Thinking Out Loud

January 17, 2018

Wednesday Link List

Panama Clerical Shirt: What pastors wear on vacation.

These lists are different each week, and this time around, the first few offer some brain-stretching opportunities to think about doctrine and theology. Plus as an extra exercise in equal time, many of these are from Reformed/Calvinists sources. See…we can play nice, sometimes.

Comics: Mary Worth, 2016 (upper), Bizarro, 2018 (lower)

Digging a Little Deeper

From the creator of Thinking Out Loud, check out Christianity 201. Guaranteed distraction-free faith blogging with fresh posts every day. www.Christianity201.wordpress.com

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January 10, 2018

Wednesday Link List

Not exactly Willow Tree, is it? A poster at Reddit described these three as his Grandma’s badass angel statues. (Left to right: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.)

This week’s list begins below, but we wanted to take a minute to provide you with some particular links — out of many that we looked at — for what was undoubtedly the Christian newsmaker of the week, Andy Savage.

The Iberian Lynx filling in for the semi-regular Wednesday List Lynx.

Now on to the balance of this week’s stories and opinion pieces.

That’s it for this week. Keep those cards and letters coming in folks; preferably by 6:00 PM on Monday. Speaking of the first day of the work week, the closing graphic is from Happy Monday at Clark Bunch’s blog.

 

January 9, 2018

When Churches Become Self-Serving

Filed under: Christianity, Church, evangelism — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:49 am

Years ago I heard someone state, “Libraries aren’t made for the public, they’re made for librarians.” While some might object to that notion, there is a grain of truth, particularly in terms of the organization of the facilities, which often leaves those of us who haven’t memorized the Library of Congress classification system or the Dewey Decimal system asking for assistance.

Are churches any different?

Many times, especially around Labor Day Weekend in the U.S. or New Year’s Day, churches will get serious about appealing for volunteer help. And the pitch is always the same: Serve in our Sunday School; join our choir; lead one of our small groups. We’ve been there.

My wife and I visited a Presbyterian Church once and after the service ended, she was approached about joining the choir, without even an inclination as to whether or not she can sing. (She can and does.) There was no qualification if she considered herself a Christian, although I suppose visiting this church on a Sunday morning increased the odds.

More recently, a local Evangelical church wanted to replace traditional membership, with a form of covenant membership that would require one be involved in an area of service at the church in order to maintain that status. The problem is, many people in that church are involved with parachurch organizations based both in the community and nationally. They are already serving, just not within the confines of the congregation.

The problem is that this has no outward focus.

Furthermore, when we give, we’re subconsciously giving to ourselves. We are the beneficiaries of the programs the church offers. Our children attend the mid-week program and consume the resource materials and goldfish crackers. We show up Sunday night and consume the video material that’s part of an adult elective. We take notes during the preaching and sing with the worship team and consume what’s projected on the giant screen (and relayed to the baby/cry room; and later posted online.)

But at the first mention that some of our donations might be spent on projects in the broader community, or to a major overseas project, we bristle at the suggestion.

Surely, there are greater needs at home; and by home we mean within the church building. (“Lord, Bless me today and my spouse and our two children; us four, no more.”)

And then there’s the strange logic of the idea that we need to develop more inwardly in spiritual depth and discipleship before we’re ready and able to reach out to the broader community. This just in: It will never happen! We’ll never reach that point where we’ve got it all together and are now prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder and reach the world. We have to reach them not having it all together. They might actually like us better that way. They might be more inclined to want to join a family of the broken than a family of the perfect

…Are we missing something? Do our neighbors see us leave for church on the weekend and mentally follow us and ask themselves, ‘What goes on in that building?’ Indeed, what? Are we more like a community center or more like a secret society? (Especially given the current penchant for not having windows in our auditoriums.)

I think as we’re only days into a new year, we need to ask ourselves how much of our church activity, and how much of our church budget is completely self-serving.

To repeat, we need a greater outward focus.


Graphic: Sermon video (39 min.) from Vermon Pierre at Roosevelt Church, a Gospel Coalition Church in downtown Phoenix, based on this text:

NLT Mat. 20:25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

January 5, 2018

The Antidote to Church and Worship Overanalysis

So on Monday we talked about the danger of falling into what is, if not a critical spirit, perhaps a critique-ical spirit when it comes to things like the worship time and sermon time at your local church. We said we would come back and discuss some solutions. Here are some things we came up with:

Celebrate the good things taking place at your church.

Try to keep a focus on the strengths, rather than the weaknesses of the people in leadership. Rehearse those things in your mind and in conversation with family and friends. Remember some moments where your church really stepped up its game and made a difference.

Develop a positive, wholesome attitude toward things in general.

Here’s how two contemporary versions translate Philippians 4:8 —

Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. (The Voice)  Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. (The Message)

Hang out with people new to your church, especially new believers.

What a breath of fresh air to spend your fellowship time at church with people who haven’t developed negative attitudes; people for whom everything is new, and fresh, and exciting. These people are the fresh blood which keeps the church functioning at its best. They may also have questions and answering those will keep your mind from going in other directions.

Make your comments as constructive suggestions.

The best way to do this is to ask questions. What if we did this differently? Or, What if we offered ______ an opportunity to take the lead on that segment of the service next week? Or, What if we had the youth group handle worship one week? While you don’t want to overdo this, it is less threatening than to make overt complaints and express overt dissatisfaction without offering anything as an alternative.

Visit another church.

You might just need a break. If you visit another church and find they’re doing everything perfectly, at least you’ll have a perspective or an authority to make suggestions. (Or maybe even a new church home.) Chances are however, that your church has some things it does better, and the other church has its own issues which, while different, are equally important to people there.

Put your name forward for a leadership position.

Six months of elders/deacons/board meetings might open your eyes as to why things are the way they are. You may find the issues are far more complicated than you realized. Don’t lose your idealism, but try to gain an understanding of how process works in a local church and how to bring about constructive improvement.

Avoid taking a leadership position.

Yes, I know. The opposite. It may be that you’re happier putting some distance between you and the things that tend to upset you. Perhaps changing diapers in the nursery or serving outside on the parking team would be more satisfying right now, both to you and the people who may have been caught in a rant or two.

Those are a few suggestions. Can you think of any we’ve missed?

January 3, 2018

Wednesday Link List

English to English translation of KJV text proves too difficult for current computer technology.

This is list #391. Nine more to go!

Wittenburg Door classic

January 1, 2018

Worship Analytics

You’re at a church service and one or more of the following happens:

  • You find yourself considering the theological underpinning of the opening prayer
  • You’re noticing all manner of technical things involving the worship music; everything from audio levels, to the competency of the musicians, to the song choices.
  • As the sermon progresses you find your brain, which should be absorbing the message, is more in the mode of critiquing the delivery, clarity, depth, application, etc.

Try as you may, you can’t stop analyzing everything that’s going on.

Maybe you know too much!

Here’s the question — because I already know some of you who are readers here do this — I want to ask: What percentage of people who are also among you in the congregation are also doing this?

I’d like to think in the case of music that the worship leaders (or people who actually do these things but are on a Sunday off) only number about 5% of the total congregation. Idealistic? Absolutely! Certainly the critical remarks you sometimes hear in the church lobby are based on significant numbers of people who have been treating the thing as though the pastor or worship team are contestants on a reality show.

But I might be wrong. Perhaps like Statler and Waldorf everyone has detached themselves from the prayer or worship or sermon and is filling in their scorecard.

That would be tragic, though some might argue a consequence of a consumer-focused church where the congregation is more of an audience.

I think there are ways to combat this mentality, but first, I want to hear from you how prevalent it might be.

December 27, 2017

Wednesday Link List

This is the original; we actually ran the second one a few years back. From InterVarsity’s media production ministry, TwentyOneHundred Productions.

Warning: We have a lot of material this week from some really different sources concerning a variety of topics. Remember that being included in the link list does not in any way imply endorsement of the authors, their perspective or the website.

  • Essay of the Week: “We have replaced rich, robust theology in the church with emotional music and constant reminders that “God is love and loves you and He’s your personal Savior and loves your soul…” These words are great at bringing outsiders through the doors (because they’re true by and large) but poor at growing believers into mature witnesses with rich understanding of the deep things of God.” The Dumbing Down of Christianity.
  • “Find the Perfect Gift.” So it’s hard to believe this, but the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) deemed this gentle and minimalist communiqué to be ‘issue-oriented advertising,’ forbidden under a 2015 WMATA policy directive. So did U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who on December 9 rejected the archdiocese’s claim that WMATA’s refusal to post the ad violated its First Amendment right of free speech. WMATA had defined ‘issue-oriented’ to include ads that ‘promote or oppose religion.'” (Nice way of rewriting the U.S. Constitution, don’t you think?) 
  • Catholic Corner: This story was everywhere yesterday. “A Catholic Bishop and Cardinal are protecting a Catholic Governor in New York that is enabling countless sexual predators and pedophiles to escape prosecution.” Why Pope Francis needs to intervene.  
  • After the Pastor Dies: Not knowing the significance the day would have, the writer of this piece had long planned a visit to St. Andrews Chapel in Orlando. It would be the church’s first Sunday without their Copastor, R. C. Sproul
  • Is this the Right Solution? After a gunman killed 26 worshippers during a Sunday service last month, licensed handgun owners in Texas can now legally carry firearms into some churches.  
  • Bible and Science: Here’s the bumper someone posted on Reddit to introduce this article. “Both science and religion seek wisdom and clarity. We need religious interpretations of the facts modern science produces, so that our belief system can once again be adapted to our time.” Some interesting thoughts on three videos.  (Again, please read the warning in the introduction above.)
  • ♫ Praise Charts has released their annual list. You might want to guess before you click. The one I chose for #1 was actually #2, so at least I was close. This list covers all material available, not just titles new this year. Check out the Top 100 Worship Songs for 2017.
  • Quotation of the Week: He thought he’d switch things up by reading the Matthew account on Christmas Eve instead of Luke. Then he got to the part where Herod starts the killing.

    I recall one family member making the lighthearted interjection, “I’d forgotten about this part.” Another questioned innocently, “Do we really need to hear this tonight?”
    …I even remember thinking in that moment about how many nativity scenes I have witnessed over the years that portray the visitation of the Magi in Matthew 2:10. The serene images of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus surrounded by the wise men humbly kneeling, offering gifts, and worshiping. There is no hint of what is about to happen. Certainly sin and death are not to be celebrated at Christmas, but Matthew reminds us that they are not to be brushed aside either. The truth is that the account of Herod’s acts convey the very reason Christ came in the first place. He became incarnate to overcome sin and death.

  • Provocative Podcast Title of the Week: Will There Be Sex in Heaven? (Greg Boyd; 4½ minutes) 
  • Provocative Article Title of the Week: The Church Father Who Cut Off His Junk. (Professional theologian; do not attempt at home.) (Some of you may already know the Origen of this story.)
  • Parenting Place: As part of its broader sex education mandate, the British government is inviting submissions concerning its plan to launch what it calls Relationships Education.
  • 📖 I wish I was on the review list for IVP, because I would definitely, after viewing the trailer, want to review a new apologetics title, God is Stranger by Krish Kandiah
  • …or even though it’s nearly a year old, also from IVP, Evangelical, Sacramental, and Pentecostal by Gordon T. Smith. (IVP titles are usually fairly time transcendent!)
  • Here’s an article from outside our usual link list sphere. The author pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. He is now a humanist and an atheist. His grandfather was a sexual predator who molested his mother and three generations of women. At his funeral in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church, mourners were told, “God saved Bob and he is, thanks to Jesus, in Heaven today.” The author is not so convinced
  • …Related: Following the popularity of the #MeToo hashtag, those abused in or by churches are Tweeting on #ChurchToo.
  • Salt and Light: Indy Star and Creators Syndiate artist Gary Varvel explains his Christmas cartoon.
  • 🎬 Boundless, a Focus-on-the-Family website says 2017 was a good year for Christian films.
  • Politically one-sided: “…in recent debates in Congress over the public funding for Planned Parenthood, many pro-choice politicians and media outlets touted Planned Parenthood as a women’s health organization with abortion comprising only three percent of its business. It wasn’t surprising then that people were shocked when they heard Live Action refer to Planned Parenthood as the biggest abortion chain in America.” The role Twitter plays in hiding such truths
  • 🇨🇦 Canada Corner: Canadian churches that relied on a government grant to create student summer jobs may find that impossible in 2018.
  • Leadership Lessons: Pastors need to stop trying to be pleasers; stop trying to be popular.
  • Word of the Year: At Oxford Dictionaries the 2017 word was youthquake.  At dictionary.com, not exactly a new word, complicit. At Collins Dictionary, the choice was fake news. At Miriam-Webster, again a not-so-new word, feminism. (We liked their #5, dotard.)  Now use all four winning words in a single sentence.
  • 🇬🇧 The Queen again mentions Jesus in her annual — in this case 60th — Christmas message:

    We remember the birth of Jesus Christ whose only sanctuary was a stable in Bethlehem. He knew rejection, hardship and persecution; and yet it is Jesus Christ’s generous love and example which has inspired me through good times and bad.  

  • ♫ New Music: Remedy Drive is back with a new album, The North Star releasing on 1/18. The song is “Polaris.”   (Bonus: Watch the story behind the album.)
  • ♫ Old Music: The music group Lamb was part of the Messianic Jewish movement back in the ’70s. Joel Chernoff has been busy posting some of those songs to a YouTube channel, check out “I Will Talk to My Brothers” and “In the Morning.”
  • “If Jesus had a gun, he’d still be alive today.” Russell Moore comments on a bumper sticker
  • Finally, They were the nuns before there was the nones. I’m off to the store to see if I can score a copy of the Guns N’ Rosaries album. (The comments make it all the more interesting.)

December 20, 2017

Wednesday Link List

Our pre-Christmas list is less seasonal than you might imagine. Some great things here worth investigating, many of which came together in the hour just before midnight last night.   UPDATE 8:50 EST — Since the list was published everyone on Twitter has been busy recommending Tim Keller’s article in the New Yorker on Evangelicalism so we’re adding it here.

December 13, 2017

Wednesday Link List

This Christmas, Pray for World Peas.

Wednesday List Lynx decked out for Christmas.

Yes, it’s true. In Colorado and some other states this is known as the Weednesday Link List.

We have a great list this week. I might just run it again next week. Seriously, these are all great links. No fillers this Wednesday.

You can see that one plus 9 other hideous Christmas sweaters by clicking the image above.

And then, for those of you who prefer something less seasonal, there’s OppoSuits, below. I’m just waiting for someone to bring out the Christian version of this…


…perhaps spreading Christian love…

 

December 6, 2017

Wednesday Link List

If your Christmas cards need to be truly different, then these boxes of 12 cards (3 each of 4 images) from David Hayward aka Naked Pastor might be for you. Click image for info.

This turned out not badly, considering I didn’t get started until 5:00 PM Tuesday. Article suggestions are always welcomed.

 

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