Thinking Out Loud

August 21, 2019

Wednesday Connect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

■ …which you can find here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






August 14, 2019

Wednesday Connect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

■ Runner Up: The Fairway to Heaven.

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

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


July 16, 2019

Another Youth Pastor Story of Shame

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:15 am

The link isn’t important. There is one of these stories all too frequently. A youth pastor. An underage teen. You know the ones.

Is it time to re-think the role of Youth Pastor? It wouldn’t stop everything that’s happening in some churches from happening, but it also wouldn’t stop the church from having a decent youth program anyway with an associate pastor and some lay-leaders and not some fresh-faced Bible college graduate whose ability to measure the consequences of actions still hasn’t caught up to his academic youth ministry credentials.

Look at it this way, if current Youth Ministry training includes some lectures on appropriate boundaries, then it’s not always working. A more seasoned ministry staff member would be better equipped to avoid temptation and understand what’s entailed in crossing the line.

The kids in the group would also benefit from inter-generational ministry.

The guy in charge of youth at my church was a semi-retired insurance salesman. On staff half-time. Really connected with teens. Today it would be called a megachurch. It was a great, diverse youth program. There were music nights. Sports nights. Pizza nights. Serious Bible study nights.

It works. And it avoids putting young men (usually) and women (sometimes) into situations they all apparently can’t handle.

June 27, 2019

Dying Churches

Earlier this morning I noted on Twitter that our #2 click on the link collection yesterday was an article by J.D. Greear, The One Thing That Can Reverse Any Church’s Decline. Apparently, even though I teased that one very briefly, it resonated enough to produce some clicks.

Last night I also finished reading Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom Rainer. This 2014 title is one in a series of several little hardcover books by Rainer which retail for $12.99, but church leaders can pick them up in bulk for only $5.00; of which I Am A Church Member is probably the best known. At only about 90 pages, it’s a quick read.

Rainer researched 14 churches that had died and looked for the common elements, so the resulting publication is anecdotal, but also prescriptive. Definitely not a feel-good book, but many readers will probably think of their own stories of churches which have been on, or currently are on the same path.

So definitely a cautionary tale. I’m not sure if following Rainer’s advice can reverse the fortunes of such churches (vis-a-vis the Greear article) or simply slow down the process.

These are challenging times.

Will the stress and strain being felt by small(er) churches eventually hit the megachurches?…

…For the small church pastor, I don’t know a better person to get to know than Karl Vaters who arrived at Christianity Today just weeks after the Wednesday Link List was cut loose. His blog at CT is called Pivot, and he very consistently is turning out some of the best material on church life you can read. Many of the articles also appear at if you prefer to check them out there. I also encourage you to follow him on Twitter.

What you clicked this week:
1. The Ed Stetzer thing
2. J.D. Greear on reversing church decline
3. Ravi Zacharias. – another person comes forward
4. The body image economy (the first link)
5. Baptist to Pentecostal
6. Anti-LGBTQ conference



June 26, 2019

Wednesday Connect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 19, 2019

Wednesday Connect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 12, 2019

Wednesday Connect

A new Barna Research survey has determined, using 16 factors, that the northeast region of the United States is the most ‘post-Christian.’ Click the image to read more.

We’re back. Or so I say each week. I was raised in a writing tradition where a constant mantra was, “‘We’ is an editorial ‘I.'” When this weekly column was part of the Christianity Today team, there really was a ‘we’ in the sense that my wife checked all the spelling and verified all the links. But once that ended, she cast me adrift into the sea of typos and dead links. There is also a ‘we’ in the sense that three or four people periodically send me story and opinion-piece suggestions. [realizes he has no idea where he’s going with this introduction…]

■ Who’s up for a good Church Membership Covenant? Hopefully no one. The practice asks members “to surrender their 6th, 7th, and 8th amendment rights.Check out this entire thread on Twitter. Also check out Wade Mullen’s blog. If you enjoy Spiritual Sounding Board, Wartburtg Watch, or Warren Throckmorton, this is a good site to bookmark.

■ If you missed the update that ran here a day later, the 17 year old girl in the Netherlands died, but not from euthanasia, for which it turns out she had actually been refused. Refer back to last week’s column for insight into how the false story got spread, and this article on how the conditions for it to happen in The Netherlands are still very real.

■ Target painted on his back? The guy in the original Colorado “gay wedding cake” story is now facing his third lawsuit for refusing to do a “gender reveal” type of cake for a trans customer. “So this latest attack by Scardina looks like yet another desperate attempt to harass cake artist Jack Phillips. And it stumbles over the one detail that matters most: Jack serves everyone; he just cannot express all messages through his custom cakes.”

■ Gender identity in the Catholic Church: “In its first statement on gender identity, the Vatican on Monday rejected the idea that transgender people can change their gender identity in a document meant to instruct Catholic teachers and students on sexuality and gender…This document comes in the midst of Pride Month…”

■ Worth following the thread: In 25 separate tweets, an outline of the story of a Spanish speaking pastor who was deported to Columbia by the U.S. government, after 19 years.

…My uncle is a faithful pastor of a local Spanish-speaking congregation, and my aunt is a beloved school teacher. They founded a soccer academy, and have been leaders in our community for almost 20 years… My uncle graduated in the 80s from a university in New York for which he played soccer. He was promised legal residency upon graduation, but instead graduated to a broken promise from this institution… It’s no secret to our family that this country’s immigration system is deeply broken and biased toward immigrants of European descent. But this current administration—and to speak more frankly, our president—has been the single greatest threat to my family the past few years.

■ Incomplete. Lives that were never finished. “A grieving Parkland dad announced the launch of the Museum of Incomplete, which will feature artifacts from lives cut short by gun violence—clothing never worn, an email left unsent, artwork never finished.

■ Your next book to read? God’s Internationalists: World Vision and the Age of Evangelical Humanitarianism, by David King. He researched the 70 year history of the organization. In teasing out this interview, Scott McKnight posed the question as to whether people would perceive World Vision as part of the religious right or evangelical left?

■ Translation Troubles: Speaking of Scot McKnight, he has a really good article on how the tribe which produced a Bible translation may influence its rendering of certain verses. He offers a great example in James 3:1.

■ If you can take the 13½ minutes to watch, this homily by Rachel Held Evans given in 2015 in a California church is almost prophetic, given the events of the past two months.

■ Catholic songwriter David Haas’ new song, You’ve Made Me Wonderful is not without its critics. “Haas said he had written the refrain on Sunday as a gift to all of his friends in the LGBTQ community who will be involved in Pride activities this month…and is based on Psalm 139:13-14. Haas has elaborated by saying that the Bible verses speak of a God who knows us better than we know ourselves and loves and accepts all of us.” (We tracked it down on YouTube and observed that the song clocks in at less than 90 seconds.)

■ Question of the Week: Is David Brooks a Christian or a Jew?

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Why Are Calvinists So Mean?” (Presented by someone within the camp; and presented without further comment. But oh, so tempting.) (And what are they going to do about this problem?)

■ New Music: Last week a friend introduced me to Bethany Music — not Bethel Music — and this is their most recent video, an acoustic version of It is Finished.

■ Different Music: Steelpan is an instrument you don’t see featured often in mainstream music. Joy Lapps performed recently with the Toronto Mass Choir. This video was recorded two years ago.

■ Testimony/Sermon: If you’ve never had the Francis Chan experience, this was posted just last week from a talk Chan gave to a youth convention in the UK.

■ Leadership Lessons: “Clipboard Leadership emerges when the need for reports begins to outweigh the need for results.” Three ways to recognize when it has crept into your church’s corporate culture.

■ Harvest Bible Chapel: The Niles campus of Harvest, located east of O’Hare International Airport will sever itself from HBC, and return to its roots — since 1871 — as an independent church. Read the story, or watch the video announcement.

■ “A former Sunday school teacher who was falsely accused of being a drug smuggler, detained at Vancouver International Airport and eventually strip searched says she is still traumatized by the treatment and is calling for greater oversight of the Canada Border Services Agency.”

■ Biography (1): Rev. Jasper Williams, the pastor who delivered the eulogy at Aretha Franklin’s funeral has released, It Ain’t But One. “Williams looks back on his life and ministry, recounting the challenges of taking the reins of leadership at Salem Bible Church at the tender age of 20, growing and shepherding the congregation and rising in leadership and influence in the Atlanta community and across the country.

■ Biography (2): Releasing this fall, Ray Barnett, the founder of the African Children’s Choir tells his story in Don’t Tell Me It Can’t Be Done. “Barnett takes readers on a roller-coaster journey through … a childhood marked by loss, abuse, learning disabilities, rejection, and the crushing discovery that the family who raised him was not his own.”

■ Katy Perry is still trying to buy that convent in Los Angeles. “The last living nun of the convent who fought off Katy Perry’s purchase of a Los Angeles property isn’t giving up on the feud. Sister Rita Callanan, 81, told the New York Post that the singer ‘has blood on her hands’ after the lengthy legal battle over the former home of Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary… On her mission to woo the nuns into accepting the sale, Perry reportedly sang ‘Oh Happy Day’ for them at a meeting regarding the sale, and showed them a “Jesus” tattoo on her wrist. It apparently didn’t do the trick…”

■ Gospel music’s Deitrick Haddon will appear in the movie Sins of the Father on July 7.

■ Finally — Seeing Double: In Italy, 26-year old twins were ordained to the priesthood, side-by-side on the same day.

June 5, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Photobombing the Toledo Grace Brethren Church. Found at the anon Twitter account, Lloyd Legalist.

As you can see, Coffee With Jesus has switched to a vertical format. Read more installments at this link. (And thanks to Happy Monday at The Master’s Table for this one!)

We’re back with more things you might not see elsewhere. This week Roger Olson had a piece on three “religions” often confused with Christianity: Moral Theraputic Deism, Americanism, and a Christianity rooted in social justice. It’s too bad my AdBlock-er was showing 28 advertising elements or I would have linked it.

Essay of the Week: An excellent profile of watchdog bloggers at Watch Keep, Spiritual Sounding Board, and The Wartburg Watch, appearing this Sunday in the Washington Post Magazine no less.

■ A massive exercise in spin? Later this month ” 3,235 boxes of paper items, 1,000 scrapbooks of news clippings dating back to the 1940s and more than 1,000 linear feet of videos, cassettes, reels, films and audio” which “documents the life and ministry of evangelist Billy Graham” will “no longer be housed at Wheaton’s highly regarded Billy Graham Center Archives.” The boxes are on their way to North Carolina, where a Wheaton College history professor notes, “The so-called (Billy Graham) Library is not a library…It has no archives. It has no archivist.” But it might be worse than that. Religion News Service notes,

Their fear: that this move is part of a bid by Franklin Graham to control his father’s legacy and make it more closely echo his own conservative political and theological agendas. They worry that Franklin Graham may deny access to the archival materials to scholars and others who don’t share his views or who are unwilling to promote what one called a “sanitized history” of the evangelical movement.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: ‘Holy Ghosting: When Christians Vanish from Church.’ The article defines terms first, “Ghosting happens when people leave without informing church leadership. But it’s more than that. It’s also when a person decides to not speak to anyone about their decision to move on.” Then, an explanation of a mixed blessing; “Church growth, while being an obvious blessing for any congregation, can increase the likelihood of ghosting taking place. While the specific numbers vary, it is commonly said that a leader cannot pastorally care for more than 100 people at a time. Without an increase in pastoral staff, those in larger congregations can feel like they haven’t been fully embedded into their local church community. If they slip away from regular attendance, their absence is less likely to be noticed.”

■ From our continuing NBA Finals coverage: “Toronto Raptors point guard Jeremy Lin has reflected on power and importance of prayer, explaining that prayer ‘acknowledges that He is God and we are not,’ ‘brings necessary humble surrender into our lives,’ and ‘intimacy in our relationship with God.'” He adds, “I’ve been heavily challenged personally to pray more often and more boldly. So that’s why I decided to start a prayer movement with whoever will pray alongside me during the 2019 NBA Playoffs.”

■ Last month Newsweek cited a report that “says that the persecution of Christians across the world is fast becoming genocide and that the faith will soon disappear in some areas of the world, even in locations where its presence dates back to antiquity…The review found that eradicating Christians and other minorities through violence was the explicit objective of extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, northeast Nigeria and the Philippines. These groups are not only murdering Christians for their faith but also whitewashing all evidence of their existence by destroying churches and removing religious symbols such as crosses.”

■ For years, I was a regular listener to the Phil Vischer Podcast, and I know that many of you shared that interest. Podcast regular Christian Taylor has been busy making a movie about D-Day and Normandy and tomorrow (Thursday 6/6) you’ll have a one-day opportunity to stream the complete film.

■ Concerned about “teaching children about the society that we live in and the different types of loving, healthy relationships that exist” at this UK primary school, now parents can’t even publicly voice dissent: “The head teacher of a school where parents have protested LGBT awareness lessons says she is bracing herself for mass arrests after the High Court moved to halt the protests. The High Court order bans protests from taking place outside the gates of Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham – the first in the UK to have a legally enforceable exclusion zone.

■ A heartbeat is a heartbeat is a heartbeat. Except at The New York Times, which calls it “embryonic pulsing.

■ Bizarre Headline of the Week: “Christian Refugees Denied Asylum in Sweden for Failing Difficult Theological Quiz.” The Deputy General of the Swedish Evangelical Alliance noted, “A theology student may have to take another test if he or she fails, but if the asylum seeker fails the test, he or she will be deported to a country where he or she may be killed;” adding that the test included questions which “not even experienced pastors have been able to answer.”

■ The BBC finds American Christianity fascinating, as do Christians in other parts of the world. In a recent article they look at prosperity preaching and televangelists and profile some people who sent the last of their life savings. For this reader, it was also an introduction to Televangelist Todd Coontz.

■ Eric Metaxas: “To be clear, it’s not in my book anywhere, but was used in the jacket copy.” But it was used in related products and in a speech. Sigh! The Bonhoeffer quotation that will never die, even if Bonhoeffer didn’t say it.

■ KidMin: What would the perfect Children’s Ministry look like? The author of this piece offers eleven characteristics. Sample: “The focus would be upon the two whats and the two hows – what is is saying, what does it mean, how do I live this, how will it change my life.”

■ MusicMin: “If you’re happy and you know it shake your chains [rattle, rattle]” Paul and Silas, speaking to you from prison, will tell you not all Christian music is happy. They sang, but “they knew the pain they were experiencing.”

■ Walter Martin’s classic reference work Kingdom of the Cults has released in its sixth edition. “This new edition, comprehensively updated by experts Jill Martin Rische and Kurt Van Gorden, builds on Dr. Martin’s authoritative original text, and includes helpful information about changes and developments in belief systems around the globe in recent years.” Hardcover available now, from Bethany House Publishing, paperback in November.

Christianophobia. (Yes it’s a Patheos link, but only 15 ad elements on this one.)

■ New ♪ Music: Phil Wickham’s Singalong 4 is now out, but for physical CD collectors, sadly the Singalong series is only available for download. Meanwhile, here’s a sample medley.

■ Chicago Student Pastor deported to Columbia in ICE raid. “Betty and Carlos have no criminal record whatsoever, and the fact that Betty is a pastor in the Lutheran community and has these deep ties. They are also homeowners. … We think that distinguishes their case.”

■ Not ‘Lead us not.’ After many months of discussion, Pope Francis has signed off on the change to the official Catholic version of The Lord’s Prayer.

■ Joe Gibbs, Kathy Lee Gifford and the Unplanned movie were among the non-music category winners at the K-LOVE Fan Awards for 2019. Lauren Daigle and For King and Country won two each.

■ What’s your favorite? Readers at Reddit’s Christianity page discuss their favorite podcasts.

■ Noa Pothoven claimed that “sexual assaults and rapes as a small girl led her to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anorexia. She was attacked three times as a youngster.” The 17-year old was legally euthanized according to Netherlands law. “Children as young as 12 can opt for euthanasia in the Netherlands but only after a doctor determines that the patient’s pain is unbearable.”  UPDATE (6/6; 13:20): has posted “The Euthanasia that Wasn’t,” clarifying that the English language version of the story which went worldwide was wrong, that she was actually refused Euthanasia, though Noa has indeed died due mostly to starving herself. We’ve pulled the link that was above, and you can read this updated report at this link.

■ Top clicked items here are posted on Twitter at some point the next day. Here’s what you liked last week.
1. Tweet of the Week: Fire Dancing at Church
2. Churches and organizations: Ditch MailChimp?
3. The exact moment when life begins
4. ‘Wear it Rainbow Day’ at work
5. Forced out of PhD program for beliefs
6. Things learned returning to ministry
If you missed last week, or are curious, click here.

■ New ♪ Music: Jen Ledger sings professionally as simply ‘Ledger.’ This is her newest single, Completely.

■ This was all over the internet yesterday, so you probably heard about David Platt’s explanation for praying for the U.S. President.

Another young pastor screws up.

■ Finally, Aardvarks in Church. The person who wrote this opening paragraph loved quotation marks:

A United Methodist “church” in Alabama has decided to host a “wedding party” featuring a free screening of the “Arthur” episode surrounding the same-sex “wedding” of Mr. Ratburn after Alabama Public Television said that it would not air the broadcast.

This week a major Christian news website devoted an article to the issue of CBD oil.

Digging a Little Deeper

From the Thinking Out Loud blog family, check out the recently renovated Christianity 201. Guaranteed distraction-free faith blogging with fresh posts every day.

May 29, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Gary Webber and the staff at Southside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida took Bruxy Cavey’s ‘The Gospel in 30 Words,’ the centerpiece of the book (re)Union, and made it into a pocket card with matching key tag.

New York Times bestseller list. Her sister Amanda Held Opelt wrote on May 23rd, “She is still with us in so many ways. She always will be.”

This week we had a number of leads on items all connected to Patheos. They asked me to turn off my ad-blocker and normally I’m more than willing to do that, but I glanced at the ABP number in the corner of my screen and it indicated it was blocking 17 elements. There are some great writers at Patheos, but getting to read them comes at too high a price. One site — I can’t remember whose — was asking me to turn off ABP and it was indicating that there were 65 elements being blocked. I totally removed the bookmark.

Now that the rant is done, on to this week’s list…

■ Tired of hearing of church-plants tripping over each other to attract suburbanites? Here’s a positive story of reinventing the wheel: “An Indiana megachurch is impacting the lives of incarcerated and troubled individuals through volunteer-run microsite campuses established this year inside a local jail, a rehabilitation center, and a local work-release facility. At least 15 people have come to Christ since the multicampus, nondenominational Emmanuel Church launched [the] campuses in January

■ The darker side of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs): Forget everything you heard about Harvest Bible Chapel, that may have been tame by comparison with this New Jersey church. “A nondisclosure agreement used by a Ridgewood church, described by some former members as cult-like, to allegedly block its followers from leaking secret beliefs and practices has been nullified by two Superior Court judges. Those practices allegedly include forced abortions, tax fraud and doomsday prophecies, according to Raymond Gonzalez, an former member of the World Mission Society Church of God, who claimed the agreement he had signed bound him to silence… The church follows many traditional Christian teachings but breaks from the mainstream in its devotion to Zahng Gil-Jah, a 75-year-old woman whom members call God the Mother or Heavenly Mother… Gonzalez also alleged, among other things, that followers who did not sign were told they ‘would be punished by God and sent to a fiery hell.'”

■ Baptist leader says women can teach men as long as they don’t act like they are teaching. Okay, it’s actually more nuanced than that. The article is titled, “JD Greear Says Women Can Teach, Well Sort of, So Long As They Don’t Mimic the Authority of an Elder.” Mimic? The article continues, “She can’t mimic pastoral shepherding in a mixed gender group unless the co-leader is a man…In other words, ‘Just the facts, Ma’am.’ And apparently the size of the church is factor.

■ His PhD program at Purdue University was “sabotaged” because of his faith.

I was ABD (“all but dissertation”) with a 3.5 GPA. I completed all course work, languages, exams, and my funding was even from a different department. But my dissertation committee chair informed me that he dropped me. He said it was because I had “too much of a faith perspective.” Never mind the fact that part of my dissertation topic was on the virtue of faith.
I now had no adviser and no legal recourse. If they don’t want to advise a grad student, then they don’t have to. I couldn’t find an adviser willing to touch me. Without an adviser I couldn’t even register for research hours. Without doing so, you’re gone a semester later. So much for academic freedom and viewpoint diversity — even in a philosophy department. I had no choice but to terminate with an MA in philosophy. Essentially, I was effectively forced out of the PhD program.

■ Meanwhile in the UK: “A nurse who offered a bible to a cancer patient and encouraged him to sing The Lord is My Shepherd was fairly dismissed, a court has ruled. Sarah Kuteh was given the sack from her job at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent in 2016 for repeatedly talking to patients about her faith and handing out a bible, in breach of Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) rules.”

■ This should settle some arguments: “Human life begins in bright flash of light as a sperm meets an egg, scientists have shown for the first time, after capturing the astonishing ‘fireworks’ on film. An explosion of tiny sparks erupts from the egg at the exact moment of conception.”

■ This is not a faith-focused article by any means, but I know that many of you use MailChimp’s mailing list server in your work with churches and parachurch organizations and the recent changes they have made in their terms of service have left some groups feeling it’s time for an alternative.

■ Persecution Watch: Iranian intelligence agents stormed a 100-year-old Assyrian Presbyterian church in Tabriz, removed the cross from its steeple, and shut it down…According to the source, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence and the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO) ‘entered our church compound and changed all the locks on the doors, removed the cross from the church’s high tower, installed some monitoring instruments and started to threaten and force our custodian to leave his place inside the compound immediately.'”

■ “Catholics are moving away from President Trump.” So begins the article which continues, “When it comes to Trump, the shift among Catholics is more pronounced than among other religious groups.” But then the next paragraph begins, “Interestingly, the slippage is somewhat greater among white evangelicals.” Huh? More clear is that “Even relatively conservative Catholics retain elements of Catholic social teaching that put them at odds with Trump policies.”

■ The time when Jesus was being racist: A great explanation of the strange interaction between Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman. “Some Christians speculate the reason Jesus challenged Justa with his ‘dogs’ crack, was because she may have had a hangup with authority or racism, and this was meant to snap her out of it. They imagine Justa had refused to help her Jewish neighbors, and now the shoe was on the foot, and Jesus was pointing this out.”

■ It’s “Wear it Rainbow Day” at work. What do you do? “How do we navigate a work space in the public square; in which the work place has been leveraged as a major platform for social change, much of it at odds with a Christian view of sexuality, and some of it, at least, at odds with lots of other groups? That’s become a critical question, and it’s all happened so quickly.” 

■ A church in Northampton (UK) pays the ultimate price for past leaders sexual abuse: (BBC News) An orthodox evangelical church has closed down following a series of historical cases of sexual abuse. Six men from the Jesus Fellowship Church – formerly known as the Jesus Army – have so far been sentenced for the indecent and sexual assault of 11 victims between the 1970s and 1990s…The JFC’s leadership team said members of the church voted to revoke its constitution at a meeting on Sunday…At its peak in the late 1980s, Jesus Army had about 3,000 members – about half of whom lived together in community houses.”

■ Quotation of the Week: Philip Yancey quotes David Brooks

“The natural impulse in life is to move upward, to grow in wealth, power, success, standing. And yet all around the world you see people going downward. We don’t often use the word ‘humbling’ as a verb, but we should. All around the world there are people out there humbling for God. They are making themselves servants. They are on their knees, washing the feet of the needy, so to speak, putting themselves in situations where they are not the center; the invisible and the marginalized are at the center. They are offering forgiveness when it makes no sense, practicing a radical kindness that takes your breath away.”

■ Regardless of what you believe about Purgatory, click through to this piece and then click on the accompanying image of Mount Purgatory to view it full size. (Not raised Catholic and not having read The Divine Comedy, this was new to me.)

■ When is it time to stop? “Church world is known for allowing programs to limp along for years instead of ending them. The same could be said at times for overseas work…I have been mulling how to decide when to end a program or other ministry slice.” The author offers a number of considerations, and then this personal note, “It is sad. It has been hard to decide to end this iteration of outreach. And we believe it is the right decision.”

■ I watched all 16 minutes of this one. Jay Vellacott calls his YT channel Rock Badger Christianity and he doesn’t seem to have a huge following, but Bible publishers would do well to at least hear him out on Teens Against Bad Teen Study Bibles.

■ Video I did not watch: On Sid Roth’s YT channel, guest David Hogan’s story is called “Face to Face with a Shape-Shifting Witch Doctor.”

♫ The band from C4 Church in Toronto’s eastern suburbs has released their newest album. Enjoy the title song from the album Resurrection Song. (This was just released hours ago… be among the very first to hear five more songs from the album at this link.)

■ The role of fiction: “Fiction is by nature untrue, and I think this is where some people get hung up on it. To tell a story, you are technically lying—therefore in reading a fictitious account, the story must be not factual, but rather originating in the imagination. We get the word “fiction” from the Latin fictus, which means “to form.” …As an author, I love the image this evokes: the idea of the story forming—taking shape like clay on a potter’s wheel—in the mind. But although fiction is by definition not true, good fiction should show us true things.”

■ Leadership Lessons: Twelve things learned on returning to pastoral ministry.

■ Should church budgets identify each individual staff member’s salary? I would have liked Thom Rainer’s answer to be fleshed out in greater detail (including a line item indicating his salary) but he gives three common-sense reasons why he feels it shouldn’t be done.

■ Best headline: “It’s Lit When You Use Teen Slang, Right? TBH, I’m Kinda Shook.” Then again, we might link to the original article which had the title Resisting the Urge to Talk Teen. (The first headline from a reprint at  …

■ … Quotation of the Week: Staying on the subject of youth ministry, and staying at; I couldn’t resisting quoting this pithy statement: “I realized that sex is not sexy.”

■ Nothing much on the James MacDonald front this week, unless you count this article describing him as a “gun-toting bully” who “pointed a gun at a former worker who requested payment” and caused concern “because of his guns” and mentions that he probably “got away with ‘millions'” from Harvest Bible Chapel. Other than that, a fairly quiet week

■ …but in light the James MacDonald situation, Jon Acuff’s words on The 700 Club in 2015 seem rather prophetic, “Leaders who can’t be questioned end up doing questionable things. Show me a church that fell or a business that fell and I’ll show you an isolated leader.”

■ Although I agree with the ruling, I do have mixed feelings about what could be next: In the state of Maine, parents can no longer “use religious or philosophical reasons to opt out of having their school-age children receive vaccinations.

■ A supergroup made up of members from iconic CCM bands will make its debut this summer in Calgary, Alberta. “With sales exceeding 30 million records between them, Kevin Max (dcTalk), John Schlitt (Petra), Billy Smiley (Whiteheart) and Dan Haseltine (Jars of Clay) have united to collectively perform their biggest hits.” The band is called CCM All Star Review.

■ Now Open! Chick-fil-A Automotive: “My tire somehow went flat in the drive through so they rushed out to replace it for me with their hydraulic Jack. They brought my food out to me then after it was done replaced my food with new fresh food so it wouldn’t be cold and put two cookies in there for free! Those people are truly doing the Lord’s work over there!

■ Everybody join and sing with us:
The rains came down and the floods came up.
The rains came down and the floods came up.
The rains came down and the floods came up.
And they ended up in court.
(Except that’s a song about the wise man building his house on sand/rock, and this is a Noah’s Ark story about suing for water damage.) 

♫ More New Music: Jason Gray’s newest, I’m Gonna Let It Go

♫ More New Music: Lyric video for the Mallary Hope song, Me.

■ A whimsical article with Canadian connections that I thought was more suited to Lorne’s blog than my own

■ Tweet of the Week: They don’t do this in my church. What about yours?

■ Finally, “Fancy a swim above the Seine in a rooftop pool on Notre Dame? A number of designs have been proposed for Notre Dame’s fire-damaged roof and spire but few are as daring as this rooftop pool.”

Click the story above, or this link to see the design company’s swimming pool image in all its glory…

…other proposals included replacing the spire with a tower filled with beehives

…or this rooftop greenhouse (same link as above.)


May 27, 2019

Now That We’re All Here, You Can Home

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:35 am

Driving to church yesterday, I listened to a radio broadcast from a church located about two hours from where I live. After the sermon ended, the pastor announced that as the month of June was approaching “our programs are winding down for the summer.”

Two years ago I combined a number for older posts into a single article, Church Continuity, Summer Shutdowns and Lake House Mentality. (Or you could say, ‘Cabin Mentality,’ or as we say here, ‘Cottage Mentality.’)  I’ll probably repeat that post in about a year.

What struck me yesterday however, was that the announcement came after what has been a very difficult winter for local churches. Snowstorms, ice storms, blizzards… whatever you call them, the weather has been rough this past winter, with a seemingly disproportionate number of weather incidents occurring on Sunday mornings. Even the spring hasn’t been particularly kind to church attendance, especially for people the Midwest in flood and hurricane zones.

But now, we have no excuses. Let the pews be filled. Everyone can get out for mid-week programs of all shapes and sizes, right? But no, we’re “winding down for the summer.”

I know it can be hard to get volunteers, but there are many who end up feeling isolated in the summer months because they’re church has nothing to offer. You could say, ‘Ah, look at all the lonely people;’ but you can’t look at them because you’ve left them on the sidelines just because the leadership didn’t think someone could step up and fill in for a week here or a week there.

Again, I encourage you to read the aforementioned article. And if you live in an area affected by winter weather, now that everyone is mobile, consider actually adding some programs, perhaps even convening them in the fresh air, weather permitting of course.


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