Thinking Out Loud

March 11, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Finally, a cure! And Jim Bakker has it. Call while supplies last. But first, see story below.

Seemed to be no shortage of people under the microscope this week. I’ve included some, ignored others. Don’t forget that you can always play the home version of Wednesday Connect, just follow @PaulW1lk1nson on Twitter

Also don’t miss our 404 pages in the graphics below.

■ Where did all the Christians go? Alarming new stats from Barna Research shows nearly half as many Americans consider themselves “practicing Christians” as in 2000. Of those who aren’t, about half are non-practicing, and the other half would now be considered non-Christian. However there is hope: People are still reading their Bibles and praying at the same rate they were.

■ Despite a number of revisions to its youth curriculum, a close examination finds the Mormon doctrine that being black is the mark of a curse remains relatively intact.

■ When Jesus told his disciples he was leaving, is it better to say he was “changing location” instead of “changing form?” I ask because Steven Furtick says both in this short clip, but people are jumping all over him for the latter but ignoring the truth of the former. I think people are just predisposed to condemn him. (Pastors: What if your every sentence was widely posted online? Are your messages really that word-perfect? Could you stand up to the criticism?)

■ David Jeremiah was inducted into the National Religious Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame, but historically, that would not have been possible as he’s not in membership with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability over a claim he gamed the New York Times Bestseller lists, in a scheme similar to the one which brought down Mark Driscoll

Get ready for a string of COVID-19 stories…

Breaking: The Attorney General for Missouri is the latest to come after televangelist Jim Bakker for peddling a cure for coronavirus. He’ll have to stand in line behind The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, The Federal Trade Commission, The New York Attorney General and others. It remains that “there are no known vaccinations or over-the-counter products approved to treat or cure the virus.” …

■ In Europe, “Cases of coronavirus infections have multiplied since Thursday, March 5, 2020 throughout France, especially among the faithful who participated in a large Evangelical gathering of the ‘Christian Open Door’ in Mulhouse from February 17 to 24…” Furthermore, “Participation in this Lenten Week, organized for 25 years, did not require prior registration, which complicates the identification of potential patients.” (Story is in French-language media.) …

■ COVID-19 scare? Bethel Church closed their Redding campus healing rooms recently. Skeptic/atheist websites are having a field day with this one. …

■ Six Christians were among the 100,000 released on Monday from Iran’s prisons in order to stem the tide of the virus. It included Mary (Fatemeh) Mohammadi whose story needs to be shared. …

■ And earlier this week Bobby Gruenewald the founder of YouVersion and Craig Groeshel the founder of Life.Church entered self-quarantine after attending a conference in Germany.

■ Three items this week from The Christian Institute:

■ How Christian books come to be: Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn have a new book about finances, but guess what? It’s not about money. (And this is from a couple that freely shares that they disagree about some aspects of financial planning, which gives the rest of us hope!) (Actually, she gets top billing on the book’s cover.)

■ Redeeming the Arts: In a world where a banana taped to a wall sells for $120,000, a short look at the God-intended role of artists, crafters, woodworkers, metalworkers, designers, engravers, stone-cutters, weavers, embroiderers; and anyone else engaged in what the author calls Presence-Centered Art.

■ Labels: “We need to take care who we label false teachers. It’s okay to name names—but we should do so only when we’re certain. And when we do wrongly label one another false teachers, we need humility to confess and repent.” Check the list of 9 marks of a false teacher.

■ Parenting Place: Concerned that Google is taking your children where you don’t want them to be? Try Kiddle.co for safe-search results, bigger fonts, larger images, and (to repeat) safe-search results.

■ More on the situation re. John Ortberg and Menlo Park Presbysterian

■ 🇨🇦 Canada has begun the process of making conversion therapy against the law in every province. “The legislation would also authorize courts to order the seizure of conversion therapy advertisements or to order those who placed the advertisements to remove them.”

■ After nearly 30 years as President of Bread for the World, David Beckmann is stepping down to be succeeded by Eugene Cho.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: Jesus Isn’t a Death Star.

■ The Book of Alternative Services: The Sound Bath Evensong.

During sound bath Evensong, ethereal voices sing sacred texts as a musician pumps a Shruti box, creating a low, steady hum. A single pitch from a singing bowl dissolves into sonorous overtones from a large gong. It penetrates to the core. The sounds are primal and soothing. For those who sit in quiet contemplation in the pews, the unique acoustic experience offers a chance to clear the mind.

Get Religion looks at what this Associated Press report included about the service, and what is left out. Is this even about God?

■ If you missed all the public service announcements, this church included one in their choir selection.

■ Christianity is a religion, not a relationship. Wait, what? Isn’t that the opposite of what you’ve been told is true?

■ Finally, don’t forget I Still Believe — the Jeremy Camp story — opens in select theaters on Thursday; others on Friday.



The website Church Pop thinks the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has the best 404 page, given that St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things. Sourced at churchpop.com



March 4, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous: Whose house is this house? See story * below.

We’re back with our weekly look at faith-related stories, as they appear to us living one international border removed from much of the action. I told my wife that the U.S. network TV shows weren’t on last night because it was Super Tuesday. She asked, in all seriousness, “That’s football, right?”

■ Coronavirus and the Shincheonji Church in South Korea: “In the largest outbreak outside of China, the majority of the country’s more than 4,335 confirmed cases are members of the secretive group, labeled a cult in South Korea and by the Christian community, according to a spokesman for the church. ‘You would be 5 centimeters away from the person who sits next to you, and have to say ‘Amen’ after every sentence the pastor speaks — it’s the best environment for the virus to spread,’ An So-young, a 27-year-old who left the group, told Reuters.” …

■ …And the virus means some SBC missionaries may need to be redeployed to other countries. International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood said, “For missionaries who are at the epicenter of the virus, in places where the risk is high and also where interaction with other human beings has almost been totally shut down, what we have said to them is, ‘If you have small children or health issues, we want you somewhere else quickly.'” …

■ …and in Italy, in the all-important season of Lent leading up to Passion Week, the Roman Catholic Church has congregations scrambling for alternative ways to say the Mass, including streaming live on the internet.

■ Nagmeh Panahi, former wife of Saeed Abedini, shares her story with Pastor Neil McClendon and the congregation of Grand Parkway Baptist Church in Richmond Texas (58 minutes). (Interesting quote: “The first time I saw a commercial airplane it was really scary; I couldn’t understand that there could be airplanes that weren’t meant to drop bombs.”)

■ Tornado hits Nashville: Joel and Luke Smallbone of for King and Country report, “Many of us were up through the night listening to sirens, searching for information on what was taking place around us, and checking in with loved ones around Nashville. By God’s grace, we’re all unharmed, but the same cannot be said for our city- which has taken quite a hit.”

■ N. T. Wright on what the Bible says about women preachers. “Wright said the same question would elicit a yawn in the U.K. ‘We settled this one years ago,'”

■ Parenting Problems: Why it’s increasingly difficult for Christians to work within the constraints of publicly funded fostering programs. This is a devotional article, but you want to at least read the anecdote.

■ Polyamory: In 2020 this is a definite “no” for Evangelicals. But 2030? Look what happened with homosexuality. To consider this:

■ Know anyone in this category? “There is a tendency for the parachurch to become a quasi-church. In other words, the tendency is for the parachurch to become the functioning church of its participants. It becomes the hub around which the Christian lives of its participants revolve.” The writer says such organizations are not a proper substitute for the local church

■ If you see someone on Twitter or Facebook asking for prayer, pray for them. And then let them know you’re praying. Prayer request of the week is for Olivia, daughter of @BibleBacon. (See Feb. 21, 22, 25, 26.)

■ A prominent Reformed writer asks his denomination if they are taking the Bible seriously when it comes to teaching on Satan and the demonic realm. (Kicks of a series of articles.)

■ Your Church is not a cafeteria: Thom Rainer offers seven reasons the two are not the same.

* Got $1.9M? James MacDonald’s house is for sale. (More info in the comments section.)

John Ortberg returns to Menlo Presbyterian this week after completing a “Restoration Plan” with church leadership.

■ Honored: On May 5th a Christian publisher’s association will award Stormie Omartian for “the outstanding contribution of The Power of a Praying® series, both to the industry and to society at large.” “The series’ collection of 20 books, published by Harvest House Publishers, has achieved more than 31 million in sales worldwide.” (Note to self: Don’t forget the ®.)

■ Lauren Daigle and Hillsong topped the list of the top Christian songs streamed on Spotify in 2019.

■ New Music ♫ This item got omitted last week, but apparently some people must thing the new Hillsong Young and Free song isn’t Jesus-y enough for worship use. At least, something sparked this short article. (Video embedded.)  

■ New Music ♫ Paul Baloche is back with a new album, Behold Him. Check out the lyric video for What a Good God

■ New Music ♫ Back on October 2nd, this Bethel Worship musician’s picture topped our Wednesday Connect column with the announcement of his run for Congress. Check out his new song, Raise Our Voice.

■ Meet Naomi: Not a faith story, but on the climate change front, Greta’s got competition.

■ Finally, last week’s burning theological question: Was Jesus buff?


Someone wasn’t taught to close their eyes for prayer.
Photo: Reuters News


■ Tweet of the Month for February:


Top Clicks from last week’s Connect feed:

  1. If there were only 100 Christians…
  2. Guest Post at Julie Roys: What happened at Willow Creek
  3. Julie Roys at Julie Roys: Son of John MacArthur in trouble
  4. At what point do we say that the “unreached” have been “reached?”
  5. The Akiane art theft we never knew about
  6. American Idol contestant leads judges in a prayer

Click to see them all at this link.

February 26, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Crossing the Red Sea – 21st Century Edition



Today is Ash Wednesday aka the first day of Lent. Again, send us your recommended links; especially those ‘off-road’ blogs where you feel someone is writing something significant so it can reach a wider audience.

■ Starting off: What if there were only 100 Christians? What would we know about them? Gordon Conwell seminary has envisioned this in an infographic for people who might not grapple well with %-age stats, but can see it more clearly with a manageable number. Language, ethnicity, income and a host of other parameters are covered. (You can’t do justice to this on a mobile phone, however.)

■ Curiosity scandal of the week: This time it’s Mark MacArthur, son of John MacArthur and a Grace To You board member; and a $16M investment scheme. Sigh.

Breaking: Mass Coronavirus outbreaks at Chinese prison spark concern for imprisoned Christians

■ …Also from China, new rules which were due to be implemented on February 1st, would require all “religious personnel” to pledge loyalty and “total submission” to the Chinese Communist Party.

■ Question of the Week: When will the ‘unreached’ be considered ‘reached?

■ Trouble at The Holy Land Experience tourist attraction in Orlando, Florida, with most of the staff laid off.

Not Linked: I’ll let you find this one for yourself. It’s rather dark and depressing. Dan George guests at Julie Roys’ blog and reveals the contents of a meeting he attended as an elder at Harvest Bible Chapel. James MacDonald is again revealed to be the person that we now know he is and it’s not pretty. (Some days you wish this story would simply go away.)

■ A great commission (so to speak): ♫ Our friend David Wesley, known for his acapella and virtual choir videos on YouTube was recently invited to be part of the 40th Anniversary celebrations at Saddleback Church in Orange County, CA for which he produced the latest in his “Evolution of Worship” videos. For this one, Pastor Rick Warren compiled the song list and David arranged the 12-minute medley

■ Separation of State and Church: In England, The Humanist all-party parliamentary group, which is affiliated with lobby group Humanists UK, is calling for “removing the automatic right of the 26 longest serving Church of England bishops to sit in the House of Lords, arguing that bishops have changed the outcome of votes and have privileges over other members, such as when a bishop wants to speak and other peers are expected to give way.” They argue that only 14% of the population is Church of England…  

■ … Meanwhile, the Church of England is encouraging churches to be able to accept “contactless” (what we call “tap” where I live) credit card donations in lieu of traditional cash offerings.

■ The story of “Just Sam,” age 20 who led the American Idol judges in prayer. After, Luke Bryan joked that they should all get baptized.

■ For one bakery, people giving up sweets for Lent means packing all the inventory of decadence into a donut feast called Paczki Week, which falls between the Polish and American observances of Paczki Day. The Chicago bakery expects to sell 25,000 Paczkis.

■ I’m confused. Randy Alcorn is now at Patheos. (Or is that not new.) Just last month I reported that Scot McKnight had left Patheos for Christianity Today. However, Randy Alcorn’s blog is still updating at Eternal Perspective Ministries with different content. Can someone explain this to me?

■ Parenting Place: “Be careful of the amount of news you discuss in front of your children.” This, and other advice on keeping sane and keeping safe.

■ Stories We Missed Department: I was unaware that the painting of Jesus titled Prince of Peace by once-child-prodigy Akiane Kramarik had been stolen. In December, the artist viewed the picture for the first time in 16 years. [In a longer version of the story, check out what’s she’s painted more recently.]

Essay of the Week: A historical look at Willow Creek: “[A]nother unintended consequence was virtually guaranteed: the spiritual maturity of any new leaders would likely not rise above the level of the current leadership.” This is an excellent overview for people who don’t know the full Willow story.

■ KidMin: Lent activities, Bible lessons and coloring pages for kids.

■ We often hear stories about the growth of the church in Nigeria, but at the same time, the country is struggling with an increase in incest, even though it goes “against the teachings of both Islam and Christianity.”

■ Pop Culture / Kids Korner: The gospel in Frozen 2. Love is the one thing that’s permanent.

■ Hey, Pastor People: Do you preach from the Lectionary? Now you can bust a rhyme in the middle of your sermon with Lectionary Poetry.  

■ Finally, this:


Top stories from last week:

  1. What’s on the mind of America’s Pastors
  2. Michael Newnham on the SBC’s new sub-group
  3. The Timothy Keller tweet called a “train wreck”
  4. Internet Monk’s crazy Valentine cards

February 19, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #90 aka Wednesday Link List #490. We just returned from Cuba, so forgive me if the list is a bit shorter today.

Wednesday Connect - color swap■ What do American pastors feel are the major concerns facing the church today? Barna Research releases its latest survey. (Personal aside: It’s interesting to read down the list and consider how many of these concerns would be worldwide, and how many are unique to the U.S.)

■ No doubt all owing to his not being on the pro-Trump bandwagon in a denomination where supporting the President is de rigueur, the SBC’s Russell Moore, and the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of which he has been president since 2013, will be the subject of an SBC task force which will study its finances and policies. There have been “anecdotal accounts of churches withholding money or reducing their giving because of concerns about the ERLC.” …

■ …Meanwhile, a splinter group has formed within the SBC. Meet CBN, the Conservative Baptist Network

■ …Michael Newnham brings his Calvary Chapel experience to bear on why the Conservative Baptist subgroup may not be a good idea.

■ Essay of the Week: Just as pastors are called to minister to the people who can’t be physically present in the weekly service, they are also called to those who, while present, are not entirely there. They have “heard it said,” but either don’t know or don’t take next steps. “And just as you are all bound together in your sin, so you are also bound together in your inability to save yourselves.”

■ History-making: After the Reformation, the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre de Genève was taken over by John Calvin’s Reformed Protestant Church, which destroyed the cathedral’s statues and paintings, and banned Catholic worship. On Leap Day, February 29th, the first Catholic mass in 500 years will be celebrated in the building

■ …And a longstanding Catholic tradition may be changing. “Currently Papal law dictates that non-Roman Catholic Christians, for example Anglicans, cannot take part in the Eucharist (sharing of the bread and wine) at a Catholic service and similarly it directs that Roman Catholics should not take Holy Communion in other Christian churches.” However, a UK theologian is challenging this position. The stumbling block to change would be the Catholic position on transubstantiation.

■ Some Christians have been challenged by the intellectual concepts advanced by mainstream author Jordan Peterson. It turns out the man has not been well for several months and is in Russia improving after undergoing a detox process from meds which produced the opposite reaction to the one intended.

■ A doctor whose practice is 100% devoted to providing abortions boasts about getting repeat customers.

■ LGBTQ themes, characters and ideas continue to be omnipresent in popular culture, including at Marvel Comics which introduces. “a character named Phastos who is Marvel’s first openly gay superhero.”

■ First there was the book Your God is Too Small. Next, someone should write Your Church is Too Loud. After paying $105M to purchase a former event center, Transformation Church in suburban Tulsa has been told their services are too loud. The church was given 15 days to turn down the volume or make adjustments to the building.

■ Jonathan Merrit called the comment section of this Twitter thread by Tim Keller “a dumpster fire and visual explanation of why American evangelicalism is in such a perilous state.

■ At the Movies: A review of First Lady – A Modern Fairytale, produced and directed by Nina May. (It rhymes with Tina Fey.) “It’s not very often that you see a faith-based rom-com like May’s.”

■ “Jimmy Carter was way ahead of the rest of America when he put solar panels on the White House…Unfortunately, Ronald Reagan, who was no fan of alternative energy took the panels down form the White House when he took office a few years later… [I]n 2017, [Carter] leased ten acres of land near his home in Plains, Georgia, to be used as a solar farm with 3,852 panels… Three years after going live, Carter’s solar farm now provides 50% of the small town’s electricity needs, generating 1.3 MW of power per year. That’s the equivalent of burning about 3,600 tons of coal.”

■ Bizarre Conference Department: The Mentors and Mantles Solemn Assembly is your chance to receive “THE IMPARTATION” [their all-caps] to “serve this present age.” It’s also “for those who want to know how to be empowered by God to operate both in the sacred and the secular.”

♫ Music Time Travel: A look at the Reliant K song Mood Rings, and how songs like this influenced attitudes toward women.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: Department of Justice Awards Federal Grant to Anti-Homosexual Group Hookers for Jesus

■ Finally, scroll down to the middle of Saturday’s Sunday Brunch at IM, and realize that sometimes Valentine’s Day Cards have been rather creepy.



Some links this week from Ann Brock or Mad Church Disease.

Articles used on Wednesday Connect frequently originate with Religion News Service (RNS). Two months ago I made a small donation to show support, and I hope that those of you who are able to do more will consider tossing money into the hat as well, to keep this service available.

February 17, 2020

Lost Voice 2: Lynn

Yes, I know, I’m re-publishing them out of numerical sequence…

When this blog was an e-newsletter, I announced something I was working on called The Lost Voice Project. Here is another sample chapter. As I said the first time, why have one unpublished book when you can have two?

Philip arrived at his new church after nearly a decade of serving as music director in another state. He and his wife weren’t sure if this was the right move since he would have to supplement it with a few hours of part-time work, but after ten years, they felt it was time for a change.

Most days consisted of scheduling rehearsals, working with soloists, fixing the sound system, choosing hymns for the traditional service and choruses for the modern service, and, at the very bottom of Philip’s list, ninety minutes weekly with the church’s Junior Band, a group of children who gave new meaning to the word cacophony.

And then Lynn called.

She was the parent of one of the kids in the aforementioned brass group, and had a question about a particular verse in the New Testament, and Philip was, after all, part of the pastoral staff, and the pastor was on vacation.

It turned out to be one of those verses. One of the challenging, difficult and perplexing verses in the NT which can be interpreted a few different ways. So Philip hauled out all his commentaries from Bible College, and proceeded to offer Lynn some classical insights into both the verse and its context.

“How did you do that?” Lynn asked. She had no history with Bible reference books and was immediately hooked. She bought some commentaries of her own, and suddenly was enrolled in a seminary-level course offered to mature students by another denomination.

One course led to another and soon she was on an eight-year track of part-time studies leading toward a Master’s degree in Theological Studies. In fact, Philip, who continued serving the same church for the entire duration of Lynn’s foray into doctrinal studies and church history once remarked to his wife, “She’s gone completely beyond anything I ever studied; she can talk circles around me when it comes to a variety of subjects.”

But ultimately, Lynn also, figuratively speaking, ‘priced herself out of the market’ when it came to serving in that church. Whereas before she might be asked to read a scripture or lead a prayer-time, she became a slight problem because,

  • first of all she was a woman who aspired to fulfill a pastoral role in a denomination that hasn’t, to this point, allowed such to take place; and
  • her credentials come from a particular school that is outside her home church’s comfort zone, even though nobody had ever challenged any of her beliefs, her textbooks, or her professors; and
  • her entire journey on this quest for theological understanding made her a bit of a mystic in the eyes of her home church; she was present every Sunday but to them increasingly theologically and spiritually distant, even if nobody could explain why.

So Lynn kept showing up for church, but eventually realized she no longer belonged and gave up any hope of using her new-found gifts there.

The denomination that trained her found her the occasional pulpit supply role and she was paid as a teaching assistant for a few of their undergrad courses, but serving that particular denomination had not been her particular goal.

Eventually, leadership batons were passed to people who never knew the earlier role Lynn had played in the formation of the church. She was regarded as a total outsider, not because of spiritual decay, or sin, or apathy, but because of her desire to grow deep in the knowledge of God, and her desire to use that knowledge to serve others.

Lynn is one of the lost voices in the modern church, and it’s a shame, because she has so much to contribute.

February 5, 2020

Wednesday Connect

posted by @Bruxy on Twitter

For those of you who read this on the blog, in just a few days Thinking Out Loud will celebrate 12 years of never changing its basic blog theme, Gray is the New Black. Oh, and writing some articles also. Last week was music week here at Wednesday Connect. Scroll back ICYMI. It contained some really great music, but apparently that’s not what draws people here. So I’ll be phasing those out.

■ Hurry! It’s the bees knees! Be the first kid on your block to visit the new website for James MacDonald Ministries.

■ Parenting Place: With a pre-teen and two teenagers, you wouldn’t expect this family to make their next church Episcopal. “Questions permeate my thoughts, how will our children endure this shift, especially at this stage of their spiritual development? Is this even the right choice for our family? … I glance over at my children—wide-eyed, and we’ve only just begun.

■ The advertisement you didn’t see on the broadcast of the weekend game. FOX-TV refused to sell the airtime

■ …Opinion: Should anyone really have been shocked by halftime show?

■ Regulated to Death, Literally: Michael Frost writes,

A recent Australian government enquiry into child sexual assault by clergy recommended that there be tighter regulations around who can be called a “pastor” and what minimum training is required for such a role. I understand why those recommendations were made but they make it very difficult for those churches that want to encourage all members to see themselves as missionaries (or sent ones) in their own neighborhoods. One of the fathers of the missional movement, Lesslie Newbigin was well known for talking about the declericalizing of the church. That is, the blurring of the line between clergy and lay people, and “ordaining” all people to mirror the work of God in the world.

It’s one of five cultural trends that are killing the efforts of the local church.

■ A completely oxymoronic title: “The Comforting Doctrine of Election.” There was nothing comforting in this sentence of a Christmas post we’d missed earlier: “And often after the last present is unwrapped and the left overs are cleared away and you are in the car on the way home often a wave of sadness comes; those people you love so much are headed to hell.” No! No, it’s not over yet. Sorry, this isn’t what I believe. And how is this “comforting?” This is ‘election’ run amuck.

■ If you’ve followed the career of Rob Bell, you know that Mars Hill launched with an unlike series on the book of Leviticus. Now, he’s selling a Leviticus audio commentary titled Blood, Guts and Fire.

■ I’m quite sure the Harvest Bible Chapel saga continues to help sell newspapers for the Chicago Tribune. My favorite sentence, “While MacDonald’s style led some to bristle, he remained an extremely talented preacher who attracted thousands each week to Harvest locations.” Bristle. That’s the word we’ve all been searching for. The article quotes a church spokesperson saying that the church has lost about 6,000 people across six campuses.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Hillsong Worship Is Going on Tour, But Don’t Call It Worship.” Sample:

I’ve said before that there’s a reason the contemporary pop-worship church holds such a low view of Holy Communion. It just doesn’t understand the point. Music is their substitute sacrament. Through commercial music, they allow themselves to be carried away on an emotional level into a perceived sensory connection with the divine. When you interpret worship through the lens of emotional stimulation, the bread and wine don’t make sense. It doesn’t compute.

■ Persecution Watch: Pastor Lawan Andimi was part of the Church of the Brethren in northern Nigeria, and chaired the Christian Association of Nigeria in his local district. A few weeks ago he was abducted by Islamic militants affiliated with Boko Haram. “On Jan. 20 he was beheaded by his captors. Sources said Andimi refused to renounce his faith in Jesus. He paid the ultimate price.”  …

■ …Meanwhile China uses a facial recognition system to keep track of who is attending church.

■ It’s all Greek to me! Seriously, here are 5 Greek words that every Christian should know.

■ Pastor Worship: It’s apparently more of a male thing. “But when you ask a man about his church, the first (and often only) thing he talks about is the pastor. He doesn’t talk about the facilities. He doesn’t talk about his friendships. He talks about his pastor and the quality of his sermons. ‘Oh, Pastor Jimmy is just a regular guy. His sermons are awesome!'” “So what are men searching for? A leader they can look up to and respect.”

Essay of the Week
Unreached People Group: MAGA-Nation.

We need to bring the real good news of Jesus to rural Trump supporters and FoxNews-weaned Evangelicals and Conservative single-issue voters and to people embracing a white America-centric theology—because the truth is: the compassionate, generous, diverse, barrier-breaking movement and message of Jesus are as foreign to them as anyone on the planet.

■ Kevin Makins is the pastor of Eucharist Church in downtown Hamilton, Canada and he’s chosen a unique way to introduce his June title with Baker Books; so we get to let him tell you himself! The book is Why Would Anyone Go to Church: A Young Community’s Quest to Find and Reclaim Church for Good.

■ In other book marketing news, Zondervan figured out a great way to tie-in your interest in Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s Boundaries series, depending on your favorite social media.

■ Dey not bein’ idle, man: Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky announced recently that they are launching their 10th campus.

■ Conspiracy theories? Connections between Coronavirus and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the implementation of 5G technology.

■ Next time you’re driving around while skipping church on a Sunday morning, slow down as you pass different churches and count the cars.

■ Newsy-political links we don’t here: The Atlantic looks at the confirmation bias of Wayne Grudem.

It is rather stunning to me that a person who has written a major textbook on Christian ethics can’t distinguish between a lawful investigation by American law-enforcement authorities or Congress and a president pressuring a foreign government, over which he has tremendous power, to announce an investigation into his political opponent—especially when the president’s team makes clear to that foreign government what the outcome of the request is supposed to be.

Title: “There is no Christian Case for Trump.

■ It’s personal: Over the years I’ve posted a variety of music links, but last year I discovered this one which is in a class all by itself. So yes, I’m repeating it. This is an arrangement of Psalm 104 from Psalm Project Africa. (Love how they pass the lyrics back and forth.)

■ New Music – Zauntee – Center Stage (Let love take center stage) – lyric video.

■ Hot Music – We the Kingdom – Holy Water – lyric video. 

■ New Music – Isla Vista Worship – Opened Up the Heavens.

■ Finally, just when I thought the satire writers had exhausted every possible premise, the Vatican Boy Choir defected to Japan

See you back in two weeks.


Last week’s top links:

  1. Worship leader accused of playing well-known song.
  2. First, Willow founder Hybels; now, Hybels mentor Dr. Bilezikian
  3. American Pie parody ode to Facebook
  4. Audrey Assad new song
  5. Movie trailer: The Road to Edmond
  6. Responses to Philip Yancey from NYT article
  7. Priest: Kobe Bryant attended Mass on the day of his death

January 29, 2020

Wednesday Connect

From Theologygrams by Rich Wyld. There are two books available in the series.


Learn more about this book in today’s first link. Subtitle: How the Bible’s Problems Speak to Its Divine Authority.


A somewhat music-focused WedCon this week, along with the usual news and opinion pieces I truly hope you haven’t seen elsewhere, plus a few I know you have. I’ve brought back the New Music feature this week with five good selections and there are also that many music-related links.

■ I watched all 96 minutes: A week ago today, Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy took questions from their church family concerning Greg’s new book, Inspired Imperfection. Before you can view this, you need to a little about the book’s premise. It’s a fresh look at the Bible which bypasses words like inerrant and infallible to arrive at the same place Andy Stanley did: Equipping the kids we sent off to college or university to withstand attacks on the reliability of God’s word. (In one sentence: Don’t sweat the alleged contradictions; embrace them!) However, unlike Stanley, he takes a whole different route to get there. If you haven’t heard about the book, watch the introductory sermon first, and then, dive deep into this Q&A.

■ On the morning of his death, several sources confirm Kobe Bryant went to church. “He attended the 7am mass prior to going to the Orange County John Wayne Airport… I imagine he went straight to the airport, because the mass was 7-8 am. I’m told generally 7 am was his Mass… He was very discreet… He would come in and stay at the back, and his family too, and then he would usually leave a little earlier prior to the very end of the service. He was very much loved at the church, and he was very devout, very dedicated to his faith.”

■ Christianity Today offers a full exposition on the subject of tax exemption for American churches.

■ In the Willow Creek culture, he’s known simply as “Dr. B.” He was a mentor to Bill Hybels and the café off the church lobby is named after him. Now Gilbert Bilezikian is being named as part of the story of sexual inappropriateness at the church.

■ The Bible returns to Bolivia:

Hoisting a large leather Bible above her head, Bolivia’s new interim president delivered an emphatic message hours after Evo Morales fled under pressure, the end of a nearly 14-year presidency that celebrated the country’s indigenous religious beliefs like never before.

“The Bible has returned to the palace,” bellowed Jeanine Añez as she walked amid a horde of allies and news media cameras into the presidential palace where Morales had jettisoned the Bible from official government ceremonies and replaced it with acts honoring the Andean earth deity called the Pachamama.

What you see, as in many places in Central and South America, is a blending of two religions.

■ Podcast of the Week: Why was there a model of the Tower of Babel inside the church lobby? …Power isn’t inherently bad, but how should pastors relate to it, both inside and outside the church? Julie Roys talks to author Kyle Strobel. Kyle is the son of Lee, who you may know, and co-author of The Way of the Dragon or the Way of The Lamb—Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that has Abandoned It. Sample: “I can’t tell you how many churches I’ve met that have never bothered asking a future hire if they pray and what their prayer life is like. It just never came up.”

Short Essay of the Week: Evangelism may be sharing a gospel presentation and seeing immediate results. Or it may be being a link (what I’ve called elsewhere, ‘the chain of grace’) in introducing someone to the person who takes it to the next level. “A person’s coming to Christ is like a chain with many links.” 

■ In the news: “A South Dakota legislative committee approved a bill this week that would penalize medical professionals who prescribe hormone treatments or perform sex change surgeries for gender dysphoric children under age 16. Supporters of the measure argue the listed interventions are not healthcare but rather criminal acts against children too young to understand the long-term, irreversible effects.”

■ Fringe Christian movies:

  • Mentioned this one a month ago, but there’s been another promotional push for The Road to Edmond.
  • And even though it’s now supposedly released, we still don’t have a proper trailer for Faith Based (just the teaser already featured here.)

Two large-scale arenas have dropped Franklin Graham’s UK tour for reasons I’m sure you can imagine. Okay, we’ll spell it out: “It’s hard for many American Christians to get their heads around how much most people in Britain loathe Trump, and how that revulsion is also felt by many godly British believers…”

Essay of the Week: Philip Yancey was this year’s pick by Nicholas Kristof for his annual Christmas column on the Christian faith. The article received 830 comments. Yancey reflects (and includes screen shots) on some of those and explores their opinions, most of which providing consensus that we’re dealing with the nature of doubt

■ You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone: For many, the top religion news story of 2019 was the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral.

The New York Times reported that the cathedral came within twenty minutes of being lost. Notre Dame was saved only because a team of firefighters volunteered to carry fire hoses up the spiral staircases of the burning bell towers after another team had refused because of the danger…

What can we do when everything is on fire? Perhaps we can recognize that not all structures of belief are the same. Some deserve to be condemned, some need to be deconstructed, some are not worth saving. But other structures of belief are worth risking everything in order to try to save them.

■ “The Drop Box” wasn’t just the name of a movie, it was a concept that was adopted at the Seymour Fire Department in Indiana. Last week it was used for the first time, 224 days later, and a child’s life was saved.

■ New Music: A new song about grief and healing. Audrey Assad – Shiloh.
And now as your tears flow
Let them be cleansing
Washing your heart so
You can be mending

■ New Music: The Reckless Love guy returns! Cory Asbury – The Father’s House
Lay your burdens down
Here in the father’s house
Check your shame at the door
‘Cause it ain’t welcome any more
You’re in the Father’s house.

■ Not New Music: This video clip is dated 2017, and yet, this is currently the #1 song on my local Christian radio station, Life 100.3. Equippers Revolution – Better With You.
And I know
Life will only get better with You
And my soul
Makes its stand to keep praising You

■ New Music (Canada): “In 2018 Jeremy Benjamin and family set out on a year long tour of Canada raising money to reduce local and global poverty through music. For the next year Jeremy performed over 150 solo concerts in churches and schools across Canada... The tour raised over $500,000 for charities and Jeremy ended up recording over 20,000 voices on the powerful worship song that closes his [new] album, Wonderlove, …released in October 4th on True North Records.” (The same label which brought us Bruce Cockburn.) Jeremy Benjamin – Wonderlove.

■ Important Music: The singer writes, “This song is a lament. It’s a loving rebuke. It’s a plea for the 81%, to come home to the way of Jesus.” Daniel Deitrich – Hymn for the 81%.

■ Catholic Corner: When I’m sixty-four. Listening to The Beatles, the writer realizes that, “Jesus is literally bombarding us with His teachings at every turn, if we will only seek to encipher them.

■ Worship peeps: If you’re not already doing so, share your setlists using the #SundaySetlist hastag on Twitter

■ Who’da thunk it? One of the five Grammy awards in the Christian categories went to a pairing of the band King and Country and Dolly Parton. (King and Country won two of the five; Kirk Franklin also took home two, and the fifth one went to Gloria Gaynor for an album and video she did for Gaither Gospel Group. Yawn.) 

Breaking — A modern worship musician has been accused of playing a song the congregation already knew. (This should have been in The Bee.)

■ Another American Anomaly: There should never have been exemption in the first place allowing churches, charities, etc., not to have to file Form 990, not to practice full transparency. I like this article by Julie Roys about RZIM, BGEA and FOTF, but it accepts that the loophole exists, which is in my view the main problem.

■ They hired him to guard their Egyptian church. Then he shot and killed two of its members.

■ Finland says that Christianity is not monotheistic. With new curriculum from the country’s Ministry of Education, “The new lesson plan states Christianity is polytheism covered with a thin veneer of Judaism… A snap poll of Jews and Muslims show 93% agree Christianity may be a lot of things, but it isn’t monotheism.”

■ Sadly, our Tweet of the Week. Watch for conservative women skiers to get frostbite this winter. 

Pure Whimsy: If you’ve got the tune American Pie fairly fixed in your mind, you’ll enjoy these parody lyrics we missed back in August: Facebook Pie by Keith Edwin Schooley.

■ Finally, the quote heard everywhere this week: “…We command all Satanic pregnancies to miscarry right now. We declare that anything that’s been conceived in Satanic wombs that it will miscarry, that it will not be able to carry forth any plan of destruction; any plan of harm…” – Paula White, spiritual advisor to the President.


The Bee, of course. Click here to read.


Pregnancy books for couples abound, but You Got This, Dad is just for guys. With self-deprecating honesty, plenty of humor, and amusing asides from his lovely wife, Elaina, Aaron steers soon-to-be dads through the complex events and emotions surrounding pregnancy. Releasing February from Harvest House Publishing.


Top clicks from last week’s Wednesday Connect:

  1. The Rainbow Cake Girl
  2. Highest Paid Ministry Executives
  3. Matthew Pierce: Beth Moore Baseball Cheating
  4. Michael Frost: Australia Fires – Losing Your Country
  5. Canada: Not a Christian Country Anymore
  6. Scot McKnight Moves Jesus Creed Blog to CT
  7. Undoing Trans Surgery
  8. Andy Stanley TV Show

Correction: The Missing Link

■ Two weeks ago subscribers to this blog received a version of Wednesday Connect containing a reference to Christ and Pop Culture’s Top 25 of 2019 for which the link did not appear. If you were interested in reading it, click this link.

January 22, 2020

Wednesday Connect

If you really want to reach unreached people through television, don’t buy time on Sunday mornings; purchase the half hour immediately following Saturday Night Live in selected NBC-TV markets. This month, Andy Stanley ups his game: Instead of re-edited sermon videos, they’ve produced a series just for the Your Move audience.

Note: This blog uses cookies to keep the writer awake after 11:00 PM. 

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #87 (aka Wednesday Link List #487.) So you know what this means, right? Exactly. Next week will be Wednesday Connect #88. 

Don’t forget that WedCon is always happening, 24/7 on my Twitter. Join the select, elite few!

■ Lament for a nation on fire: Michael frost writes,

Friends have told me they can’t sleep, they feel continual low-level sadness. Some speak about feeling helpless or angry. There’s grief about the loss of life, and anxiety about the loss of native animals and livestock. There’s deep concern about the future of our nation. It feels like we’ve all experienced a kind of collective trauma because of the devastation that has occurred to our country. In times of hardship Aussies often say things like, “no worries” or “she’ll be right.” But no one is saying that this time.

Was the fire the pouring out of God’s wrath on Australia?

■ Parenting Place: From a mainstream website, ten “things to look out for this year as you raise kids in a hypersexualized porn culture;” along with practical steps parents can take to protect their kids from the effects of each.

Televangelist Jack Van Impe has died. He repeatedly accused Rick Warren of trying to promote a fusion of Christianity and Islam called ‘Chrislam’ but the charges didn’t stick.

■ The Wartburg Watch looks at author and influencer Dale Partridge.

■ Analogies in the Skywalker movie:  [May contain spoilers] “…the film’s examination of Rey’s identity evokes the good news of God’s adoption of us in Christ. Though humanity’s spiritual lineage is of Adam, though our nature and choices are trapped under sin, still God in Christ desires to graciously embrace us with a new identity: that of redeemed sons and daughters.”

■ Essay of the Week: Alex MacFarland on getting Millennials to church:

The quest to make youth ministry and discipleship ever easier and more accessible and not just ‘study and reflection’ – but actually ‘make it fun’ and ‘make it exciting’?” he questions. “[That] made many churches more about what I would call infotainment and less about imparting the rock-solid truths of scripture.”

And when parents lost the foundations of the faith, the apologist laments, there was less to pass on to their Millennial children.

In a way, McFarland says the horse is already out of the barn. “The majority of Millennials would not come back to a church that they were never a part of in the first place. They need to be evangelized,” he emphasizes.

■ Three new phrases for (some of) you: (1) Dominical sacraments, (2) apostolic charge, (3) liturgical formularies. Now then, read why Anglicans believe that communion (Eucharist) can’t properly happen unless (a) the right person is in charge, and (b) the right words are spoken

■ …so then what do you do with this story from an historic moment in 1969?

Commander Buzz Aldrin had stashed a communion wafer, a capsule of wine, and a tiny silver chalice onboard the Columbia, and smuggled it into space with him. Before his historic walkabout, Aldrin requested a brief radio silence… His actions were at first kept secret because NASA was embroiled in a lawsuit with an atheist who was suing them for broadcasting a public reading of the Bible by the crew of Apollo 8…

The problem is that, according to this author (for different reasons than listed in the previous item) what Aldrin did doesn’t qualify as communion.

■ Digging Deeper: “The apocalyptic logic is made especially clear in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28. Jesus must reign at the right hand of God, in keeping with the narrative of Psalm 110, until all his enemies have been overpowered and destroyed, including the last enemy death. Then he will give the authority or kingdom which he received as the faithful Son of Man back to the Father, so that ‘God may be all in all’—effectively bringing Trinitarianism to an end.” Check out the article, How Powerful is Jesus? (For those on a higher pay grade than I, what does this do wiith Jesus sitting at the right hand of God?)

■ What do complementarians believe about women who find themselves in ministry contexts in another part of the world? Do the rules about women in church leadership differ from New York to New Delhi?

■ The Connected Generation: Barna Research Group “spent much of last year researching and learning more about… the 18–35-year-olds—comprised of both Gen Z and Millennials—who are the future of our world.” They were asked both what they already feel they’ve accomplished, and what they are still hoping to accomplish.

■ Before the UMC split happens: “They may wear uniforms, ring bells at Christmas time, and look traditional….but they are anything but. In fact, they are the most progressive people I’ve ever met – I’ve encountered more interracial couples in The Salvation Army than I have in any other church or nonprofit organization I’ve been involved with. Did you know women preach in their churches? That SA fights human trafficking around the world?” What the United Methodists can learn from the Salvation Army. …

■ … For those who don’t click: A link to a piece referred to in the previous item, You Probably Have it Wrong about The Salvation Army. “Every time I hear Lauren Daigle’s song ‘Rescue’ and she sings ‘I will send out an Army to find you in the middle of the darkness‘ I know she’s singing about the Army. The Salvation Army.

■ Yes, the Christian school is Louisville, Kentucky dismissed Kayla Kennedy; and no, it wasn’t because of the rainbow cake. It was because of all the things. The real question that needs to be examined is: How did she get admitted to the school in the first place?

■ Parenting Place (again): Does your local school have a Satan Club? “Atheists using the name “Satanic Temple” attempt to intimidate schools, parents, and the organization (Child Evangelism Fellowship) which holds Bible clubs in schools around the country. Because CEF won a Supreme Court ruling allowing the free exercise of religious clubs in schools, atheists try to get CEF’s flagship program, Good News Club, out of schools by starting Satan Clubs. They hope parents and school boards will panic, and all religious clubs will be expelled.”

■ This was all over Twitter on Tuesday, but if you missed it, a church in a suburb of Minneapolis/St. Paul is shutting down in June and then doing a ‘reset’ opening in November in the hopes of starting out fresh with a younger demographic. Hence the headline: “Cottage Grove church to usher out gray-haired members in effort to attract more young parishioners.” (A “planting pastor” at the church said later there are some inaccuracies in the story.)

Canada Corner: Not exactly news, but a new study confirms that Canada is not a Christian nation. Not by any means. The survey looked at both belief and church attendance.

■ Mentioned this last week, but now have a link for you: The Jesus Creed blog (Scot McKnight) now has a new home at Christianity Today. (Complete with a back catalog of previous articles.)

■ As of April 14th, gamblers in the UK won’t be able to use credit cards to do so.

■ New Music: Matt Redman – Official Live Video for “We Praise You” Featuring Brandon Lake  ♫

■ Post-surgery, he discovered he didn’t fit the category of gender disphoria, but was truly suffering from PTSD.

■ In North Carolina, you can carry a concealed weapon to church, but not if the church meets in a school.

■ The Jeremy Camp-inspired movie I Still Believe, releasing in March has been named by Seventeen magazine as the #1 Romantic film of 2020.

■ Sorry, but there’s something deeply disturbing about this music video, and if you watch the visual images, it should be rather apparent what it is. In Chinese, with English subtitles, check out the song God Has Predestined the Paths Man Must Walk. (From the website, “Gospel of the Descent of the Kingdom.”)

■ Time for Summer Camp! “A new generation is about to be introduced to such classic Christian hits as Michael W. Smith’s “Place in This World,” Amy Grant’s “Baby, Baby” and Steven Curtis Chapman’s “The Great Adventure” courtesy of the new film A Week Away.” The movie also contains original songs. ♫

■ Facts of Life star Lisa Welchel on why she never made another album, Christian or otherwise. ♫

■ An article about Justin Bieber leading worship at Judah Smith’s church in Beverly Hills contains a 21-minute segment of one (yes, just one) song. His stage posture there is certainly one of humility. ♫

■ An Atlanta Church has hired a psychic medium. I guess all the cool churches are doing it.

■ Matthew Pierce strikes again: “Is Beth Moore Behind the Baseball Cheating Scandal?” (Parental Discretion Advised.)


Found this in a pile of old papers. It’s a ministry partner letter from Walk in the Word, signed by James MacDonald from July, 2011. The middle paragraph reads, “You’re never gonna discover some secret about me or be disappointed with my private life. You’re never gonna unveil some upsetting news about our business practices behind the scenes…”

Digging a Little Deeper

From the creator of Thinking Out Loud, check out Christianity 201. Guaranteed distraction-free, faith-focused blogging with fresh posts every day at 5:35 PM EST. www.Christianity201.wordpress.com

Just in time for the impeachment hearings: This advertisement appeared in the Saturday edition of The Toronto Star. I cropped out the time and date for the event, but the ad was placed by moodystax.com.

 

January 15, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Greg Boyd’s new tattoo. No, seriously, it is. “I always said that I would tattoo the Logical Hexagon on my back if I ever became convinced it was valid. Thanks to the excellent work of Elijah Hess… I am now convinced!” Sourced at this tweet.


This is the symphony
That Schubert wrote and never fin

…There is nothing I could do to get this done this week. So think of it as the Unfinished Symphony edition of Wednesday Connect. But a huge thanks to all of you who turned out to read last week’s Back-To-Work edition. I think we set a record for items clicked, so if you missed it, click here.

■ Shannon Dingle’s pain is so real, and her loss so great, after her husband was swept out by a rogue wave. But then, out of nowhere, a mention of it pops up on the TV show Party of Five. Despite the utter shock, Shannon demonstrates incredible grace to the program’s writers and producers. (See also the comments and follow-up tweets.)

■ Are you watching Jeopardy’s Greatest of All Time special series? The show doesn’t always get it right. A contestant was ruled incorrect for saying that Bethlehem is in Palestine. Then, to make matters worse, “Sony Pictures Television, producer of Jeopardy!, admitted the mistake and clarified that an uncorrected version of the game was broadcast due to a ‘human error in post-production.'” (We found this story on Aljazeera, no less!) (Watch the replacement clue which was never broadcast.)

■ It was not a great year. Most of us who blog can access a list of our top posts of 2019; something I found out recently. But Julie Roys’ list is more of a Hall of Shame, a sad commentary on revelations involving several personalities and churches, but one in particular.

■ It was one of the most-asked questions to John Piper’s podcast, but for seven years he kept brushing it off. Finally, an answer to the question on how to avoid sexual dreams.

■ Representatives from the black church have signed an open letter in support of Christianity Today’s article regarding Donald Trump, and have rebuked the pastors who criticized CT for publishing the piece by Mark Galli…

■ …speaking of which, this flashback to January, 2018. It turns out this was not Mark Galli’s first rodeo.

■ The last post: Scot McKnight leaves Patheos with a short but glowing review of Does God Really Love Me by Cyd Holsclaw and Geoff Holsclaw. “Something happened in the 1990s and 2000s: the old-fashioned gospel of the four spiritual laws or the bridge fell apart in the hands of the next generation. I don’t know if that collapse occurred because of generational shifts in that the language no longer worked, or if it collapsed because biblical studies were unveiling a more profound and more accurate gospel.” (Look for McKnight’s blog Jesus Creed at Christianity Today in just a few days.)

■ A progressive Jewish magazine did a piece on self-inducing abortion. “Just like building IKEA furniture.” (In fairness, the full quote was, “Just like building IKEA furniture, managing your abortion is easier and safer with a friend.”) The procedure is not without risk, and as pro-lifers will tell you (but the article won’t) it’s not without years of emotional scarring.

■ An Iowa (US) journalist who struggled with gambling addiction in writing his own obituary, credits his “faith in Jesus Christ” for transforming his life. (Read the obit here.)

■ Leadership Lessons: Your new word for 2020, Conversermon. “Sermons aren’t everything,” is the theme of this article which invites you to lead an alternative or experiential worship service or find other ways to engage the Word without a weekend sermon.

■ Why does it seem like there’s a disproportionate number of pastors from Chicago in the headlines for doing things they shouldn’t do? (If you click through to the Trib, it shows the area where he ministered. Poverty. Then he buys a $142K car.)

Essay of the Week: Christ and Pop Culture’s Top 25 of 2019.

■ It was an honor just to be nominated asked. Except this time, the conference invitation was to an event which didn’t exist. (And lots of speakers received them.)

■ Collision course? Apparently, Eric Metaxas has a few things he doesn’t like about the U.S. Constitution. (If it includes procedures for removing a certain President from a certain White House.)

■ Whatever happened to the parsonage? Real estate realities in the world of short-term pastorates.

■ Finally, it can now be said officially. Dog owners attend church more faithfully than cat owners. (Includes an interview with the research study’s author, and his dog, Lucy.)


news stories compiled this week with a little help from DISRN
opinion pieces compiled with help from Eric and Michael at LINKATHON


■ I can almost guarantee you haven’t heard this story before:


Last week’s top clicks:

1. Julie Roys on Chicago churches
2. C.S. Lewis daily account on Twitter: What happened>
3. Andy Stanley sermon teaser
4. Olson’s childhood church
5. The Bee: Surprise! It’s satire!
6. UMC Split
7. People who died in 2019
8. Francis Chan’s Catholic leanings?
9. G Boyd’s new book

Click here to read these and more.

January 8, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Is this what your church will look like in 2040? See article below.

It’s fiction, so it can choose to be or not be about Christianity. Nonetheless the program won’t be streamed in the country where it was filmed. See stories below.

With three weeks of catching up to do, this is a slightly longer list. I hope you’ll not rush through this, but take time to click on a half-dozen or more items.

■ Essay of the Week: I’m staring at a completely blank screen as I type this but this open letter to blogger Julie Roys is undoubtedly this week’s must-read piece. “[I]t can still be fairly observed that anyone who tried to pastor a church in the Chicago area in the past 30 years felt the influence of Willow Creek and Harvest like the manager of a Mom-and-Pop store feels the influence of Walmart and Amazon. Two near-orbiting energy-draining black holes.”

■ If you were following a Twitter account called C. S. Lewis Daily, what would you expect to see? I’m guessing quotations by C. S. Lewis, right? But on the weekend more people started noticing that the items have nothing to do with Lewis, there seems to be an agenda, and perhaps even the account has been hijacked. Check out the comments on this one, for example. (Update: Apparently we weren’t the first to notice this.)

■ UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his Christmas speech to remind everyone of the persecution faced by Christians worldwide. “As Prime Minister, that’s something I want to change. We stand with Christians everywhere, in solidarity, and we will defend your right to practice your faith.”  ­

■ If they didn’t like the message of Andy Stanley’s Irresistible, they might not be too happy with Greg Boyd’s take on a similar subject. Check out his weekend sermon introducing his book Inspired Imperfection.

■ An Australian reflects on the bush fires consuming such a large amount of acreage in his country:

  • Each year, there is a bushfire season in Australia, but this year it started weeks earlier and they are now the largest in living memory. The bottom line is that over 10 million hectares have been burned (that is an area the size of Scotland and Wales combined), hundreds of homes have been destroyed, at least 20 lives lost, and almost 500 million animals and birds destroyed (including an estimated third of the koalas in northern New South Wales).
  • These fires are not new. This afternoon I was reading about the impact of the 1851 Black Thursday bushfires that burnt a quarter of Victoria, killed 12 humans and over a million sheep.
  • The Indian Ocean Dipole is the main reason for both the extreme heat and drought in Australia. This is an effect where the western half of the ocean is warmer than that of the eastern. Added to this is the problem of the winds. Normally the strong southerlies blow several hundred kilometres to the south but for some unknown reason they are much closer to Australia.
  • If Australia were to destroy its own economy (and impoverish many poor people even more) and reduce its emissions from 1.3% to 1% of global emissions, the new power stations being planned in China would make up for that within a year.
  • 13% of bushfires are natural; 87% are human and of these at least 40% are believed to be arson. The situation is so serious that today it was reported that NSW police are to set up a taskforce to investigate how many of the fires were caused deliberately…

He then asks readers to pray for rain.

■ Memoir of the Week: Though he doesn’t pin any dates or locations to the article, Roger Olsen reminisces on growing up in a conservative Christian home along with the many services attended and behavioral codes adhered to. He wonders aloud what happened to that lifestyle.

■ Not everyone has a Damascus Road experience. “A study done among a group of 500 churchgoers in England who had come to faith in the previous twelve months found that almost seventy percent of them described their conversions as a gradual experience that took an average of four years. Only twenty percent described their salvation experience as dramatic or radical.” 

■ In one of his latest messages, Francis Chan bends slightly Roman Catholic. Or not so slightly. “500 hundred years ago, someone put a pulpit at the front of the gathering. This is when we shifted from communion as both the physical center and most important element of the service to ‘one guy and his pulpit.'”

■ Quotation of the Week: How to Stay in Church, A Field Guide

Maybe I’m not the best person to talk about this; after all, I’ve left. I don’t go to church these days. I’m an outsider. Maybe that disqualifies me from talking about how to remain. But I will tell you this: I still love the church. I’m always captivated by the idea of community and togetherness. And I believe in the mission of the church as I understand it. I believe the church was called to be a place where people come together to follow Jesus by loving their neighbors. For all my cynicism, I still believe in the power of the Holy Ghost flowing through the local church.

Even though I love the church, I’m by no means blind to the hurt it causes. And if you’re going to stay, you are going to get hurt. You must prepare to triage yourself and other people because the church is going to hurt you. There are going to be people who wound you, some doctrine that crushes, and unwillingness to change that is going to be like smashing your face against a brick wall. Theology will be wielded as a weapon and the pulpit will give up its authority for the sake of political power. It’s going to hurt to stay. If you want to stay, you must brace yourself for the hurt.”

■ Another denomination, the United Methodist Church, is splitting later this year over the gay marriage issue.

■ Significant Archeological News: “The Israel Antiquities Authority believes it may have found a 2,000-year-old market next to the recently discovered Pilgrimage Road in Jerusalem that Jesus and other Jews once walked on to get to the Second Temple.”

■ Having to do funerals for people he’d never met convinced this pastor of these five tips the dead can teach the living for 2020.

■ Decade in Review: Religion News Service on those whose influence rose and those whose stature fell.

■ Christmas, one more time: The 41-minute series kick off sermon from December 1 by Andy Stanley to his congregation makes good back-tracking for anyone in your sphere of influence unclear as to what the last month was all about.

■ Seven local church concerns. Thom Rainer reports on feedback from church consultants noting seven trends. Sample: #5 – “The issue of deferred maintenance is a crisis in many churches. Our consultants are reporting a number of churches that simply don’t have the funds to maintain their deteriorating facilities.”

■ A really, really good article from October, 2017 we wish we’d seen. The Bible’s world provides us with so many natural and agrarian metaphors. But we live in cities. Is there a way our worship songs can better reflect this?

■ White Supremacy: Publisher’s Weekly reports, “In this trenchant analysis of the roots of white supremacy in American culture, blogger and preacher [Mark] Charles (Reflections from the Hogan) and religion professor [Soong-Chan] Rah (The Prophetic Lament) team up to examine the insidious legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery, a set of 15th-century legal principles based on Catholic papal decrees.” This title released in November from IVP.

■ Thousands attended as “Reinhard Bonnke, the German evangelist known as ‘The Billy Graham of Africa,’ was lauded at a Saturday (Jan. 4) memorial service as ‘a giant and a general in the army of God.'”

■ New website(s) to know about with resources for the whole family: Minno Life (for adults) and Minno Kids (which is also the new home for Jelly Telly.)

■ To bolster attendance at their Kentucky attractions, Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter and Creation Museum will both offer free admission to children 10 and under in 2020.

A season of predictions. The holographic worship leader pictured above is one of several items on a list of ways the church will look different in 2040.

■ Provocative (but not exactly inaccurate) Headline of the Week: “Actress Michelle William Celebrates Abortion During Golden Globes, ‘Thank God’ We Can Kill Babies.

■ Opinion: The CT article by Mark Galli in reference to President Trump was nothing more than journalists doing what journalists do. ” Journalists serve the public… Journalism shares a lot of the same values as Christianity. They both privilege truth. They both are concerned with the interests of others.”

Messiah: Will he convert you or con you? That’s the question asked in a new series on Netflix. Like the CBS series God Friended Me, the brush strokes painted are wider than Christianity, but in much of that network series, Christianity seems to be most dominantly in view. Messiah offers “an ambiguous Christ-like man claiming to be sent by God.” “Packed with several solid teachings and the resounding message that sin brings punishment, season 1 of Messiah ends with the implication that Al-Masih might be either a hoaxer, a magician or a radical terrorist.” (Note: “The series is rated TV-MA (for mature audiences only), because it contains foul language and graphic sex scenes.”)  …

 … However, “The Royal Film Commission [in late December] officially asked Netflix not to stream the TV series Messiah in Jordan after supporting its shoot in the country… ‘The story is purely fictional and so are the characters,’ the commission said. ‘Yet, the RFC deems that the content of the series could be largely perceived or interpreted as infringing on the sanctity of religion, thus possibly contravening the laws in the country.'”

■ A single brand: Discovery House Publishing is now Our Daily Bread Publishing. (The organization has been moving toward a single brand identification dating back to it’s ‘Radio Bible Class’ days.)

■ Russell Moore begins by telling his 2009 self that “Donald Trump is president, Twitter is still around, Kanye West is a Christian, and Joshua Harris is not” and then goes on to name his Top Books of the Decade.

■ Old Music: The Getty’s have just covered a hymn belonging to a writer born in 1894: Thou Who Was Rich Beyond All Splendor.

■ New Music: Mandisa has covered one of our favorite songs: Way Maker

■ Mainstream Music (article): “Coldplay gives us a vision of everyday life in which people acknowledge each other’s hurt, individuals dissolve as drops into the same sea, and we all sing a mournful, joyful hallelujah together.” This analysis leaves me wishing the author had written a few songs of his own.

■ ICYMI: Our summary of the top Canadian-interest faith-related stories of 2019 which appeared here at Wednesday Connect.

■ Babylon Bee articles look like the real thing. And they’re quite funny. So they get shared. A lot. And people read them who don’t know it’s satire. Why that’s a problem for them, for the people referenced in their stories, and for all of us.  

■ Just east of Syracuse, New York, three of the four town councilors decided they’d rather swear on a book of town codes than on a Bible.

■ An article about a movie about the making of faith-based movies got 10,000 comments; all from people who haven’t yet seen the film. Watch the teaser trailer for Faith Based. (Film festival opening January 18th.)

Best sermon series teaser ever.

■ Finally, a Lent course based on Mary Poppins. (see image below) “Where The Lost Things Go is a ‘practically perfect’ Lent course for small group study – or for reading on one’s own – based on the popular film Mary Poppins Returns. Poet and minister Lucy Berry skilfully (sic) draws out some of the themes of the Oscar-nominated movie (which stars Emily Blunt, Ben Whishaw and Lin-Manuel Miranda) and shows how we can consider them more deeply alongside passages from the Bible.”


If you missed the Holy Post Podcast where Phil Vischer and Skye Jethani (and Christian Taylor) responded to the CT article by Mark Galli, it contained a history lesson on the differences between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. Josh Alves illustrated this on Twitter.

■ Postscript: If you already heard the Holy Post Podcast referred to in the above graphic, this article by Roger Olson is a good fit.

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