Thinking Out Loud

March 5, 2017

For Those Who Work With God, But Might Not Walk With God

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:41 am

Charles Price returned to the pulpit of The Peoples Church in Toronto for two Sundays and shared this in the first message on February 19th. The section quoted below begins at 28:16 of this sermon.

rev-charles-price“…Some time ago I was going through a difficult time.  Battles were raging in my soul, I was weak, defeated and one day [my wife] Hilary asked me the question, “Is Jesus your friend?” and I thought about that.

I thought about the fact that I work with him most of my dealings are with him or about him, or they’re about his word, about knowing his mind, about knowing his will, about wanting his power.  I came to a sober conclusion, that Jesus was my business partner first, and not my friend.

She said in effect, “I can see that. Let him be your friend.”and it became a vitally important and significant challenge and issue in my life.

We can function out of obedience to God.  Those of us who are in Christian ministry, you know, it’s the easiest place to backslide because it’s your job, and yet your heart can be distant.  We can acknowledge his presence – you and I can do that, we can metaphorically tip our hat to him and say, ‘Yes, thank you, you’re there, you’re there.  I want you to bless me,’ But not live out of a daily, fresh love relationship with him.”

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July 28, 2014

“and now it’s time to dismiss the seniors for their service…”

In today’s worship-team driven, seeker sensitive, multi-site, mega-churches, participation is increasingly a young man’s game. Relevance is achieved through having relevant communicators, so those of us who’ve been around a bit longer are often forced to listen to sermons being taught by speakers who seem to be barely out of high school; speakers whose primary qualification seems to be that they are standing at the front of the room.*

Three years ago, I wrote about supporting the youth in your church in their various endeavors. Days later, I wrote what you’re now reading; about supporting the middle aged in your church; the people who have suddenly become excluded from any ministry that is high profile simply because one week they forgot to touch up the single gray hair that has emerged just above the temple on their right side.

For Logan, 30 was the cutoff year. A crystal system like this was proposed for church worship leaders, but it interfered with guitar chording

In many of today’s modern churches, those in their mid-forties are senior citizens, at least in terms of public ministry. Which is a real shame on so many levels; but mostly because, given the chance, many of these people have something to say. I really applaud some of the next generation people who are stepping up and demonstrating real spiritual maturity when thrust into a teaching or worship-leading role. But for each one of those, there are just as many who, while they can wear the clothes, assemble the accompanying slides, and open with the right stories; they simply don’t have the necessary content to justify the 30-35 minutes they are usually given.

So what can your church do to keep middle aged people active? In the item I wrote two days ago about empowering your youth in ministry, it was a simple matter of looking at a problem and throwing some money at it. In other words; the greatest need of teenagers for mission projects — either global or domestic — is for financial underwriting. That’s not the solution needed to affirm your middle-aged leaders.

You need to be intentionally multi-generational.

Robert Webber had it half right when he wrote of “blended worship.” But beyond the what of a given church service, the blendedness (a word I just made up) must also involve who is at the front of the room as well as who is at the back of the room giving direction. In fact, I would argue that you can’t achieve Webber’s blended ideal unless you have people representing different constituencies in the church providing input to the worship team.

Today’s church is so totally youth cultured, that it’s not hard to imagine the following:

“As we sing the next verse, we’ll invite everyone over 55 to come to the front; we have a special story for you; and then we’ll have a word of prayer and dismiss you to your own service in the church basement, where we have milk and cookies just for you.”

High fiber cookies, presumably.

No, that would be wrong. The capital-C Church of Jesus Christ is an equalizer. Rich and poor. Male and female. Labor class and management class. AND: Old and young. The target demographic should be defined as “anyone with a pulse.” The message of the gospel is a call to each and everyone.

Because the pastors and leaders who operate under a youth culture paradigm are going to find themselves — in just a year or two — suddenly out of a job. In fact the crystal on the inside palm of their hands is getting ready to turn red right now.




*For any of my local readers; this was written quite some time ago. The young man who spoke at our church on Sunday was amazing; I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the sermon.  Sometimes the timing of an article is awkward!!

July 24, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Greater New Light Baptist Church, Los Angeles

Welcome to another installment of random links from Thinking Out Loud.  If you’ve been on summer holidays, the list has become the victim of a corporate takeover. We’re now at Out of Ur on Wednesdays, the blog of Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today. We’ve asked our Chicago-based new bosses to aim for 8:00 AM EDT !!

Check the list also for an explanation as to the above Church photo, aka “Fruitcake as building material.” 

Finally, since Out of Ur is borrowing from us today, we thought we’d return the favor with a link to this post:

Ultimate Christian LogoTwentyonehundred Productions is the InterVarsity multi-media team. They post an infographic like this each week on their Facebook page.  Normally, that would be the end of things here, but since historically, the Wednesday Link List began or ended with a cartoon, I couldn’t resist stealing borrowing one more graphic from them…

Oh Yes He Did - Intervarsity Infographic

April 17, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Build a Pharisee

Wednesday List Lynx

Wednesday List Lynx

Lots of good stuff this week. Take the time!

Now Go Do It

About the Blogroll:

This blog has a rather interesting link list in the sidebar. Blogs mentioned are chosen because they are (a) faith focused and (b) posting regularly. The doctrinal flavor of the blogs listed is quite varied, but I don’t include blogs that appear to have more “agenda” than content. Some blogs are listed somewhat permanently, some disappear and return a month later. Together, they represent almost one fifth of the bloggers that I have bookmarked in my computer and read regularly. Some of the blogs appearing in the Wednesday link list end up on this page later on, while others have a key post that I feel is worth mentioning, while at the same time I haven’t gotten to know them well enough yet to establish them as a link or imply endorsement. Recommendations are invited.

April 11, 2013

Jesus Applies for a Church Job Opening

Filed under: Church, Jesus — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:33 am

Today we’re honored to feature the writing of David Murrow author of Why Men Hate Going to Church (now revised and updated), The Map, and What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You.  Heck, we even got written permission to use this. (Hope everybody else doesn’t think we’re setting a precedent.) This appeared at David’s website Church for Men and we encourage you to read it there — honest, take a field trip day — where you can visit the rest of the site.  This appeared under the title Jesus Christ, Job Applicant.


[CHURCH OFFICE SETTING. TWO MEN SEATED ACROSS A DESK FROM ONE ANOTHER.]

Jesus InterviewINTERVIEWER: Your name, sir?

JESUS: Jesus.

INTERVIEWER: Your full name?

JESUS: Jesus of Nazareth.

INTERVIEWER: Jesus F. Nazareth. All right Mr. Nazareth. Tell me, why do you want to work at First Church?

JESUS: I’m here to proclaim the good news to the poor, freedom for the captive and sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

INTERVIEWER: Well, that’s a rather ambitious agenda. But at First Church we like employees who think big! So how to you plan to accomplish these lofty goals?

JESUS: I’ll recruit a dozen men and lead them through a series of challenges over the course of three years. I’ll show them how to minister to others. I’ll test them at every turn, to see whether they have true faith.

INTERVIEWER: That’s it?

JESUS: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: And then what?

JESUS: They’ll change the world.

INTERVIEWER: I’m sorry Mr. Nazareth, but I’m having a hard time seeing where that kind of ministry fits into our church’s strategic plan.

JESUS: Strategic plan?

INTERVIEWER: First Church adopted a strategic plan two years ago. We’re targeting young families with children as a key growth demographic. Parents and kids are under such pressures today and we want to help them be healthier.

JESUS: An admirable goal. How do you hope to achieve it?

INTERVIEWER: We’re rapidly expanding our offerings for children. We’ve hired two new youth staff and recently broken ground on a new youth building.

JESUS: Why are you doing this?

INTERVIEWER: Mr. Nazareth, don’t be naïve. If we don’t offer quality children’s and youth programs, women will choose another church. As you know, women are the religious decision makers in the home. And if we lose women we also lose our volunteer base.

JESUS: What about your men? Are they being actively discipled?

INTERVIEWER: We have a men’s ministry. They meet for a monthly pancake breakfast in the church basement.

JESUS: That’s not what I asked.

INTERVIEWER: Mr. Nazareth, I believe I’m conducting the interview here. Now let’s say we hired you to challenge twelve men for a few years. What about all the other men? Won’t they feel left out?

JESUS: Some will.

INTERVIEWER: You see, that just won’t fly around here. Our goal is to reach as many people as possible. Our slogan is, “There’s a place for you at First Church.” We don’t exclude anyone – and we don’t put any limits on God.

JESUS: If you never single a man out and call him to greatness, he will never become great.

INTERVIEWER: Excuse me?

JESUS: I tell you the truth: every man secretly dreams of being called into an elite group and molded into something extraordinary. That’s what I intend to do with a limited number of men.

INTERVIEWER: Elite group? You make it sound like the Navy Seals. What if your challenges are so tough that men drop out of your group? Won’t these men feel alienated from our church? They might go around and spread lies about us, accuse us of being a cult, that sort of thing.

JESUS: Many are called but few are chosen. One cannot be faithful to God’s call without incurring criticism. Yet I tell you the truth: if you call and train a handful of faithful men you can change the world. In a generation, you will have the healthy families you seek.

INTERVIEWER: Mr. Nazareth, we are totally down with your good news to the poor message, but I can’t see how you get from A to B. How does working with one small group of men result in the outcomes you’ve described? How can we lavish limited church resources on such a tiny number of members, who quite frankly, being men, just don’t offer the R.O.I.?

JESUS: As these men change, the church will change, and your city will change. And at the risk of appealing to your flesh, your church will double in size over the next five years if you do the things I’ve told you.

INTERVIEWER: Well, Mr. Nazareth, I need to be at a planning meeting for the upcoming youth retreat in a few minutes. It’s been very nice to meet you and we’ll be in touch. [REACHES OUT TO SHAKE HANDS] Ooooh, that’s a wicked scar. How did you get that?

April 10, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Community Baptist Church

I’m a success at blogging but a failure at Twitter. Please follow me… please?

Any one of this week’s links could have been its own feature article.  By the way, I’m organizing a travel opportunity that begins in a Wesleyan college in western New York and ends in Jerusalem. I call it the Israel Houghton Tour.

Explaining Present Technology

February 28, 2013

Local Churches are Better Together

So what happens when five local church pastors show up for four Sunday mornings at the wrong churches?

That’s what’s happening right now where I live. Actually, it kicked off last weekend. The concept has been in the planning stages since early fall, and this extended game of pastor musical chairs is called Better Together.  To be sure, these Evangelical pastors are making history.

Each week for four weeks they are preaching a sermon series that finds them in a different location. Then on week five they speak at their home church. The series culminates in a joint Good Friday service five days later, something these churches have been doing for about 25 years.  The Good Friday event is actually two services, held in the grand ballroom of a local hotel.

Participating congregations and ministers include our local Fellowship Baptist, Pentecostal Assemblies, Christian & Missionary Alliance, Convention Baptist and Salvation Army churches.  It’s a great show of unity. It’s a great demonstration to the local community that we’re not in competition with each other; that we share a single message even though we meet and worship independently.

But there’s more.

Part of the Better Together initiative is to raise both money and a labor pool for the construction of what is currently the last remaining Habitat for Humanity property in the town. The offering will be taken at the Good Friday service and the pastors have pledged $60,000; an ambitious goal in a small town. It’s the type of thing that no church in this area could take on themselves, but another reminder that we are Better Together.

Would this work where you live? I think you have to have the right spiritual atmosphere for something like this to work and I believe the annual Good Friday service has paved the way for something like this to happen. Added to this is the dynamic of the particular lead pastors currently serving in the town being in one mind on this project. 

But whether it works now for you, or in the future, I hope this idea becomes contagious.

January 12, 2013

The Go Deep Link List

The Go Deep List Lynx

The Go Deep List Lynx

It’s like the regular link list but for people who want something they can really chew on.

  • If you read the Wednesday list here, you saw a brief reference this week to Becky.  Becky is a fictional prototype of the ideal listener to Christian radio who, according to Sean Palmer, is more than just a media marketer’s target, but she is also setting the agenda for the modern church.  And then there’s this damning statement:

    Every element in a church worship service; each program or each new area of ministry has to pass the Becky-test. This means milk toast, predictable, and less engaging worship experiences. The depths and riches of Christian experience go ignored because Becky has no framework to understand them and Christian sub-culture is happy to allow her her illusions of faith provided those illusions are accompanied by her patronage.

    No wonder the article is called Killing Becky.

  • Although youth ministry guru Mark Oestreicher — I’m getting to where I can type his name right on the first take — wrote this with youth ministry in mind, it has much broader implications for church ministry as a whole. Mark had me from the first paragraph:

    I see the Kingdom of God in less black-and-white frames these days. To say it’s a full gray-scale doesn’t even do it justice. The Kingdom of God deserves a color palette so broad, deep and rich that we don’t have names for all the nuance and variation.

    And also

    In the U.S. church, we want so desperately to be independent mavericks, a Christianized version of the Marlboro Man, riding through the landscape of culture, needing no one, emulating no one. But if we look carefully at the American church in the last 40 years or so, we’re really not all that original. Most of the time we are acquiesce-ers, copiers. We copy culture, and convince ourselves we birthed it.

    The article is actually the first in a series. The main link here is to Presence in Youth Ministry Part One, but there’s also a part two and a part three.

  • And then there’s this one, which connects to the graphic below. Basically the idea is that rock hard empirical evidence can only take you so far, and beyond that, whether you choose Atheism or Theism, it involves a major step of faith.

    …the relationship between strength of belief and theism/atheism could be visualized as independent variables in a bivariate function, and that doing so might shed some light on my own perspective.

    And this insight

    …Although it is not a linear relationship, I would say the inclination of the individual to proselytize–that is, to attempt to win others to camps that occupy the same region on the curve–increases proportionally with the level of certainty.

    While he uses words like ‘bivariate’ this is a very concise article that is quite easy to follow, and has implications for your next conversation with someone who you’ve seen as having an opposing worldview, but who you now know shares more in common with you than you thought.  Check out Dan Martin’s The Belief Matrix.

The Belief Matrix

November 15, 2012

Why Pastors Move On

It’s the job most people wouldn’t take but everybody loves to armchair quarterback: The role of pastor. We’ve all heard enough stories about situations that weren’t good “fits” that ended in premature relocation. (You like that phrase?)

But the fact remains that when the senior leadership stays intact for a longer period of time we know statistically that usually the church grows. 

At Wesley Connect Online, you can read more about this — including good advice for pastors, but advice lay-leaders and board members need to know — where you will also find this graphic:

October 30, 2012

Andy Stanley Reveals What’s In The Secret Sauce

As someone who has been around The Church for a long time, I’m really not in North Point Community Church’s target demographic. But at 2:00 PM on a Sunday, you’ll find me watching a streaming broadcast of their morning service. Two reasons. First, I think there’s something exciting going on in that Atlanta suburb and because the technology allows it, I want to be watching to cheer them on. Second, there’s stuff about what it means to trust God that I still don’t think I’ve got right and I need to be told again and in new ways.

Andy significant landed on my radar eight years ago. I was doing a church plant and wanted to access video teaching content from another church that the other church wasn’t ready to give out. “Have you heard of North Point?” I was asked. “North who?”

Just about any survey of megachurches in the past decade places North Point in the top five. In addition to their own satellites in the greater Atlanta area, North Point Ministries has strategic partner churches across the U.S., in Canada, and beyond.

Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love To Attend (Zondervan) is Andy’s message to pastors who want a behind-the-scenes look at the church and know how (and why) they do what they do.

The book comes at a time that many are concerned that the megachurches are setting the agenda for the church as a whole in the Western world. But the North Point staff have spent enough time doing seminars to know that their methodology is of interest to medium-sized and even small-sized church leadership.

The church is mission driven. The book explains how that mission drives their vision; how it drives everything that they do. The vision, in turn, drives their model. Their model drives their programming. And their programming is radically different from other churches you have been part of.

There’s no men’s or women’s ministry. Most of their giving to local needs goes to secular agencies. Events or services are termed “environments.”Their children’s curriculum targets key narratives and doesn’t try to cover the whole compendium of scripture. Women help take up the offering (and do lots of other things, too.) Non-Christians serve in various limited capacities. You have to — without exceptions — record a 3-4 minute testimony video to be baptized. They avoid the phrase, “The Bible says…” Officially, the music selections on Sunday are termed “singing,” not “worship.”

Some of you are feeling your blood pressure rise.

Andy admits there are no chapters and verses for these policies. But before you get up in arms, or say, “See, I told you so…” you should know that much careful thought and prayer have gone into creating the North Point distinctives.

This is a seeker-targeted church. In its present form, North Point is more ‘Willow Creek’ than Willow Creek. Too many people think that means ‘dumbed down.’ Not at all. What Andy calls “putting the cookies on the lower shelf” does not preclude solid, often exegetical Bible teaching. I would contend that in status quo churches across the western world, most people would find the level of personal challenge at North Point to be much greater than they are presently accustomed to. Jesus didn’t ‘dumb down’ anything. He challenged people in terms of spiritual disciplines and in their understanding how the Old Testament puzzle pieces fit together to reveal Him. Trust me, some of you — some of us — wouldn’t be able to keep up to the pace at North Point.

This is a hardcover book for pastors, church leadership, and church planters that is going to resonate with anyone drive by The Great Commission. It’s not for everyone. But it’s a book that every pastor, church leader and church planter needs to read. There’s also much in personal stories including a section at the beginning that defines the relationship between Andy and his father, Charles Stanley.

Highly recommended.


Here’s a quotation from the book published today at C201

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