Thinking Out Loud

January 18, 2017

Wednesday Link List

Welcome to the Link List. Beware of the Dog:

beware-of-dog

mosquitoMy wife took that picture while standing about five feet away. It never budged. As to the little home decor item at right, it’s an actual item made by Heartfelt, Inc. Can I put you down for a dozen of them?

This week a big shout-out to all the radio guys who check us out every Wednesday for program material. You can watch for our invoice in the mail.

…and yes it’s true. Skye Jethani was part of the cast of Puzzle Place. We offer a screenshot as proof.

skye

January 11, 2017

Wednesday Link List

youve-got-a-friend-in-jesus

Hey readers! I want to be honest; I put some extra hours into this one, both in seeking out some things you might not read elsewhere — I only check other aggregators after this is mostly wrapped up — and including some longer quotations so you get the main idea of each item. So please help spread the word by sharing this link to today’s list with your contacts.  http://wp.me/pfdhA-8Fg

  • From High Society to the Mission Field: Raised as a debutante in Toronto’s upscale Rosedale district she rejected that life to work with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Canada’s national newspaper, The National Post gives extensive space to Ruth Thompson’s story. “Fifty years ago they didn’t wear clothes. Now they call Thomson on their cellphones.”
  • Essay of the Week: The above item. Hands down.
  • Women’s ministry in perspective: “I shifted in my seat at the women’s ministry event; the speaker said it again. “You are a beautiful, chosen, special woman of God. There is no one in the world like you!” …Again, it’s not a bad message. But it’s theologically deficient, and if the goal of a women’s ministry is to encourage and equip female Christians, the message has to change…When you create a culture that uses Jesus for little more than a spiritual feel-good, it’s no wonder the women it produces can’t get victory…”
  • Leadership Lessons: Don’t get caught saying, “I’m too busy.”
  • Grieving: “The early days of grief are a hazy, dizzying, moment by moment response to a trauma that your mind simply can’t wrap itself around. You are, what I like to call a Grief Zombie; outwardly moving but barely there… Most people understand grief as an event, not as the permanent alteration to life that it is, and so they stay up until the funeral and imagine that when the service ends, that somehow you too can move ahead.” 
  • Next Tuesday (17th) morning Shane Claiborne and other Christian leaders will hold a 2-hour rally in front of the Supreme Court calling for the end of the death penalty.
  • A 155-year old Baptist church in the heart of Washington, DC has appointed a gay couple as co-pastors. Both women have worked previously in chaplaincy, but buried deep in the article is the mention that one was an associate minister at Unitarian Universalist Church. The church — which bears the name Calvary Baptist — actually cut ties to the SBC in 2012.
  • The faith of President Obama, compiled entirely in his own words
  • This just in: Theology students at the University of Glasgow are being given trigger warnings in the course ‘Creation to Apocalypse: Introduction to the Bible (Level 1)’and in order “to protect the mental of health of vulnerable students” it appears that “Theology students are being warned in advance that they may see distressing images while studying the crucifixion of Jesus, giving them a chance to leave if they fear being upset.”(They’re right of course; I think a man dies in that scene. We can’t have that.) …
  • …Here’s a response to that nonsense.
  • Things like this only serve to set back Christian-Jewish relations in Israel. Fortunately most key comments on this story aimed at peacemaking
  • An Italian security official warns that the potential for a terrorist attack on The Vatican is very real.
  • America is suffering from a religious literacy problem starting with “media powerhouses” who “don’t quite get religion.” “Christians, in general, are ignorant about their own tradition. Half of Protestants can’t identify Martin Luther; half of Catholics don’t understand the doctrine of transubstantiation…Religious illiteracy is not a liberal problem. It is a function of two key factors: insularity and lack of education.” 
  • What if? (I thought I’d keep that teaser simple.)
  • Suicide Prevention: The son of author Anne Lamott shares surviving another day in an article, the very title of which ought to arrest you in your tracks. “How I managed not to kill myself today.”
  • A Theology of Sarcasm: The wife of a prominent Christian apologist provides a Biblical bibliography justifying the use of sarcasm. (Though some of the selections might be better described as hyperbole.)
  • Astronomers at Calvin College have confirmed two stars that will collide and merge in 2022, forming a binary star and producing a red nova.  No doubt as with the blood moon, this will produce a new crop of prophecy books.
  • The Singles Section: Looks? Personality? Both? An incredibly honest reflection on the attraction factor when hoping to fall in love.
  • Parenting Place: If your children get Highlights magazine and your values are conservative, you might want to check out the February issue before the kids do
  • …Somewhat related Devotional of the Week: An adult-portioned answer that begins with the kids asking what happens to their pet when it dies.
  • Having Carrie Underwood sing on the first day of the Catalyst Conference probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but the backlash has been considerable.
  • He moderated a County Quiz Bowl where “public school children did better on the religion, specifically Bible, questions than they did on the geologic time-table questions that had their basis in the theory of evolution.  So much for many people’s claims that public schools are brain-washing our children against the Bible.” See how do you fare — without scrolling down — on 30 statements which may or may not be from the Bible.
  • I’d love to live in a world where announcements like this did not exist.
  • Canada Corner: The longest-running religion editor of The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation newspaper, Tom Harpur has died. His 2004 book, The Pagan Christ “digs deep into the origins of Christianity, and argues that there is no evidence that historical Jesus existed” and that “the story of Jesus was largely based on an Egyptian man-god and was simply an allegorical tale, meant to act as a guidepost for those striving to be better people.” The newspaper’s obituary quotes him as saying, “I’m not really a religious guy, you know.”
  • ♫ Worship Songs: We’ve re-formatted a few things at Christianity 201 and if you’re wishing to discover or re-discover some worship songs with substance without wading through YouTube’s search system, click this link.
  • The Family Squabbles of Jesus: Jesus and his mother didn’t always agree
  • Listicle of the Week:  The top searched verse on You Version in 88 countries; or if you prefer, this format.
  • Quotation of the Week: (a friend spotted this on Facebook) “We’re not here to fix this mess, nor to join it, or to befriend it. We’re here so if anyone gets tired of it, they can know there is an alternative to it.
  • ♫ Video of the Week: We couldn’t decide among several here from a band that I believe is set for greater recognition in North America in 2017. We’re talking about Rivers and Robots. (Yes, that’s the name.) Pick a song…
  • …Unless we’re talking about the uniqueness of the video itself. Then this international production by Rivers and Robots wins. Watch Lift Up My Eyes. A couple of times…
  • …or their most-watched Shepherd of My Soul.
  • ♫ Music Memories: Thumbing through the 1996-97 Tooth and Nail Records catalog is like opening a time capsule according to one person whose band was on their roster. He describes it as a time when music mattered.
  • I didn’t watch all 77 minutes of this, but street preaching is definitely one of the extreme sports of ministry
  • The world we live in: Two new spokespeople representing major makeup companies are not women.
  • Time-waster you’ll probably click: 13 Cats Resting on the Promises of God.
  • Finally, I’m happy that the editors at Baptist Press know what makes for a good religion news story.

every-eye-closed

 

Images: Hallmark store (upper); Baptist Memes (lower)

January 9, 2017

Rethinking the Christmas Day Church Closings

closed signIn just 2176 days, in the year 2022, Christmas will once again fall on a Sunday. There was a great deal of angst this year about the number of churches which opted not to have a service. With only six more years to get this right, I want to address this issue now, while the subject is still fresh in my mind and yours.

First of all, I believe what we saw in 2016 was another example whereby the agenda for the church at large, at least in North America, is being dictated by the modern megachurch. The type of church service now in view is very complex and involves a multitude of staff and volunteers. Just the technical specifications for the worship service itself — and that’s not counting the children’s ministry, or the people directing traffic in the parking lot — requires an army of sound, lighting, music specialists as well as ushers. To expect a consistent turnout of these people on a morning when their hearts are at home, gathered round the Christmas tree hearing those familiar Christmas words, “This one says, ‘To Ben from your sister Julie'” is possibly asking too much.

The modern megachurch simply cannot offer an alternative service in a smaller room in the church where Mrs. Trebleclef will play some carols on the piano, the head of Men’s Ministry will speak, and then we’ll have a coffee time in the atrium. That would be a simple service. It would involve said pianist, the person giving the short devotional message, and the person to make the coffee, as well as someone to unlock the doors and check the restrooms. But that’s not the brand these churches want to offer. You can’t have a simple, grassroots service like that. Better to have locked doors.

Instead, the service is canceled and then the contagion spreads to smaller (and smaller and smaller) churches where not having the service becomes normative. Evangelicalism: Closed for the day. Be back next week.

Can you imagine a Roman Catholic church not having the mass on Christmas Day? No. Neither can I. Where did this day-off-mentality come from anyway?

Well, actually it came from megachurches who have started doing a similar week off thing in the summer, usually on Memorial Day weekend. “If you come next week, we won’t be here.” Seriously? What about visitors who didn’t know that’s the pattern? Or the Griswalds, who have driven cross-country just to see the celebrity pastor? Goodness knows these big box churches are doing something right, so if they’re not having a service, perhaps our little 200-member church should do the same. Heck, we’ll also cancel Labor Day weekend while we’re at it; this is obviously a key plank in church growth, right?

But that diverts from the more serious issue. What about the people who are lonely? The people for whom weekend services are a spiritual and social lifeline? The people who need that one hour to ramp up to the 167 hours that follow? My wife and I learned from doing the Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day in our own hometown that the people who most need some level of fellowship or companionship — not that the capital-C Church is particular good at this — know no particular stereotype.

There’s also the matter of cost. By this I don’t mean the cost of turning on lights and having people consuming coffee cups and flushing toilets. No, I mean the cost of building church buildings and then having the auditoriums sit empty for the 13 days between one service, and the one which would follow in two weeks. It’s not about having offering revenue. Skip the collection on long weekends by all means. It’s about the investment in erecting places of worship and equipping them with comfortable chairs, state of the art sound and lighting, and engaging child and youth facilities, and then shuttering the place on what is usually the prime traffic day…

…Does this make any sense to you?

So where do those KidMin, worship and parking volunteers come from on Christmas and holidays? They don’t. You change up the brand image for the sake of one Sunday and using a skeleton staff, offer something for the people who really need to be connected. Maybe not Mrs. T. on the piano. Maybe it’s a film. It might involve a guest speaker or guest musicians. Perhaps it’s a shorter service.

Just. Don’t. Lock. The. Church. Doors.

If weekend worship has gotten so complex that we can’t do it without a volunteer roster the size of the Marine Corps, maybe we need to be rethinking what it means to do and be the church.

January 4, 2017

Wednesday Link List

A new year brings a new list… Each one of these takes on a life of its own and differs from the week previous in terms of the type of links and the overall tone of the collection as a whole.

December 28, 2016

Wednesday Link List

For our graphics this week, we pay a return visit to TwentyOneHundred Productions, the media division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Know a young person with a flair for graphic art or video? Have them consider an internship at 2100.

myrrh

meh-christmas

December 21, 2016

Wednesday Link List

bee-top-book-list-case

Our graphics this week are from The Babylon Bee’s Top 10 Christian Books of 2016. Click either image to read in full.

bee-top-book-list-purpose

December 14, 2016

Wednesday Link List

scc-shirt

The return of the Christmas List Lynx

The return of the Christmas List Lynx

So each week we track which links you liked the most. And then there was last week. I’d never seen stats like this, but our last 2 or 3 items, which were all from the same location — MichaelEPierce.com — drew a record amount of traffic. (There’s a new one this week.) How did we never hear of this site before? Anyway, the picture above is from his 2015 list of great Christmas gift ideas. Click the image. You may also click the image at the bottom which is from Arthur Sido.

many-faces-of-john-piper

By the way, in case you’re wondering where it is, we’re still waiting with bated breath for the new list of the Worst Christian Book Covers of 2016 from Englewood Review of Books. Perhaps one of the following from their summer list (click the image) will win the prize.

worst-book-covers

December 7, 2016

Wednesday Link List

In response to J.D. Hall’s book for children called, “Help!! Arminians are Giving Me Nightmares Again!”, blog readers at Spiritual Sounding Board gave alternate titles...

In response to J.D. Hall’s book for children titled, Help!! Arminians are Giving Me Nightmares Again!, blog readers at Spiritual Sounding Board gave alternate titles

Sidebar from Christianity Today. See first item in today's link list.

Sidebar from Christianity Today. See first item in today’s link list.

Some extended quotes from this week’s linked articles because even if you don’t click, I didn’t want you to miss the substance; each one of which could have been a single blog focus here.

  • Jen Wilkin, speaking to Christianity Today notes that “while most evangelical women know their Tim Kellers from their Rick Warrens, male pastors aren’t expected to parse female teachers. The bookshelves in their offices contain no books by contemporary female authors, and their sermons typically do not reference female voices, other than the usual suspects of Elisabeth Elliot or Corrie ten Boom—both dead, for the record.” The article concerns the popularity of Jen Hatmaker and other women speakers, see CT sidebar at right for her social media popularity.
  • ♫ It was only later I noticed this was a 2014 article, but the songs were so interesting I have to share it. 20 alternative Christmas songs, many of which are covers of more familiar carols. Warning: Don’t try to copy/paste the titles into YouTube, this site has the most annoying pop-ups I’ve ever encountered.
  • Playing Second Fiddle: “In nearly every great church, nonprofit, ministry, or business, there’s a vital #2 person working, and without them, those organizations would struggle.” What it takes to be #2.
  • Now it’s no longer just gay wedding cakes, it’s wedding invitations. Two young Christian women in Pheonix face the prospect of prison.
  • Quotation of the Week: Paige Patterson ends a chapel service at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary, of which he is the President. “I know there are a fair number of you who think you are a Calvinist, but understand there is a denomination which represents that view, It’s called Presbyterian.  …I honor their position, but if I held that position I would become a Presbyterian. I would not remain a Baptist, because the Baptist position from the time of the Anabaptists, really from the time of the New Testament, is very different… If we are not careful a myriad of related beliefs and practices will enter our camp, hidden within the Trojan Horse of Calvinism.”
  • Planning Christmas Eve Statistic: “25% of all your visitors for the entire year will come (or not come) on Christmas Eve.” 3 things to consider when planning that service.
  • Bye, Bye Bibles: “…While Marriott International supplies a Bible and Book of Mormon in every other hotel in their franchise, their millennial-geared Moxy and Edition hotels will be free of religious literature. ‘It’s because the religious books don’t fit the personality of the brands.'” 
  • Is God sovereign, even in the midst of the recent US elections? People looked to the Bible to find out. So this link is complicated. First, click on this one to get accustomed to how to read the 3-year comparison of searches at BibleGateway.com. (Give yourself a minute to figure out how the graphs work.) Second, click on this one and check out the first image to see the searches for sovereign skyrocket in November. (Yeah, they might have formatted that graph better, but who are we to say?) Scroll further down to see the top words searched in English and Spanish, and let your mouse hover over a word to compare the two languages’ rankings.
  • ‘And then, when He had given thanks, He took the lamb and killed it.’ That verse isn’t in your Bible. He took bread, “because he wanted it to be clear to us that there was no more shedding of blood required… For all the symbolism of the lamb already established, there was a greater, more significant over-riding factor. And that had to be made clear: No more sacrifice, no more death for sins.”
  • The “Cultural Commute” or “what it means to be an iPhone pastor in a typewriter church.”
  • This article on reading older books begins with a quote from C.S. Lewis; “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.”
  • Although it takes a restorative therapeutic approach that some may bristle at, it’s still relatively rare to see articles on ministering to transgenderism.
  • Window into Another World: I felt like I was coming in on the middle of a movie reading this short article about ministering to the children of hillbilly families.
  • Is Kellogg’s the target of the next major conservative Evangelical boycott? (What? No more Eggo? No more Pop Tarts?)
  • We are not the enemy. Such is the spirit of this article aiming to show that Calvinists and Classical Arminians are more related than you think. “I like to say that they are theological first cousins, both residing under the ‘Reformed’ umbrella.”
  • There’s a difference between giving your testimony and sharing your faith. The latter must begin with the resurrection.
  • Preaching Place:
  • It’s deja vu all over again: With the release of the movie in March, 2017, all the venom that was poured out over The Shack book is now being recycled as condemnation for the movie. This link is but one of many.
  • Announcer: “And now, we bring you the first episode of Perry Noble, Church Growth Consultant.”
  • He writes what many of us are feeling: The Christian liturgical calendar is growing on us.
  • Christian giftware supplier Abbey Press is closing.
  • ♫ The Voice is the name of a Bible version as well as a TV show. Relating to the latter, after Monday night I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from Christian Cuevas.
  • Women in the Church: “I didn’t really believe I could exercise any other gift in my local church beyond nursery duty and craft projects. Teach? Lead? Those things weren’t on my radar screen at the time, and they certainly weren’t on the radar screen of my own church leaders. When I did find my way into a seminary classroom more than a decade later, this Methodist minister was one of the first people I contacted to thank…”
  • ♫ Popular Christian songwriter Darlene Zschech (Shout to the Lord) has re-signed with Integrity Music.
  • Phil Vischer and Christian Taylor talk to Josh Lindsay about movies which have redemptive themes or spiritual analogies
  • Your Word of the Week — Just in time for the holidays — Orthorexia
  • …Also, with December 25th close at hand: “Back in the days when I was a fire-breathing Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher, I encouraged church members to use the Christmas holiday as an opportunity to witness to their unsaved relatives. Hell is hot and death is certain, I told congregants. Dare we ignore their plight?  Remember, the Bible says that if we fail to warn our wicked relatives of their wicked ways and they die and go to hell, their blood will be on our hands. Despite my attempts to guilt church members into evangelizing their relatives, not one member reported successfully doing so.” From there, the language gets stronger.
  • Bee of the Week: A mandatory heresy warning before each TBN broadcast
  • Finally, Matthew Pierce on being a Church kid in 1997
  • …or better yet, Michael’s investigation of bizarre Christian websites including — no really, we have to give this one its own link…
  • …including Rebecca St. James Transvestigation, which is actually just a YouTube link. Michael describes it: “The intersection of trans issues and theology is a fascinating, fertile ground that is ripe for discussion. A topic that begs further scholarly debate. This is not that. This is an 8-minute rant that questions whether Christian singer Rebecca St. James is a man in disguise, sent from the Illuminati…The woman behind this video is the Apostle Laura Lee, AKA Laura Lee Dykstra…Exploring her channel is exhausting. I did, and I will summarize it for you: She claims that Kenneth Copeland might be Tom Hanks, and that Obama is both Stephen Colbert and also a woman.” (Underlining added. Just in case you doubted what you were reading.)

Canada Corner and Catholic Corner along with Leadership Lessons and Essay of the Week return next week. Maybe. There were several articles that crossed all these categories for your consideration. Have your suggestions to me by 9:00 PM Monday if at all possible.

November 30, 2016

Wednesday Link List

my-brain-has-too-many-tabs-open

We’re not part of the online echo chamber. You’ll find links here you won’t find elsewhere, plus a few we stole outright. The piece of wall decor above is from P. Graham Dunn; you can order it by clicking the image.

 

i-will-cut-you

November 23, 2016

Wednesday Link List

starry-night-holy-night

The above seasonally-appropriate treatment of a VanGogh classic is by Dan Reynolds who works in a variety of media. You can learn more about owning the original or a $25 print by clicking the image or this link

A shorter list this week as my 74% American readership is preoccupied with travel, turkey, football and what one advertiser called “Thanksgathering.”

hipster-nativity-set

 

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