Thinking Out Loud

November 10, 2009

Term Paper Topics for Discernment Ministries

term paperWow!  The first semester of college is ending sooner than it began, so it’s time to hand out the topics for your term paper assignments.   You’ve proved yourself more than adept at finding fault with Rob Bell, The Shack, Dan Kimball, Brian McLaren, “New Monasticism,” Rick Warren, “Emergent Church,” anything Willow Creek-related, “spiritual formation,” Donald Miller, and hundreds of others.   (But never Joyce Meyer… that’s odd… )

You guys at CRI did really good term work so you’re exempt from the final essay.   For the rest of you…

You say you’re a discernment ministry so let’s see some discerning; only let’s give all your existing targets a rest.  Choose your topic:

  1. Twenty years ago your equivalents would be railing against Christian rock music.   So let’s take a run at it, 2009-style.   Check out the latest stuff and the complete back catalog from Switchfoot, Skillet, Hawk Nelson, TobyMac, Tenth Avenue North and Kutless and apply the same critical faculties to some in-depth analysis of the lyrics Christian youth are listening to.   To avoid distraction, use headphones and turn the volume really, really loud so you don’t miss any backward masking.   Bonus marks for dissecting the worship songs of Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, David Crowder and Hillsong United.
  2. You’re concerned about a whole new generation of authors and speakers who are speaking into the lives of Christians, but completely ignoring a huge genre.   Pour yourself a chai and curl up on the divan with the complete works of Karen Kingsbury, Beverly Lewis, Randy Singer, Randy Alcorn (fiction only), Melody Carlson, Lynn Austin and of course, Ted Dekker.   Don’t skip a single page.  Bonus marks for a study of the Max Lucado Wemmicks series and all the Steeple Hill/Love Inspired pocket books released since 2006.     Let us know what you find.
  3. Every Evangelical will tell you that the deuterocanonical books don’t belong in the Bible, but how we do know this for sure?   Without resorting to the historical decisions that led to their inclusion or exclusion from the Bibles of different faith groups, and relying entirely on the text and related commentaries, explore the Apocryphal books verse by verse highlighting such things as the inherent dangers in Methodists reading Bel and the Dragon.   Be sure to spend at least a month on this, doing no other writing nor taking any phone calls during this period of intense study.
  4. What are we really teaching our children?   Not one of the discernment ministries with any profile has noted any examination of what’s really being conveyed through the curriculum of Gospel Light, Scripture Press, David C. Cook, Standard Publishing, Regular Baptist Press,  and Augsburg Fortress.   Part one of this involves study of the publishers listed above; part two involves a more intense study of Group’s Hands-On Active Bible Curriculum by actually teaching a Sunday School class of elementary grade children for the next six weeks.   After all, who better to teach kids than the head of a ministry that encourages kids to study God’s Word.   (Note:  With the kids, you must stick to the curriculum itself; your paper will be disqualified if you get into a rant with the Grade 3 class about Benny Hinn or Joel Osteen.)  Bonus marks for all the theological errors you can uncover in the Veggie Tales series.
  5. The “study abroad” question:   You’ll purchase airplane tickets to connect you with about fifty different venues between now and Christmas to study what’s really going on with Christian comedy.   The comedians themselves are quite accustomed to having hecklers in the audience, so they won’t mind a few discernment ministry folk sitting in the front row shouting out, “I think that last joke was built on a flawed doctrinal premise.”   A few of our Christian brothers do their comedy shtick in clubs with liquor licenses, so to not miss the ambiance of the whole show, be sure to order a drink or two before the first set.   If you’re Baptist and haven’t touched alcohol before in your life, just give the bartender that information with the coded signal, “Make it a double.”   Compare and contrast male and female comedians, and those working within the youth ministry paradigm.   Just think Mr. Discernment Minister, you might be a redneck!

Your finished paper should be 650,000 words or more.  That should keep you off the streets, and more importantly, off the airwaves and off the internet for at least 30 days.  This is the kind of hard-hitting analysis you were born for.

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October 14, 2009

Shane Hipps to Join Mars Hill

shane hippsThe announcement several days ago that Shane Hipps, author of Flickering Pixels (Zondervan) would be leaving Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale, Arizona to join the teaching staff of Mars Hill Bible  Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan has been greeted with mixed reactions.   In case you don’t know Shane, here’s how his personal website tells it:

Prior to accepting his call as a pastor, Shane was a strategic planner in advertising where he gained experience in understanding media and culture. Much of his time was spent working on the multimillion-dollar communications strategy for Porsche Cars North America.

Several years into his career, he had a “Damascus” experience in which he realized he was spending his life working diligently to perpetuate consumer culture and promote values that ran counter to his most deeply held beliefs. So he left advertising to pursue his long held interest in spirituality and theology.

He went on to earn a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, and in 2004 accepted a call to serve as Lead Pastor at Trinity.

sheep_off_cliffThe heresy-hunting website Apprising Ministries wasted no time — and no love — to proclaim that Hipps joining Rob Bell amounted to “peas in a corrupt spiritual pod;”  mixing the metaphor with a picture of sheep jumping off a cliff.   C’mon guys, tell us what you really think.

I mentioned last week my own concerns with Rob Bell’s recent interview with the Boston Globe.   But the sensationalism of Apprising — a ministry birthed by Ken Silva, a SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) pastor in America — somewhat destroys their credibility.

Instead, I decided to head over to Trinity Mennonite’s website and in particular take the time to listen to Shane’s announcement — it’s not his final sermon — to his church in its entirety.   It was, I believe one of the finest sermons I’ve ever heard where a pastor defines his calling to move on.   And while the sermon was somewhat of an administrative necessity, he alluded to several passages of scripture.

“I can’t resign from this community.  My heart is still here.   I love this community.   …But I have to leave.   So I told them they’ll either have to fire me or send me.   It is my humble wish that somewhere down the road you will be able to send me, because I need you; I carry you with me.”

Several times he tells his congregation that he loves them.   Something you don’t often hear pastors say with this level of emotion.    He tells them that he didn’t “create” anything at Trinity, but simply “named” the giftings that were working within the congregation.

I personally doubt if any of the Apprising Ministries people bothered to listen to that sermon.   They don’t know Shane’s heart.   And based on their resource list, they don’t understand the next generation — or ministry to the next generation — whether labeled emergent, emerging, missional or postmodern.

You can hear the sermon by clicking on the sermon audio page, and selecting Sunday, October 4th.     Take the time to listen as you’re working at your computer for the next half hour.

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