Thinking Out Loud

July 19, 2017

Wednesday Link List

Meow

We’re back after a week away from link-listing. One of the big winners here each week is me! I get to prepare this thing and see such a wide swath of what Christians are thinking and doing. There are some topics here for your consideration. Take some time, and tell your friends to visit.

  • Essay of the Week: Shane Claiborne chronicles the history of Christian civil disobedience. “You can go to jail for doing something wrong. And you can also go to jail for doing something right. We went to jail for doing something right.” 
  • Listicle of the Week: 5 Sure Signs You’ve Been Hoodwinked by the “Prosperity Gospel.
  • Electronic Dance Music (EDM) in church? “It’s not supposed to draw out the voice of a congregation. It’s supposed to make people want to move and leave their rational selves behind. And buy music. And stay in the club longer and spend more on drinks. It doesn’t facilitate the liturgy, it hijacks the liturgy, making it something else entirely. ” (Some of the points here apply to more than just EDM at church.)
  • Making your church introvert-friendly: “Our church cultures are unintentionally designed to identify, groom, and celebrate a specific personality type which leaves most introverts unseen, undeveloped, and left with a stigma of guilt and shame. Our ministry and discipleship opportunities implicitly communicate what a ‘disciple’ looks like, what ‘ministry’ looks like, or what ‘leadership’ looks like. And most of those narratives are very, very narrow.”
  • Quotation of the Week: “Sadly, it seems like John Piper has trouble dealing with the fact that women have bosoms even though he is free from sexual feelings towards other women.” Documenting John Piper’s ongoing obsession with this particular topic, including mothers allowing their 2-year-old daughters to show their knees. (Trigger alert: This discusses the private parts of men and women.)
  • Colorado’s gay wedding cake case: “There is an impulse to frame every issue as a clash between the tolerant and the closed-minded. But the Masterpiece case doesn’t challenge, undermine or re-litigate the issue of same-sex marriage in America. Gay marriage wasn’t even legal in Colorado when this incident occurred.” 
  • Moving: After 25 years at Wheaton College in Chicago, New Testament prof. Gary Burge is joining the faculty of Calvin College in Grand Rapids.
  • Farewell, SBC: “Today I am officially renouncing my ordination in the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant body, with about 15 million members, and the world’s largest Baptist denomination. My reasoning is simple: As a black scholar of race and a minister who is committed to social justice, I can no longer be part of an organization that is complicit in the disturbing rise of the so-called alt-right, whose members support the abhorrent policies of Donald Trump and whose troubling racial history and current actions reveal a deep commitment to white supremacy.” Lawrence Ware writes at the New York Times.
  • Apologetics Alley: Did Jesus speak Greek? When the subject of whether or not our Bibles contain the exact words of Jesus, we default to:
    1. Jesus primarily spoke in Aramaic.
    2. The Gospels were written in Greek.
    If Jesus ever used Greek to speak, then the Gospels may contain his exact words. Three reasons why Jesus probably spoke Greek at least some of the time
  • …Meanwhile, a different view at Zondervan Academic: “Jesus probably knew enough Greek to understand it. But he wouldn’t have spoken it as his first language. He also wouldn’t have used it in his daily conversation or taught the crowds in Greek.” …
  • …Also at the same blog, a look at both sides of the authorship of Hebrews issue.
  • Sermon Stats: “In these days of Ted Talks and 20 minutes messages, we were surprised that the most watched and beloved preachers in America preach almost twice that long!” Check out the average sermon length for ten popular pastors.
  • Dialing for Doctrine: Who exactly did Jesus die for?  The debate on “particular redemption,” which most of us refer to us “limited atonement.” (If nothing else, be sure to check out the 6-minute video.)
  • This is a developing story which may have changed by the time you read it, but the TGC website deals with the basics of the Charlie Gard case.
  • Sermon of the Week: Full disclosure, the one I chose was from June 23rd. The pastor is Levi Lusko a name that was new to me. He pastors Fresh Life Church in 8 locations around Kalispell, Montana. He was one of the ten pastors on the sermon stats piece above, and is the author of Swipe Right: The Life-and-Death Power of Sex and Romance from Zondervan. Enjoy all 39 minutes of The Things That Make for Peace.
  • The Christian Patriarchy Movement: “My father told me so often that God works through men to reveal his will for women. ‘You can’t know God’s will without a father or husband.” Of 30 of her friends who were subject to this mindset, she knows of only three who are currently following Christ.
  • Jesus and Yoga: For me this sentence sums up the entire article,  “I was once a super devout Christian, and I have a lot more ideas about my creator now from practicing yoga. It’s turned into another type of worship of me.” Or how about the woman who, “was actually a Pentecostal minister before she found yoga. When she became interested in the practice, she decided to eschew U.S. studios and traveled to India to study the yoga there. The choice forced her to reconcile her Pentecostalism with her new passion. “My yoga made it difficult to maintain my religious relationships, so much of that ended when I announced I was going to India.” An insight into the practice of what is called trap yoga.
  • In the four years 2012-2015, Trinity Broadcasting Network spent over $20M (US) in legal fees, and that number doesn’t include amounts paid out in settlements. “Besides examining a preacher’s theology, donors should determine if giving to them is good stewardship.” 
  • Marriage Matters: “What do I do when my spouse doesn’t have the same sense of calling to the poor, or mission, or ministry, that I do?” 4 Guidelines when facing a mismatched sense of calling.
  • Translation Troubles: We’ve all experienced it. Something like, “I don’t really like what the ESV does with verse 21, I think it should be more like…” Three reasons pastors should avoid a public put-down of particular translations.
  • Today’s Trivia Question: A classic preacher and author is quoted as, ““I can say quite honestly that I would not cross the road to listen to myself preaching.” Know who he is?
  • Breaking another glass ceiling, “Rev. Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens was elected …to serve as the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. She is the first African-American to hold this post and the second woman to lead the denomination.” (Or lead any mainline Protestant denomination…)
  • …Also, increasingly more black families in the US are choosing to homeschool.
  • Church on Wheels: His sanctuary is a 2009 Mercury Grand Marquis. His Uber passengers are his congregation.
  • ♫ New Music: Some recommendations from New Release Today:
  • Canada Corner: Booksellers on the prairie are always surprised when people keep returning to buy Paul Young’s The Shack.
  • Pot Calling the Kettle? Young Earth Creationists accuse Flat Earth devotees of taking the Bible too literally.
  • Catching up with the Phil Vischer podcast while I was away; a great interview two weeks ago with Kevin Palau who is the son of…well, you guys are smart…
  • …A week later, somewhere after the 30:00 mark, Phil suggests to Skye that a future badge of honor on consumer products might be “Made By Humans” in a world where robots and automation have replaced workers
  • Finally: “Probably a good idea would be to pick an age (maybe 73 or something) and agree to never get upset by something a Christian says once they’ve crossed that line. We could call it the King David Line, or the King David Rule.”
  • Finally, finally: One good Matthew Pierce link deserves another, and after debating it, I decided to actually conclude with this one about how to be an introvert in the modern church. ” PRO TIP: You can’t really get in trouble for anything if you’re not an official member. Then the pastors will come to you and be like “if you’re not a member, you can’t be a leader or vote on things” and even though that sounds really good, they mean it as a bad thing.”

Below, the Goliath Wall fresco in Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany. Not sure why I took this picture as there are exactly 2.43967 zillion of them online and they all look the same. Modern renderings in children’s Bible story books tend to put more distance between the two combatants. Could this be more accurate?

 

July 5, 2017

Wednesday Link List

Our lead graphic this week comes from This is Indexed, a blog I’ve been following for many, many years.

I think the fundamental thing about compiling this each week is to look at an array of stories, many of which turn up on other roundup lists like this, and say, ‘Is this the type of story that fits our Wednesday list?’ Hopefully we’ve evolved a style where you might know what to expect. 

The link list won’t be here next week. We’ll see you in two weeks.

The media and graphic arts division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) is the gift that keeps on giving! At their Twenty One Hundred Productions Facebook page you find things both of interest to IVCF staff members and also broader topics for the rest of us.  Like this one from 2014:

(Here’s another one of my favorites from them that we’ve used before.)

June 28, 2017

Wednesday Link List

So who’s this happy youth group? These are the interns working at Craig Groeschel’s Life.Church this summer. As we pointed out at this time last year, their roster of interns is larger than many American churches.

Welcome to WLL #365. We continue to try to direct you to sites not containing pop-up ads or paywalls, but the internet is not the same place as it was 365 link lists ago.

As we prepared this, the trial of Shane Claiborne and 17 others arrested in Washington for protesting the death penalty was scheduled to begin at 9:00 AM today (Wednesday). Pray, as this is a watershed moment for this particular social justice issue.


Today’s ephemera:

Not sure how we missed this 2014 title, from no less than Zondervan.


An 11-year old Chris Tomlin. This baseball-card-sized object may have been a cassette insert.


Why I always say my wife is actually the better writer in the family.


That’s, “Doctor Karen Kingsbury” to you. The leading Christian fiction author picked up an honorary Doctor of Letters this Spring at Liberty U.


This isn’t a parody. The author Robert W. Schambach (1926 – 2012) was an American televangelist, pastor, faith healer and author.


Published in 2001, N. D. Wilson’s book features “tweaked versions of all the original characters … in an absurd tangle of Evangelical goofiness struggling to make sense of the pathetically gnostic vision of the original story. You won’t want to miss all body parts, cats, and youth pastors left behind…”


Don’t say you don’t see the similarity. Should Benny run in 2020?


I don’t claim to have all the answers, but surely they could have come up with a better name for the place.

June 22, 2017

Christian Leaders Have Feelings, Too

Have you ever received a letter or an email where you could acutely feel the pain of the person writing? It happened to me about a week ago, and not for the usual reasons that people experience hurt. This person had unexpectedly come out on the wrong side of a business dealing some other Christians. Though the letter wasn’t written particularly to evoke an emotional response, but it really affected me and has stayed with me throughout the week.

Interestingly, if I am to be perfectly honest I don’t particularly like this person. Circumstances necessitate a relationship that would not exist otherwise. Really, that’s how it is in the body of Christ. Look around your church on Sunday morning and ask yourself how likely you would otherwise be to interact with this set of people. Would you have another context to make their acquaintance? Would the ones you count as friends have ended up so through some other means?

Meanwhile, all’s fair in love and business, right? Tough luck. Easy come, easy go.

Ruminating on this continually however, I’ve been reminded that people in Christian leadership are not immune to hurt and pain. Years ago I was at a crossroads where I could have gone into pastoral ministry. “Don’t do it;” a mentor advised; “You’re not thick-skinned enough.”

But who is thick-skinned enough? We’re human. We bleed. Electing to choose a ministry that must be, by definition, compassionate means that pastors may be more sensitive than many of us. We all have different degrees of sensitivity, but I think pastors bear the biggest brunt of this. They are particularly vulnerable on Sundays, especially right after the sermon. If you want to bring someone down a notch or two, that’s the perfect time. As an aspiring Bible teacher, I had just finished a Sunday morning sermon at a Christian conference center that was transitioning into a summer camp; so adults from offsite were still in the habit of driving there for services. I don’t remember the topic, but I felt it had gone reasonably well until the director called me into his office immediately after.

“You really think you’re hot stuff, don’t you?”

I stood there not quite sure how to respond. It turned out later that there was a enormous political power struggle going on in this organization, and he didn’t want me feeling in any way empowered.  The rest of that conversation is a bit of a blur.

Christian leaders have feelings. Some no doubt pursue ministry not realizing the emotional price they will have to pay. This undoubtedly leads to the rather high attrition rate in this profession. But heads of missions, parachurch organizations and other Christian charities could be included in this, as well as lay-leaders who may have a role in the life the church which is quite a contrast to their primary vocation.

It’s important for the rest of us to bear that in mind.

Don’t cause hurt. If you need to confront an individual, do it lovingly. If you think something needs to be done differently, make a suggestion, not an order. If you feel someone is going astray, scripture tells us to lead them gently back.

Watch for leaders who are hurting. They’re all around you. In the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee, you can be a pastor’s pastor. They need to talk, too. Remember them in prayer.

Rebuke the person who causes hurt. If you know someone who loves to stir the pot, who loves to be ‘Brother Sandpaper,’ pull them aside and remind them that the Christian leader in question is human just like them.

Bear your own hurts well. If you’ve continued reading this far, perhaps you have some leadership role in the church and need to expect at sometime to have to manage the emotions which arise when the inevitable attack happens, because it probably will.

Make love your rule of life.

 

June 21, 2017

Wednesday Link List

I keep thinking the title of this game implies that it focuses more on the edgy, racier stuff in the Bible.

As of 12:24 this morning, it’s officially summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Welcome to WLL #364. I guess you know what that means? Right. Next week is WLL #365.

See y’all next week!

 


*Referenced in the links this week: Australia’s Hot 25 Countdown. An Aussie equivalent to 20 The Countdown Magazine.

 

June 14, 2017

Wednesday Link List

Because prosperity gospel churches can always use an offering liturgy.

This was the link list that almost didn’t happen as my version of Firefox crashed on Tuesday night. My wife theorizes that the problem originated with my anti-virus program (Avast) just as did on her computer (AVG). She thinks the incompatibilities with Windows 10 are intentional to make people switch to Windows Defender, the program now running on both of our computers. Still, we did have some time to get some of the links ready for market; hope you enjoy them.

June 7, 2017

Wednesday Link List

First of all, this was a Weekend Link List weekend. About 15 really, really good links. So pause for a moment and go to Saturday to catch up.  As to this list: Recommended processing time is 18 minutes.

But wait, there’s more!  Again, this was a Weekend Link List weekend. If you’re done here, go to Saturday for the good stuff!.

May 31, 2017

Wednesday Link List

Some great news and opinion pieces to end the month of May. The Wednesday List Lynx (pictured) welcomes you. If you follow me on Twitter, you know there’s always music playing on my computer. We have lots of ♫ this week for you!

May 24, 2017

Wednesday Link List

Above: Typing in tongues. A real page of Tim Keller sermon notes from which he preached a real sermon.

If today’s list ends up a bit short, it’s because I was busy playing Fiery Darts 2 “an Arcade Style game in which you maneuver Methuselah, and collect Biblical Prizes, while avoiding the Fiery Darts of the enemy.” (There’s even a DOS version available!)

Vintage Photo: Francis Chan talks to Tommy Smothers of the Smothers Brothers.


These days you can never be sure if the sign is real or generated, but either way this is brilliant.


In this case, what exactly do they mean by reveal?

May 19, 2017

Church Continuity, Summer Shutdowns and the Lake House Mentality

There was a time I thought this was more of Canadian thing, but apparently it happens in various types of churches: Big and small, urban and rural, independent and denominational, established and recently planted. We call it ‘Summer Shutdown.’ Simply put it means that many of the programs of the church start shutting down at the end of April and don’t resume again until after Labor Day (that’s the week after the August Bank Holiday for you Brits.)

The logic in shutting down various children’s programs has to do with competition from evening sports programs, particularly kids baseball and soccer (that’s football for you Brits.)

The logic in shutting down the Thursday morning ladies prayer time totally escapes me (that’s ‘totally escapes me’ for you Brits.)

This phenomenon seems to be more pronounced in North America, but here in Ontario it is coupled with something called ‘the cottage mentality.’ Perhaps where you live the term cabin is more prevalent than cottage. Or the lake house. It means that if it is the weekend in June, July, or August; one is officially at their summer cottage, even if they don’t actually own one. This means that the summer shutdown becomes evident even in the Sunday morning programming of the churches here.

To me, this just leaves a lot of people detached from other people; it leaves them with feelings of isolation and loneliness; it leaves them with more inactivity; and it leaves them increasingly disconnected from their local church. As I wrote recently,

Imagine the greatest institution the world has ever seen suddenly shutting shop. Imagine a movement so powerful that nothing can stop it dispersing its followers for an extended holiday. Imagine the Church of Jesus Christ simply not being there for the hungry, the thirsty, the needy.

It waves the white flag of surrender to the calendar, the school year, football games, and the arrival of hot and humid weather. It gives up because so-called “key leadership” decided to spend weekends at the lake. It broadcasts the message that summer ministry simply isn’t worth the bother. It says, “There’s a big game being televised so probably nobody is going to show up anyway.”

I remember one woman returning to church in September after an absence of at least 90 days, announcing to all nearby that she was back and ready to help “whip this place back into shape.” That did not go over well among those who had been faithful throughout the warmer months. She wanted to pick up the pieces and create a fresh start, when in fact the church had a colorful and vibrant ministry during the weeks she was at the cabin enjoying the sunshine, the barbecue and the swimming.

The loss of continuity here is gigantic. I have however noticed that among some megachurches the programs just become so overarching that it is impossible to curtail them in the summer months. This may actually be a major positive attribute for megachurches at a time when people are so quick to emphasize their negatives. But then these same megachurches will have a weekend where the simply shut down everything altogether. Everything. The doors are locked. For you mainline Protestants, think of it as the non-Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Can you imagine a Roman Catholic church not having the mass the week after Christmas? Or a long weekend? No. Neither can I. Where did this day-off-mentality come from anyway?

Two years ago I wrote on this subject with respect to a church which also shuts down the week after Christmas:

We live at a time when people are taking an extremely casual approach to church attendance. Families with children have already sacrificed weekly continuity on the altar of getting their kids into team sports: Soccer, baseball, three-pitch, t-ball, gymnastics, swim teams, etc. What hasn’t been destroyed by athletics has been decimated by dads working weekend shifts or moms working retail Sunday openings.

These days, if you can get a family out to church 26 out of 52 Sundays, you’re doing well.

So why chop that down to only 50 Sundays? Why create even the most subtle suggestion that taking time off church is perfectly acceptable?

We did attend a local church since moving to this small town where the Sunday School ministry didn’t really miss a beat in the summer. I noted their dedication. It was like they believed in a God that doesn’t take three months off each summer. Last year however, they succumbed to the influence of what other churches are doing.

So here’s to those local churches who provide spiritual nurture at full throttle during the holiday months. Good on ya. People are hungry for more of God’s word and teaching, and also opportunities for fellowship twelve months of the year. I’m willing to bet there are stories of spiritual starvation that take place when ‘spiritual providers’ take off. I’d like to start a crusade to fight on behalf of those who are simply not looking forward to the next few months of meetings suspended until the fall. Some of those are hurting and some are lonely.

The people making the decision to curtail programming or shut down a particular weekend are usually well-connected and have lots of social activity planned for the time they are away.

For many large churches, it’s all or nothing. They can’t do small church anymore. Think about it:

The modern megachurch simply cannot offer an alternative service in a smaller room in the church where Mrs. Trebleclef will play some well known choruses or hymns on the keyboard (or Mr. Coolhair on the guitar), the head of Men’s Ministry will speak, and then we’ll have a coffee time in the atrium. That would be a simple service. It would involve said pianist, the person giving the short devotional message, and the person to make the coffee, as well as someone to unlock the doors and check the restrooms before locking up. But that’s not the brand these churches want to offer. You can’t have a simple, grassroots service like that. Better to have locked doors.

So where do those KidMin, worship and parking volunteers come from on Christmas and holidays? They don’t. You change up the brand image for the sake of one Sunday and using a skeleton staff, offer something for the people who really need to be connected. Maybe not Mrs. T. on the piano. Maybe it’s a film. It might involve a guest speaker or guest musicians. Perhaps it’s a shorter service. 

Sadly however, this is not going to happen. ‘It’s not how we do things.

Wanna buck the trend? Light a candle! Use the summer to invite people over to your home for informal events. Can’t lead a Bible study? Just find a good teaching DVD and set up the machine in the living room; make some coffee and then let whatever is meant to happen next, simply happen. There are sermon DVDs from pastors you’ve heard of available as downloads online, you can purchase some from various ministry organizations, or you can buy them at Christian bookstores.

Can’t lead a Bible study? Don’t do anything fancy. Just pick a short Biblical book, invite people over; make the aforementioned coffee; and start in on chapter one. Don’t even suggest getting together the following week for chapter two; let those who are present suggest that. (Some may offer their home for the following week, especially if you don’t have air-conditioning!)

Counter the summer shutdown mentality with impromptu, informal events in your home this summer. And no, you don’t need your pastor’s permission; in fact, make it a non-church event by inviting some people from a different church. Or if the DVD has good outreach potential, invite some non-churched neighbors.


If you feel like you’ve read this before here, you have. This is a recurring, annual Thinking Out Loud rant. But this time around the rant you’re reading is a mash-up of four previous articles with additional content.

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