Thinking Out Loud

August 17, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Time for another episode of Link-O-Rama…

  • Our opening graphic is a t-shirt from Café Press which can be yours for only $27.00 U.S.  It’s called “The lamest sin.”
  • In a single-shot sermon from a guy who always preaches in series, Andy Stanley delivers the strongest-ever apologetic for small group ministry in a message titled Stumbling Along.
  • Bill Hybels addresses delegates to this year’s Leadership Summit as to why Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, was pressured by the gay community into cancelling his signed contract to be a speaker at the event.
  • In this week’s chapter of Schullergate, the big glass church gets told they can’t decide not to sell, but need  to accept one of the bid offers.  Details at Orange County Register, but follow the Register for updates on this as the story changes regularly.    This just in: The Roman Catholic diocese has raised its bid.
  • CBN News reports an affiliate of a well-known terror organization is using four animated cartoons to recruit children.
  • Kanon Tipton - Pint Sized Preacher

    A kids story of another kind: Kanon Tipton, the 4-year old “pint-sized preacher” gets interviewed on NBC’s Today Show.

  • Here’s another one of those online prayer request sites.  I’m not sure about all this.  I still think your best bet is to be involved with a group of brothers and sisters who will come alongside to pray with you when you need them.  Fall is a good time to join a small group.  If your church doesn’t have them, find one that does which allows outsiders to join.
  • Fall kickoff got you bewildered?  Here are ten reason to under program your church from Jared Wilson.  Sample: “If a church looks like it’s doing lots of things, we tend to think it’s doing great things for God. When really it may just be providing lots of religious goods and services. “
  • The boomers aren’t going to accept being called “seniors” which raises other questions about how we do “seniors’ ministry.”  Start at Trey Morgan’s blog and then link through for more from Thom Rainer.
  • It’s not just hell and heaven.  Some Evangelical scholars are questioning the whole “Adam and Eve” thing.  Start at Tony Jones’ blog and the click through for the full NPR story.
  • The current Miss Canada, Tara Teng, kicked of the Ignite the Road to Justice Tour on Monday, traveling from Vancouver to Ottawa thru September 4th to raise awareness of human trafficking.  More in this story at B.C. Province.
  • Speaking of which, Dr. Robert Peterson of Covenant Theological Seminary offers a video response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins.
  • Pete Wilson gets embedded deep behind the lines at Saddleback Church and does some serious Megachurch myth-busting.
  • Indie music link of the week: Toronto-based Every Spare Second — click the titles in the left margin to play full songs.  Similar to Owl City and To Tell.
  • Greg Laurie says that casual, consensual sex is hurting America.
  • Christianity Today talks to the cast and director of the movie, The Help.
  • Pastor Michael Minor decided the best way to fight the obesity epidemic was to begin in the church fellowship hall.  Might not be a lot finger-lickin’ going on at his Tampa church.
  • On Thursday, Regent Radio, the internet broadcast arm of Regent College, begins an 11-lecture series by historian and missiologist Andrew Walls.  The lecture series “From Tertullian to Tutu: 2,000 Years of christian History in Africa…” was delivered live at Regent. One free lecture per day at Regent Radio; click the play arrow in the middle of the page.
  • “People can’t worship while bats rain droppings and urine over them. Services have had to be cancelled.”  That’s the complaint over at St. Hilda’s Church in Ellerburn, somewhere in the UK; but an environmental group is preventing the church from evicting the bats.
  • A gay website — no I’m not a regular reader, thanks for asking — is reporting a Princeton Review study saying that Wheaton College is the least LGBT-friendly school in the U.S.  Gee, ya think?
  • Here’s a break from all the seriousness with Beaker from Sesame Street performing Ode to Joy. Join the fifteen million viewers to date.
  • Our Christian-flavored cartoon discovery of the week was Cake or Death by Alex Baker, and I hope to soon go through the archives and read every single one of them.  Here are some recent entries:

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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.

April 6, 2011

Wednesday Link List

I want to do something different this week and begin with a link to a page that contains about a dozen other links.  Last week seven influential pastors gathered together to discuss “the elephant in the room” — several of them actually — at the appropriately titled Elephant Room Conference. Trevin Wax does a subject-by-subject set of links to two other bloggers, Canada’s Chris Vacher and Arizona’s Jake Johnson.  It’s not full transcripts, just what you’d expect to post yourself if you were listening with two ears and typing with two fingers (or thumbs).

The Elephant Room subjects and speakers were:

  • Session 1: Preaching to Build the Attendance vs. Preaching to Build the Attendees
    – Matt Chandler & Steven Furtick
  • Session 2: Culture in the Church vs. Church in the Culture
    – Mark Driscoll & Perry Noble
  • Session 3: Compassion Amplifies the Gospel vs. Compassion Distorts the Gospel
    – Greg Laurie & David Platt
  • Session 4: Unity: Can’t We All Get Along? vs. Discernment: My Way or the Highway
    – Steven Furtick & James MacDonald
  • Session 5: Multi-Site: Personality Cult vs. God’s Greater Glory
    – Perry Noble & Matt Chandler
  • Session 6: Money?
    David Platt & James MacDonald
  • Session 7: Love the Gospel vs. Share the Gospel
    – Greg Laurie & Mark Driscoll

…I know, I know; now you’re curious.  There are a lot of interesting quotations from this one-day conference, which originated at one of the Harvest Bible Chapel locations and was simulcast to 15 U.S. and one Canadian location.  So here again is the magic link.  Also, Zach posted a video clip from the conference yesterday.

And now here’s the rest of this week’s blog connectivity:

  • Yesterday marks one year since the passing of Internet Monk founder Michael Spencer.  His wife Denise shares Michael’s approach to adventure.
  • Tony Campolo suggests to Huffington’s readers that there’s other dynamics at play in the saga that might be called, “The Rise and Fall of the Crystal Cathedral;” dynamics owing to the changing ethnic demographics of Garden Grove, California.
  • Here’s a special link to the first chapter of former Planned Parenthood employee Abby Johnson’s book Unplannedfile opens as .pdf .
  • If your first name is Tim and your second name begins with Ch—, chances are you have a new book about pornography.  First it was Tim Challies, and now Tim Chester.
  • Summer is coming!  If you want to get dirty on the streets of Philadelphia with Shane Claiborne’s Simple Way community, here’s how you connect to attend events.
  • Donald Miller buys a copy of Love Wins online and offers a straight-forward and concise review.
  • For all you worship leaders out there:  Here’s how to tell if you’re a classical music nerd.
  • This one’s from 2007, but our YouTube link this week asks the musical question, “What if Worship was Like an NBA Game?
  • From the blog, Small Steps to Glory, here’s a look at a modern day Goliath (well the height part anyway) which gives some perspective to the “David And” story.
  • At Arthur Sido’s blog this week, I discovered this trailer for an upcoming documentary on the education system, Indoctrination.
  • For all you techies out there, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to broadcast your church services on the internet.
  • 130 Churches in Calgary, Alberta, Canada are coming together to raise $1.5M to reduce the mortgage on a transitional housing facility established in 2009.
  • Proverbs 3 promises us, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid;when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” So then what about those of us who simply don’t get a good night’s sleep.  Ryan rumbles through a topic that I totally identify with.
  • If you find the links I run to religion stories at CNN and USAToday a little too American for you and you’d like to explore stories from the broader world of spiritual interest, here’s the link to the religion page of Reuters News Service.
  • send your own link suggestions by 8:00 PM EST on Monday.
  • Today’s picture:  Songwriter Mandy Thompson cures writer’s block by going analog:

  • I’ve always had a huge interest in the spiritual themes that turn up in the comic pages of the daily newspaper.  Comic writers can say things in ways others cannot.  I’ve used Dennis the Menace — now drawn by Marcus Hamilton — here a few times, with the result that one of the panels now hangs in my office.  Here’s another kids-eye-view of God as only Dennis can see it:

July 14, 2010

Wednesday Link List

We’re back with the links… some of these have been accumulating for a few weeks, and there have been many great posts lately at Christianity Today, which are represented here:

February 18, 2010

Christian Radio in Crisis

The names and faces are familiar as are the names of the various radio programs:

  • Insight for Living – Chuck Swindoll
  • Turning Point – David Jeremiah
  • Thru The Bible – J. Vernon McGee
  • Back to the Bible – Woodrow Kroll
  • In Touch – Charles Stanley
  • Grace to You – John MacArthur
  • Love Worth Finding – Adrian Rogers
  • Haven Today – Charles Morris
  • Let My People Think – Ravi Zacharias
  • Bible Answer Man – Hank Hanegraaff

Notice anything?   No, I mean besides the fact they’re all male.   (And all American.)  This is in every sense of the word, an “old boys network.”   Chip Ingram may still look young in his publicity shots, and James MacDonald may open with a cool David Crowder theme song, but exceptions aside, Christian radio is playing host to an older generation of radio preachers, which isn’t the generation they need to attract if the medium is to survive.

You may wish to suggest that maybe it’s just time for the medium to die off.   After all, look what YouTube has done to the hours people formerly spent watching broadcast, cable and satellite television.   The 42″ screen has unexpectedly lost ground to the 17″ monitor.    The plasma screen may be high definition, but the next generation would rather program their own visual channels, even if the images are jumpy, grainy or pixelating.

But is there an opportunity being lost?   Last time I checked, cars still come with FM radios.   It’s still the medium of choice if you’re caught in a traffic tie-up looking for an alternative route.   It’s still what you’ve got if the iPod battery fails or one of the earbuds isn’t working.   And it’s weather forecasts are still reasonably up-to-date and free-of-charge.

No, the problem isn’t with radio itself.  The problem is that a new generation of pastors doesn’t want to fuss with purchasing airtime and building that kind of media ministry.   Keeping the multi-site satellite link working weekly is enough technical challenge for one week.   The demographic they see on Sunday morning grew up with time shifting anyway.   They can PVR their favorite program and view it anytime; so they don’t need some guy on radio telling them, “Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow at 6:00 PM…”

I’ve never understood why an audio cassette version of the VCR never happened, but then I’ve never understood why for years, push-buttons allowed people to find AM and FM stations with pinpoint accuracy in their cars, while at home they had to slide a “dial” back and forth.   Even today, some digital tuners still offer frustrations unknown to driving with preset stations.

Furthermore, today’s younger pastors don’t want to start a branch of their ministry that might start bleeding red ink, which might lead to the type of on-air begging that has tainted the Christian radio medium.

No, radio just isn’t at the forefront for a new generation of Christians.   They know more about Francis Chan than Francis Shaeffer; they prefer Andy Stanley to Charles Stanley.    They download Rob Bell, discuss Greg Boyd’s take on the Gospel of Luke,  and work out to the latest Craig Groeschel sermon from Lifechurch.   They discuss the latest interview available at Drew Marshall’s website, debate the latest pronouncement from Mark Driscoll, and tell their friends about Pete Wilson’s sermon download page.

None of this is lost on Christian radio ministries.   Weekly podcasts from Focus on the Family, Greg Laurie and even John Piper rank among the top ten each week.   They’ve taken their content and propelled it forward into the new media.

Which brings us to the point of all this.   The proprietors of the new media need to make their content backward compatible.   All of this great, next-generation communication of the Good News, and so very little of it being heard over traditional broadcast frequencies.

Some visionary person needs to create a radio outlet for the vast number of sermon podcasts being created each week by younger leaders in a new era of multi-site, emerging, missional, or just plain newly-planted churches.   It’s time the computer-less, broadband-less, or those simply out-of-the-loop got to hear what some of us are already enjoying.    And personally, I think an older generation of Christ-followers would appreciate having some fresh new voices at the table.

The content is already recorded.    The radio stations already exist.   Let’s introduce the two to each other.   Before it’s too late for Christian radio.

Related post on this blog — A fictional story about Pastor Boone, who gets offered some free radio time and instead of just putting his church service on the radio…

Related post on this blog — My proposal to make Worship Network’s Sunday Setlists into a weekly Christian radio show.

Related post on this blog — This  links to a USAToday Religion story on how Christian radio is dealing with the new economic realities, attracting younger listeners, and keeping donations coming.

Related post at The Church Report — James Dobson and son Ryan Dobson are teaming up to launch a new radio ministry.

Appendix — Arbitron Podcast demographics worth knowing — and these go back to 2006! —





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