Thinking Out Loud

June 28, 2013

To P or Not To P, That is the Question

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:51 am

Out of Ur recently reported on a survey which asked pastors about sermon length. Personally, I think some pastors are capable of going 46 minutes, and some are done after 23. You can read that report here.

Frankly, as interesting as the results were, I particularly enjoyed this item someone left as part of a comment. I offer it to you as originally punctuated:

Paid – Professional – Pastors – in Pulpits – Preaching – to People – in Pews…

Prevent – Public – Participation – Promoting – Passive – Pew – Potatoes….

Procuring – Power – Profit – Prestige – for the Prevailing – Parsing – Pastor…

January 4, 2012

Wednesday Link List

By request, a fresh take on the recurring List Lynx pun here

(B)link and you’ll miss it! 

  • Hard to imagine anyone opposing a translation of the Bible into another language, but the Jamaican patois version isn’t pleasing everyone.  Text sample: “De angel go to Mary and say to ‘er, me have news we going to make you well ‘appy. God really, really, bless you and him a walk with you all de time.”
  • Daniel Jepsen admits it’s not like him to walk out of a church service, but he did just that when the service went too far, or perhaps didn’t go far enough. Teaching the Bible would have been a refreshing addition.
  • Fuller Theological Seminary’s Kara Powell thinks that while adults and children are all sharing the same church, they’re all having a different experience of it.  In a 4-page article at CT, she suggests keeping kids in church beyond high school means giving them a faith that sticks.
  • He uses his involvement in TV and film production to evangelize well known actors, and he’s been fired by one prominent casting agency for doing so.  Steve Cha talks to Christian Post about evangelizing Hollywood.
  • This is the link to part one of the original video that Ben Breedlove posted at YouTube just days before he died on Christmas Day; though you need to watch part two to get the full story.  Gateway Church in Austin, Texas also posted the 42-minute memorial service  video in which lead pastor John Burke refers to Ben’s faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Cerebral palsy and epilepsy didn’t stop Toronto’s Robert Gagnon from completing a BA at Redeemer and an MTS at Tyndale Seminary, or from launching a new ministry for people with visible disadvantages, Abilities in Christ.
  • Here’s an interesting standup routine by Phil Long that gets some deep analysis on Tyler Braun’s blog.
  • Still haven’t made those New Year’s Resolutions?  Ann Voskamp offers five steps to help you begin.
  • Is heaven and The New Jerusalem the same thing? Think about it.  Here’s a C201 blog post that took on a life of its own in the comments.
  • Mike Breen looks at the Rainer Research Group’s ten trends for the next decade in church life.
  • The man at the center of the Jesus movement in the early 1970s, Costa Mesa California’s Calvary Church pastor Chuck Smith is now battling lung cancer though he never smoked.
  • TV Producer Mark Burnett is joining with Zondervan and the digital team that developed Glo Bible to introduce a new app, Bible 360 which will integrate with devices and social media. Sales will be through iTunes.
  • Seems a policy statement issued at Rossville Christian Academy in Tennessee is really just a mass memo directed at a single student. (The video is useless, but there’s a full text of the story when you scroll down.)
  • Time for one last Christmas image; J. R. Briggs got this from David Fitch; it’s titled Advent Distraction:

May 26, 2011

Small Is Big: Exploring the Simple Church Concept

As churches of all size discover the ‘small group’ or ‘cell group’ concept, many choose to call what they do ‘home church’ or ‘house church,’ the latter term heretofore reserved for entirely different.  So Tony & Felicity Dale, longtime pioneers and advocates for the other kind of house church, have chosen to go with the term ‘simple church’ to describe their efforts and their vision. 

The full title of the Barna Books paperback is, Small is Big: Unleashing the big Impact of Intentionally Small Churches, and is itself a revision of a title from two years earlier, The Rabbit and the Elephant.  (A gratis copy was provided by Tyndale House.)   Unlike its oft-confused counterpart, a true simple church is a freestanding model lacking nothing in terms of resources that a larger church might have to offer, though with obvious downscaling of programs and amenities such as nurseries, youth ministries, worship bands, etc.

Having said all that, toward the end of the book, the authors relate ways in which simple churches and megachurches are in fact sharing resources, and how megachurch staff are studying the intimacy and community of the microchurch to see what might be learned. 

But in another section, where there is discussion of people exiting larger churches missing the diversity and excitement of the larger crowd, they refer to a period of ‘detox’ while withdrawing from the large church experience.  Personally, I think the language might have offered a better term, because whether or not the authors intended it, there is the implicit suggestion that there is something ‘toxic’ from which the former parishioner must be cleansed.

The authors’ experience and knowledge of this movement both in the UK and the USA is probably quite unrivaled. As I read it, I thought of people I know who are doing this very thing, and considered that this could be a ‘calling card’ of sorts to fully explain what they do to anyone curious.  This book defines both the blessings of this rapdily growing type of church experience, as well as the pitfalls and dangers of beginning incorrectly.

One of my concerns about the house simple church movement has always been that it tends to attract those from the charismatic end of the larger evangelical spectrum.  Several times here, the language used to describe their gatherings talks about ‘prophetic words’ and ‘moving in the gifts of the Spirit;’ terms that are familiar enough to many of us, but equally unfamiliar to, for sake of illustration, Baptists.  And I suppose that if the simple church movement is really going to sweep across a broader or more mainstream Evangelical landscape, I’d like to see people doing simple church in a way that, for sake of illustration, a Baptist would be comfortable attending. 

Or maybe I’m wrong on that altogether.  Perhaps the simple church movement is in fact a movement in a slightly more Charismatic direction; that in the absence of structures and programs and hierarchies, dependence on the Holy Spirit has to be elevated.  This is reinforced when you consider that if you were to attend a simple church with Tony and Felicity, one of the first two things you might notice is that no one individual is in charge and there is no prescribed ‘order of service.’  While the worship might consist of a few songs you know, there is also spontaneous worship and what we know as ‘sermon’ is often replaced by a much more interactive time of people sharing insights into God’s word, and linking testimonies to teaching.

There are some aspects of Small is Big that reiterated material I had already covered in books by Michael Frost and Frank Viola and Wayne Jacobsen, and reinforced many things I already believe.  But if the simple church concept is new to you, I would suggest (a) read the book, as it is a complete encyclopedia of everything you need to know about this subject; and (b) find out if there is a simple church meeting somewhere nearby and make arrangements to attend.

It might be the closest you get to experiencing what the early church in Acts experienced.

December 31, 2008

Top Trends Affecting Your Church in 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:38 pm
National Trends Affecting Your Local Church in 2009 Visiting websites and blogs; interacting with pastors in other communities; and tracking articles in books and periodicals; there’s no doubt that the only thing that stays the same is change. Here is this year’s list:



Trend # 1: Virtual Church Attendance — Why shave or even brush your teeth when you can simply wait for the podcast? There are already enough lone rangers on the fringes, now some pastors are legitimizing the ‘pod parishioners.’ Being in “regular attendance” at a church means “once a month.”

Trend # 2: Shifting Doctrines on Salvation and Eternal Punishment — Okay, we’ve established that the author of The Shack is not a universalist, but increasingly, lots of others are. A trend that started almost a decade ago with some key theologians adopting an “annihilationist” position is also starting to snowball. One could ask, “Then why do we need a Savior?” A seismic shift is taking place in our “God-view,” and suddenly God is neither judgemental or wishing to exclude anyone. A kinder, gentler God.

Trend # 3: Multi Media Mania — Now that every church has a projector, a graphics program, and a guy with a camera and a YouTube login, it seems you can’t have church without ‘screens.’ But does everybody really understand how to use each media best? Is participation waning as the congregation continues to become “audience?” The use of DVD curriculum and worship aids for home groups however, is something to celebrate.

Trend # 4: Sexually Active Youth Groups — What takes place in the larger society eventually finds its way to church. (Disagree? Check out divorce rates for both groups.) As I’ve written elsewhere, we now are seeing the first generation of humans who have lost the ability to blush, one of only a few things which distinguishes us from animals. There is no sense of shame among today’s teenagers, and often no priority put on purity. The challenge in 2009 for youth pastors, youth leaders, youth sponsors and parents where this issue is concerned is massive.

Trend # 5: Mission Trip Industry Grows — When a church like Northpoint in Atlanta proposes doing over a hundred trips in one year, you know that the mission trip has become a staple of church life. Costs are huge, while benefits are hotly debated on the internet. Can you accomplish long-term mission goals with short-term workers?

Trend # 6: Economic Fallout — The people bringing a non-perishable food item for the food bank last year are now considering standing in line at the same food bank for a handout; as the mortgage crisis and job losses devastate communities.

Trend # 7: The Gay Issue — I debated how to phrase this. I’m not even sure what aspect of this is going to play out in your church. I just guaranty that at some point during the year, you’re going to deal with various aspects of the gay debate. (If you haven’t already.)

Trend # 8: Church Closings and Mergers — I am renewing this prediction from last year. It’s the only way for survival. Older congregations simply must pass the torch to the next generation a la Paul and Timothy. Smaller congregations simply must consider joining forces with others.

Trend # 9: Fragile Leadership — They don’t make ’em like they used to. Local churches, the district offices of denominations, parachurch orginzations; they all have one thing in common: They lack the bold, confident, maverick, visionary leaders of yesteryear. Nobody wants to be the person where the buck stops. But someone has to, or certain Christian organizations and churches will flounder.

Trend #10: Conflicting Spokesman — Who will be the next Billy Graham? It probably won’t happen that the future will see the focus on a single individual who speaks for all Christians or all Protestants or all Evangelicals. Since many key spokespeople disagree on secondary and tertiary issues, it will sometimes appear to that there is a lack of concensus.

Trend # 11: The Blog Barometer — The blogosphere will be the source for more traditional Christian media. What you read online is now the origin of various Christian magazine articles (though the print editions of the magazines themselves are dinosuaring.) The bloggers you enjoy most are also being watched by Christian publishers as potential writers. Today’s blog posts are generally tomorrow’s Christian news headlines. Today’s bloggers are tomorrow’s mainstream Christian authors.

Trend # 12: Re[tro]volution in Kid’s Ministries — You’ve heard the saying, “A generation that does not impart its sacred texts to its children is one generation away from extinction.” People are seeing this truth playing out in some communities and recognizing the need for some fine tuning. Keep the media. Keep the interactives. Keep the cool music. But we’ve got to bring back the memory verse, the memory chapter, and the memory Psalm.

Trend # 13: Book Study Sunday Series — We’ve seen small groups do book studies for several decades; now the book study is starting to come to church on Sunday mornings. An entire congregation buys and/or hears sermons based on a recent Christian title; which is a win/win situation both for Christian publishers and pastors who wish their people would get passionate about a Christian book now and then.

Trend # 14: Unaffordable Retreats — While pastors head off to national conferences in record numbers, we’re seeing a widening gulf between the price of weekend retreats and what the average person can afford. Add in the economic climate, and you’ve got a recipe for retreat disaster. (Perhaps some of the pastor’s conference budget should be reassigned to become a retreat subsidy for those who can’t afford the costs.)

Trend # 15: Tentmaking — With more people getting their feet wet in ministry on mission trips (#5) and more social service needs that churches are being challenged to meet (#6) and less available money to pay staff (#6), it is incumbent on paid church staff to see their work as more half-time or part-time and supplement their ministry with income from other sources.

~ Compiled by Paul Wilkinson from a variety of sources and discussions

Blog at