Thinking Out Loud

August 3, 2018

Secularism: Coming Soon to a Continent Near You

Tourists appreciate the stained glass in general, but often breeze by without looking at the details. “The Poor Man’s Bible” offered the Biblical narrative to those too illiterate to read the story for themselves, and too poor to ever afford a Bible. Cathedral in this picture was in Strasbourg, France.

If you Google the phrase, “The secularization of Europe;” you’ll get over 50,000 results. I am quite sure that many of those can say better what I’m about to say here.

As some of you know, we just returned from 14 days. Last year it was Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Germany and the Czech Republic. This year it was Holland, Germany, France (for 5 hours anyway), and Switzerland. During both trips, I interviewed tour guides, bookstore staff, hotel workers, and anyone else who didn’t sprint away when I brought the subjects of faith, church, religion or Christianity.

“We tried religion and it didn’t work;” one of the tour guides in Prague said to me last year. This time, when I asked about church attendance it was, “Why would they go?”

My usual question was, “Out of the people in your immediate social circle, how many would attend church?” One person made a point of telling me the answer was 2-3%, but that strangely the brother’s wife’s cousin of his husband was studying to be a priest (pausing to make sure the his husband part fully registered with me.)

The historic churches and cathedrals seem to survive on a blend of tourism and mid-week organ concerts. Because of the architecture, these buildings are museum-like in their connection to the past, but not the present. Their relevance or impact on day-to-day life for Europeans is minimal, except as a geographical point of reference, hence, “Meet me in front of the cathedral.” 

Most of the bookstores I visited either didn’t have a religion section at all, or if they did, the Christian section consisted of church history and related biographies. There were some stores which offered theology as a category, but it was mostly scholarly and academic texts; there was nothing that would attract a seeker investigating Christianity for the first time, and certainly nothing resembling apologetics. 

Holland does have a Christian bookstore chain, De Fakkel — I’m told it means ‘The Torch’ — but in a situation similar to Canada, it is the big cities which are taking the hit, and the Amsterdam store has closed. This led the sales associate in Scheltema, a five story bookstore, to point out that he really wouldn’t know where to begin picking up the slack. He was smart enough to recognize the various denominations each have their own particular interests, and that De Fakkel can do a better job of this as insiders, so he’s chosen not to expand the Christian books on offer.  

I can’t imagine living in a society where church is so strongly rooted in the past; not the present. As I reflect on this next week, I’ll share about our visits — 3 of them actually — to Amsterdam’s Red Light District, and the whole idea of taking vacations like this versus doing the Christian retreat center thing. 

To conclude: I haven’t fleshed this out as fully as I wanted (tomorrow I’ll discuss the two nodes of secularization) but as I wrote the title what I was thinking was that the secularization we saw in Europe is coming rapidly to Canada. About the U.S., I’m not sure. America is rooted in a nominal Christianity and a political Christianity which appears pervasive. Church attendance is dropping off, and the U.S. pales in comparison to the church growth taking place in some South American countries, but the country of “In God We Trust” is presently an exception to what we see in Canada, the UK, Europe and Australia. It will be interesting to see the religious face of America ten years from now.

This cathedral in Cologne (aka Köln) Germany is so intricate, so massive; and yet so irrelevant to the daily life of anyone under a certain age.

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October 9, 2017

A Godless Generation That Doesn’t Give; Doesn’t Tithe

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:57 am

At a weekend family gathering, my nephew shocked me somewhat. We were talking about a situation in three neighboring towns where Episcopal (Anglican) churches are losing money at a rather alarming rate and there is some discussion about which which church should ultimately survive, as each feels great emotional attachment to their land and buildings.

I’m not sure what happened, but there was a transition in the conversation and suddenly he said, “I’m part of a Godless generation; we don’t tithe; we don’t give money.”

So I asked him, “What about secular charities?”

“No… Nothing.”

In the car on the three hour drive home, we discussed the implications of this for not only local churches but also charities which depend on the kindness of a donor base. What happens when those builders and boomers die off?

On the positive side, we know that while Episcopal churches are bleeding money and members, there are many megachurches that are packed each week, with the very demographic you might have expected to have given up on church.

Second, I look at North Point Community Church (Andy Stanley) where they’ve “kicked the bucket;” giving up on passing a collection plate/bucket/basket/bag because so many of their members have automated their giving.

(Before moving on, I think any church that struggles with support needs to look carefully at what’s working at North Point in Atlanta.)

I feel sorry for my nephew; he never gets to be part of so many good things that so many great people are doing in so many needy and hurtful parts of this world. He doesn’t get the reports of how the donations helped or read the letters from his Compassion sponsored child. He doesn’t get to share the pain of loss with hurricane victims or be part of facilitating the transplantation of a family in war-torn Syria to a place of peace in Canada or Germany.

Of greater concern of course is that he considers himself Godless. Quite opinionated about which Episcopal churches should close mind you, but involved only to the degree of an armchair quarterback questioning the coach’s decision to run a pass play when it’s fourth and fifteen.

My heart aches for him.

July 27, 2017

Resenting the Church’s Wealth

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:34 am

Before leaving Austria’s Melk Abbey, I persuaded my wife to buy two small postcards. It was a rather strange place to make our only abbey/cathedral/church expenditure because she was not terribly impressed with this particular excursion.

She found it extremely opulent and it was such a huge contrast to the simple crucifix that we had seen in the museum. The two postcards were meant to ask the question, “How did we get from this to this?” In other words, how did the death of the simple, peripatetic rabbi as a common criminal lead to the layers and layers of gold which adorned the worship space?

One answer that was given us on another tour was that the churches and cathedrals “must outdo the palaces” because “God deserves better than the King.”

Just ponder that for a few minutes…

…I wonder to what extent the average person at the time of construction could come to resent the church’s wealth? When your family is living in a cold and damp hovel in the middle of cruel winter and you’ve had to skip supper because the rats have eaten the food you had set aside to cook that night; and then you look out the window and see this gigantic gold-topped cathedral being built just a mile or two from your home, do you start to wonder about the equity of all things? Or do you in fact the connect the dots as we did and wonder how the simple story of the teacher who told his closest disciples to carry no bag for their journey and focus on building heavenly treasure gave way to stained glass and organs and statues and twelve libraries?

Fast forward to 2017. Are things much different? Do people resent the church’s wealth today? When your family is living in subsidized housing and the landlord refuses to fix the hot water heater and you’ve had to skip dinner because the refrigerator is empty, the Food Stamps/EBT debit card is missing and the only friend who might help you out is in lockup for DUI; when you look out the window and see the megachurch on the other side of the freeway which now prevents you from seeing the sunset; do you start to wonder why that huge building needs to exist at all while you go hungry? Do you connect the dots and wonder how the story of the Nazareth carpenter who preached the Sermon on the Mount and told the rich young man to sell everything gave way to an air-conditioned house of worship with 2,600 plush seats and a fully equipped children’s ministry center and state-of-the-art sound and lighting?

Are we still trying to outdo the palace?

September 2, 2016

Doing the Church Hop: The How and the Why

Doing the Church Tour

church-hopping bunny 2

Think church-hopping is just a summer thing? Do your hopping off-season and blend in with the natives.

This is a 2014 article by Peter Chin on the blog Third Culture, a webpage launched that year by Christianity Today. He called it,

Why A Little Denomination Hopping Is Not A Bad Thing

Sometimes, I’m a little embarrassed to be identified as an American Christian because it feels like we fall into one of two camps: either we hate everything that we are not familiar with, or hate everything that we used to like.

A good example of the former is a controversy that recently sprang up at Gordon College, where undergraduates were scandalized at the introduction of a strange and foreign type of worship experience during their chapel services: gospel music. Yes, GOSPEL MUSIC, one of the oldest and richest liturgical traditions in American faith.

Examples of the latter are too numerous to count. The Christian blogosphere and publishing industry are filled with memoirs of people ranting about how terrible their church experience was growing up, and how their current place and style of worship is what Jesus had in mind all along. When cast in this adversarial light, what should have been personal stories of finding one’s home in faith instead read like a harrowing escape from a doomsday cult, and serve as yet another salvo in our nation’s already raging cultural wars.

These two tendencies have unfortunately come to define Christians in this country, that we either despise everything with which we are unfamiliar, or the exact opposite…

church hopperThere are some great Tweetable moments in the article:

  • It is this exposure that allows me, and others who share my background, to avoid that terrible tendency to either despise other Christian traditions, or despise one’s own.
  • [D]o any of us willingly and easily engage with things with which we have no exposure?
  • I don’t believe in a denominational promised land, just an eternal one.

To read the full article, click the title above or click here.


I started to write this as a comment, but it got lost in the ether. So I’ll share it here.

In my local community, I tell people they need to “do the tour.” I recommend taking four weeks. If you’re Evangelical do the high church tour. If you’re Mainline Protestant check out the Pentecostals and the Wesleyans. These days, with multiple services, you can do this and still not miss anything back home.

I also tell them that the point isn’t to consider making a switch, but to return with a richer understand of your own denomination’s place in the broader spectrum.


Five Reasons to Church Hop This Week

church-hopping bunny 2I didn’t write this one either. Maybe I wish I had. Credit goes to Kirra at the blog Thoughtful. (Click the title below to link.) While some people consider church-hopping to be some type of rampant plague or scourge, the point is that most people are very faithful to their faith family week-in, week-out. This was written to encourage them just to one-time consider a one-off visit somewhere else. Is that such a bad thing?

5 Reasons Why You Should Attend a Different Church Next Week

If you’ve been attending the same church for more than a year or two, it might be time to visit another church next Sunday. This isn’t a permanent change but just one Sunday to do something different.

When we go to the same church for years, we get comfortable. We know the people, we know the songs, and we know the church. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is good for us to leave what makes us comfortable once in a while. There are many good reasons to visit a different church once in a while. Here are five.

1. Remember what it was like to be a guest.
If you’ve been attending the same church for a long time, you may not remember well what it is like to attend a church for the first time. You don’t know anyone. You don’t know if the place you chose to sit if that space is someone’s “spot.” Will they serve communion? How will they serve communion? Will you know any of the songs they sing? When you visit a new church and then come back to your home church, hopefully you will find yourself more sensitive to those who are attending your church for the first time.

2. Appreciate a different style of worship. If your church sings hymns, try one that has a praise band. This is not just about music; if your home church is casual, try out a church that is a little more formal or liturgical. Put on a tie or a dress. Church can be done in many different ways; you don’t have to love the new style, but learn to appreciate the different ways the church worships.

3. Get a different perspective. If you’ve been listening to the same one or two preachers for a while, listen to someone else’s teaching. You might not agree with everything they say, but sometimes the best way to sharpen your beliefs is to consider the ideas that you disagree with. On the other hand, you might learn something that you find rings true that you’ve not heard taught before. Just be sure to weigh carefully what you hear, whether at new churches or your home church.

4. See what other churches are doing. Observe their methods, programs, and activities. How do they do Sunday School? Do they order the service in a way that seems more conducive to worship? If you see something you especially like that you think could work at your church, approach the leadership and humbly offer your suggestion.

5. Recognize the body of Christ is all over the world and all over your city. The people at the church you choose to visit may be strangers, but we are all going to be sharing heaven together. Christ only has one body.

September 25, 2014

Doing the Church Tour

church-hopping bunny 2

I’ve written about this before, but was reminded again after reading an article by Peter Chin on the blog Third Culture, the newest page launched a few days ago by Christianity Today. He called it, Why A Little Denomination Hopping Is Not A Bad Thing

It begins:

Sometimes, I’m a little embarrassed to be identified as an American Christian because it feels like we fall into one of two camps: either we hate everything that we are not familiar with, or hate everything that we used to like.

A good example of the former is a controversy that recently sprang up at Gordon College, where undergraduates were scandalized at the introduction of a strange and foreign type of worship experience during their chapel services: gospel music. Yes, GOSPEL MUSIC, one of the oldest and richest liturgical traditions in American faith.

Examples of the latter are too numerous to count. The Christian blogosphere and publishing industry are filled with memoirs of people ranting about how terrible their church experience was growing up, and how their current place and style of worship is what Jesus had in mind all along. When cast in this adversarial light, what should have been personal stories of finding one’s home in faith instead read like a harrowing escape from a doomsday cult, and serve as yet another salvo in our nation’s already raging cultural wars.

These two tendencies have unfortunately come to define Christians in this country, that we either despise everything with which we are unfamiliar, or the exact opposite…

church hopperThere are some great Tweetable moments in the article:

  • It is this exposure that allows me, and others who share my background, to avoid that terrible tendency to either despise other Christian traditions, or despise one’s own.
  • [D]o any of us willingly and easily engage with things with which we have no exposure?
  • I don’t believe in a denominational promised land, just an eternal one.

To read the full article, click the title above or click here.


I started to write this as a comment, but it got lost in the ether. So I’ll share it here.

In my local community, I tell people they need to “do the tour.” I recommend taking four weeks. If you’re Evangelical do the high church tour. If you’re Mainline Protestant check out the Pentecostals and the Wesleyans. These days, with multiple services, you can do this and still not miss anything back home.

I also tell them that the point isn’t to consider making a switch, but to return with a richer understand of your own denomination’s place in the broader spectrum.


Related:

September 21, 2011

Wednesday Link List

With so much to see in the Christian blogosphere, why would anyone want to spend time on Facebook?

  • There are always a significant number or “religion” stories at Huffington Post.  In this one, author Tim Suttle examines what he sees as the three failures of the megachurch movement.
  • I liked this article enough to make an e-mail forward out of it.  Trey Morgan lists seven things your children desperately need to hear you say.  Great for all parents, but I think especially for dads.
  • Okay, so about the t-shirt. I thought I’d tripped over an example of subtlety in evangelistic casual wear; a sort of, ‘our best efforts at holiness and righteousness are never enough,’ a la Andy Stanley’s How Good Is Good Enough?. Works for me. But alas, I had simply typed “Christian tees” and the designer is Andrew Christian. Still, if you’ve got the $38 US
  • There’s something about Mark Driscoll’s new website, PastorMark.tv, that has me wondering why this site seems to exist apart from the Mars Hill Seattle site.  Just wondering.
  • A link you may have missed in last week’s George Bush story, as it was added as an update on Monday:  A Tyndale University faculty member voices his opinions in a guest post to Christian Week.  However…
  • Surprise! The George W. Bush thing in Toronto happened after all.
  • Fifteen years in the making, but the final pages of the first handwritten, illuminated Bible commissioned in 500 years is just about done. With more than 1,150 pages of text and 160 illuminations, The Saint John’s Bible now goes on tour.
  • The latest in a series of YouTube vids contrasting Christ-centered worship with me-centered worship parodies some of today’s most popular choruses.
  • Meanwhile, if your church has had enough of cell (mobile for my UK readers) phones going off during services, this one-minute YouTube video should make the point clear once and for all.
  • Let’s go three-for-three with videos: This downloadable youth ministry video clip contrasts storing up treasure on earth and storing up treasure in heaven. Actually you could use this Bluefish-TV clip on a Sunday morning, too.
  • Jenni Catron is Executive Director of Cross Point Church in Nashville (Pete Wilson) and discusses her personal discipline in approaching Sunday morning services, and her recognition that not everyone can muster the same enthusiasm.
  • But if you can’t make it to the service physically, you can always be there virtually, especially at North Point Community in Atlanta, where they’ve added three more broadcast times for the ‘live’ stream which includes baptisms and worship songs. Check it out at 9:00 and 11:00 AM and 2:00, 6:00 and 10:00 PM at NorthpointOnline.tv
  • In a somewhat depressing piece, Washington Times editor Julia Duin says that Evangelical singles are living a promiscuous lifestyle. Interesting paragraph: “Have you ever noticed how singles never get touched? It’s living in this bubble of no hugs, no physical contact whatsoever. Small wonder so many revert to pets… and professional massages. I once suggested to my small group at church that we give each other back rubs. I was looked at as though I had suggested we all get undressed. ”
  • Readers at Rachel Held Evans’ blog ask questions of Justin Lee, director of the Gay Christian Network. (You can also read the 255 comments containing questions that were submitted.)
  • Back in May, I introduced you to the band, The City Harmonic.  The band is nominated for five Covenant Awards — Canada’s equivalent of the Dove Awards — and the video is closing in on one million views.
  • Speak German?  Hirten Barometer is a site for evaluating the performance of priests and ministers.  Just like Trip Advisor, only church service instead of hotel service. The clergy rating site apparently has it sights set on sites in English for North America.
  • And just before we sign off, thanks to regular reader Brian for sending us an actual lynx news story, with a valuable lesson about what happens to people who cheat.
  • I chopped the seasonal summer reference off this panel of Mike Morgan’s For Heaven’s Sake, but wanted to share the concept.  I wonder how many others think this is what a certain website is about?

  • Very lastly — as opposed to just ‘lastly’ — here are the results of the CNN Religion poll taken in the wake of Pat Robertson’s remarks that it is okay for the spouse of someone with Alzheimer’s to divorce that person.  This was as of 9:00 PM last night, but as you look at the numbers, you’ll have to admit they’re somewhat inconclusive. ;)

August 24, 2011

Wednesday Link List

I like a church that covers all the basics for living

Years from now, when anthropologists discover this blog, they will say, “Truly, this was the Wednesday Link List for August 24th, 2011.”

  • Randy Alcorn quotes a Chuck Colson report that we shouldn’t be talked into thinking there’s been a lessening of persecution of Christians in China.
  • The author and publishers of The Shack — a bestselling Christian novel — found themselves on opposite sides of a lawsuit which was finally settled out of court.
  • Just what WOULD the Beatles have come up with, creatively speaking, had they been followers of Jesus all those years ago? A good friend of ours has finally given us the green light to release the link for a take-off to The Beatles “When I’m Sixty-Four.”  So enjoy “Matthew Six Three-Four.”  (The link will open your computer’s media player.) Stay tuned for more from Martin Barret on a soon to be released project featuring this song and others.
  • Schullergate Item of the Week:  The Crystal Cathedral succeeded in getting a dissenting website, Crystal Cathedral Music, taken down this week. The site featured commentary from former members of the CC choir and orchestra and friends of the Cathedral’s former music style.
  • Darryl Dash warns pastors and others that when it comes to email and online correspondence, nothing is confidential.
  • Christianity Today profiles Dave Ramsey, noting the new Momentum curriculum, designed to bring the same advice to cash-strapped churches as is given individuals.
  • Alex Mejias at the blog High Street Hymns gives you Five Reasons to Use Liturgical Music in Your Contemporary Worship Service.  (And no, “Liturgical songs are free of copyright worries” wasn’t in the list.)  [HT: Zac Hicks.]
  • This one’s a repeat from April, but I read it again and laughed again.  What if churches used their signs to suggest “purpose statements” that were actually achievable?
  • DotSub — the online service which adds subtitles in any language to your videos — picks up a June, 2010 TED Talk by Larry Lessig which deals with copyright and fair use, but begins with an observation about Republicans: They go to church.
  • Ronnie McBrayer adds his voice to The Underground, a Christian website like no other, and notes that a lot of people do strange things because they thought they heard God’s voice.
  • In an in-depth article, CNN ponders whether Christians can win the war against pornography. (Over 3,000 comments as of Monday.)
  • Julie Clawson considers the theological implications of the Veggie Tales song, “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.”  Okay, that’s not exactly what this post is all about.
  • Just discovering the music of Phil Wickham.  Gave Mrs. W. the Cannons album last week for being good!  This older song, You’re Beautiful, is closing in on 2,000,000 YouTube views.  For the already-converted (!) here’s a clip from Phil’s October-releasing album, Response.
  • Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like delivers a fundy take on I Cor. 13; though in all honesty, I gotta say this one is high in contention for being tomorrow’s post here.
  • You’re not really going to the bathroom at Bible study group are you?  Bryan Lopez reblogged Tech-Crunch’s Technology is the New Smoking.
  • Somewhat related: Chrystal at Life After Church introduces a new blog series by describing a very non-Baptist way to engage with scripture.
  • Thomas Prosser at the UK Guardian newspaper thinks that Christian youth camps are manipulative, but before you read, you need to know that what they term as camps, we refer to as festivals.
  • If you’re a link-o-phile, you’ll also find a daily rundown at Take Your Vitamin Z (Zach Nielsen), Kingdom People (Trevin Wax) and Tim Challies.  These bloggers include things from the broader blogosphere including lots of tech news, but when it comes to theological discussion the links are all from a single doctrinal family of bloggers.  (Note the vast number of links that turn up on all three over the course of a month.)  The mix here is quite different, but feel free to check out the three mentioned above as well as the large, diverse number of other bloggers in the margin at right.  These links are constantly checked for (a) a spiritual focus, (b) frequent and recent posting, and (c) taken as a group, doctrinal mix and balance.

The Wednesday List Lynx arrives late to the party

January 8, 2011

Should Churches Rent Space to Other Faith Groups?

Martin left a comment at the end of Wednesday’s Link List this week that I promised myself I would spin off into a separate discussion, so that any of you who wished could join the thread. First, here’s what I wrote; it’s the first of the two links that matter, but for those of you who read this from Canada and will get the context, I’ve left the second link in as well:

  • While some “Christian” pastors — one anyway — want to burn the Qu’ran, Heartsong Church in Cordova, Tennessee has “a more welcoming approach.” ” Steve Stone and his congregants put out a sign welcoming incoming neighbors at the Memphis Islamic Center. The church then allowed these Muslim neighbors to use their sanctuary as a makeshift mosque throughout Ramadan while the Islamic Center was under construction.”  Read more at Christianity Today.
  • As strange as that story may be, it’s also the basis for a Canadian situation comedy now in its 5th season.  The new season of Little Mosque on the Prairie kicked off on Monday night with an episode that makes the Imam look a lot more appealing — i.e. “nicer” — than the Anglican minister who is renting the Islamic congregation its space.   Watch past episodes at CBC-TV.

A day later, this was Martin’s comment:

Brilliant…a pastor turns a Christian church into a place that allows a 1400 year old cult to practice their blasphemous faith. What would Jesus do? Would that same church lovingly open its arms to a Wiccan ritual service in their basement? Think not!

It doesn’t matter how many practice this cult or how accepted it is (by forced ‘tolerance’ imposed by daftly ignorant political proponents), the Muslim faith is anti-semetic, anti-christian and encourages shari’a law that oppresses its women.

Why not open your church to the needy, the unfortunate, the mother and child with no place to stay…a few cots and a shower stall. But open doors to a cult that believes Christianity’s Christ was too good to die for our sins? … That believes that it’s okay to ‘Slay them (Christians, Jews) where you find them’ (or tax the living crap out of them if they don’t convert)… That believes the only way to know the Q’uran’s truth is to learn Arabic – ancient Arabic?

Yeah, sure…c’mon in…it’s stupid in here.

Waiter, I’ll take my reality-cheque now.

The first thing I need to do here obviously is insert a disclaimer.  The views expressed in the comment above and those that follow are those of the writers. There are variances among followers of the Islamic faith just as there are variances among the practices of various Christian denominations. I’m not looking for comments here as to the essence of Muslim doctrine and ethics.

I am simply looking for further responses to Martin’s comment.

The CT article seemed to put a positive spin on this — certainly justified in light of the other option I mention in the link list — but the CT comments are not as kind:

  • Muslims believe Jesus was just a prophet and that he married and moved to Asia where he died. He was not resurrected, he definitely is not the Son of God. So, when they enter a sanctuary and worship there it means to other Muslims that they have conquered for Islam the territory they have moved into and which is owed to Muslims by God. Burning a Koran or a Bible doesn’t match burning to death non Muslims in their worship space and their homes in Muslim minds… (Anna)
  • Evangelize them, debates them, pray for them, love them, and demonstrate the Fruit of the Spirit, but please do not allow them to worship in your Sanctuary or use any of your grounds. I suggest to those who think this is okay to research how Islamic Law implements property rights… (former Muslim student)
  • …That besides however, I must say that lending them facilities, buildings or whatever else have you that were built by the sometimes hard earned money and resources of Christians now gone. It’s an absolute NO NO! It will create confusion among new and young believers and among our children. I believe 1st Cor. 10:21; Eph. 5:6,7; 1st Pet. 4:4; 2nd Jn. 1:10,11 correctly applies here among others… (Salero)
  • I’ve been involved with reaching out to Muslims the last 20 years. Offering a church facility to be used for the purposes of a Mosque is not a good idea. There is an entire spiritual element that is present and proclaimed that is unbiblical. Just read Galatians 1:6-9 to begin to pick up on the spiritual implications. It is far better to be Biblical than try to demonstrate some form of religious correctness… (Mark)
  • …I see no reason why a church should not use its building as a means to help a group of Muslims, especially if part of their purpose is to demonstrate Christ’s love with a view to possible evangelism.  [and then, just 20 minutes later] …We certainly don’t wish to further the cause of a false religion, and allowing them to worship in our facility may do just that. On the other hand, a building is just a building, and those who compare it to a temple or a sacred site seem to be confusing Old and New Testament places of worship… (Galen)
  • While I could understand the good neighborliness of offering space for non-worship activities, I think the author has missed the point of view of many strict Muslims. Once worship of Allah has taken place in a venue, it has been “sanctified” by that, and reverting to Christian worship (which Muslims see as heretical, since Christians are seen by them as among those who have “gone astray”) would be problematic for Muslims… (Phyllis)
  • 2 Corinthians 6:16 states “… what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” Yes, personally we are to show love to all, no matter what their beliefs. But to facilitate the false worship of Islam in a Christian church is totally different and has nothing to do with Christian love… (John)
  • Christ drove the money changers from the temple for misusing that sacred space. An Islamic worship service is a similar misuse of a sacred space. Our attempts to be Christ-like should be rooted in scripture and truth, not vague impressions about what we think Christ would do.  (D.S.)
  • So, Pastor Stone, you’re saying that in your mind Jesus would find it acceptable for the Golden Calf that the Israelites were worshiping to be bought into your church and worshiped again? I agree with the struggle to figure out how to best love the Muslims of the world. But sanctioning false worship and idolatry is not the way to go about it. In our rush to love we go to extremes. It does not have to be Stone’s method or the Burn the Koran method. We should find the balance in between where we can love but still hold fast to Truth.  (Michael)

Looks like Martin held the majority view.  These are just a few of the comments left at CT and it may well be you choose to add yours using the link at the very top of this post.

And what about other faith groups?  Are there some groups whose presence you would consider acceptable?

November 18, 2010

Sometimes Bigger IS Necessarily Better

I’ve been thinking (not out loud) all day about this one.

Sometimes a church or ministry organization will begin a period of rapid and accelerating growth.   They hire new staff.   They add new programs or services.   They need larger premises in which to conduct their activities.

All this time, there are people critics standing on the sidelines suggesting that they’ve created a monster, and now all their energies need to be spent feeding the beast.

And that’s often the case.

Sometimes growth is a natural product of the effectiveness of a church or parachurch organizations ministry.   If it’s working, if it’s blessing people, if it’s bringing people into the kingdom, we want to see it grow, right?

Now… I know there are people reading this who have an issue with “big.”    They like to give to niche mission organizations and perhaps their weekly worship thing is a smaller congregation or even a home church.   Is that you?   Then trust me, I’m on-side.  I know the intimacy that comes through worship in a smaller group, and I know that your missions giving yields more bang for your buck when the people in the office and the people ministering on the front lines are the same people.

I’m not, across-the-board, in favor of “big.”

But I also realized today that there are some major liabilities that can take place when you have a ministry that is powerful and effective, but somewhere along the line you failed — or were unable — to build an organization.

This isn’t about the fact that as president of my own company, I occasionally empty the wastebaskets or clean the toilets.   I don’t mind modeling servant leadership.    In fact, there’s nothing I would ask any employee to do that I don’t do or haven’t done myself.     I believe good leadership involves getting your hands dirty.

I’m just realizing that perhaps as a leader, I failed to set my sights on greater possibilities, and am paying the price today for not bringing in more strategic partnerships.

Because I think that sometimes, bigger is better.   Even in church and ministry.

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lower image: AllPosters.com (click link)

November 3, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Not enough links for you in yesterday’s NIV post?   Well then here are few extra…

  • First of all a quotation from Bishop Fulton Sheen we found at Big Blue Wave:  “So much of what people call atheism is not so much the negation of God as the deification of the ego.  All atheists believe in God, but the god is themselves.”  Ouch!   This is a website that deals with social issues from a Christian perspective.
  • A story in the Imperial Republican in Imperial Nebraska is one of the most amazing things I’ve read this week.   Little Colton Burpo had a near death experience that resulted in his dad, Todd Burpo publishing the story with Thomas Nelson in the just-released book, Heaven is for Real. Check this one out, and be sure to read the four reasons why his dad concluded that his son really did get a look at heaven.
  • It took Kelley Mooney two years, but she finally got the mechanical rights to use Leonard Cohen’s song Halleluljah with substituted lyrics which look at Jesus’ road to the cross.   Check out the video premiere in Nova Scotia, Canada with an awesome children’s choir.
  • Some great stuff at Christianity 201 recently including:  Michael Krahn’s look at the Wayward Son’s older brother;   Mark Batterson on the Jewish “3D” understanding of sin;   Bob Coy wonders aloud how long The Flood was effective in wiping sin off the face of the earth;  an anonymous e-mail forward takes a look at the 23rd Psalm;  Daniel Jepson cites Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ take on the subject of brokenness;  David Fisher finds a church in Belfast which, rather than a statement of faith has a statement of ethos.
  • Greg Koukl at Stand To Reason takes a cue from Jesus’ ministry and suggests that when someone is trying to trap you with a question about some controversial social issue; turn the table and answer the question with a question.
  • In Christian circles preoccupied with pastors who are major authors, or attendance figures at megachurches, Darryl Dash celebrates the beauty of average or ordinary churches including this quote from Derek Webb:  “I’ve found that often success looks more like failure, riches more like poverty, and real life often feels more like death.”
  • Regent College theology professor John Stackhouse flat out thinks that Mark Driscoll needs to take a study break to sharpen his exegetical skills.   C’mon, John; tell us what you really think.
  • Robert A. Schuller does an unscheduled 20-minute interview with Jim Cantelon at the daily Christian talk show in Canada, 100 Huntley Street; including a mention of how his son, Robert Vernon Schuller, aka Bobby, pastor of The Gathering, brokered a meeting between Robert A. and grandfather Robert H. Schuller.  This is a two part video; here and here.
  • And speaking of the Crystal Cathedral, Karen Spears Zacharias suggests that Joel Osteen should be taking notes on what is happening at the big glass church.
  • Joshua Harris looks at the big picture of how we approach Sunday morning worship, including a growing lack of punctuality, which we’ve also noticed recently in a few churches.   Does it say something about our increasing apathy in our hearts?  Do people in your church fill the front rows first?   Is the hunger there, or is there complacency?
  • Our picture below is from a general interest website, BoingBoing; which spells out the scripture mentioned in the sign:  “Mark 11:12-14 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard him say it.”

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