It’s not like I’ve tried to be stealthy about my faith. I co-wrote Mormonism for Dummies, for heaven’s sake.) But any shock and anger I felt soon dissolved into pure sadness. What a thing. These people are willing to sacrifice all the effort and expense they’ve put in to planning this retreat (yes, I am still getting paid since I did all the prep work) because they’re just now noticing the Scarlet M emblazoned on my chest. The organizer told me that the church leaders had determined that I was not an ‘appropriate’ person to be a leader at a Christian event. She sounded sad about it too.”

Preparing Yourself to Minister at a Funeral – “Just when you think you have seen it all—the next funeral reveals you haven’t.  Even if you have seen fights break out, arrests made, uncontrollable wailing, family members and pallbearers fainting, caskets dropped and knocked over, shouting conflicts between families and funeral directors, or funeral attire that would make most people blush,  these experiences do not mean at all the next funeral will fit these experiences.  Because of this, prepare to see anything.  Prepare to get the craziest response to something you say.  Prepare to watch families at their worst.  This will allow you to think clearly and wisely when the unexpected happens.”

Lysa TerKeurst on Rejection Letters – Today she hardly needs a link here to point people to her writing, but it wasn’t always that way. “…I hung my head, got into my car, and drove to my local bookstore. I saved up all my tears until I was smack dab in the middle of thousands of other books – thousands of other writers who’d received a thumbs up to their dreams – thousands of other people with evidence that their writing mattered – and I sobbed… Sometimes callings from God unfold in a miraculous instant. But more often callings happen within a million slow moments of revelation and maturation. I needed to experience God revealing Himself and maturing me so I could properly handle the Truth I would eventually write and speak about…”

High Praise for Faith-Focused Film – On Confessions of a Prodigal Son: “I didn’t have high hopes that this would be a cinematic masterpiece, and it wasn’t. However, when the end credits rolled, the lights came up, and Spiers spoke on his concerns about the final product, I had to agree with him when he said that his fears of making a stereotypically-bad faith film weren’t realized… In fact, it was actually good, and for several of the reasons that such films usually fail. [Director Allan] Spiers’ experience as a documentary cinematographer translates well into the narrative genre by giving Confessions a simple but realistic visual setup whereas most faith films try to imitate a grand Hollywood style and fall embarrassingly short.”

The people behind the Wow music brand apparently have taken note of the presence of remixes. Better late than never?

The people behind the Wow music brand apparently have finally noted of the presence of remixes.

Short Takes

Finally, now we know what happened to the dinosaurs:

Dino Rapture

February 7, 2015

Weekend Link List

gospel-reading

Our theme for our opening and closing graphics today is literacy. I really like the fact that the creator of this graphic realizes that kids are going to encounter all types of literature and that each potentially contains elements of truth and/or elements of deception. Does knowing the Bible well give kids an edge when it comes to discernment? I think it definitely can. (Click the image for source.)

Here are the weekend stories appearing at PARSE.

  • Lessons from the Altar Girls Controversy – David Murrow would be well-versed on the broader topic, so he picked up on this story right away. “Girls were excited to begin serving at the altar back in the ‘90s. But once girls became the majority (and performed so well) boys began losing interest. So more girls stepped forward. Eventually altar service became a female-dominated activity. At this point no self-respecting boy wanted to have anything to do with the altar because it was seen as something that girls did… Star of the Sea [parish] also noted that girls generally did a better job than boys – which further discouraged boys from serving. Boys are intensely competitive. Once a male realizes he’s no good at something (or a girl is better than he is) he often feels like quitting.”
  • On Church Being Fun – This is an excerpt from John Piper at a recent conference. “I think one of the reasons so many worship services in America are so playful and amusing and entertaining and casual and flippant and jokey and trifling and downright silly is that there is so little sense that anything ominous is really at stake in this service. This service is for secure believers to have fun and for unbelievers to see them have fun; so they will know Christianity is fun. And “fun” has become the most common word among pastors to describe their happiness in ministry. It’s very telling. . . .” There’s also a link to the full transcript and video, but also, at the same blog there’s this discussion on ‘Jovial Calvinism.’
  • Church Culture: The Welcome Card – “In other cultures (often far from our own), communicating through a card would be an affront, impersonal if not rude. Newcomers are welcomed only through a gracious and lively conversation, one that elicits all the information the welcome card seeks: name of spouse, names and ages of children, whether the visitor is new to the area, and so forth… And then there is the box next to ‘Would like to know more about being a Christian.’ You just don’t say that to the stranger sitting next to you in the pew, not in this culture. But on this welcome card, you can hint at your sense of emptiness, your guilt or shame, your fear of death — and your desperate hope that there is an answer.”
  • Things We’re Not Supposed to Think or Say – “We need to dialogue about common doubts evangelicals often feel they’re not allowed to express.” Sample: “Both Jesus and Paul held progressive views about women. In the cultures of Jesus and Paul, men were not even supposed to speak to a woman in public. The fact that Jesus included women among his followers was nothing less than scandalous. While scholars disagree on Paul’s view of women overall, Paul clearly credits women as leaders within the church…”
  • That TV Commercial Festival They Kept Interrupting to Show Football Scenes – “Of course, the art of advertising is to make the audience associate something positive with their product. It doesn’t matter if you put a sexy woman next to a big sandwich or a powerful looking guy in the driver’s seat of a car. You want the audience to make subliminal associations between the product and what people really want… Unfortunately, there isn’t much about our culture that makes it easy for us to have the things that really matter to us… People are the only things in the world that can give other people what they deeply, truly want. We cannot substitute a product for a person.”
  • Christians, Groundhogs and Superstitions – “We also need to remember that Christians are not immune to superstitions either. Often, without even meaning to, we behave in a superstitious way. For example, if $6.66 pops up on a cash register while buying groceries, some Christians freak out and ask to pay another price. Christians might cross their fingers (to make a cross), an old Christian superstition, for good luck and protection. Or a bride might not want her groom to see her before the wedding so she doesn’t bring bad luck into the marriage.”
  • Conversations After Church – Read a synopsis and watch a 2-minute preview of a forthcoming documentary: “Six ordinary individuals, committed to the church and seeking to serve God, encounter a dark night of the soul moving them beyond organized religion through the door of a personal faith crisis. What started out as a mounting tension between personal experience and the old forms of faith and community forces each individual to radically reexamine their worldview and change their lives to move beyond the fragmentation.”
  • Secret Church Simulcast – The next installment of David Platt’s Secret Church multi-site live events happens near the end of April. This one deals with the topic of the church and culture. “How does a Christian respond to the rapid rise of so-called same-sex marriage and the increasing acceptance of homosexuality? How does a Christian live in a world of sex slavery and rampant pornography, a world where babies are aborted and widows are abandoned? How does a Christian think in a culture of pervasive racial prejudice and limited religious liberty? What does a Christian do in a church that exalts prosperity amidst a world of extreme poverty?” On the technical side, all your church needs to host this is a reliable, high-speed internet connection. On the commitment side, you need people willing to stay up until midnight! Costs vary by church size.
  • The Eclectic Jewish Community in Wal-Mart’s Hometown – “‘The fascination in the Bible Belt with who we are and what we believe is amazing,” said [Rabbi} Lennick, who developed a ‘Taste of Judaism’ course to address the locals’ desire for knowledge. ‘I’m constantly invited to teach church classes. I look at this as an opportunity to break down stereotypes and build alliances.’ Interfaith families, and even non-Jews, often attend services at Etz Chaim. Some come to expand their understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition, while others are seeking new answers. In the latter category is one family of 10 — with kids ranging in age from 9 to 24 — who came to Lennick as devoted Baptists. After asking a lot of questions, they have become regulars at Etz Chaim and are now pursuing ‘becoming Jews by choice,’ as the rabbi put it.” Read about the strange, interfaith, syncretistic world of religion in Bentonville.
  • From The Archives – (By internet standards, February three years ago constitutes ‘archives.’)  “Since some are saying that we are entering a period of heightened tension between clergy and laity in the American church, it might be helpful to recognize some areas in which we might diligently work in our understanding of each other...Pastor and people need to work hard at communicating at a heart level to get each other…”
  • Can’t Get Enough of Me? – Check out my other blog project, which is growing at a time that many blogs are waning. Daily devotions and Bible study since April, 2010:  Christianity 201

It would probably take shelving on this scale to hold all the books in my personal library…what seems like a blessing could be a problem if we decide to move.

My Library

May 28, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Our pastor drew this on Sunday morning. Any guesses? I know it cleared everything up for me.

Our pastor drew this on Sunday morning. Any guesses? I know it cleared up everything for me.

It appears that all my news gathering algorithms were no match for the slow news cycle of a Memorial Day weekend. Nonetheless, we have a great list for you, but our deal with PARSE is that you need to click through to their site and then select the story you want to see. Click anything below to link.

Got a suggestion for next week’s links? Find the contact page at Paul’s blog, Thinking Out Loud or via @PaulW1lk1nson and make some noise by noon on Monday.

Roger Bucklesby

September 14, 2013

The Making of the Wednesday Link List

Wednesday Link List SignPeople sometimes ask me how the Wednesday list of links to Christian news stories and articles comes together, so, in the spirit of Andy Stanley’s new book Deep and Wide, I’d like to share what’s in the secret sauce.

The fishing expedition begins late Saturday, as I generally need to wrap up everything by Monday night, since Tuesday finds me in an environment without any internet for most of the day. Now that the column has to be sent to Christianity Today on Tuesday morning, I really need everything done and the links all checked by around 10 PM Monday.

I don’t use Google Alerts. Instead, I have at least 1200 bookmarks in my computer of which most are related to blogging somehow.  In order of their importance here’s are rocks I turn over looking for interesting news events or opinion pieces:

  • Aggregators — These are websites like Alltop Church and Alltop Christian which list the five most recent pieces appearing on top Christian blogs; or lists of the Top Christian blogs, which are randomly scanned looking for writers that haven’t been featured recently.
  • Past Link Lists — Each month I give myself permission to go back one year, and see what writers who were featured that month are up to now.
  • Religious/Christian News Sources — I have about 35 of these including Religion News Service, Real Clear Religion, and the Gleanings page on Christianity Today. There are also news sites that specialize in certain types of stories, i.e. religious persecution, Canadian stories, etc.
  • Other Reliable Link Lists — Too many to list here, but since it’s Saturday, today includes checking out the Saturday Ramblings at Internet Monk, the Saturday Links for pastors at Dashhouse.com, and tomorrow, the Sunday Superlatives at Rachel Held Evans.  However, I assume many of my readers are reading those as well. Todd Rhodes also has good stories, and although I’m tempted to use this one every single week, I love Stuff Fundies Like.
  • Twitter — Since finally joining in February, my Twitter account has opened up a new world of possible sources, even though I am very much limiting the number of people I follow. (A situation being obviously reciprocated by my anemic number of followers.  Hint.)
  • Reader Submissions — I get two or three a week from readers — including two regular contributors — that wind up in the final edition.
  • Christian Bloggers — Last, but definitely not least, is the hundreds and hundreds of blogs bookmarked in my computer, which are scanned randomly.

In a part two to this, I’ll talk about why I think some of the news stories, as crazy as they are, actually matter.  In the meantime, enjoy the last ten lists at their new home at Out of Ur.

Disclaimer: A decent writer wouldn’t mix metaphors: “rocks I turn over,” versus “fishing expedition…” nor would he or she say a list appears “in order of importance” but then list the final one as “last but not least.”

July 24, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Greater New Light Baptist Church, Los Angeles

Welcome to another installment of random links from Thinking Out Loud.  If you’ve been on summer holidays, the list has become the victim of a corporate takeover. We’re now at Out of Ur on Wednesdays, the blog of Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today. We’ve asked our Chicago-based new bosses to aim for 8:00 AM EDT !!

Check the list also for an explanation as to the above Church photo, aka “Fruitcake as building material.” 

Finally, since Out of Ur is borrowing from us today, we thought we’d return the favor with a link to this post:

Ultimate Christian LogoTwentyonehundred Productions is the InterVarsity multi-media team. They post an infographic like this each week on their Facebook page.  Normally, that would be the end of things here, but since historically, the Wednesday Link List began or ended with a cartoon, I couldn’t resist stealing borrowing one more graphic from them…

Oh Yes He Did - Intervarsity Infographic

June 20, 2013

Thursday Link List

Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe chapel in Le Puy-en-Velay, France. Not exactly visitor friendly. My wife wants to know where the pastor's parking space is.

Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe chapel in Le Puy-en-Velay, France. Not exactly visitor friendly. Where the pastor’s parking space?

My dog ate my homework.

Seriously, I couldn’t think of anything original today. I keep having this bad habit of posting great stuff in the summer on Saturday and Sunday when nobody’s online reading; and then the well runs dry during the week…

Well, we could do this all week, but…

June 16, 2013

We Don’t…

Not AllowedAs someone who has spent a lifetime in and around Christian music, whenever I visit a church I often make my way to the front after the service and converse with the worship team, especially when I know one or two of the musicians.

A few weeks ago I did just that, and we started talking about songs that have the possibility of two parts being sung at the same time. Then we talked about ‘call and response’ songs where the worship leader sings a line and then the congregation repeats it. Then we talked about songs that parts for men and women.

At that point someone on the team said, “We don’t do men’s and women’s parts here.”

Days later, I was sharing this story with someone who knew exactly where I had been and they made an interesting comment, “I wonder how many times in the course of a week someone at that church begins a sentence with ‘We don’t?’

So true. So sad. Some Christian institutions have policy after policy; operating guidelines carved in stone for no particular reason. My feeling is, if you don’t have worship songs that offer something where women’s voices and men’s voices can highlight their unique giftedness, then next week would be a good week to start.

I hope the place where you worship isn’t characterized by a spirit of ‘We don’t…’

January 19, 2013

Weekend Link List

Weekend List Lynx

Weekend List Lynx

Lots of stuff that can’t wait until Wednesday!

  • This one is must reading. Matthew Paul Turner asks former Mars Hill Bible Church pastor Shane Hipps all the questions I would have asked about the church, hell, Love Wins and the man he succeeded at MHBC, Rob Bell.

    “This is one of the biggest misunderstandings.  Rob doesn’t have a position or a concept of hell, he is an artist exploring possibilities and making unexpected connections, not a theologian plotting out a system.  In other words there is nothing to agree or disagree with.  It’s like saying I disagree with that song or that painting.”

    Read more at MPT’s blog.

  • CT’s story of the week concerns gay students at Christian colleges. That’s not a typo.

    “Leaders at Christian colleges and universities around the country told Christianity Today their schools are rethinking the way they address the needs of [same sex attracted] students on campus.”

    Read more at Christianity Today.

  • If you’ve been around the church for any length of time, you might remember “visitation” by pastors and church elders. These days, you’re more likely to get a house call from your doctor.  David Fitch’s guest author Ty Grigg thinks you might not have anybody drop in these days:

    “It is not a cultural norm to have neighbors or even friends over to our homes for dinner.  If we want to be with people, we go out.  The restaurant has replaced the space that home once occupied in society.  Typically, for younger generations (40’s and under), a visit will be at a coffee shop or to grab lunch.  In our suburban isolation, the home is too much of an intimate, sacred space for most non-family members to enter.”

    Read more at Reclaiming the Mission.

Other links:

  • Canadian readers will remember a national pre-Christmas story involving the theft of $2M worth of toys from a Salvation Army warehouse in Toronto. Here’s a follow-up on how the organization is working to protect itself by having a solid ‘whistle-blower’ policy
  • Want a taste of that theological educational experience you missed? RegentRadio.com, the internet broadcasting arm of Regent College, frequently offers free lectures by its professors. Currently it’s wrapping up a twelve-part series with Gordon Fee on the Holy Spirit in Pauline Theology with a new lecture available each day.
  • We linked to this about six months ago, but it’s worth a revisit. Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed links to a 9-minute video where an orthodox priest explains various theories of atonement.
  • Sarnia is a Canadian city across the river from Port Huron, MI.  Pastor Kevin Rodgers blogs at Orphan Age and reminds us how a shared meal is a great way to build community.
  • USA Today religion editor Cathy Lynn Grossman looks at the larger religious issues in Monday’s Presidential inauguration ceremony.
  • A New Jersey substitute teacher is fired for giving a student his personal Bible as a gift after the student kept asking where the saying, “the last shall be first” came from.
  • New blogs we’re watching this week — okay new to us:
  • Talk about California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day: Our closing shot this week is from a Facebook page dedicated to books. The picture combines two of my favorite passions: a day at the beach and reading.

Beach Library

September 28, 2012

Giving Your Church What They Prefer Over What They Need

Matt Marino is an Episcopal Priest who spent 17 years with Young Life.  He dares to pose a question that’s being heard more and more recently,

What’s so uncool about cool churches?

[This is a teaser, you are strongly advised to click the link above and read the whole article, which has so far attracted over 100 comments.]

They ask for more and more, and we give it to them. And more and more the power of God is substituted for market-driven experience. In an effort to give people something “attractive” and “relevant” we embraced novel new methods in youth ministry, that 20 years later are having a powerful shaping effect on the entire church. Here are the marks of being market-driven; Which are hallmarks of your ministry?

  1. Segregation. We bought into the idea that youth should be segregated from the family and the rest of the church. It started with youth rooms, and then we moved to “youth services.” We ghettoized our children! (After all, we are cooler than the older people in “big church”. And parents? Who wants their parents in their youth group?)
  2. Big = effective. Big is (by definition) program driven: Less personal, lower commitment; a cultural and social thing as much as a spiritual thing...
  3. More programs attended = stronger disciples. The inventors of this idea, Willow Creek, in suburban Chicago, publicly repudiated this several years ago. They discovered that there was no correlation between the number of meetings attended and people’s spiritual maturity...
  4. Christian replacementism. We developed a Christian version of everything the world offers: Christian bands, novels, schools, soccer leagues, t-shirts. We created the perfect Christian bubble.
  5. Cultural “relevance” over transformation.We imitated our culture’s most successful gathering places in an effort to be “relevant.” Reflect on the Sunday “experience” at most Big-box churches:ure.
    • Concert hall (worship)
    • Comedy club (sermon)
    • Coffee house (foyer)
  6. Professionalization. If we do know an unbeliever, we don’t need to share Christ with them, we have pastors to do that. We invite them to something… to an “inviter” event… we invite them to our “Christian” subcult
  7. “McDonald’s-ization” vs. Contextualization:  It is no longer our own vision and passion. We purchase it as a package from today’s biggest going mega-church. It is almost like a “franchise fee” from Saddleback or The Resurgence.
  8. Attractional over missional. When our greatest value is butts in pews we embrace attractional models. Rather than embrace Paul’s Ephesians 4 model in which ministry gifts are given by God to “equip the saints” we have developed a top-down hierarchy aimed at filling buildings. This leaves us with Sunday “church” an experience for the unchurched, with God-centered worship of the Almighty relegated to the periphery and leading of the body of Christ to greater spiritual power and sanctification to untrained small group leaders.

continue reading the whole article here.

As I prepared this, I thought of point number eight in light of my ‘online’ church home, North Point. There are only two worship songs, and further worship is relegated to Thursday nights every other month. But even those nights simply mirror what happens on Sunday morning, which is itself an extension of the youth ministry model.

Some youth are not happen with the state of the church, and are seeking an entirely different model, as we wrote last week.  Other teens and twenty-somethings are simply leaving, as we noted two weeks ago. So there are issues that need to be addressed as to the sustainability of the present models within student ministry; but also larger implications for an entire assembly or congregation.

Among the comments at Matt’s article:

  • Being hip isn’t the problem you’re addressing, its the lack of content which plagues both cool (too much focus on preference for entertainment) and uncool (to much focus on preference for tradition)
  • What matters isn’t what the preacher wears, whether there is coffee, whether there is a rock band or an orchestra or just a piano, is the FRUIT.
  • “Guitar Praise — Just Like Guitar Hero, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “Praise Ponies — Just Like My Little Pony, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “Testamints — Just like Altoids, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “Christian Chirp — Just like Twitter, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “GodTube — Just like YouTube, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “Seek & Find” — Just like Google Search, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
    “Johnny Hammer — Just like Justin Beiber, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”
  • Your biggest draw, which is providing a loving community where all kids can belong, is completely lost when your church preaches a bigoted message on homosexuality.
  • We assemble to worship, serve, please and praise God. It’s all about HIM! Not us. Smoke machines, guitars, pianos, lasers, and flashing lights? Why? Does this please God? Is it what he’s asked for? Or is it a ploy to bring more bodies in? Hey, I am all for trying to get more souls in the pews, but let’s do it in a way that doesn’t put make-up on God.
  • A good church cannot be determined by its “style” of worship. What is important? Shouldn’t a church be judged by things like its theology, its teaching, its mission, the fellowship and growth of its people, whether people come to God and become closer to God?

June 18, 2012

When Rejection is Perpetual

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:25 am

About a year ago I wrote a post about the fact that when it comes to how things appear on the socioeconomic ladder, my wife and I refuse to play the status game. We know that we’re excluded from certain social circles because we don’t drive the same cars, go to the same stage productions, or take our holidays in the same vacation hot spots.

But I also know that sometimes we’re excluded simply because we see the world differently, or hold views on church, or worship, or social justice which are different than everybody else. Have opinions. Will share.

Today, however, I want to write about another situation that can develop which is more systemic, and can affect people at all vertical levels and across horizontal spectra.

I’m talking about the situation that can develop where someone is an outsider.

Outsiders don’t experience overt rejection; they simply exist outside of defined groups. I understand this one best where it comes to blogging. Despite the growth of Thinking Out Loud over the past four years, I don’t fit neatly into the many Christian blog clusters out there, and would safely say that I am probably considered a bit of an outsider.

I sense it sometimes when I’m in proximity of established groups and subgroups; and I think that, because of our human longing to be accepted and to socialize, there are people for whom it matters more who experience marginalization more acutely.

A few weeks ago I attended an event where I noticed four couples gathered together who are a very well-defined group. Other people dance around them, so to speak, hoping to find a point of entry on the circle, and certainly their attempts at contact are not rebuffed,  but at the end of the day it’s always the same eight people. It’s a younger demographic than my own, but I’ll bet there are people who would love to be part of this micro-community, but would consider themselves outsiders where that group is concerned.

You can be an outsider in a ministry organization or in a community of Christian leaders; you can be in vocational ministry in a denomination but be considered an outsider; you can be a member of your church choir but exist somewhat on the periphery.

The difference between outright rejection and being an outsider is, to use the case of the church choir member as an example, you’re actually on the inside of the group, and yet your membership is almost secondary to being part of the nucleus of the group. You’re in because you met certain standards — you passed the audition — but you’re also in because you did not meet standards that would have constituted rejection. Instead, the exclusion is more subtle.

It’s like the Cheers TV show theme song. Outsiders score points for the first part of the chorus (“everybody knows your name”) but not the second (“and they’re always glad you came”) part of the chorus.

Now let me be very clear: Some people choose to be outsiders, and that’s a different situation altogether.

But those who consider themselves Christ-followers should try to smash down the walls of ‘outsider-ness’ at every opportunity. The questions that need to be asked are:

(a) Who is living out life on the periphery of sub-groups in our church that wish they could be more in the center of those group? and
(b) What are we doing as a church to facilitate more inclusion in various social clusters in our church?

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