Thinking Out Loud

February 5, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Things I Hate

They left the worship band’s spotlights on during the sermon this week, and my pastor saw his shadow, which meant six more points before the benediction. Here are some links as I try to forget… 

Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE, which has exclusive rights to the mid-week link.

…if you’re new to this whole link list thing, I did a rare Weekend Link List about ten days ago with some reruns from 2011.

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November 3, 2013

The Circle Maker in Reality

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:03 am

Circle Maker - Mark BattersonI love the fact that Mark Batterson’s books aren’t just academic. He lives out the principles he writes about on a day-to-day basis; or perhaps, better to say, the principles he already lives out on a day-to-day basis get written about in his books. This article appeared on Mark’s blog on October 10th, but I completely missed it until last night. These are the stories I love to celebrate here:

It was nearly five years ago that we started circling the Lincoln Theatre in prayer. And over the last few years, we’ve had several all church events where we’ve gathering our different locations at the Lincoln.  We also tried to pursue it on a weekly basis, but it didn’t pan out because of cost and availability. But like the Israelites who circled Jericho, we kept circling.  We had full faith that God would open the door at the right time.  That time is now. We had our inaugural service at the Lincoln last Sunday, and it’s one of those moments you need to mark as a milestone. In a nutshell, God is faithful.  It was one small step, one giant leap. Can’t wait to see what God is going to do.

So far. So God.

National Community Church - Lincoln Theatre Campus

October 10, 2013

Mark Batterson Goes All In on Newest Book

Of the three books I’ve read by Washington, DC pastor Mark Batterson, All In  is the best one so far. The call to wholehearted surrender to God is reminiscent of another Zondervan bestseller, Kyle Idleman’s Not a Fan. The book re-introduces a term that was often the theme of sermons in a past era: Consecration, as in “Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee.”

All In - Mark BattersonThough Batterson isn’t one to quote song lyrics, another fitting one here might be “I have decided to follow Jesus… no turning back, no turning back.” It’s a book about buying a one-way ticket to wherever God would have you; of giving yourself to Christian service without an escape clause or a backup plan.

Mark Batterson’s writing style is more sermon-like than conversation-like inasmuch as his books show the evidence of carefully considered strategy as to which chapters ought to contain which elements of his research. To be more precise, All In is equal parts:

  • Stories and examples from history or quotations from historical figures; not all of which were necessarily believers.
  • Illustrative examples forming allegories from nature, or sports.
  • Contemporary stories of people who’ve made the news, or obscure people who have connected with Mark through National Capital Church.
  • Old Testament stories.
  • New Testament stories and teaching.

While not wanting to go off too far on a tangent here, this is a How To example of how to write a Christian book, keep it interesting, and give it applicable substance.

So how is my life different after reading this book? I think that some teaching we are exposed to through Christian books and podcasts can have an instantaneous effect, but that more often, certain truths ‘stick’ through the applying of layer upon layer of repetition. This is stuff I need to be reminded of; including examples I need to hear for the first time. The ideal of the Christian life is a life lived in abandon to God.

I think the highest recommendation I can give this book is one that will sound strange out of context: All In is a very disturbing book!  And that’s just what Mark Batterson intended.  

>>>Watch the book trailer at YouTube

A copy of All In was provided to Thinking Out Loud by HarperCollins Canada, the distributor for Zondervan in the frozen north.  Thanks, Mark H.  The book is also the basis for a small group DVD curriculum. For the trailer for that product, click here

For a previous review here of The Circle Maker click here.

July 12, 2011

Best of Thinking out Loud

4 Classic Posts from 2008

During that year before Mrs. W. and I married, I was living with Tony Rossi in a house he owned in northeast Toronto; though we each tended to be home while the other was out. Tony was a member of The Daniel Band, which was for awhile one of Canada’s most popular Christian rock bands. The band was good friends with Glenn Kaiser and Resurrection Band; some of the band members remain connected until this day.

Anyway, in 1978 Tony wrote this song, which I’ve carried in my Bible since. These are not the full lyrics, but without the tune, I thought you’d enjoy it in this abbreviated form.

I’d rather be a servant, and not a master
‘Cause then I could do my duty and I’d be true
I’d rather do the praising, and not be glorified
‘Cause then I could give all the glory to You


I’d rather be a student, and not a teacher
‘Cause then I could learn about the wisdom You bring
I’d rather be an audience and not a vocalist
‘Cause then I could listen to the song that You sing


Well the first shall be last, and the last be first
Well, my Lord, You know that’s how it will be
For to be the greatest we must all be least
Yes, my Lord, You know in this I believe

Tony Rossi, 1978

The Beatitude Creed

How about this for a novel creed:

I believe that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of Heaven.
I believe there will be comfort for those who mourn.
I believe that being meek is a good thing and that those who give everything will inherit the earth.
I believe that those whose heart is set on seeking righteousness will find it.
I believe the merciful will receive more than they think they deserve.
I believe the pure in heart will be blessed and will see God.
I believe that those who long for peace and do more than others think is safe are children of the living God.
I believe in a place of safety for those who are hurt for trying to do the right thing.

I believe that being poor, and ignored and weak, and sick and tired and broken and messed up and kicked around is not as spiritually dangerous as being self-satisfied and clever and well-clothed and well-fed and degreed and creed-ed and important.

~posted July 17th, 2008 at A Life Reviewed blog – Joe and Heather live in Coventry in the English West Midlands

…something similar…

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.(Matt. 5:3)
Author and theologian Monika Hellwig gives us the following:
  1. The poor in spirit know they are in need and can’t help themselves.
  2. The poor in spirit know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people but also their interdependence with others.
  3. The poor in spirit rest their security not on things but on people.
  4. The poor in spirit have no exaggerated sense of their own importance and no exaggerated need of privacy.
  5. The poor in spirit are less interested in competition and more interested in cooperation.
  6. The poor in spirit instinctively appreciate family, love and relationships over things.
  7. The poor in spirit can wait, because they have learned patience.
  8. The fears of the poor in spirit are more realistic and exaggerate less, because they already know they can survive great suffering and want.
  9. When the poor in spirit have the gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threatening or scolding.
  10. The poor in spirit can respond to the call of the gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.

~found in files; original source unknown

Lion Chaser’s Manifesto
by Mark Batterson

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze new trails. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don’t try to be who you’re not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away.

April 13, 2011

Wednesday Link List


  • Was going to link the above video, but decided it really needed to be here on its own.
  • Kathy Escobar gets invited to speak at a graduation by someone who wants to inspire the students by pushing the envelope; but then, when word is out that a woman pastor has been asked to speak, she gets un-invited.
  • It turns out Bethany Hamilton’s family had a tough fight with the film directors to keep the faith element visible in the movie Soul Surfer.  But the CNN article notes that removing the faith element would have killed the film entirely.
  • Rick Kirkpatrick launched a new site Worship Mythbusters which introduces an audio podcast — there are six so far — for worship leaders (and others) which runs about a half hour.  (We listened to episode three.)
  • “He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…”  Most of us know this passage in Philippians well, and have assumed it to be an early church hymn, but Gordon Fee suggests it doesn’t fit an established pattern.
  • Mark Batterson figured the next phase for D.C.’s National Community Church would involve 3 to 4 years.  Then God said, “How about 3 to 4 weeks?”  The church is purchasing an existing church building on a Capitol Hill main street.
  • XXXChurch founder Craig Gross reminds us again what we’ve been hearing for a few years now: Addiction to adult content online is increasingly a problem for women.
  • Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like reviews last Friday night’s 20/20 program at ABC Television dealing with the IFB Church, or Independent Fundamentalist Baptists.  Speaking of which…
  • A young girl was allegedly removed from a Mennonite home where parents were following the book Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl, but because this child didn’t die, it didn’t get media attention.
  • David Fitch argues for a different type of church leader, with a half dozen descriptions of what that leader is, and what he or she isn’t.
  • My goodness!  There really is a typo in the climactic final line of Rob Bell’s Love Wins. Guess it happens to the best of them, right?
  • Bob Glenn acknowledges the WWJD type of thinking is harmful as it reduces Christian living to a slogan.
  • It’s time again for Kent Shaffer’s list of the top 200 Christian blogs.  And once again, I am quite sure, this blog was # 201!!
  • Rachel Held Evans quotes her own book with a disturbing suggestion that in advancing apologetics, we created a monster.
  • If you remember the humor and satire blog, Tom in the Box, you might want to know that it has somewhat resurfaced as The Heretic Mug Collection.
  • And Jason Boyett has mellowed out a little at his new home at Beliefnet. Check out his series of interviews on different types of “conversion” experiences.
  • On February 25th, Jim Lehmer decided that social media is about to collapse, and he hasn’t blogged since.  Obviously getting ready for what he calls, “the great un-friending.’
  • Is it just me or does pastor Steven Furtick’s blog render completely differently in Firefox than it does in Chrome?
  • To wrap up this week… If you’re the parent of a tween, you already know who Rebecca Black is, and the song that what follows below is a well-done parody of… (I think they actually improved the song!)

October 20, 2010

Wednesday Link List

  • Making the Same Mistake Twice? Department:  Nobody felt the original reached its true potential so there’s going to be a remake of the Left Behind movie.   Guess who’s doing it?  Cloud Ten Pictures, the exact same company that made the first one.   Huh?
  • Truth is Stranger than Fiction Department:  The American who pastor who threatened to burn the Qu’ran and then didn’t is getting a free car just for being a good boy.  “Okay, Terry; you’ve been a good boy and remembered not to play with matches; so here’s the present we promised you…”
  • Personal Inventory Department:  Trey Morgan on the various things people use to gauge their self-worth.  What’s your’s based on?
  • Indie Christian Artist Department:   If you like dance music with bass that thumps while at the same time enjoying strongly Bible-based lyrics, check out the song “Life” by artist Beckah Shae.   Or go here for the YouTube now closing in on 200,000 views.   (Is that someone blowing a shofar in the background?)  Here’s another one:  Here in this Moment is closing in on 300,000 views.
  • Iniquities, Transgressions and Sins, Oh My! Department:  Washington, DC pastor Mark Batterson introduces the Jewish understanding of the three dimensions of sin.
  • Ecclesiology For Fun and Profit Department:  David Paul Door says when you plant a church, you have to think less like a pastor and more like a missionary.
  • You Really Should Read This Department:  A Christianity Today interview with Joni Earekson Tada on suffering, chronic pain, and breast cancer.
  • “I’m a Full Gospel Preacher” Department:   Challies posted this link this week to Erik Raymond, the Irish Calvinist, answering the musical question: Why are some pastors so fat? Except he didn’t bother with the word “some.”
  • Gettin’ Ready to Party Department:  If tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1611 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the KJV, the author of Majestie: The King Behind the King James Bible figures we’d better know a little about James Stuart.  Here’s the video trailer for the book which officially released yesterday.
  • Why Can’t We All Just Sing Along? Department:  CNN gets church choirs across North America to join together on a verse and chorus of Andrae Crouch’s classic, “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power;” and then attempts to blend them all as one.
  • Amish Fiction Overload Department:  If you can’t get enough of the Amish through the fiction section of your Christian bookstore, you can learn more about them in the popular blog Amish America.
  • For our cartoon today, we return to the most prolific of the Baptist Press artists, Joe McKeever:

May 12, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Time for this week’s links.   I think I need to just be boring and call this by the same title each week, the perfunctory Wednesday Link List.   But the lynx, the chain links, the cuff links and the golf links will make an occasional appearance.    This was a very busy week online for a lot of people.   Pick a few of these and let me (or them) know you what you think:

  • Video link of the week is the animation of a great Sovereign Grace Music song, The Prodigal.
  • There are seven letters to different churches in the first chapters of Revelation.   Now it’s 2010 and you have the chance to write The Eighth Letter.    I don’t usually promote conferences, but that’s the premise of one coming to Toronto in October, with guests Ron Sider, Shane Claiborne, Andy Couch, and perhaps even you:  Three people will be selected to have their own 15 minutes of fame.
  • Shaun Groves talks to Christian business students and asks the musical question; “Is ‘Christian’ and ‘business’ not a bit of a contradiction?”
  • Ever read Jewish blogs?   Everybody knows cheeseburgers are not kosher (although your cat can has them) but here’s some detail why that is, and why adding cheese to your chicken sandwich is simply a case of guilty by association.
  • After a discussion with a police community support officer, who is also “the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered liaison officer” for his area, a UK street preacher is  jailed for saying homosexuality is a sin.
  • Most of the stuff on Wayne Leman’s blog about Bible translation issues may be over the heads of many, but here’s a simple post on how a Bible version expert appreciates a titanic translation.
  • Trevin Wax rightly calls into question the tradition in some churches of noting (in small ways) or giving an entire service over (in really big ways) to Mother’s Day.
  • Are there things we know about God that we don’t know from the Bible?   Dan Phillips launches a series on this topic that will make you think, but not everybody is going to agree about, on extra-Biblical revelation.  (Hit the home page to continue to locate subsequent discussions.)
  • Here’s a very new question-and-answer blog that bridges the gap between parents and teenagers.   Later this week we’ll introduce Matt who started it, but meanwhile, checkout ihaveaQ.
  • Mark Batterson thinks we need to listen to the voice of innovation, but also the voice of wisdom if we want to avoid making the classic mistake.
  • Some classic Ben Arment this week on the difference between a teacher and an exhorter is reposted at Christianity 201.
  • The media may have moved on, but the messy cleanup in Nashville continues, with one particular church — operating out of a building where they’ve yet to hold their first service — doing a lot of the heavy lifting.   Pete Wilson also thinks a 1,00o year flood is a 1,000 year ministry opportunity.

  • Liberty University’s seminary president Ergun Caner says he grew up Muslim, but now others are saying his claims are unsubstantiated.

  • Coming soon to a Holiday Inn near you… (not really) The reunion of the veteran Christian rock band Petra.  Tour kicks off in October.
  • Okay, so I’m the billionth blogger to link to this, but North Point Media did a really good spoof of “contemprovant” Churches in this Vimeo clip, Sunday’s Comin’.
  • In our “scariest thing done in the name of Christianity” department, check out the people “aisle running” at Stuff Fundies Like.  (But I’m sure next week SFL will find something scarier.)
  • In our “beating up Donald Miller” department, here’s a look at the question, “Is it really authentic to publicly confess sins you didn’t commit to people who weren’t sinned against?”   I always thought it was a rather inspired thing to do, but here’s an opinion that it’s really done out of pride.
  • In our “Let’s just keep to ourselves” department, here’s a critique of the mechanics of Tim Challies latest Christian book reader’s survey.  Also, here’s how the Calvin Crowd responded.

  • Here’s a worldwide look at what our online search terms say about our spiritual interests versus our interest in sex.

  • Our cartoonist today is a return visit by Joe McKeever at Baptist press, who does a new cartoon daily.

asdf

July 23, 2009

Free Market Small Groups: National Community Church

In a few weeks churches will be starting to promote the fall season of small group ministry.  In the part of the world where we live, the dominant model is one where the pastoral leadership determines a course of study for the whole church, regardless of when and where the group meets, often consisting of material based on the sermon the previous Sunday.    So I was intrigued by a comment in the book unChristian by David Kinnaman, where guest Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington says something to this effect:  ‘We have a free market approach to small groups.’  I wondered how this plays out and asked them for further clarification.   Does it always work out or are there liabilities?   Heather Zempel, Discipleship Pastor at NCC was good enough to write back and include a link to her blog, where she defines “Free Markets” more clearly.   You can link here to read the article as it appeared in 2006 at her blog, Wineskins for Discipleship, or simply read it reproduced below, with a special greeting from Heather.

I’m the discipleship pastor here at National Community Church… The bottom line is this: we encourage our leaders to get a vision from God and run with it. We don’t have a structure and a system that we ask leaders to come serve. We don’t have a set of curriculum we ask them to cover. Instead, we encourage them to leverage their gifts, abilities, interests and influence to create community and make disciples.

I view my primary job as not to give our leaders direction on what to do or study in their groups but to discover and excavate the God-given disciple-making DNA he has placed inside our leaders and then equipping them, encouraging them, and empowering them to go make disciples.

Free Markets

A free-market small group system allows for a high degree of relational connection and creativity by allowing leaders to turn their existing relationships, gifts, interests, passions, and hobbies into disciple-making small groups.

Oswald Chambers said, “Let God be as original with others as he was with you.” So why do churches force people into little clusters that all look alike, slap the label “small group” on them, and then promise that they will grow exponentially in their faith as a result?

For any small group or discipleship program to be successful, you need leaders who burn white hot with a vision for making disciples. That’s why we implement a free market small group system at NCC. We believe discipleship happens best within the context of shared interests, and it flows naturally out of leaders who are driven by a passionate vision from God.

Too many churches establish a vision and a small group model and then ask their leaders to come serve that vision and model. At NCC, we have reversed that by encouraging leaders to get their own vision for discipling others and then equipping them to do it in whatever relational context they find themselves. The NCC vision for small groups is specific enough to give direction and focus, but broad enough to give latitude for leaders to get their own vision from God and run with it. Leaders are motivated when they see where their passion meets a need.

We only have 2 basic requirements for NCC small groups. One, there must be opportunity for connection and relationships (relational). And two, discipleship should be the primary purpose (missional). And of course, the leader must also meet the leadership deployment requirements as specified by NCC to be an officially recognized NCC group.

We want to encourage innovation and creativity. We believe that God has designed each person uniquely, and he can use that uniqueness as a catalyst for disciple-making.

Examples of some groups that have come out of our free market system include:

  • Fantasy baseball
  • Spiritual warfare
  • Sign language
  • Inductive Bible Study
  • Acting
  • Evangelism
  • Running
  • C.S. Lewis’ Writings
  • Women in Leadership
  • Weight Training
  • Church History
  • Crown Financial

For more reading on this particular topic, see the following resources:

Dog Training, Fly Fishing, and Sharing Christ in the 21st Century (Ted Haggard)

Small Groups That Buzz (Heather Zempel)

  • So how are leaders and topics for small groups (cell groups, house church, etc.) chosen where you worship?
  • Does your church allow a free-market approach to midweek groups, or is the course contented dictated to house leaders by senior leadership?

May 13, 2009

Summer Shutdown Mentality

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:56 pm

simpsons_church_sign_closed_for_summerI was glad to see that author and pastor Mark Batterson is reporting on his blog that he’s leading a summer discipleship group for dads during the summer.   Glad because it flies in the face of a mentality that says everything should shut down for the summer.

Here in Canada, we have what is called a “cottage mentality.”   Even if you don’t own a cottage, technically you are “away” during the summer.    Some programs here shut down during the last week of April and the first week of May.

To me, this just leaves a lot of people detached from other people; it leaves them with feelings of isolation and loneliness; it leaves them with more inactivity;  and it leaves them increasingly disconnected from their local church.

Light a candle!   Use the summer to invite people over to your home for informal events.    Can’t lead a Bible study?   Just find a good teaching DVD and set up the machine in the living room; make some coffee and then let whatever is meant to happen next, simply happen.    There are sermon DVDs from pastors you’ve heard of available as downloads online, you can purchase some from various ministry organizations, or you can buy them at Christian bookstores.

Can lead a Bible study?    Don’t do anything fancy.   Just pick a short Biblical book, invite people over; make the aforementioned coffee; and start in on chapter one.   Don’t even suggest getting together the following week for chapter two; let those who are present suggest that. (Some may offer their home for the following week, especially if you don’t have air-conditioning!)

Counter the summer shutdown mentality with impromptu, informal events in your home this summer.    And no, you don’t need your pastor’s permission; in fact, make it a non-church event by inviting some people from a different church.    Or if the DVD has good outreach potential, invite some non-churched neighbors.

Postscript:   If you really want to do the summer in style and you’re not leaving the city yourself, consider upgrading the coffee to a dinner and showing the ten weeks of the H2O discipleship program.    Great videos, with all the content of the Alpha program, but with superior dramatic production values suited to a media-savvy generation.

Okay, so this is not the first time I wrote about this.  I guess I’m quite passionate about this topic.   I call it righteous obsession.   (Which would be a great name for a CK product.)

March 25, 2009

Faith is Living Beyond Our Five Senses

Filed under: Christianity, Faith — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm

Although I’ve linked to this article, I’ve also reproduced it in full here because my analytics tell me that many of you don’t click on the links; and I really do want you to read this.   This is from Mark Batterson, Washington DC pastor and author of In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day, and Wild Goose Chase.

5-senses-22One Quadrillion Synapses

I came across an interesting factoid today as I was researching for my next book.

The human body has approximately 100,000,000 (one hundred million) sensory receptors that enable us to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. And that is a testament to our Divine Designer. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. By the way, when was the last time you thanked God for each of your senses? We have seven million cones that enable us to perceive about ten million different colors. Doesn’t it seem like we owe God seven million thank yous?

Now here is what I found fascinating: neurologists estimate that the average three-year old has 1,000,000,000,000,000 (one quadrillion) synaptic connections.

Honestly, those numbers numb us. But I think they reveal something significant. Our ability to imagine things in our mind is far greater than our ability to interpret physical reality. Mathematically speaking, imagination is ten million times more powerful than our five senses put together!

Naturalism is living down to the limit of our one hundred million sensory receptions. It is the inability or unwillingness to perceive reality that is beyond our five senses. The end result? Our universes shrinks to the size of our senses.

Faith is living beyond our five senses. It is being certain of what we do not see. One dimension of faith is imagining what our five senses can’t perceive or confirm. It is extra-sensory perception. And that is why faith often seems like it is out of touch with reality. But that is because it is ten million times more powerful than our senses!

One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 3:20. It is actually our most-used benediction at National Community Church.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and throughout all generations for ever and ever, Amen.

Translation? God is able to do immeasurably more than we can imagine with our one quadrillion synapses. Amazing isn’t it? Our imagination is ten million times more powerful than our five senses. But God is still able to do infinitely more than anything any of us can imagine with our one quadrillion synaptic connections. And to top it off, no mind has conceived of what God has prepared for us!

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