Thinking Out Loud

April 18, 2013

Add to Bookmarks

Places to go, people to meet:

The Bridge Chicago

The Bridge Chicago

I’ll let them describe it:

The Bridge Chicago is a new ministry project from Mission:USA. On this blog, we’re drawing on decades of experience in front line ministry to provide help and materials to people trying to reach others for Jesus in their own communities.

The materials you find on this blog include media that you can purchase. The purchase price helps cover the cost of making it, and supports missionaries raised up from within the inner city who do not have other means of raising support.

There is a wide spectrum of music and interesting articles to hear and see at The Bridge.  Be sure to bookmark this site.

Click here to view The Bridge Chicago.

Faith Village

Faith Village

Make sure your flash player is up to date; the street is your navigation bar. After viewing the streetscape on the landing page — use your cursor to go further down the block — you have many choices where to go next, and the possibilities seem new each day. 

There are articles to read at Java Juice Blog House, videos in The Grove Theater, sermon podcasts in CityPod Studios,  leadership articles at Watermark Workshop, food ideas at Café on the Square, parenting advice at Momzie,  talk tech at Converge, discuss cultural trends at Denison Forum, and no surprise, you can buy books at the Faith Village Bookstore.  You can engage in social media in The Lofts at Faith Village either as an individual, a group or even as a church. There’s a whole space for youth 13-18 called Revolution called revultn; and also one for college kids (that looks like a frat house) called Epic House.  There are academic sites at Faith Village University.

There are also some parts of Faith Village still under construction.

This website is somebody’s labor of love to be sure. It sets the bar just a little bit higher as to what an ideal internet site can do. But who is behind this? The last stop on the second streetscape is Dallas Baptist University. Is that a clue? Is this some Christian college’s masterminded recruitment site? If it is, sign me up.

Click here to view Faith Village.

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February 24, 2011

Thinking Out Loud – Anniversary Edition

I remember years ago participating in a discussion about the “emerging” internet where the main concern ran something like this, “How are they ever going to get enough content to keep those websites supplied with fresh material?”

How indeed?

In 2011, a better question might be, “How does one find enough hours in the day to read all the sites they are subscribed to or have bookmarked?” I figure a typical week lands me on about 1,000 different types of internet sites, and I don’t consider myself a heavy online user. Every single person reading this actually has a completely unique internet experience weekly.

Today, this blog enters year four.

I have mixed feelings about that. I’m happy that this blog has become a voice albeit in a crowded room of voices all talking at once. I’m continually amazed — and somewhat humbled — that hundreds of you show up here every day, many just to see what’s been posted recently.

But these things were never set up as one-way communication. You hear people speak of “blog community” and I think there certainly is one, but increasingly the comments I moderate have absolutely nothing to do with the subject of the blog post; they’re actually written in the hope that readers will link back to their own blog.

And then of course, there is the fact I am denied full participation in this very same blog community.

Some time back, someone masquerading as me posted something or did something that got me completely blocked from commenting at many of my favorite blogs. Even people I considered online “friends” like Pete Wilson, or people I’ve been reading for years before starting my own blog, such as Trevin Wax; the comments I leave (which are indeed appropriate and rather insightful) simply never appear.

Furthermore, if I log off WordPress, and attempt to leave a comment at my own blog, it is blocked.

It’s ironic because one of the things I found early on when I started this was a great deal of acceptance, so I’m highly sensitive to the present rejection. But online this can take many forms. For example, I’ve also been blocked from the chat room at my online church, North Point Community. Though I continue to faithfully watch NorthPoint Online every Sunday at 6:00 PM, and encourage others to also, my IP address apparently is blocked from participating in the after-sermon discussion. That’s like being told, “You can continue to attend our worship services, but you can’t be part of a small group.”

Not sure why.

There was a woman — I think it was a woman, but people use aliases in their comments — who was going through a hurting time and the discussion moderator was nowhere to be seen, so I recommended a book to her; a perfectly acceptable book, but one not written by Andy Stanley. Maybe that got me banned. Who knows.The clergy establishment sometimes gets really possessive when lay people start acting pastoral.

So look out, everyone. I’m a rebel. I’m a radical. I’m dangerous. Keep your daughters locked up.  I’m James Dean. (But in a George Costanza sort of way.)

Actually maybe I am sure why. Maybe like Hosea, God is allowing me to identify with all the other people out there who have felt rejection; including those who have been rejected by the church.

Back to the birthday party.


This is post number 1,454.

There is much to be thankful for today. I actually oversee seven blogs now, of which the latest, Christianity 201, has arrived on the scene since we celebrated this time last year. It keeps me humbled. Very humbled. While some endeavors in the Christian life remind you how far you’ve come and what you have accomplished, C201 reminds me of how far I’ve got to go.  Jesus set the bar rather high. A handful of you also read my book industry blog, Christian Book Shop Talk. It will celebrate a third birthday in August. Yesterday’s post had someone suggesting bookstores are going the way of record shops and video rental stores. Sigh. In that setting, I get to be a voice in an increasingly empty room.

Then there are the off-the-blog discussions.

Some of the best things that happen as a result of all this online activity are never seen online. And to the guy who drove an hour to the bookstore where I work only to find out I wasn’t there that day: Next time, get the staff person to write down your name. Better yet, let’s book it a day ahead, okay?

Anyway, I want to thank all of you who read, who write comments and who allow me to do the same on your blogs. To the latter group, you’ve really stimulated me to increase the time I spend reading Christian books, for which I am grateful.

As iron sharpens iron, so one blogger is sharpened by another. Even when they block his comments. (Couldn’t resist.) Many of you have also caused me to rethink some things that really matter. I’ve also enjoyed the benefits of being kept accountable.

Finally to the caricature artists who charcoaled me into a corner with the Joyce and Beth thing: A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and ignorance is bliss. (And if you love something, set it free…) I’m sorry that I what I call information you call judgment, but that is, if you’ll pardon the turnaround, your judgment. Keep enjoying their books by all means, and keep loving people who prefer to be taught by others.

Closing thanks Mrs. W., the world’s best proofreader and editor (though usually a day after I’ve already posted something) and to all my sources, especially BDBO (you know who you are, but nobody else does) and the religion news pages at CNN and USAToday along with Canada’s Christian Week and Darryl Dash. And thanks to readers who send Wednesday Link List suggestions. And to Trevin and Pete and even Jon Acuff: Let’s prove to the world that it’s all about grace, okay?

*”Charcoaled me into a corner” — I couldn’t say “painted” because caricature artists work in chalk or charcoal, so that would be mixing metaphors, and “chalked” lost the coin toss.

May 18, 2010

Community: At Church versus Online

This first appeared here a year ago, but for new readers, I thought it was worth a second look.

If your background is mainline

At a certain part of the service there is a time set aside for “the passing of the peace.” You greet one another with a hug or a handshake (or in a few places, a “holy” kiss) and say, “The peace of Christ,” or “The peace of Christ be with you.” In reply the other might say the same, or say, “And to you also;” or “And to you also, the peace of Christ.” If the church is smaller, you know these people, at least by name, but if it’s larger or it’s tourist season, you may not know them at all.

After the service there is a time when coffee and juice is served and you can engage people conversationally for about five minutes; usually people you already know. For an extended time like this, don’t miss the pancake breakfast and the strawberry tea held each year.

To get to know people a little deeper, or other people, you can join the choir, or volunteer for a host of guilds or committees that are always in need of help. You’ll also find a lot of the same people serve on civic projects and thereby will run into them in other contexts outside of the church itself. Don’t expect to break into the core community until you’re a “regular,” which occurs after you’ve attended and been involved for a gazillion years.

If your background is Evangelical

At a certain part of the service there is a time set aside for “greeting” or it may be formalized as “the ritual of friendship.” You greet one another with a hug or a handshake and say, “Good Morning;” or “Did you happen to catch the game yesterday?” In reply the other might say the same, or say, “Is that a new car I saw in the parking lot?” If the church is smaller, you might know these people, at least by name, or if it’s a mid-sized church, you can look them up in the photo directory when you get home.

After the service there is a time when coffee and juice is served and you can engage people conversationally for about five minutes; usually people you already know. For an extended time like this, don’t miss the annual potluck lunch and the annual bowling night.

To get to know people a little deeper, there isn’t a lot to volunteer for, since everything is done by the paid staff. The mens’ and womens’ retreats would help, but that’s $120 and $130 respectively. Better to join a small group. That way you’ll get to spend time in at least one person’s house each week, and get to know them and about four other families (or eight other singles) more intimately.

If your option is blogging community

There is a possibility that there will be people in your fellowship who you do not have any idea what they look like, or exactly where they live. However, you don’t have to wait for an opportunity to engage conversationally. Those opportunities occur at any time and may produce a variety of responses from a variety of people.

Through those conversations you will learn about their likes and dislikes, events in the life of their family, where they stand on a variety of issues, and what challenges and needs they face. You’ll possibly learn the names of — or see pictures of — their kids or their parents, be given insights into their job, and you’ll almost certainly know a little about every book they’ve read since they started blogging. And they’ll know the same about you.

You may find very quickly that their prayer requests become your prayer requests; you feel drawn to the needs of these people as one might with someone in their church family. If Twitter enters into the picture, you’ll know even more about their daily routine, the various thoughts and challenges that burst into the brain brought about by various stimuli. And if you Twitter, they’ll have that input from you also.

Plus, they will introduce you to their online friends, and you might pick a few of those to subscribe to or at least bookmark, and over time, perhaps their friends will become your friends also. It’s not unusual to pick up e-mail addresses from comments you’ve received and send out some off-the-blog messages. (In fact, two weeks ago, I sent out about 60 such e-mails about a project I wanted to get going that needed an off-the-blog start-up.)

Finally, if you want to get really hardcore, you might find yourself contemplating attending a bloggers event which sometimes take place in conjunction with other events, and at other times are stand-alone events. Not because online fellowship is insufficient, but simply because the relationships are already well established. (And nobody’s pretending to be a 17-year old girl from Ohio; at least I hope not!)

So at the end of the day, online community isn’t better or worse than Sunday church fellowship; it’s just different. And I would argue it’s a good different. One can’t entirely substitute for the other, and hopefully people using online community as a surrogate for a physical community that is currently absent from their life would, over time, find themselves drawn back to something resembling a church or house church; and then maintain a balance between the two relational paradigms.

A year later, I’m convinced that one of the problems in the Body of Christ is that we truly don’t know each other. You can attend a megachurch and be in a crowd of thousands yet feel completely alone. There is a desire to know others and be known. Or, as the theme from Cheers reminds us, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name / And they’re always glad you came.”

April 6, 2010

Tributes to Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk

  • Michael wasn’t the anybody of the blogosphere. He was the Internet Monk of the blogosphere. There is now the post-iMonk Christian blogosphere. A few weeks ago I said on Twitter that none of us are gonna get to heaven and hear Jesus say, “Great blog, dude.” I take that back. Michael made so many people, from so many different places and traditions and perspectives and experiences, feel like they weren’t alone — many times through sharing his own sense of exile — and he did it by stubbornly insisting a fixation on Jesus. ~ Notes from a Small Place blog
  • Michael Spencer’s online writings have affected me deeply from the first day I discovered them.  They’ve always pointed me toward the gospel of Jesus Christ. ~ Meg’s blog
  • Coming back to the Church and life in Christ after a long absence, I found myself in need of this sense of perspective, of finding, for lack of a better word, those spiritual guides, who offered true guidance and direction to those of us with many, many, many questions.  Michael Spencer, aka the Internet Monk, was one of those guides for me over the past few years.    ~Wandering Tree blog
  • I felt like I came to know Michael and his quest through the “post-evangelical wilderness” over the past few years. He will be missed… ~Green Leaf blog
  • Michael Spencer has graduated.  He has left this world for bigger and better things.  The sum total of all our years will seem like a moment in the span of eternity.  The time until we met again will pass like vapor in the wind.  We can mourn and comfort each other in the void he leaves behind, and at the same time rejoice as he rejoices on the streets of glory.  His desire each day was to more clearly see the face of our Lord; and now that joy is complete. ~ The Master’s Table blog
  • Michael was a good friend of mine, even though I never met him in real life. I found his blog back in the 1990s sometime – I don’t even recall what I was looking for – and was hooked. Through reading his stuff there and through participating in the Boar’s Head Tavern collaborative site, I got to know how he thought. At the time he was a Calvinist, and I disagreed with him; but through engaging with him, I learned a great deal about what I believed and why I believed it. Michael’s thinking shaped mine in many ways; his well-thought writings required that I also think well. ~ Cogita Est Ora blog
  • I feel like I lost: a friend, a brother, a guide, and a safety-net for my own inadequacies. The irony in this is that I have never met Michael in person.  We exchanged one or two emails, but that was the extent of our personal contact. Meeting him in person was on my list of things to do before I died.  It looks like that goal will have to wait now. What Michael provided in my life was the sanity check that I so desperately needed as I was drowning in deep despair in Evangelicalism.  The constant questioning of the feeling that I didn’t belong and that I sensed that something was wrong, were all answered by Michael’s writings.  He helped me to become who I am today and how I view things in the church. The Lord used him to take away the bitterness and resentment that I had built up towards Evangelicalism. ~ Peaceful Walk With Jesus blog
  • Michael’s prodigious output as a blogger, both at Internet Monk and at the Boars Head Tavern that he started, relentlessly directed readers to the person of Jesus. His wide-ranging reading interests incurred the ire of some, but many readers like me found provocation of the best kind, inspiration and encouragement. Michael was captivated by radical grace, and now that Grace has captured him. Though he died, yet does he live. ~ Common Ground Online
  • Michael was Jesus’ man – on a life-long journey to center his thoughts, emotions, actions and character around Jesus and to genuinely know Jesus.  That quest was not simple for Michael.  It was often quite complicated, full of questions and doubt and darkness.  But it was also marked by unique clarity, certainty and the light of heaven’s smile. ~ Ponder Anew blog
  • Michael Spencer, the graceful writer behind Internet Monk, died yesterday surrounded by his family. What a wonderful writer. What a wonderful man.  ~Dating Jesus blog.
  • A wonderful writer who influenced my decision to move to a more liturgical church. Thank you Michael.  ~Becoming Episcopalian blog

These are just some of the tributes from everyday Internet Monk readers such as you and I.   You can also read tributes from Frank ViolaSteve McCoy at Reformissionary, and Andrew Jones at Tall Skinny Kiwi.

If all of these leaves you scratching your head going, “Who?,” then I’m sorry that you missed out on Internet Monk.    Hopefully the back catalog of posts will remain online for a long, long time; so you can still catch up.   He was a unique voice among bloggers.

This outpouring of love and sympathy online also proves the value of Christian online community.    In many respects we may come to know each other with a depth not always achieved in face-to-face communication.   And we come to grieve the loss of someone we knew in this manner every bit as deeply as those with whom we have what some think more direct contact.   One post at Boar’s Head Tavern reads:

I hate weeping alone at my keyboard when I should be weeping in the same room with you guys.

There are many, many other tributes posted there, and as of this writing, over 200 posts in the past 24 hours on Google.

It would not be surprising if Michael Spencer reached his widest audience with the publication of his book Mere Churchianity, due September 7th from Waterbrook Press.   I wonder if some of his online writings might also be preserved in print form for those who heretofore didn’t know him.   It would be a daunting project, but there is much worth publishing.

Finally, I want to end by referring back to the post on this blog just a few hours ago.   I concluded by asking the question, “What do you want your life to be remembered for?”

Michael Spencer’s life will be well-remembered.

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