Thinking Out Loud

November 25, 2015

Wednesday Link List

First, because nothing speaks to the advent of our Lord’s coming better than Hello Kitty:

Hello Kitty Advent Calendar

Just one month today until the jolly fat man (not John Hagee) comes to visit.

Our closing graphic is dedicated to whoever does PowerPoint at your place of worship:

Bad Slide Spacing

November 18, 2015

Wednesday Link List

The Cup That Stole Christmas

Of course, there are probably things more important than coffee cups we should be concerned about…

…Time to kick off another edition of the news roundup where other news roundups get their news roundups, unless they get it from another news roundup or don’t borrow from another news roundup… 

…But first, we’re pleased to note another great match on Tinder:



Actual photo of one Christian bookstore's recommended shoebox items: Operation Christmas Child, saving the world one piece of cheap, useless, breakable crap at a time.

Actual photo of one Christian bookstore’s recommended shoebox items: Operation Christmas Child, saving the world one piece of cheap, useless, breakable junk at a time.

Time to close in prayer:

Kids Praying


November 11, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Rick Webster Rick is a poet, so the above is to be expected. But unexpected was the revelation at that Ben Carson actually owns this picture: Ben Carson at the Right Hand of Jesus And now on to the links…

On a serious note, today is Veteran’s Day in the US and Remembrance Day in Canada. The freedoms we enjoy in places like North America, western Europe, Australia, etc., are here because someone paid the price so you wouldn’t have to. I’m guessing there’s also a sermon illustration in there, don’t ya think?

November 4, 2015

Wednesday Link List

door knockers

Welcome to a new, slightly slimmed-down link list. The bottom line is that blog engagement is not what it once was, and Thinking Out Loud is no exception. Providing 35-40 links is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work; work for which we don’t get paid, as the blog is not monetized. So it’s actually the number of hours spent on this week’s link that were cut. If you send in suggestions then the quantity might go up slightly in those weeks. 

Top links last week were (1) Reformed/Anabaptist; (2) Worship industry killing worship; and (3) Gospel Centered ministry. 

The Wednesday List Lynx; one of many, actually that have been featured here.

The Wednesday List Lynx; one of many, actually that have been featured here.

Also, if you only show up here once a week, 6 days ago there was a Thursday Link List you missed.

For our closing graphic, Mad Magazine gets rather serious:

Debt Problem - Mad Magazine

October 29, 2015

Thursday Link List

substitutionary atonement

Only the 8th time we’ve ever done this. Why?

  • Because the book review I was going to post still wasn’t ready
  • Because I find I can now do this in my sleep
  • Because I’ve already done lots of Halloween and All Saints Day related pieces before

Here we go:

Speaking of evangelism, here’s a t-shirt that gets it all done quickly:

Y'all Need Jesus

P.S. I’m prepared to do daily link lists if someone wants to pay me the big bucks!

October 28, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Praying to Barbie? No, you can't buy them, but as this story at Religion News Service reports, you can see them at an Argentine art installation.

Praying to Barbie? No, you can’t buy them, but as this story at Religion News Service reports, you can see them at an Argentine art installation. “Barbie is depicted as Joan of Arc, Virgin of Guadalupe — Mexico’s patron saint — and Mary Magdalene, with a low-cut dress that shows her chest. Ken is shown as Buddha and Moses…” Click the image to read the full story.

Only in America: These evangelistic Halloween treats are,

Only in America: These evangelistic Halloween treats are, “a tri-color candy–yellow, orange, and white, the colors of God–in the shape of a pointed seed and sweetened with honey.” Click the image to read the full story at Religion News Service.

I didn’t get around to putting the top five clicks from last week on Twitter, so here they are: (1) 8 Reasons the Worship Industry is Killing Worship, (2) creative church error-404 pages, (3) Lynne Hybels; 40th Anniversary of Willow Creek, (5) John Hendrix church doodles; and (5) Larry Tomczak. (Let me know if you prefer them here, or on Twitter.)  Now on to this week’s…

Finally, it turns out while we weren’t paying attention last month, the comic strip Mutts by Patrick McDonnell ran a series of panels with quotes from Pope Francis. Here’s two of my favorites:

Pope Francis Mutts Sept 24 2015

Pope Francis Mutts Sept 22 2015

Back to the Winter: Don’t forget that here in North America, this is the weekend we all get to go back in time; from Daylight Saving to Nightdark Losing.

Daylight Saving.

12 More Links! Tomorrow we feature a Thursday Link List for only the 8th time ever. Don’t miss it.

October 27, 2015

Finding Your Church’s Comfort Sweet Spots

Sometimes we don't realize the way first-time visitors see things when the walk into our buildings, or maybe, like this Community Baptist Church van, we're just not thinking ahead.

Sometimes we don’t realize the way first-time visitors see things when the walk into our buildings, or maybe, like this Community Baptist Church van, we’re just not thinking ahead.

I’ve never actually been in a church where the color of the carpet was an issue, but the topic stands in for a host of other topics when people are discussing superficial things they don’t like about a particular place of worship.

Still, there are some superficial environmental details which impact how effective ministry can be. For example, why is sometimes the pastor seems to really connect with people during the sermon, and other weeks when people are less responsive. It may have to do with things you don’t think about.


  • If the sound is turned up too high, people feel like they are being shouted at. It’s the live equivalent of me typing a sentence in CAPITAL LETTERS, back when people actually interacted in groups. Of course, there are some Pentecostal and Charismatic churches where the preacher’s words are amplified at rock concert volumes, but I think we have natural defenses that want to shut off any message bombarding us at high decibels.
  • If the sound is turned down too low, I believe that even if you’re hearing every single word, you’re using some mental processing capacity to strain to catch those phrases and sentences, at the expense of being able to use that capacity to process the actual content of the words, and their applicability to your situation.

What you want is to find the sweet spot in the middle, and find a way to keep it consistent week-to-week.


  • If the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system is turned up too high, people feel sticky in the summer and sleepy in the winter. If the temperature makes you feel comfy and cozy like you’re lying under a couple of blankets, you will indeed nod off.
  • If the thermostat is turned down too low, people are squirming or perhaps even needing to use the restrooms. Preservation instinct takes over, and the message processing capacity diminishes.

What you want is to find the sweet spot in the middle. Sometimes, if you’re not sure, you need to take 15 seconds to survey the audience on this one.


  • The modern church spends a fortune on stage lighting, which includes something called “backlighting” which helps give definition to people on the platform. However, depending on where you are sitting, these lights can be shining directly into the audience seating. After the first five minutes it gets annoying and after as little as fifteen minutes you have a headache.
  • On the other hand, some churches are so dark it’s creepy. (We covered this topic in the list link a few days ago here.) Combine the absence of light with a high temperature and you have a perfect recipe for slumber once the sermon starts.

What you want is to find the sweet spot in the middle. One church I know turns up the lights for the sermon so people can follow along in their Bibles and make notes. Trouble is, in other auditorium contexts, when the lights come up it means the show is over! 


  • Some churches smell like a church; there’s no other way to say that. Is it the wooden pews? Something given off by old hymnbooks? Stale air from a sanctuary that’s sat relatively idle since the previous week’s service? It could also be something not quite so neutral. Maybe it’s the smell of sweaty socks from a sports night the youth group had downstairs the night before. Or the smell of food from the potluck taking place after the service. It might even be the smell of perfumes worn by mostly female adherents who are mostly above a certain age; a scent many are allergic to. (We’ve discussed that last one in this popular post.)
  • Of course, you can try to compensate for any and all of the above with products that prove the adage that sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. The result can actually cause some people to wince as they enter, or after prolonged exposure.

Although we would never admit it, some of us who attend older church buildings have a subconscious affinity to the smell of the church building, but no clue how it impacts first time visitors. Maybe the Episcopalians and Roman Catholics have the cure: Just burn off any transgressing smells. You can read more about that in my next book, The Case for Candles.

So what superficials have affected worship in your past experience?

From last week’s link list, here’s an excellent article dealing with the exterior that greets first-time visitors:


October 26, 2015

Church Office Tech Support

Here is a sample of actual calls* to our church office support desk…

We’re trying to run audio copies of the pastor’s Sunday sermon, and the duplicator isn’t going into the record mode properly.

We’ve had a number of calls about this recently so we did some investigating and discovered there’s a bad batch of product out there. Basically, the cassettes you are using have had the little tabs on the top left of the cassette shell punched out — as is done with commercial albums so people don’t accidentally erase them — and you need to block off that space with tape so the machine will properly record the audio. If you’re recording both sides, you’ll need to cover over the other hole as well.

The typewriter in the church office has a fairly new ribbon, but everything we type is coming out blank. You can see an image of the letters on the paper, but it’s not dark enough to photocopy.

Fortunately, we get this question all the time, as this takes place often in the modern church office. If you look on the typewriter for the ribbon selector — the one where you choose between black and red — you’ll discover that someone has left it in the stencil position. When you’re cutting stencils — which we’re going to guess someone was doing — you need to let the letters tear the paper, so the ribbon is completely disengaged.

I’m filling in at the office this week and the Cross and Crown Sunday School attendance pins arrived, but one of the children’ can’t figure out how to attach his third year bar to his existing pin.

Those pins can be complicated. Our own children, now in their late 20s, still wear their pins to church each Sunday. I’m guessing that the child in your story has lost the Second Year wreath to which the bars attach, and perhaps doesn’t want to admit this. We’ve provided a picture to make it easier to explain:

Sunday School attendance pinsDon’t forget if you have questions, Church Office Text Support is here for you. Call us anytime at 1-800-CHURCH

*Questions from actual calls which were received or which we made up ourselves. Church Office Text Support does not take responsibility for damage to your cassette duplicator, typewriter, Gestetner machine, or the clothing on which Cross and Crown pins are worn.

October 21, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Bill and Lynne Hybels

So…any guesses who these people are? Or why they chose to share the photo with a bear whose last moments don’t look particularly happy? Answer below.

ELCA 404 Page


October 20, 2015

I’ve Become the Absent-Minded Professor

Filed under: Christianity, personal — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:42 am

As life gets busier and increasingly filled with distractions, I find myself ignoring some basics that everyone else might consider routine. It’s not entirely a new problem, but more and more I find myself putting on t-shirts and rugby shirts and anything else in the pullover category inside-out.

absent minded - shirt on wrongI would think inside-out is better than backwards. When I reach that stage, I guess you should lock me up. But it’s just not part of my thought process to say, “Are you sure you haven’t put that on the wrong way?” As long as I’ve shaved, brushed my teeth and am relatively certain my hair isn’t sticking up like some failed Mohawk style, I leave the house. I would spend more time looking in a mirror, but as I’ve noted here before, I’m having a bad hair life, which precluded my career as a Pentecostal minister.

So on Sunday, I ventured out to church. I found a seat in the third row. And I’m not short. And the particular shirt had not one, but three tags. All of which were sticking out. All of to which I was oblivious. After the service I hung out in the lobby socializing people until well into the second service. And then I ventured over to the church where my wife and son were.

“Do you know your shirt is on inside-out?” my wife asked.

Why would she ask that? Of course I didn’t know. Maybe it wasn’t interrogative. She tends to practice an economy of words.

I quickly ran into the little room they use to count the offering, and did a partial striptease, hoping no one would walk in. In my haste, I popped the button on the shirt, and then spent several minutes crawling on the floor looking for it.

So why don’t people tell you these things?

If a man in your church who you know (at least by name) was walking around with the zipper on his pants undone, would you tell him? In that instance, should a man be told by another man or is it okay for a woman to mention it? Isn’t it better to know and deal with it quickly rather than be oblivious?

Years ago, there was another instance in the same church where a woman walked out of the ladies restroom with a piece of toilet paper stuck to her shoe. Nobody told her until either my wife or myself thought she should know. Why did other people hesitate?

I can only hope the answer to that question is that they simply weren’t perceptive, just as I hope my fashion transgression went by unnoticed, or was simply written off as some new style where the name brand tag appears — as it does sometimes now — on the outside.

Or that they simply think I’m an idiot, and there’s no point in mentioning that.

If you see your brother standing in the church lobby with his shirt on backwards or inside-out or his zipper down, set down your coffee and go to him immediately, before he maketh a fool of himself. (can’t remember the exact reference, but I’m sure it’s in the Bible)

Inspired by this, our friends at Flagrant Regard (see comments section) made this meme:

zipper meme

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