Thinking Out Loud

July 27, 2016

Wednesday Link List

Coffee With Jesus - True Peace

Coffee With Jesus bookOur graphics this week come from Coffee With Jesus, which is also available as a book from InterVarsity Press (IVP). (Two books now, actually.) Blogger Clark Bunch introduced me to the David Wilkie comic many years ago and he one of them weekly as part of his Happy Monday feature. You can get your own dose daily on the Radio Free Babylon Twitter feed. Also check out a 2014 interview Paul Pastor did with the creator.

This was one of those Weekend Link List weekends. Only 12 items, but it was a rather good list. Check it out. Yes, you. The one staring at the screen.

Coffee With Jesus - Talents

Since you were all good boys and girls today and clicked all your links, we’ll give you one more.

Coffee With Jesus - Closed to Dialog

July 25, 2016

Should Local Church Sermons Have Footnotes?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:11 am

PlagiarismTo what extent should the average local church pastor list all his/her sources and provide annotation for all his/her slides?

This is a recurring question in our house because, online as we are, we often recognize things preached as owing to particular websites or books.

Typically, in a pre-internet age, the pastor was expected to spend “one hour in study for every one minute in the pulpit.” I knew a few pastors who met this expectation, or at least came very, very close. Their studies were filled with commentaries, lexicons and a variety of great books. For them to pause to mention every source would severely break up the flow of their message. It was a given that not all the content was their own, but was the culmination of a week of study.

Today, people sit in the pews fact-checking with their phones, and looking for the source of unique phrases. Plagiarism, in the church at least, is a crime punishable by embarrassment and censure.

What if there isn’t a list of footnotes because great bulk from a single source was copied and pasted wholesale into their sermon notes? “That’s a lot of material to borrow from a single source without attribution;” I said to my wife after lunch the other day. Why not at least direct the congregation to that source in the event they wish to follow-up with further study?

Furthermore, what if the minister/pastor/preacher was hired on their ability to compose great sermons on their own? What if that 30-minutes-equals-30-hours rule is still the general expectation? Doesn’t that make the wholesale borrowing a more serious situation?

What say you?

 

July 20, 2016

Wednesday Link List

Evangelism - Moorland College promo image

The theme of the above picture is Evangelism, and was featured on Twitter in promotion of a September conference at Moorlands College in the UK.  The artist is Annaliese Stoney

I enjoyed putting this week’s list together and hope you enjoy it also. Please take some time to look over this week’s stories and opinion pieces.

Vegangelical

July 19, 2016

A Caution to Seniors in the Church

…and Those on the Cusp of Becoming One

seniorsSo I’m sitting at my computer compiling tomorrow’s link list and I see this article and I’m thinking, ‘This is gold! How do make absolutely sure people read this?” Then I remember I still haven’t posted anything this morning.

This is by Thom Rainer. That’s right, the LifeWay guy. Me and LifeWay are not usually on the same page, I know. Still, you should click through (on the title below) and read this at source because you really want to read the comments as well.

Oh… before you think you really should forward this to somebody else, you might want to remember that if you’re not already there, you soon will be!

Five Things I Pray I Will Not Do as a Senior Adult in the Church

I received my first AARP material in the mail six years ago.

I turned 61 years old two days ago. One of my sons says I am fossilized.

I am a senior adult.

Have I noticed any differences in my life at this age? Certainly. I move more slowly. My idea of a mini-marathon is running to the kitchen from the family room. I see things differently. I don’t know if I am wiser, but I certainly have different perspectives.

And I have to admit I view church life differently. In fact, I sometimes scare myself with my rigid attitude. I need to write these words quickly lest I become too comfortable or too complacent.

I have five specific prayers. They are for me. They are for my attitude about my church. They are reminders I will need to review constantly.

  1. I pray I will not feel entitled because I am a key financial supporter in the church. This attitude means I consider the money my money rather than God’s money. That means I am giving with a begrudging heart.
  2. I pray I will not say “I’ve done my time” in the church. Ministry through the local church is not doing your time, like serving a prison sentence. It is an outpouring of joy and thanksgiving to God. I love those churches where senior adults are the most represented among the nursery workers. I need to be among them.
  3. I pray I will not be more enthused about recreational trips than ministry and service. There is nothing wrong about me getting on a bus and going to Branson, Missouri, or Gatlinburg, Tennessee. But there is something wrong when that is my dominant involvement in ministry in the church.
  4. I pray I will not be more concerned about my preferences than serving others. I’ve already blown it on this one. I did not like the volume of the music in the service at my church a few weeks ago. I complained about it to my wife. And then I was reminded of all the young people in the church that Sunday worshipping and praising God during the music. I was more concerned about my preference than seeing others worship God.
  5. I pray I will not have a critical spirit. I attended a business meeting of a large church some time ago. The total attendance at the meeting represented fewer than five percent of the worship attendance. One of the men who recognized me approached me before the meeting, “We come together at these business meetings to keep the pastor straight,” he told me. In reality, they came together to criticize the pastor and staff. I pray I will not become a perpetual critic. I don’t want to grow old and cranky; I want to grow old and more sanctified.

Now that I am a senior adult in my own right, I need to make certain I am not a stumbling block or a hindrance to health and growth in my church. I pray my attitude will be like that of Caleb:

“Here I am today, 85 years old . . . Now give me the hill country the Lord promised me on that day . . . Perhaps the Lord will be with me and I will drive them out as the Lord promised” (Joshua14:10-12, HCSB).

May the Lord grant me wisdom and service all the days of my life, including my senior years.

Let me hear from you. I bet I will.


Related: From 2014, here’s a look at the ideal, the multi-generational church.

July 18, 2016

Lost Voice 4 – Dann

Filed under: Christianity, Lost Voice Project — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:21 am

The Lost Voice ProjectAs important as I think it is, I see I’m posting these Lost Voice stories only every other year. We’ll have to do something about that.

Unlike the other people in this series Dann (don’t forget the second ‘n’) isn’t really in a situation where anything about his career, marriage or circumstances makes him invisible in the local church, in fact he seems to be participating in a variety of activities when something needs doing. The reason his story is here is, when you think of it, entirely superficial. But that’s exactly what makes his situation so ridiculous.

Simply put, Dann — who is Swiss-born and about 55 years old — speaks perfect English, but with a thick German accent. Everybody knows him and he usually sticks around for a few minutes after the service ends, but some people should really come with subtitles. People often have to ask him to spell a word so they know what he’s saying.

So there are, in this small-to-medium size church, opportunities for public ministry which fall to other people that simply don’t fall to Dann.

For example, he’s never been asked to do the scripture reading. Yes, it would be a little unclear at times, but would it be any worse than trying to follow along in the NLT while someone up front is reading from the NASB? I think we’re all accustomed to that sort of thing by now.

Or open in prayer. In his church, this responsibility gets passed around but it never gets passed in his direction…

…Is Dann a Christian? It’s a silly question in many respects, but if you’ve never heard someone give a testimony or had the privilege of listening to someone in prayer, you don’t always know. Even the passion with which someone reads the scripture passage can tell a lot about their faith. After-service conversations often focus on other matters. Katie, who has been a member of the church just wants to go up to him and ask, “When did you become a Christian?” Or, “How did you become a Christian;” because it seems like he’s a bit of a mystery spiritually. It’s hard to see someone as a leader in the church if they never done anything which exposes their spiritual gifts to the congregation…

…This all shows how much the modern church prizes verbal gifts. Guys who can speak well get asked to do the announcements or chair the men’s meeting. People who can orate get asked to fill in when the pastor takes his annual two weeks in Florida. And Anne, who has a beautiful British accent, always ends up narrating the children’s Christmas musical. “And they wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; and the next morning they had scones with breakfast tea.”

Maybe Dann should asked to be baptized again. At the baptismal service, you at least get to share your testimony. In some churches, it’s your only chance to share something from the platform.

In many respects, we are a people of words; the Christian faith is all about being able to articulate it...

…Dann is one of the lost voices in the modern church. His contribution to his local church might be significant, but after years of being marginalized, it’s unlikely he’ll be asked to do much moving forward.


a continuing series about people whose contribution to local church life never happened

July 17, 2016

Worrisome Worship Words

Filed under: Christianity, music, worship — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:58 am

Worship BandWe are the sons
We are the daughters of God

I get the sentiment, which is appropriate to the times we live in. But as someone recently pointed out, in Bible times a son had an inheritance, which a daughter did not. Perhaps it would better, even if female, to be able to say you are a son, having full rights and privileges. However, I will defer to those just trying to be politically correct.

Yahweh, Yahweh,
We love to shout your name, O Lord

This one really grates on me because the Lord’s name in this form was generally not pronounced, let alone shouted. A Wikipedia article (on YWYH, the Tetragrammaton) mentions Philo’s teaching that “…it is lawful for those only whose ears and tongues are purified by wisdom to hear and utter it in a holy place…” and “He who pronounces the Name with its own letters has no part in the world to come!” Such is the prohibition of pronouncing the Name as written that it is sometimes called the ‘Ineffable’, ‘Unutterable’, or ‘Distinctive Name.'”

Our God is greater
Our God is stronger

There’s nothing wrong with the lyric per se, the issue is where the emphasis (accent) falls musically: OUR God is greater, OUR God is stronger. It sounds like a moment in an apologetics debate where the discussion got reduced to a schoolyard level. ‘Oh yeah? My God is bigger than your God.’

Oh, I feel like dancing
It’s foolishness I know

A song bridge best left out, in my opinion. I can never say that anytime in the last two decades where I’ve sung this song that I felt like dancing. But I sometimes sung the words anyway. (Which is foolishness, I know.)

I want to touch you
I want to feel you more

I always wonder what visitors think when hearing this song for the first time. I’ve heard the expression, ‘prayers that touch the heart of God,’ but this one is a little less clear even in context of the rest of the lyrics.

My sin, oh the bliss
Of this glorious thought

I just wanted to be fair; it’s not just modern worship that has awkward lyrics. I would place the offending line in parenthesis, or use em-dashes, just to be clear.

He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree

So much has already been written on the “sloppy wet kiss” line that I hesitate to mention it at all. The goal in leading worship should be to minimize distractions, yet this one has distraction built in. But the opening line begs you to stop and say, “I want to see where this going before I continue singing.” Yes, God is described as a jealous God. But if these are the opening lines, I want to read it over before I sign the contract, so to speak. And I can say that because I am a tree.


After writing most of this, I came across these articles:

 

July 13, 2016

Wednesday Link List

Ken Ham watches from the sidelines as kids take a selfie with Bill Nye the Science Guy at the Ark Encounter.

Ken Ham watches from the sidelines as kids take a selfie with Bill Nye the Science Guy at the Ark Encounter. Nye said,“On a hopeful note, the parking lots were largely empty, and the ark building is unfinished. We can hope it will close soon.” More on his visit at Religion News Service.

Welcome to link list #316. As in John 3:16.

They do things like this where we live.

They do things like this where we live.

July 12, 2016

Retro Reviewing: Pagan by Frank Viola and George Barna

Filed under: books, Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:15 am

In 2008, books about ecclesiology were selling briskly. Bloggers were consuming and recommending books about the church and church planting at rates never before seen, and the market included both clergy and laity, with the latter group feeling empowered to take an interest in a subject previously left to the professionals. (Historically in North America, while you might need theological degrees to be the pastor of a church, the work of planting includes colorful stories involving all types of people.)

paganPagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices was an important book during this time. The Tyndale House-distributed title with the bright red cover was presumably an update of a previous edition in 2002. According to what I wrote at the time, George Barna’s contribution was added for the revised edition. I have to assume that included much of the research; up to 25% of each page contains exhaustive footnotes. Those notes give the book an academic air, but in the end, especially re-reading this today as I’ve been doing, you realize that some of what is being offered up is based in opinion; specifically a preference for less-institutional, more organic worship setting, specifically the house church type of gathering. The book seems to want to call for a more radical paradigm shift than is realistically possible across the entire spectrum of churches.

In 2008, the market was ripe for a book like this. It was a time for deconstruction, and many were re-inventing the wheel. The terms emergent church and emerging church were on everyone’s lips, as was the idea of being missional, but this book doesn’t necessarily go there, since many emergent forms consisted of a blended worship which continued to incorporate the very traditional elements the book decries as rooted in medieval Catholicism, academia and even forms from other religions.

Where the book shines however is in terms of giving us an historical understanding of why we do the things we do.  The use of church buildings. The sermon form. The robes and vestments. The clergy. The paid church staff. The Choir. Our expression of Baptism and Communion. Christian Education.

In 2016, as I’ve gone through it again, I believe the book continues to speak into our tendency to do church as it has always been done. Reading it eight years later provides a different lens however; many models were considered and not those churches which were implemented succeeded. Rather, the book inspired church planters to take a salad bar approach, to pick and choose which elements they wished to refine or delete altogether. 

However, this time around, I also got more of the sense of walking in on a heated argument; a reminder that there are two sides in a debate, the other being traditionalists. It could be argued that we came through this micro-period in church history and not much changed. Or, it could equally be argued that in 2016 we have a much greater variety of churches doing very different types of things, and giving expression to their worship in unique ways. 

For the latter group, the book Pagan may have been a big part of that.

 

July 8, 2016

Engineering and Denominations

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:29 am

Christian DenominationsHaving an engineer in the family is a whole new experience. Kid One graduated a few years back in Electrical Engineering (he’s technically an EIT right now), but Kid Two, Mrs. W. and I are more of an artsy bunch. So the learning curve has been steep.

Wikipedia lists several branches:

  • Chemical (including sub-disciplines of Molecular, Bio-molecular, Materials, Process and Corrosion)
  • Civil (including Environmental, Geo-technical, Structural, Mining, Transport and Water Resources)
  • Electrical (including Computer, Electronic, Optical and Power; the latter possibly including Nuclear, which was offered at his campus)
  • Mechanical (including Acoustical, Manufacturing, Thermal, Sports, Vehicle, Power Plant and Energy)
  • Software (Computer Aided, Cryptographic, Teletraffic and Web)
  • Systems (an interdisciplinary field)
  • Interdisciplinary (Aerospace, Agricultural, Applied, Biological, Biomedical, Building Services, Energy, Railway, Industrial, Mechatronics, Management, Military, Nano-engineering, Nuclear, Petroleum, Textile)

I love a good analogy, and if you read today’s title or you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know exactly where I’m going with this: The similarity between the branches or disciplines of engineering and the various denominations which exist in Christianity.

I’m tempted to try to create a similar list as the one above, complete with some sub-sections in brackets to break down the finer points of each, but I think readers here are familiar enough with the range of churches which exist.

So here’s the lead-up to the question…

…I think that my eldest son would agree that the branches of engineering have a few things in common. Probably the overarching methodology (whatever is the practical equivalent of the scientific method) is the same in all. I’m sure they also take some of the same electives, including engineering ethics. I’m sure that the various branches cooperate with each other on major projects.

But he would also argue that the branches are also very different. He knows a little of Civil Engineering from his project in Haiti, and might have a rudimentary understanding of Chemical Engineering; but his school also offered Automotive Engineering, and I doubt he feels qualified to even begin designing a car or truck.

The question is: Do the various branches of Christianity have more in common than they have in differences?

In terms of a creed or statement of faith, you would probably say yes.

In terms of the portability of membership, the way people change churches these days also implies more commonality.

So perhaps, as with so many analogies, this one doesn’t line up perfectly.

But just as it would be impossible for my Electrical Engineering son to practice Chemical Engineering, it would be very difficult for me as an Evangelical to understand all things Episcopal. It is very much another world.

But I’m thankful the analogy doesn’t work. I’m glad that we do hold more things in common than the things we don’t.

We have Jesus, his resurrection, our atonement, God’s word, the Holy Spirit, the expectation of Christ’s return, the promise of eternal life.


Just so we’re clear, Wikipedia didn’t list all those engineering branches in a copy-and-paste-able form, so I had to type all those big words by myself.


A year ago at Christianity 201, we looked at a different way of expressing our core beliefs. Check out Knowing What You Believe.

July 6, 2016

Wednesday Link List

Taste and See t-shirt

Welcome to link list #315. I don’t know why I’ve been more conscious of the numbers lately. Perhaps it’s a case of, “Have I really been doing this that long?”

We also had a weekend link list on Saturday. Probably our best. If you missed it, click this link. I think the news-writing and blog-creating machinery in the U.S. wasn’t fully cranked up after the July 4th break, so the weekend list is really worth reading.

  • We’ve seen a variety of depictions of the life of Jesus in film, but this time around it’s coming to virtual reality. “The 90-minute film will be available on all major mobile and premium VR platforms including Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and the HTC Vive, according to the companies. Pricing has not yet been set.” More info at Variety.
  • Not only were New Testament Christians never called to “execute” gays, but the actually were never told to kill anyone.
  • Here I Am To Lead Worship: So what happens when you really, really like the song but the ministry stream it flows from is considered a bit iffy by people in your congregation? This response appeared in May, but is worth studying. Priority one should be to minimize distractions.
  • After seeing the admission price, our family won’t be going to Ken Ham’s Noah’s Ark Experience anytime soon. A writer looks at some issues appearing in a Yahoo News story about the opening.
  • Leadership Lessons: The childhood notion that bigger is better can creep into our thinking when it comes to our ministry life.
  • Life Lessons: It’s important to deal with conflict as quickly as possible.
  • Have problems maintaining a Bible reading and study routine? Maybe you should blame neural plasticity.
  • Several months ago we wrote about the bizarre world of domestic discipline, which occurs in some Christian marriages.  It turns up again as a reader reaches out for advice.
  • Provocative Header of the Week: A UK Christian website asks, Can You Wear a Bikini to Church? It’s an illustrated article, too. (Have you got you yet?) And a metaphor breaks out.
  • Carnival Cruises looks to group sales — including church and religious groups — for its future growth. (I got an idea: A 1 Corinthians 13 themed cruise called The Love Boat.)
  • A seasonal ministry statement worth repeating: “Camp is holy ground. Camp is the church outside of the building. Camp is kids from different congregations and cities coming together to worship and serve, to learn and love. It should not be a peripheral ministry, but one central to who and what the church claims to be. Camp is the body of Christ.” …
  • …However; while the kids are at camp or at VBS, do you want them to learn a new sport, or do arts-and-crafts, or would you rather they learned about community organization and civil rights
  • If there’s a millennial in your house, they might be suffering from Obsessive Comparison Disease.
  • As part of proposed anti-terrorism measures, Russia wants to ban religious gatherings in homes.
  • I think there’s some typos in a key paragraph, but I did resonate with this article about the “cult of positivity” and you will, too if you know people who are positive all the time.
  • Five paragraphs is all that was needed: A writer asks, “Does my pastor’s education matter?
  • With British Prime Minister David Cameron stepping down in the wake of the Brexit fiasco, there’s one thing he wants to be remembered for (and readers here will likely not agree that it was a great accomplishment.)
  • We thought it might be good to have a link item about God. (Just for something radical.) “…[W]e don’t want to make the mistake of choosing God’s immanence over His transcendence. Both are a part of His revealed nature.” When God is too close or too far
  • Oh, my!
  • Gospel music superstar Shirley Caesar was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • Jumping on the Trend Wagon: Editors of Canada’s national Evangelical magazine, Faith Today, decided to go with a coloring-book themed cover this month.
  • Finally, Christian group infiltrated Toronto’s Gay Pride parade, but we’re not sure about the rather deceptive method they employed.

I Found Jesus t-shirt

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