Thinking Out Loud

October 5, 2011

Wednesday Link List

More newsy stuff this week, rather than blog links per se…I get to play news anchor…

  • Tennessee teachers supervising students at the annual See You At The Pole events are in trouble for praying along with the students at the event. “Teachers have not been banned from praying, but if they do – it must be done out of sight and earshot of students, the newspaper reported.”  Read more on this confusing development at The Tennessean.
  • Young abolitionist Zach Hunter is now 19, and his three books, including the popular Be the Change have been reissued by Zondervan to reflect his current look.  He recently did a guest post at Huffington Post. “When I was 12 I started a campaign to end modern-day slavery. I wasn’t a theological prodigy. I was just an awkward, pre-adolescent kid trying to follow Jesus. I heard about people being bought and sold and abused day in and day out and I couldn’t imagine Jesus being O.K. with it…. Occasionally, I’ve received some criticism about encouraging this kind of passion in my generation. Mostly, it comes from people who share my faith — I’ve even been told, ‘It’s great what you and your friends are doing, but why aren’t you just preaching the gospel when your whole generation is going to hell?…Continue reading at Huff Post…
  • Never was an event so well-named

    James MacDonald finds himself defending the decision to include T.D. Jakes in next year’s sequel to the one-day Elephant Room Conference.  “I believe modalism is unbiblical and clearly outside confessionalism, but I do not believe it represents Bishop T.D. Jakes’ current thinking. Whether I am right or wrong is something that will be discovered in the Elephant Room where our purpose is, as Pastor Mark [Driscoll] posted, ‘to talk to people rather than about them.'” Read more at James’ blog, Vertical Church.
  • Oh, and here’s a recent sample of what he’s defending himself against.  Thabiti Anyabwyle writes, “This isn’t on the scale of [John] Piper inviting [Rick] Warren. This is more akin to Augustine inviting Muhammad. This invitation gives a platform to a heretic… Can the Lord squeeze lemonade out of this lemon? Absolutely. I pray He does… What should MacDonald do now? I’m not even sure.” Read more of this at TGC.
  • If the above word, modalism, is new to you, it was covered on this blog in a lengthy article back in February, Why Are Non-Trinitarians Included Among ‘Christians’?
  • Mexico considers solving the divorce problem by issuing a marriage license that expires in 24 months. ” Mexico City lawmakers want to help newlyweds avoid the hassle of divorce by giving them an easy exit strategy: temporary marriage licenses… that would allow couples to decide on the length of their commitment, opting out of a lifetime. The minimum marriage contract… could be renewed if the couple stays happy. The contracts would include provisions on how children and property would be handled if the couple splits. ‘The proposal is, when the two-year period is up, if the relationship is not stable or harmonious, the contract simply ends,’ said Leonel Luna, the Mexico City assemblyman who co-authored the bill.” Read the full article at Reuters Faith World.
  • Another news story from Reuters Faith World…  A few years back, this was one of the few Christian blogs to look at the ban on minarets (Muslim prayer towers) in Switzerland.  Now the country’s lower parliament has voted to ban face veils as well. “By enacting a ban, Switzerland would follow other European countries such as France, the Netherlands and Belgium which have either already proscribed veils or are debating such measures, sometimes encountering sharp condemnation from civil rights and Islamic groups.”
  • The supreme court will not hear a case brought against World Vision in regard to hiring practices.  “The Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari lets stand an August 2010 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of World Vision and against three employees who were fired after the organization concluded that they did not believe that Jesus Christ is fully God.” More details at Christianity Today.
  • A Texas oil change shop will service your car for only $19.99 if you will quote John 3:16 from memory.  Legal experts in the state can’t find the owner is in violation of anything from a consumer retail business standpoint.  But one customer didn’t recite the verse and got billed for over $46.  Is this a positive move for the business owner or a liability?  And is it a definite liability for Christians who abhor this evangelism methodology.  Dallas attorney Andy Siegel said,    “The study of Bible has many rewards, [but] I’m not sure if God intended for a lube discount to be among its many riches.”  More, with video at CNN Religion.
  • Also at CNN, an in-depth review of Belieber, the book examining the faith factor in the life of pop star Justin Bieber.  The star told Rolling Stone, “I feel I have an obligation to plant little seeds with my fans. I’m not going to tell them, ‘You need Jesus,’ but I will say at the end of my show, ‘God loves you.’ ”  Read more at CNN.
  • Time Travel Piece of the Week:  A short word bite from Steven Furtick on Church Hopping, It’s Time to Stop The Hop. “If you’ve fallen into the trap of church hopping, let me encourage you: embrace your place somewhere where God can use you. At the end of your life, God’s not going to be impressed or pleased that you saw what He was doing at ten different churches. He’s going be more pleased that you were a part of what He was doing at one church.”
  • If you think all the great ministry ideas have been covered, you could always start an underwear ministry.  No, it’s not a reference to Mormon underwear, rather: “Every day with no fanfare, the Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver… receives all kinds of donations… But one recent drop-off was so unique it could not go unnoticed — a donation of 3,500 pairs of men’s underwear. Calgary residents Robb Price and Brent King delivered the gift…the first of 10 deliveries they plan to make at homeless shelters between Vancouver and Halifax. Read more at Christian Week.
  • Wrapping it up this week with the graphic that’s been on so many blogs; How The Denominations See Each Other.  The bottom right corner credits this to ThomasTheDoubter.com where it was posted on September 15th, and also to the Subtle Designer blog, where it’s described as being a copy of a similar infographic done about higher education.  (You might need to switch to full screen.) Enjoy!

September 1, 2011

Are Crying Babies and Noisy Kids in Church from The Devil?

When I was a kid, church platforms never looked like these

In the church where I spent my early teens, I clearly remember the pastor once saying that “the devil” will use a crying baby to distract you from hearing the message. Yes, this is true. He really said that. Hey Mom, your toddler’s fussing is Satanic.

So I was intrigued when Christianity Today took on the subject yesterday, Should Churches Try to Minimize Disruptions?

The timing on this was also interesting as we just finished listening to a sermon from Mars Hill Grand Rapids that was recorded on the 4th of July when the children were all part of the main service.You could hear the occasional crying, and the pastor actually celebrated this by inviting the kids on the platform as part of an excellent illustration.

The link above takes you to the article with the comments all displayed. If you want to see a news story about the child removed from Elevation Church, here is a local news report, which I found in this excellent piece by Skye Jethani. (I should add that I’m a fan of Steven Furtick, I’m reporting a single issue here, not trying to tear down someone’s ministry.) This blog covered the Perry Noble situation in July.

If you go to a small-town church, you may not get the need for this discussion. On the other hand, in some mega-churches the services are ‘produced’ like any Broadway show, with state of the art sound and lighting; and the idea of everyone not being 110% focused on what is happening on the stage platform is unthinkable. I do like the way Andy Stanley handles this though: He chooses to sell the parents on the quality of their children’s ministry rather than make the same kind of proclamation as Perry Noble. (In a recent message on sexuality, they were firm about the subject matter not being appropriate for younger kids; but in so doing, were admitting that the kids do show up in ‘big church’ at other times.)

Once again, here’s the CT story link with comments.

Have we all gotten too professional about weekend worship events?  Is the Church responding sufficiently to the increasing percentage of special needs kids in the general population?


UPDATE:
I had forgotten that closer to the time of the Elevation Church incident, we did a blog repost here from Rachel Held Evans.  Check out It’s Hip to Be Un-Hip.

 

UPDATE: (Sept 3rd) — Turns out Pete Wilson covered this topic the same day as I.  Be sure to read the 70+ comments.

PHOTOS: Click the images themselves to link to Church Stage Design Ideas.

June 10, 2011

Ya Want Deep Preaching? I’ll Give Ya Deep…

This piece appeared originally earlier in the week at Christianity 201.

There are presently two strains of evangelical preaching emerging. Some preachers, like Andy Stanley prefer the “one thing” approach; providing a rhythm and cadence to their preaching which leaves their listeners remembering a clear message and a clear application. The classic, “It’s Friday Night… But Sunday’s A-Comin'” is a message you’ve probably heard, or at least heard alluded to, that is based on this type of teaching.

The other style is the kind of message that gives you much information about context and history as well as cross-references to at least a dozen related scriptures. There are multiple points and various information sidebars.  While both styles can do verse-by-verse, or exegetical teaching; this exegetical style or expository preaching is considered by some a hallmark as to what constitutes real depth in preaching ministry.

The problem is that sometimes the people in the second camp, feel that the people in the first camp are not giving their people enough “depth.” This came up in the Elephant Room Conference where Steven Furtick used hyperbole to indicate the degree to which he did not want to aim for going deep on Sunday mornings.*

And it comes up here in this exchange between John Piper and Rick Warren. You might prefer to go direct to the YouTube page and click on some of the other subjects covered in this interview series. Some of the clips will also run in playlist form, allowing you to just sit back as the videos play in succession.

“Simple does not mean shallow.” “Simple does not mean simplistic.” What is deep? Warren says he taught series on sanctification and incarnation without actually using the words; do you think that is possible?

*For your interest, here is the discussion between Steven Furtick and Matt Chandler, moderated by James MacDonald. It gives you some insight into how pastors wrestle with the “deep” question.

What’s your definition of deep preaching?

June 3, 2011

Elephant Room Conference: The DVD

If you missed the Woodstock music festival in 1969, you had to wait a full year for the movie; but just weeks after James MacDonald convened the Elephant Room one day seminar which was simulcast to two dozen cities, the DVD is already available for purchase, so we decided to jump in and bought one for ourselves and a couple of extras.

The phrase, “the elephant in the room” is used to denote the thing that is hovering over a discussion, but is never mentioned.   The idea here is that pastors have things they wrestle with that are discussed backstage when they meet up at major events, but are never shared with a larger audience.  The goal was to bring those subjects into open discussion.

The seven pastors were MacDonald, Mark Driscoll, Greg Laurie, Perry Noble, David Platt, Mark Chandler and Steven Furtick who was cast as a bit of a newcomer to this “big league” group.  Actually, Furtick came across very well, presenting some very timely insights into the subjects, and the very nature of the debates themselves.  Topics included:

  • Building numerically versus building depth
  • Responding to culture
  • Compassion and social justice
  • Unity and discernment
  • The multi-site church trend
  • Money issues
  • Loving the doctrine of the gospel but not sharing the gospel

An eighth session dealt with questions that had been texted in during the conference and was actually the most interesting in many ways. 

Over the past few years we’ve seen a growing interest in ecclesiology — the study of what constitutes ‘church’ —  among what would have been traditionally called “the laity.”  Books that would have formerly been written for the exclusive reading of pastors and church staff are now being purchased and discussed by the widest range of Evangelicals, many of whom are forging ahead with startups of home churches or alternative churches.  In a sense, the things the pastors discuss quietly backstage at conferences are being discussed in church lobbies, living rooms and over kitchen tables back home. This DVD set, and the topics it discusses are thereby of interest to everyone.

But it’s not the major takeaway from watching the seminar.

What is most striking is the camaraderie that exists between the pastors themselves.  While they do disagree on some minor points, there is a genuine agreement on the things that matter; what Driscoll well-defines as the difference between national borders (which wars are fought over) and state borders (for which wars are not fought.) 

There were some highlights and lowlights in the video.  One highlight was the overall production quality.  Another was the way they kept the discussion moving, with a moderator and two rotating key opponents followed by a more open forum that allowed the other four pastors to contribute.   Another highlight was seeing that with issues such as multi-site — so much on the minds of people as changes take place quickly — the pastors themselves do not undertake moves lightly, but truly agonize over the ramifications of growth.   A lowlight — and it really has to be said — is the way James MacDonald dominates every discussion, rolling over everyone else like a freight train at times.  I guess it was his party, so he got to call the tune.

I do love the concept, however.  This was a great series of conversations and I would hope that either MacDonald’s crew, or somebody else, would put something like this together this time next year, perhaps with a different mix of pastors and church leaders.  Rather than attempting to describe it further, you can watch a few sample clips here and here

What we call church really matters, and you don’t have to be among the ‘professional’ clergy to care.


Read another review of the conference here.

Link here to an index Trevin Wax provided of participants who live-blogged the event.

May 18, 2011

Wednesday Link List

[B]link and you’ll miss it!

  • The actual end of the world on the 21st is officially set for 6:00 PM (one assumes Eastern Standard Time) which ought to give me time to cut the lawn.  Respected Baptist guy Albert Mohler breaks the news, though he’s not buying it personally.
  • The wife of Elevation pastor Steven Furtick, Holly Furtick did the Mother’s Day sermon — he introduces her as the best looking guest speaker they’ve had — and now you can watch part two of a three part sermon series, Mr. & Mrs. Betterhalf.
  • Philip Yancey is touring the UK on what is dubbed the “Seasons of the Soul” tour.  Check out the story at Christian Post, as well as the tour website.
  • Canada’s national newspaper, revisits the fall from Orthodoxy in the once-great United Church of Canada in this report at The National Post.
  • Here’s a breakdown on the whole Creation-Evolution debate neatly condensed, boxed and tied with a ribbon at the Parchment & Pen blog.
  • Joyce Meyer Ministries gets hit with a $20 million lawsuit from a former employee; video clips at Monday Morning Insight.
  • The birth of a song:  Shaun Groves takes us from demo recording to pre-production track, to studio track, to mixed track, with only mastering of the song All’s Grace left to happen.
  • And our new artist this week was actually linked here once before, but I keep watching the increased following  of one-man keyboard talent Zach Havens who records and performs as To Tell.  (And I’m sticking with the comparison to Owl City!)
  • One last music-related item: A link to the Gospel Coalition audio of Keith and Kristyn Getty’s presentation,Writing Corporate Worship Music.
  • While teen pregnancy rates are dropping, in some poor and minority communities, it continues to be a challenge, as outlined in this CBN News report.
  • It’s a classic local interest story from the 1930s you’d know if you lived in Sydney, Australia; the story of the man known as “Mister Eternity.”  The full story is repeated at the Meeting in the Clouds blog.
  • A short thought from Mark Batterson: Some of the world’s greatest pastors aren’t necessarily pastoring a church.
  • Truth isn’t in the middle, but in both extremes!  To mark author and theologian John Stott’s 90th birthday in April; a tribute from IVP associate publisher Andy LePeau
  • Is AOL birthing a religious section out of Huffington’s Post faith pages?  John Shore thinks so.
  • Can’t wait for next week’s links?  Trevin Wax has an almost daily list.
  • For this week’s cartoon, it seems that Matt Mewhorter, who draws the Bleat comic, with a rather different take on things Christian, thinks Pat Robertson is somewhat confused by the current controversy over Love Wins: (Here’s a bonus panel! for you to chew on!)

April 20, 2011

Wednesday Link List

I chose this particular WordPress theme for its wide margins, but inherited a rather tiny default typeface in the process.  For years  I’ve been bumping it up manually with HTML codes, but last week WordPress changed the rules, and I would now have to do it paragraph by paragraph.  [Update: Which, now having the time, I’ve just done! Which renders the rest of this paragraph redundant.] So… if you can’t read what follows simply press Ctrl and while you’re holding it down press the “+” sign, although technically you’re pressing “=” sign, because it’s done without holding down the shift key.  But nobody thinks of it that way…

As a bonus today, excerpts from the links are included in red.

  • Brant Hansen continues to blog, albeit not at Kamp Krusty.  He recently explained to WAY-FM listeners why he doesn’t tithe. People like me who no longer believe we are bound to tithing are not arguing for less giving.  Oh no.  We’re arguing for more, for those who have it.  Much more.
  • In a related post, Christianity Today asks if people receiving unemployment benefits should tithe on that “income.” Tithing is not a luxurious option achievable only by those whose financial security is assured. It is the ancient spiritual practice that God uses to begin setting our priorities right, to heal our hearts of greed and fear, and to draw us ever closer into his own boundless generosityJoin the conversation at CT.
  • Followers of Judaism are fighting declining numbers by modernizing many of its practices, including an enhanced use of creative arts. Every branch of Judaism has seen membership drop digits. Interfaith marriages… continue at a pace of 50% for Jews.  Look for parallels between their efforts and what Evangelicals have done in the last few decades in this USAToday story.
  • Tom at the blog Living in the Beauty of  Dirty Faith has a concise summary of the objectification of our children:  So this is the message young daughters around the country (and world) are getting:  don’t be measured by what type of person you are becoming, how you treat others, etc. but rather be measured by your measurements.  Check out Girls Gone Wild.
  • Just so everybody’s clear, Shaun Groves makes it clear that Facebook friends are not true friends: I have friends. You’re probably not one of them.  Not everybody likes this news, but they’re now redirected to a fan page.
  • With all the attention being given the new NIV revision (and the new NAB revision) it’s easy to miss the Josh James Version.  Having appreciated the many opportunities that the web has to offer, I decided in 2008 to begin using web space to publish some of my Bible study, sermons, instruction in the Greek language, my Greek translation of the New Testament, and various other bits of information. The individual pages take forever to load, but I admire his diligence!  Check out Josh James’ translation page.
  • Readership at Christianity 201 — my other blog — is growing faster these days; so I thought I’d scare everyone away with a really, really, really, really long post by Steven Furtick.    We could be judgmental, but the truth is that there are things that are just as elementary that you and I still don’t get. And it’s these things that keep us in a state of inertia in our walk with God and the calling He has placed on our lives. Check out this reposting of his three-part series at Maybe You Just Don’t Get It.
  • If you’ve been avoiding the magazines at the grocery store by doing the self-checkout thing, you may have missed out that Rob Bell has put the issue of hell on the cover (see above) of Time Magazine.  Bell’s arguments about heaven and hell raise doubts about the core of the Evangelical worldview, changing the common understanding of salvation so much that Christianity becomes more of an ethical habit of mind than a faith based on divine revelationThe article is long, but well-researched.
  • Meanwhile, Barna Research shows that one in four “born again” Christians subscribe to universalist beliefs.  For many evangelicals, the idea of Christians holding universalist ideas is particularly disturbing because it nullifies the need for Christ to die on the cross and the message of Jesus that he is the only way, truth and life… A 2008 Pew Forum survey revealed that 57 percent of evangelicals agreed with the idea that other religions than their own can lead to eternal life. Read the story at Christian Post.
  • Speaking of the above, Adam Powers blogs a few quotations from the Gospel Coalition’s special session on responding to Bell.  Crawford Loritts on people who have cut their spiritual teeth on Bell: We all need to be careful when we talk about these things not to overcorrect. We are to love unbelievers and we are to preach the love of God. I would encourage this person, not only to pursue right exegesis on this issue, but to the study of the nature of God altogether. Look at the wholeness of who God isRead more at the blog Pleasing Pain.
  • Speaking of responses, a reader is trying to get me to recant of my earlier support of Bell’s alt interpretation of Peter and Jesus walking on water.  I reply, Bell’s alternative reading on this stops short of the kind of fantasy scripture that his friend Peter Rollins would conjure up. It’s not the main point of the story, but, a year later, I still think Jesus is saying to Peter, “I chose you, I invited you to step out of the boat, I have faith you can walk on water; do you trust my choice?” And then, I refuse to withdraw my endorsement on this particular bit of Bell’s teaching.
  • When it comes to preaching, I know what I like; but not as well as Darryl Dash knows what he doesn’t like.  I’ve observed that there are countless ways to preach well, but there are only a few key steps you need to master if you want to preach poorly.  Check out his guest post at Soren’s blog, Six Keys to Poor Preaching.   (BTW, Darryl’s brother is a neighbor of mine who sends me hilarious e-mail forwards by the truckload.)
  • The Seventh Day Adventists, which make up a large majority of the population in Loma Linda, California are losing their unique Sunday mail delivery.  Carrier supervisor Duane Hubbard told the paper that the postal service’s computers don’t recognize Sunday as a workday, meaning the local office is unable to communicate with any other agency offices then.  Now only two communities in the U.S. are left with the unique delivery situation.
  • The “gone wild” reference earlier reminded me of this t-shirt concept available at Kaboodle.com

  • …which in turn reminded me of this backprint/frontprint T-shirt concept also at Kaboodle

  • Today’s quote:
“People ask, ‘How could a loving God send people to hell?’ but I believe that a loving God put a blood-stained cross on the pathway to hell and if someone ends up going to hell they had to step over that blood-stained cross to get there.”
~Perry Noble, April 15th

February 23, 2011

Wednesday Link List

In addition to usual type of links this week, there are some general links to the whole of some blogs you know and some that will be new to you.

  • Here’s a C201 post dealing with the subject of balanced worship that also contains a couple of classic CCM songs. Check out Worship with Both Hands.
  • Sadly, the hostage drama off the coast of Somalia did not end well. Our prayers are with the families of the two couples who perished in the rescue attempt.
  • Trevin Wax raises the issue of Evangelical churches baptizing children by immersion at very, very young ages. Here’s the link, and we’ll also return to this discussion on the weekend.
  • Got 66 minutes?  Elevation Church (Steve Furtick) has put together a video on their church’s story on the occasion of their fifth anniversary.
  • Speaking of videos, here’s the latest from Hillsong at GodTube.
  • Speaking of the number 66, here’s an idea: A series of word images (or clouds) processed in the style of Wordle of the text from each book of the Bible sold as 11 x 17 posters at 66 Clouds.  See sample at right.
  • Once again, another biting commentary at Shaun Groves’ blog. “According to some college chaplains… long term exposure to Christian music may have unsavory side-effects. They feel like they’re fighting bad theology and unbiblical perceptions created by the music business. Their students grew up listening to K-LOVE in the minivan on the way to school with mom. They grew up in “event-driven” churches singing songs from “stars” who also came to town to play concerts.Did the industry change the church/students or did the church/students change the industry? ” Read the full article.
  • Bluefish TV inexplicably decides to make a total mockery of purity rings. They’ve finally produced a video that isn’t appropriate to show at church or at youth group. So guys, why bother?
  • Philip Yancey returns to Christianity Today with this question, Is America Going the Way of Europe in Turning Its Back on Christianity? Using the example of the Netherlands, he shows that dramatic change can occur within just two generations.
  • Follow Pete Wilson’s ten day trip to Kolkata, India — he’s back now — by linking to his blog and scrolling back to February 9th and reading forward.
  • Random link: I really enjoy Stuff Fundies Like.  This site has a lot more edge than that other Stuff…Like blog, and is, in reality, more like a Fundamentalist version of Growing Up Catholic. (Or if you grew up in the Evangelical world, you might call this, “Killing Me Softly With His Blog.”) If it’s not part of your online routine, check it out, and go right back to the beginning and read every single post!
  • More serious random link: I don’t know any blogger who has faithfully kept the pro-life agenda on the front burner like La Shawn Barber.  Blogging since November, 2003, her blog is a history of events in that movement, and textbook must-reading for anyone who wants to understand this issue.
  • Here’s how Drew Marshall described Chad and Sarah Markley: “They grew up in the church, got married, fought everyday, then began to get wasted and party on the weekends just to escape and cope, even while Chad was leading worship in their church. Eventually porn crept into the marriage. Eventually Chad became a workaholic. Eventually Sarah had an affair with Chad’s friend. Eventually one of Sarah’s friends told their pastors. Eventually…” This couple survived her three-year affair and discussed it openly on last week’s show — online audio available Friday — and continues to discuss it at her blog.
  • Here’s another general link, not to a specific post, but I think this blog deserves an award for its most unusual name.  Check out Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary.  (Loved her Feb 3 post for her son’s 13th birthday.)(And the rest of her honesty and transparency.)
  • Warning to all concerned: Never show up at The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky on Date Night with a same sex date. (Typical date night pictured at right.) And tickets are non-refundable. But step back for just a moment: Why do they even have a date night?  (“Hey Lisa, we’re going to the Creation Museum tonight.” “Oh Mark, you pick the most coolest places.”)
  • If you gave up sports a long time ago, but you’ve still got a thing for statistics, here’s more analysis on the differences between the old NIV and the new NIV.
  • Let me see if I’ve got this one right: Your kids go door to door selling “magabooks” (half magazine, half book) which answer the musical question, “Will My Pet Go to Heaven?”  All for just $14.95 U.S.
  • One last general link here, from which yesterday’s post here at Thinking Out Loud was stolen borrowed; reiterated here because this grandfather of all blogs has been around since January of 2000. Yikes! It’s in its twelfth year! Check out GraceWorks.ca
  • Tomorrow begins the fourth year of this blog! How will we celebrate? Stay tuned. (Actually, I have no idea at this point…)
  • Our closing picture this week — I know you would have preferred another shot of Adam and Eve at the Creation Museum — is from Cathy at the USAToday blog, Faith and Reason.  Just so ya know, the church is Catholic and the retail is $39.99 U.S.

August 12, 2010

Steven Furtick: Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me

I’ve just finished reading an advance copy of Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God For the Impossible by Steven Furtick, the pastor of the rapidly growing Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC.   The title, releasing another “sun significant” day, September 21st from Multnomah Books,  is based on Joshua’s prayer in Joshua chapter 10.  “There has never been a day like it before…” (vs 13 NIV)

This is a book about prayer, and it’s a book about faith, and mostly, it’s a book about praying prayers of faith, or what he calls audacious prayers.   As such it’s a title that will inspire next-generation Christ-followers to stretch their faith in prayer; a book that might be given to a teen or twenty-something and/or someone who is new to the family of faith.

The author quotes Jim Cymbala’s Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire early on and in many ways this book stands in that tradition of — and I hate to use this word because it can diminish the impact — books on prayer that are truly inspiring.

But beyond the reading process which I began several days ago, I decided to dig a little deeper to, if you’ll forgive the nameplay, see what makes Steven Furtick tick.

The book begins with the story of Elevation Church filling the Time Warner Arena in Charlotte the year on Easter Sunday; a dream planted in Steven Furtick’s heart just four years earlier.     Reports ranged from attendance figures of 10,000 to the figure on the Elevation Worship Blog, 11,600.   (It also lists the worship pieces that morning; of the eleven, six were from Hillsongs.)

I decided to watch the service online, but presented with a range of sermons, decided to jump into something else, only to find myself watching a guest speaker, North Point’s Andy Stanley.   In the process of trying to ascertain where Furtick and Elevation fit into the larger map of American Christianity, Andy Stanley came as a bit of a surprise.

That’s because — as my reading of the book and eventual viewing of the Easter sermon and two other sermons convinced me — Furtick’s message and style seems to fit into a long line of Pentecostal or Charismatic tradition.  For the Time Warner Arena occasion, he donned a suit which, combined with the dynamics of the arena, couldn’t help remind me of Joel Osteen.

But I’m not sure that Furtick would welcome the comparison.   I decided to dig into his blog; not just current entries, but ones from its beginnings in the fall of 2006.    He considers Craig Groeschel and Perry Noble mentors, and there’s nothing in his church’s core beliefs that hints of Pentecostalism.

Maybe it was just the Easter suit thing.   Or the traditional invitation at the end of the messages.  Or having the congregation stand for scripture readings. Or the “Amen Corner” on the website.

…Or maybe it’s part of our fallen nature that anytime someone has a faith-stretching, big-believing message we want to categorize or pigeon-hole that person with a “Charismatic” label, instead of recognizing that this is what it means to follow Christ as the early disciples understood it, and as we’re reminded in a story early in the book, Christians in the third world or persecuted church understand it today.   In fact, in some places Furtick would challenge the prosperity or claim-it message of hardcore Charismatics.

In the end, I have to conclude that Steven Furtick is a hybrid.   His next-generation appeal might earn him the label Emergent Charismatic.   Neither adjective is fully accurate here — how about Missional Pentecostalbut it’s the best I got because Sun Stand Still is a Spirit-filled message of classical Biblical faith, but it’s a 30-year-old’s fresh take on a classic Old Testament passage that any young person should enjoy reading.

The book will energize your prayer life no matter where you are on your journey with Christ.   If you want to dig in to more of Elevation online, you’ll find some powerful and passionate preaching with a wisdom beyond Steven Furtick’s years.

Reviewer’s Notes:

  1. Thanks to Norm at Augsburg Canada (Multnomah’s up-North distributor) for the advance copy.
  2. Elevation’s online sermon server gets you a full-screen, high-def video sermon every time, that downloads quickly provided you’ve got the bandwidth. Clearly among the best I’ve seen.   I don’t see an audio option.
  3. Given the aforementioned appeal to younger readers, I gotta seriously question Multnomah’s decision to release this in hardcover at $20 U.S. ($23 CDN)   I hope initial sales don’t discourage those involved, because this is a natural title for paperback first edition. UPDATE:  This will release in paperback at $14.99 US/$16.99 CDN.  They must have been reading this blog!!
  4. If you click on the “comments” section for this post (below) you can watch the promotional video for the book featuring Steven’s ever-changing hairstyles!

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