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.

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February 26, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Chocolate Pope - NBC News Photo

The link list knows no borders, so you won’t find any gloating about Canada’s Olympic hockey wins here. Click anything below and you’ll be redirected to PARSE, the blog of Leadership Journal, a ministry of Christianity Today; then click each link there.

If you’re not busy this week snapping up Son of God movie tickets, you can check out Paul Wilkinson’s other writing at Thinking Out Loud.

"Jonah Leaving the Whale" by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1600

“Jonah Leaving the Whale” by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1600

September 26, 2010

Frontline Ministry

I was going to just casually include this in one of the Wednesday link lists here, but I realized it needed a longer setup.


Tony Miano has a blog, The Lawman Chronicles, which gets its name from the years Tony spent in law enforcement, which I’ve been reading for a long time.   He does a lot of street preaching, and seems to strongly subscribe to the Ray Comfort school of evangelism, sometimes referred to as “The Law and The Gospel” approach to what is termed “soul winning.”

Now right away, I know there are people reading this who I have immediately alienated because that whole methodology is about 180-degrees different from what you believe in.   But you know, I think you need to give the dozen or so minutes it takes to watch the related video because I think we all need to see ministry on the frontlines.

I’m not doing this blog post today because I necessarily agree that this is the best approach, or that everybody should be called to evangelism, or that other methodologies are not as good.   Nor do I do this solely so that we can sit on the sidelines and critique the process like Statler and Waldorf, the two guys in the upper balcony on The Muppet Show.

I admire guys like Tony.   They are doing something, something they believe in with great passion, while other people are doing nothing.   In fact, I would want to disqualify anyone from commenting on this unless they have shared a verbal witness with at least one person in the past fortnight.

Of course, where we might differ is what constitutes “sharing a verbal witness.”    For some, like William Booth, that meant putting a uniform to distinguish himself from the surrounding culture; to take his turf with him so that everyone was meeting him on his turf.    Then, a step or two down from that type of identification there are contemporary street preachers like Tony.   And then there’s people who prefer “witness lite.”

The trouble with “witness lite” is that it’s often neither Biblio-centric or Christo-centric.    It neither draws directly on the source (the Word) nor the object (the Savior) of its intent.

I don’t necessarily agree with “The Law and the Gospel” approach as an all-purpose template.   It seems very formulaic.   Eric, the guy in the video in this link, is coming from a Roman Catholic background, and I think there are ways of identifying and connecting with that personal history and ‘tweaking’ the approach accordingly.

But again, if you’re reading this and you’re not doing anything, you’ve got to have something to fall back on.   The “Roman Road;” the “Four Spiritual Laws;” the “Bridge Illustration;” etc., are all examples of materials you want to always have, at least figuratively, in your back pocket.  Scripture tells us to always be prepared to give a response for the hope that we have.

I also realize that someone will want to note that the video linked here documents a somewhat artificial example of one-to-one street ministry, since Eric was fully aware of the camera; fully aware that he was being filmed.   I thought about that in the first three or four minutes, but I’m not sure it really distorted or affected his responses.   I do question the presence of cameras on this type of outing, though I suppose if this serves as a model for others, it has some validity.

It doesn’t always though.   Some of the other videos of this ilk include some rather tense exchanges involving street preaching to larger crowds.   Occasionally, someone versed in less confrontational approaches will question whether or not this more traditional approach conveys Christian love and compassion.    Sadly, it’s at that point some polarization takes place with the street preachers suggesting the post-modern Christians are “false converts.”

Knowing many genuinely-converted, Spirit-indwelled Christ-followers on both sides of this divide, I can say honestly that at this point it becomes a battle that nobody will win.    The “Law and Gospel” people feel that more modern approaches neither produce an acknowledgment of sin nor do they convey the essence of the hope of the gospel.    The new “Missional” believers are committed to outreach, but know too many statistics proving that guilt and fear produce short-term decisions but not long-term disciples; and showing that many a hasty conversion just doesn’t ‘stick’ over time.

What is the solution?

I don’t believe in formulas or templates.   I believe you should know a basic plan for conveying the essence of the following: (a) that we are sinners in need of forgiveness; (b) that such forgiveness is offered in Christ’s work on Calvary; and (c) how a person avails themselves of this forgiveness and moves, as the older Bibles put it, “from death to life.”   But it should be unique to your personality and flexible to the situation you’re in.   Jesus healed one blind man in an instant, but with another, it was a more tentative, two-step process.

But not everybody has the gift of “closing the sale.”   You may be a major influence in someone’s life, but it may be God’s choice that someone else is the chosen instrument to help that person “cross the line of faith.”   Bill Hybels devotes a chapter — and a moving example — to this in Just Walk Across The Room; and Mark Mittelberg and Lee Strobel bring no less than 42 different examples of varying forms of witness in The Unexpected Adventure.

My bias is a little toward Hybels, Strobel and Mittelberg; but I raise this whole topic today because I think you’ve really got to watch the video and look at the other things people are doing; not to armchair quarterback their approach or critique them, but to allow it to inspire you to do more.

Here is the link to the video, and also embedded in the comments section of this very post.   But if you link to Tony’s blog, take some time to click over to other posts and get a feel for what he is doing, because the major take-away from all this is that he is, in fact, doing.

You can also click through from the video itself (see comments) or from this direct video link to more than two dozen other videos the group that filmed this have posted at YouTube.

Related post on this blog:  Considering Deborah Drapper (May 15, 2009)

May 15, 2009

The Law and the Gospel

One of the joys of blogging is that you get to experience sectors of the Christian world that you might otherwise miss.    Even if you’ve been walking with Jesus for years — or in some cases, like mine, decades — there is always something new to learn.

Deborah DrapperSeveral weeks ago I linked to the YouTube postings of a BBC documentary on 13-year-old Deborah Drapper.    Her story is a mixture of elements:  A somewhat isolated, innocent, homeschooled girl in rural England who somehow has no fear when it comes to wading into a group of partying teens on a Friday night to ask them some serious faith questions.    Her style is forceful and direct; a style gained from listening nightly to podcasts from Ray Comfort’s Way of the Master website.

So when I learned this week that Deborah had a blog, I took a few minutes to scan it, and in that short time a phrase somewhat jumped out at me several times:

The Law and the Gospel

Having seen the entire BBC show helped here, and if you haven’t you’re at somewhat of a disadvantage,  but Ms. Drapper’s style begins — always — with the Ten Commandments as an example of how peoples’ beliefs that they are “good” can never possibly line up with God’s “Big Ten.”

That’s a fair approach.    I’ve heard Bill Hybels and Andy Stanley do the same, and I was on the same track a few weeks ago when I preached in a Toronto church on the story of the rich young official (or rich young aristocrat, or rich young bureaucrat, or rich young ruler.)   He felt he had kept all ten commandments, but then Jesus helps him to see the impossibility of human righteousness — “there is none good but God.”

But watching Deborah, I got a slightly different vibe.    I’m not sure if it was just a reaction to her formulaic approach — she is only 13, after all — but I think it was her total reliance on the “big ten” as the basis for her verbal witness.   The British Teens she spoke with would wake up the next morning  remembering the message of the Ten Commandments, and not the grace of God in sending Jesus, or the ability of Jesus to meet us at our point of need.

(As an aside, this is why we don’t hire high school students where I work.   There are too many complex “life issues” that people are facing that younger people haven’t necessarily dealt with.)

Unsure what vibe I was sensing, I was finally able to articulate it when I saw the phrase “The Law and the Gospel,”  or “The Ten Commandments, The Law and the Gospel” so clearly printed on her blog.   The nuances of adding “The Law” so distinctly to the presentation are not part of my previous experience.  (Google the phrase for examples of other places where it’s used online.)

Again, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want to quench everything that God is doing through Deborah.    And I’m not here to debate the effectiveness of The Way of the Master, or even The Four Spiritual Laws, or even apologetics in general.

The only point I want to make today — and ask your response to it — is that there seemed to be something awkward about going out for an evening of evangelism with the premise that you’re going to share “The Law” with people; and I say that recognizing that “The Gospel” is only good news in light of the condemnation that the law puts everyone under.   There seemed to be something definitely not postmodern about it.     Read the first page currently up on her blog, and tell me if I’m over-reacting.

Visitors:  You may not be here by accident! If you got here from a WordPress or search tag and you’re not a Christ-follower, please understand that in critiquing the approach I’m not minimizing the message or its urgency.   All of us are constantly looking for ways to help the broader population confront the eternal questions that need to be faced.    At the end of the day, Deborah, Ray Comfort and I would have you reach the same conclusion, namely that Jesus’ claim to be God was true, and therefore his message needs to be clearly heard and individually applied.     God is a righteous judge, but also rich in grace,  mercy and compassion.   To hear a presentation like Deborah’s, continue to this site.

January 30, 2009

Fireproof: Never Leave Your Partner Behind

Filed under: Christianity, Faith, family, marriage, Religion — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:28 pm

fireproofThe movie Fireproof, for the most part, never played in theatres in Canada, so this week’s video release was our first look at the film.   Once again, the people at Sherwood Church delivered an amazing production.   This is the work of one local church. Where were these people when I was forced to view tacky Christian flicks as a kid?

While the result might not impressed more regular cinema attendees — hey, we don’t get out much, but we know no film is perfect —  I found myself constantly thinking, “Okay, I like how they did that;” or “It was wise letting the audience just infer that development without spelling it out;” or “It was realistic to insert that moment of comic relief in the middle of that scene.”  Christian films have matured.

The acting was credible, even on the part of Kirk Cameron, oft-criticized for his performances in the Left Behind series.   The use of music was good, too; although more would have been better; some scenes seemed “too quiet” lacking in background  sound textures and what are termed Foley effects.

But you know, even if the acting had been terrible and the thing was recorded in 16mm film; there is no denying that this is an absolutely powerful story, which delivers twists and turns right to the very end.   There is a great script at work here; which is part of a larger script:  the power of God to change lives, even lives in the middle of crisis.

Unlike its predecessor, Facing the Giants, the movie Fireproof arrives in DVD accompanied by a host of ancillary products.   There is the Fireproof Couples Kit, the Fireproof marriage curriculum (both Outreach, Inc.), the novelization of the movie (Thos. Nelson), the marriage book (Christian Literature Crusade), and the book Love Dare (Broadman).   Each one of these products is designed to allow those who have seen the movie and want to take further steps to have a means by which to do so.   (Not necessarily so noble are the t-shirts and obligatory soundtrack CD.)

This is a movie that is evocative without being emotionally exploitative.   It is evangelistic without being overbearing about it.   All couples, especially couples in crisis should watch this together.

I can’t wait to see what production the people at Sherwood bring us next.

fireproof_header

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