Thinking Out Loud

February 25, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Family Circus 02-22-15

First, the PARSE links for Pastor People:

Carl Trueman on Evangelicals as Johnny-Come-Latelys to Lent – “I suspect that the reasons evangelicals are rediscovering Lent is as much to do with the poverty of their own liturgical tradition as anything. American evangelicals are past masters at appropriating anything that catches their fancy in church history and claiming it as their own… I also fear that it speaks of a certain carnality: The desire to do something which simply looks cool and which has a certain ostentatious spirituality about it…” Hmmm…

The Church and Beer Combo Meal – This time it was PBS’ turn to highlight the trend: “At Pub Theology in Washington, most believe that traditional churches are too rigid and confining… It’s estimated there are upwards of 130 church pubs in the US, many more in Europe, and that the number is growing.” But not all clergy interviewed for the story were supportive.

Debriefing the Sermon You Just Preached – Of the four points in this article, the second addresses the great vulnerability of a pastor right after speaking: “Any criticisms you hear need to be received, graciously acknowledged, and then honestly considered, but not one hour after your sermon.  Most of us who have just poured our hearts out in preaching are not at a good place to evaluate criticisms.  Always graciously receive all comments.  However, those comments that may be particularly hard or even harsh to hear are better evaluated after two good nights of sleep.  Write them down.  Leave them on your desk.  Try to forget about them until Tuesday…

New Church Construction at its Lowest Since 1967 – In a four minute audio segment, NPR looks at the house church movement. “The Bible says, ‘What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has has a hymn, a word of instruction, or an interpretation’ — all of this done for the strength of the church,” [Greg] Stultz says. “Where is that being done?” Furthermore, one of the groups would actually qualify as multi-site: “Three years later, Redemption now has three house churches that meet around Bristol. Once a month, they have a group service…”

Memo to Pastors: Knowing Your Audience when You Preach on Sex – “In your congregation are numerous people who have committed adultery. There are hundreds of porn addicts and fantasizers of both genders. We are not a sexually pure people. So please don’t preach like we’re riding on your high horse with you (whether or not you mean to be up there). The Bible is clear about sex and its place in marriage, and it is your job to preach it. But when you stand up there and preach like ‘we all know fornication is evil’ it shames us. When you lay low the adulterers with your scorn it shames them. And are you even thinking of those who became sexually active by force through rape or molestation? How low must they feel when you speak of the “loss of purity” like it’s a candle that was blown out?”

Revisiting the President’s Conversion Story – Within the church we call it a testimony. We call it a conversion. So when Get Religion — a website that reports on how religion is reported — looked at a recent statement by Governor Scott Walker, it also hauled out a 2007 transcript of Obama’s own description of the day he responded to the altar call: “…I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity [United Church of Christ] one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany…But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works.”

Writing a Book for Limited Distribution – Every once in awhile, an article surfaces which is more than six months old, but would be new to many of you. So even though older things online aren’t as cool as things written yesterday, here are 5 Reasons to Write Books for Your Own Congregation.  Sample: “You know your audience. Few writers get to target so specific an audience because most mass market books are geared for the widest readership possible. But when you write for your own congregation, you can tailor your subject, approach, illustrations, and suggestions to your unique ministry setting.”

Poll Results – Not entirely scientific, but Thom Rainer asked his Twitter followers for reasons why churches today seem to be less evangelistic than in the past. Here’s some random samples: “Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.” “Many church members think that evangelism is the role of the pastor and paid staff.” “Church membership today is more about getting my needs met rather than reaching the lost.” “Some churches have theological systems that do not encourage evangelism.” “Our churches have too many activities…” He grouped the many responses into a list of 15 reasons.

Rob Bell on Gay Marriage – Excerpt: “One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness,” Rob Bell said. “Loneliness is not good for the world. Whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It’s central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with.” That statement prompted a question from Oprah: “When is the church going to get that?” “We’re moments away,” Rob Bell said. “I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and co-workers and neighbors and they love each other and just want to go through life with someone.”

40 More Recommended Articles – If you’re a pastor trying to balance vocational ministry with marriage and parenting, David Murray, author of the just released book The Happy Christian has 40 online resources you don’t need to search for.

Counseling for Pastors – “The counselor assumed I was making a referral. He was surprised that I was scheduling myself. That first appointment was so healing, so fresh, so needed… In our next church board meeting I presented a proposal about the church both requiring and paying the cost of each staff member seeing a counselor at least twice that year. After a healthy discussion, they agreed.

Please remember that inclusion of items here or at PARSE does not imply endorsement.

Water into Wine Birthday Card

Short Takes

  • Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas is now a multiple award-winning movie, though these may not have been the type of awards they were going for
  • …In other movie news, the creators of Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and Courageous have a new title in the works. Check out the preview for War Room, releasing in theaters August 28th…
  • …But when the history of Christian movies is written, the one story that won’t get left out involves the classic, The Jesus Film, which has now been translated into 1,300 languages.
  • In a more detailed look at Rob and Kristen Bell’s comments on gay marriage, a response from Line of Fire host Michael L. Brown: “So, according to Rob Bell, the Church of Jesus should follow worldly culture and deny the plain teaching of God’s Word in order to be ‘relevant…’ I guess what’s trending on Twitter trumps the timeless wisdom of the living Word of the living God, I guess an emotional appeal carries far more weight than transcendent Truth.”
  • I do not, for one minute, understand what people get from reading Chris Rosebrough, even though I might agree with him on a number of issues. He recently created these faux-billboards. Some of them are funny and also quite true, but what is gained here? Yet, as the author of the piece linked here points out, people do need more discernment. (But I wouldn’t want this to be the tenor of my discernment ministry.)
  • Twitter is reading our tweets. (It’s probably in the agreement when we signed up.) So based on your Twittering, an analysis of the top 100 things we gave up for Lent.
  • Jamie the Very Worst Book-Reviewer on that… that book… which became a movie.
  • A Detroit doctor refuses to treat a baby who has two moms.
  • What to do when you don’t know what to do: Setting personal parameters for the issues that aren’t black and white.
  • This summer, Pope Francis be a plush doll from the same company that does Yankees’ pitcher Derek Jeter and the Green Lantern, Bleacher Creatures, announced just as we’re hearing that a figurine from the Playmobil toy company of Martin Luther — aka “Little Luther” — is shattering sales records.
  • KidMin Korner: Ideas for sharing St. Patrick’s Day with children.
It was a funny joke, and now, apparently, also a product.

It was a funny joke, and now, apparently, it is also a product.

October 3, 2014

The Heart of a Discernment Blogger

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:44 am

Do Not Be Surprised

At least 24 hours after hearing of the death of Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries, it occurred to me that Erin Benz at the blog Do Not Be Surprised would probably have noted his passing, and I was correct. In a ten minute span that followed I clicked around her blog and gained some insight into what motivates her as a blogger.

While there are probably some theological things Erin and I would disagree on, I want to say that I am in total agreement with everything I’ve copied and pasted below. I don’t feel called to do a blog that has the same tenor perhaps, but I have waded in on certain breaking stories, but I’ve also waded out when the stories went mainstream. Similarly, Do Not Be Surprised doesn’t seem to belabor a particular issue.

But first, the name as explained in her very first post:

Strangely, it took me quite awhile to determine what I wanted to call this blog… But then it all just sort of came to me. Not Surprised actually has a dual purpose. Of course, it seemed a natural title considering everything that’s happening in the world. Yes, I’m frustrated and saddened by so much of it, but at the same time, we had ample warning that this was all coming, so why should I be surprised? Then as I was flipping through my Bible, two passages stuck out to me:

1 Peter 4:12 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” and

1 John 3:13 “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”

The words “do not be surprised” really stood out to me as I was literally simply flipping through the Word and I thought, “duh, Erin, everyone thinks you’re crazy anyway, why are you surprised? God promised you they would!”

In what is probably a more-frequently read section of her blog, the “About” page, she writes:

As Christians, we are called to “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). This blog seeks to answer that call.

The truth is everything and God’s truth has been under attack from the beginning. Today, churches and Christian groups and organizations have readily and eagerly compromised the truth of the Gospel. They have done so in favor of gaining numbers, filling pews, and over-filling offering plates. Truth, even the truth of God’s unchanging Word, has become relative, and has become secondary to one’s personal experience or revelation. Those who see this compromise, this denigration of God’s Truth, must stand up and speak out against it. Even our proclamation of the true Gospel of Jesus may be marred if we choose to remain silent in the presence of “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1) because our silence betrays a subtle acceptance of these lies.

As we contend and stand firmly on Scripture, we will be called divisive, mean, unloving, and perhaps worse. Yet we stand strong nonetheless. And we remember the warnings of Jesus and Paul and others in Scripture:

And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. (Matthew 24:4-5)

“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30)

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Remembering these warnings, and resting in the grace and strength of Jesus Christ, may every Christian have the courage to earnestly, boldly, unashamedly, contend for the saving faith and salvation in Christ that has been granted unto him.

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3-4)

Part of the problem in the body of Christ is that we don’t really know each other. So when we disagree on doctrines or practices everything becomes very quickly polarized. Like I said at the outset, there are some areas where I am coming from a doctrinal position quite opposite Erin’s but there is no denying either her sincerity or her passion, as in this January 2010 post, Why I Do What I Do:

Discernment ministries, and less formal blogs of the same nature (like this one) oftentimes receive a lot of criticism for speaking the truth in love. Be it negative, even hateful comments on an article, or mean-spirited emails, discernment ministry is not for those who fear confrontation! Since these responses are rarely constructive, but are rather composed of name-calling and weak arguments, I suppose I am blessed to be part of a generation that simply unfriends me on Facebook when they are offended by one of my articles! But so many people ask “why.” Why do I and others choose to be so “mean” or “divisive” toward our Christian brothers and sisters? To be clear, discernment and the consequential boldness to speak the truth is not done in malice, but in love. The answer to why I maintain this blog (and to why I’ll “call a spade a spade” in any conversation) lies in Ezekiel 33:6

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.

If I saw that your house was burning down, but you were in a far room and were as of yet unaware, would you like me to alert you of the impending danger? Or would you prefer that I stand back and watch the house burn with you inside of it? The same idea applies to what I am doing with this blog: I see a destructive, un-Biblical teaching in the church and instead of sitting back and watching you drown in a sea of apostasy, I am led to boldly speak up for the Truth and stand against the false teaching…

So the question of course that many would ask is, “Fine, but who are you to think that your view is correct?” Or “By what authority do you publish your blog?”

I think Erin partly answered that question this week when she noted the passing of Ken Silva:

On a personal note, having served at one time alongside Ken at Apprising’s sister site, Christian Research Network, I am thankful for the way in which the Lord used Ken in the life of Do Not Be Surprised.

So she brings some practical experience to her writing.

I should also say that as this blog’s Wednesday Link List approaches its Monday night deadline, I always check Erin’s This ‘n That column, a Saturday link list, to see what stories grabbed her attention that week.

So Erin, if you’re reading this and you decide to look around here, you might notice that I am passionate about some individuals and ministries that perhaps you disdain, and I want you to know that is probably matched by an equal amount eye-rolling when I read your blog. But when I read the posts I’ve linked to here, I can’t deny that your online work is born out a desire to see God’s word rightly divided and God’s truth setting people free.

To my readers, I would say that as you get to know the heart of someone, you can agree to disagree on things; and you can determine to celebrate the things that unite us.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.