Thinking Out Loud

August 12, 2017

For the Forty-Somethings

 and some Thirty-somethings

 plus a few Fifty-somethings

It’s time to step up.

By that I mean, it’s time to get out the checkbook (or chequebook if you prefer) or grab the credit card and go online.

I’m not talking about giving to your local church. I’m sure you already do that. Maybe you tithe. Maybe you’re what Andy Stanley calls a percentage giver.  Things are stable financially and you’ve recognized that responsibility. Your local church thanks you, and wouldn’t exist without you.

No, this is about giving beyond your local church. It’s about the parachurch organizations, the faith missions, the Christian social service agencies. It’s about hospitals in third world nations, adopting orphans, and teaching literacy to jungle people, and preparing translations of the Gospel of Matthew.

Here’s the deal: A generation that founded many organizations — many formed in the post-war years 1945 to 1950 — and then funded those organizations is dying off. These generous patrons need to be replaced.

At the same time, as Christianity loses its ground numerically in Western Europe, Australia/NZ, and North America; awareness of the faith mission organizations is decreasing. Those of us who populate the pews on the weekend do not have opportunities to hear about the vital things different groups are doing, either domestically or in far-flung mission fields.

Some of these organizations are watching their donor base shrink and shrink to the point where everyone from office staff to field workers face cults. It’s now or never…

…Writing an article like this without mentioning names of potential objects for your philanthropy is difficult, but that’s what I pre-determined this piece would be. I do however suggest a few questions:

  1. Am I interested primarily in proclamation of the Christian message, or I am okay with organizations who serve the needy in Christ’s name?
  2. Do I want my money to stay here at home, or do I want to give to overseas projects in the most economically disadvantages parts of the world?
  3. Do I want to give to a major, longtime, well-established Christian charity, or do I want to partner with a newer, upstart group?
  4. What causes tend to resonate with me?
  5. If my gift means I end up on a mailing list, are these organizations I genuinely want to read about and learn how and what they’re doing?
  6. What particular ministry opportunities or places in the world am I personally aware of which may not be as familiar to others?
  7. Do I want to scatter some funds among a handful of Christian organizations, or go long and deep with one particular cause?
  8. Are there ministries where I have personal contact with a particular worker and will thereby know that the job is getting done; the money well-spent?

You might need to do some research. If you’re married, make sure your partner agrees with your choices, especially if you’re writing checks on a joint-account. And decide if you want to be a monthly supporter — which the organizations love because it provides them with a stable financial forecast — or if you’re doing a one-time thing.

People in the middle of a variety of ministry contexts are watching for your contributions.

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April 25, 2016

Camp Memories (1)

Through a variety of circumstances, and with only three years experience ever having been a camper in my teens, I found myself on senior staff at a Christian camp for three summers.

The first year of the three the camp was in somewhat of a recovery mode. A previous administration hadn’t worked out and in desperation, the general director turned to an old friend who had spent a career in foreign missions to whip the place into shape. That man in turn rounded up a dozen people from the mission agency who were also catapulted into senior staff roles.

Organization PoliticsAs it turned out, that was oil and water. The senior staff was definitely split along “us” and “them” lines. One of the staff members had a baby girl, and various members of the “them” would take turns bouncing her on their knees. Let’s say the girl’s name was Carly. I did notice that the senior staff seemed divided into Carly-bouncers and non-Carly-bouncers. That was my own appraisal.

Beyond that, I was completely blind to the politics of the organization. Although most of my Christian service orientation at that point was with parachurch organizations, it was around the same time that I was discovering local church politics. But generally speaking, I was completely oblivious to the two factions that persisted at camp. I was there to do a job, and I tried to do most of my socializing with junior staff and if context permitted, even campers.

I also joined a coffee klatch, so to speak, consisting of two or three other senior staff members. The invitation to join had been highly qualified. I was told how Lewis and Tolkien and Kierkegaard would meet regularly for drinks and that the trip to the local village bakery for coffee and butter tarts (and me to pick up the camp mail) would be the equivalent. Really, they wanted to know if I, as one of the catapultees was a “them” or an “us.” And they were being very carefully guarded about what they said to me and I was being extremely vague because I had no idea about the organizational politics. Questions included shots in the dark such as, “Have you noticed anything unusual going on at camp?” (For the record, I was equally clued out about some of the young women on staff and missed a lot of social cues. If you were a female housekeeper or dishwasher that year and you’re somehow reading this, I apologize for not responding.)

However, once they heard my Carly-bouncer analogy, I was accepted as an “us,” even though it took about three weeks to get that far.

Caught in the Middle - DivorceThe mission agency people knew very little about Christian camping or even youth ministry in general, especially in comparison the “us-es” but their third world exposure meant they had good organizational skills, an ability to adapt, and a variety of gifts. Overall, I think the kids who attended that year got their money’s worth from this diversity, even if things at the senior staff level were a constant tug of war. (Important takeaway: Parachuting people from other ministry disciplines into unfamiliar contexts is not always a great idea.) I felt that within their own missions-and-development tribe, there were probably reasons to respect some of these people, not to mention their willingness to take on the camp challenge at the last minute.

What I was not prepared for was the very low view they had of those on the other side of the great divide. I had come to this job because I at a young age, I had youth ministry experience, had already started my own business, and brought an extensive knowledge of music, particularly the modern worship genre that was still in its infancy at that point. One of my other coffee klatch club members had vast experience in Christian camping, the third was studying to be a pastor and the fourth had both camping and pastoral training. Three of the four of us returned the following year when the missions people were swiftly dispatched in a spring cleanup the following spring.

So nothing prepared me for the moment when one of the “thems” came to me one day, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Your problem is, you’re completely shallow.” Wow! There’s an insult. Try it on someone sometime. Or don’t.

Shallowness I look back on it now and imagine Lucy from Peanuts, “You know what’s wrong with you, Charlie Brown? You’re totally shallow. You have no depth.”

I suppose in comparison to the travel and education opportunities she had experienced, I may have seemed like one of the kids on the farm, even if the farm was the urban ministry environment of Canada’s largest city. On that day however, the choice of words was devastating. I think it hit me hardest because it was everything I felt I wasn’t. I was a Renaissance man. I was tech and media savvy. I was well-read. I had a attended churches in a wide swath of denominations. And I did have a little travel under my belt, four countries including 40 of the 50 U.S. states.

Still, I did allow the short exchange to have some redemptive value. I worked hard to not be a one-issue candidate. To not obsess over certain pet subjects or causes. To read outside my comfort zone. To immerse myself in contexts and conversations with persons who are different. To study articles about things that aren’t my usual interests. To try to meet different people and then get inside their heads and understand their histories.

I don’t think I’m a shallow person, but…

…I do ask myself in certain situations if I’m being shallow. Is the conversation or relationship at the point of taking a leap to the next level — sure, use the video game analogy if it helps you — but I am remaining stuck at Level One? Or is the person on the other side of the exchange really hurting and I can’t see the question behind the question? Or am I missing an opportunity to go deeper because I’ve formulated some entirely different other agenda as to where I think the discussion is going? Or do I have a simplistic view of the topic at hand because I’ve never tracked with that discipline or genre? Or are my own topical choices tending toward the superficial?

Being called shallow could have been a scarring experience, but instead, I used it to form a system of checks and balances in my life. Though the rebuke was done entirely to hurt and to wound, I think it shaped me in some positive ways.

 

 

April 14, 2016

A Call to Keep Christian Organizations Christian

I like to make this space available to other voices on a regular basis and today our guest writer is Steve Clarke, program director for Compassion Canada. This is good reading for anyone who is involved in the overseeing of any Christian enterprise.

Compassion Canada

A Call for Faith-Based Organizations to Maintain Biblical Leadership Principles in an Increasingly Secular Society

by Steve Clarke
Program Manager
Compassion Canada
April 2016

Steve ClarkeI have been thinking about the dangers of mission drift lately. I’m not sure why this theme has surfaced. Maybe it is linked to small group discussions. My wife Dorothy and I are hosting sessions on the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. Over the weeks we have been examining the Fruit, as described in the Book of Galatians:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

In these sessions, I have become more convinced than ever that the expression of those Fruit – those Spirit-led actions that serve others and speak powerfully of the love of Christ – can only be accomplished through the strength of a daily prayer and scripture relationship walk with the Holy Spirit. The same is true for faith-based organizations. As individuals within faith-based organizations, we must cling to that relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit … or our Christian mission can falter.

Another powerful passage comes to mind:

“… make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” (2 Peter 1:5-9)

If we do not exemplify these characteristics in the power of the Holy Spirit, then we risk Peter’s caution of becoming “nearsighted and blind” … unmindful of Christ’s redemption in our lives.

In the 1980s consultants encouraged Compassion International’s leaders to “drop the Jesus emphasis” and to instead focus on our poverty-alleviation programming. Rejecting that advice, we devised a ‘plumb-line’ of twelve biblically-driven aspirational Leadership Principles. These principles are posted prominently on the office walls of Compassion 26 two-thirds world countries of activity, and in our 15 funding partner countries.

Recently our Compassion Canada office leaders decided to re-visit them in a series of meetings with our staff. With the luck-of-the-draw, I was chosen to deliver the first address. I was asked to speak on two of the twelve Leadership Principles: “Demonstrate Godly Character” and “Ignite Passion for Ministry.” Whoa! There would be something wrong if you didn’t feel inadequate in tackling such lofty topics. Even so, I discovered it was a rich blessing to explore these principles verbally in a straight-forward manner. The staff warmed to the themes, and the talk prompted some wonderful after-meeting discussions.

At Compassion we partner with local churches and characterize our mission and calling as “Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.” In my nearly 25 years witnessing Compassion’s poverty alleviation work with children, I celebrate creative combinations of income generation, housing, education, primary health care and training/equipping. But these are, at best, sub-sets of the world’s deepest needs. The Gospel of Jesus Christ that ushers-in spiritually transformed lives is the foundation our world craves.

Secular British journalist Matthew Parris agrees, in his breath-taking admission following a trip to Africa:

“Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.”1

Body, mind, soul and spirit: Our human make-up demands that we must hang-tough in being Christ-centered, regardless of increasing secularization around us. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17 (ESV)


1 Greer, Peter and Chris Horst. Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities and Churches. Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House, 2014, p. 36.

April 3, 2016

We Were Created to Create

Created to Create Spring 2016

Last night I went to see a kids musical production being performed in a church that was almost within walking distance of my house. We don’t have children in that age cohort anymore, but I wanted to be supportive and the proximity of last night’s show — the first of three performances — left me without excuse.

If you had come with me you might have seen a kids play with a couple of missed lines, several audio problems, and some awkward scene changes, but I saw so much more; so very much more.

created to create logoCreated to Create is an initiative of our local chapter of Youth Unlimited, formerly known as Youth for Christ. Their focus with this creative arts program is inclusive of kids normally younger than you find at any given city’s branch of YU. This was, I believe the third such show they’ve done, and the second one I’ve seen.

What struck me last night was the producer/director’s commitment to excellence. The whole program was, I’m told, something that was conceived in her mind over a year earlier and incorporated content from three different primary sources, plus some original dialog and the addition of humorous video inserts throughout the show.

One of those video clips was filmed in Lake Ontario; so it had to be shot at the beginning of rehearsals in September, with great faith that the casting would stay the same over six months later in April.  Some actors played multiple roles — no small challenge — while others took on their parts rather convincingly, given that for some of them this was their first time in a dramatic production of this magnitude.

The thing that struck me the most was how, by the third and final act, these kids very much had their audience. The inside of the great fish was convincing, even if executed solely with Styrofoam pool noodles and black light. If you had been a neighbor or a relative of one of the kids and didn’t really know the Biblical story, there was enough of a message here that you got both narrative and practical application. In the finale, when ‘Old’ Jonah and ‘Flashback’ Jonah joined hands at the end to take their bow, I think the audience was fully aware of the thought and work that had gone into the production and completely convinced that the 90 minutes had been well worth their time.

We serve a God who inspires us with creativity. True, it hits some people more than others, but I believe we all have a measure of imagination inside us that can be used to inspire others.


Bonus item: Though not recorded at the show, here’s a song it contained, from the Newsboys: In the Belly of the Whale.

February 1, 2016

Returning Thanks for Our Daily Bread

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:55 am

This is not a sponsored post; just something I felt was right to do today.

Our Daily Bread - Radio Bible ClassFor years, many of us have used the devotional booklets from the organization formerly known as Radio Bible Class. We’ve picked up copies of Our Daily Bread in our church lobby, at a Christian bookstore or perhaps were given one in a hospital or prison.

Today is a good day to say thanks and encourage this ministry.

In the United States go to odb.org. In Canada go to ourdailybread.ca .

Also, whether or not you’re familiar with the devotional, here is a list of other resources produced by this fine organization.

July 6, 2015

Christian Leadership is both Art and Science

The Leadership theme is a big part of the Christian portion of the internet. Podcasts and blogs by names you’d recognize garner a huge following; names such as Michael Hyatt, Rich Birch, Carey Nieuwhof, John Maxwell, Andy Stanley, Tony Morgan, Jenni Catron, Brad Lomenick and Ron Edmondson, just to name a few that I can personally recommend.

One of the challenges faced by leaders is succession plans; when to pass the torch and to whom it should be passed.

This weekend at Christianity 201, we ran this article by someone I consider a statesman among Christian leaders in Canada, Brian StillerBrian Stiller; former President of Youth for Christ Canada, former President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, former President of Tyndale University College and Seminary and now Global Ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance. You can read more about him here.

What makes what follows so interesting is that it was written in 1987. It’s still very timely. It’s a theme that was echoed in an interview that I did as an aspiring Christian journalist with Brian around the same time. He spoke with me about the mavericks who founded many iconic Christian organizations in the post-World War II era, and how in the next generation, the maverick spirit was replaced by managers in maintenance mode.

This is an excerpt of a longer article in an EFC communications piece, The Sundial.

When we fail to pass the torch

As we look at churches and organizations today, we can see that there are many in need of torch passing. But either the senior leader desperately holds on too long with no attempt to train or give opportunity to the younger, or the tension produces so much conflict that the younger leader heads off to some other more flexible opportunity. Out of it all, energy and vision are suppressed. This leads to an increasing loss of touch with reality and a lack of clear goals and effective strategy.

How can the torch be passed?

There is a wonderful example in the Old Testament of the passing of the torch – from Moses to Joshua.

The announcement, “Moses, my servant, is dead”, boomed out across the tents in the valley. What would happen now? many wondered. Fortunately for the people of Israel, Moses had carefully nurtured and developed a younger leader – Joshua.

What Moses did then lends powerful ideas to this generation.

Leadership includes different styles

Moses recognized that leadership emerges out of different styles. Whereas he was a crusader, Joshua was a manager.

Moses was angered by the treatment of his kinsfolk. Later he defended some young women who were being harassed while tending their sheep. Ultimately his crusader instinct led him to say yes to God’s call to lead the people out of Egypt.

How different Joshua was. Right from the beginning we see his obedience. Never is there conflict between himself and Moses. There was no sign of trouble because of a strident spirit or a self-centered personality.

Moses didn’t look for someone identical to himself. A different style was needed. Moses’ and Joshua’s backgrounds, personalities, styles, means of operation and public profiles were vastly different. Yet each was a leader and each, from his base of strength, was used by God in a particular way and particular time.

Different times call for different styles

It’s easy to be trapped into believing in a “best” form of leadership. My generation has grown up thinking its cloth must be cut from a certain model. Since World War II church leadership has been characterized as aggressive, charismatic, individualistic and outgoing. This view of leadership, however, has been typecast from a specific time and culture. It’s time we looked for other models.

Moses was a restless and dominating figure who led his people out of bondage and defined the basis of the community by his special contact with God. How different was Joshua! Learning from his tutor, Moses, he took the patterns and ideas expressed by his predecessor and molded them into a working society. Each leader was competent but their styles were different.

Passing the torch is inevitable

It’s not always easy to make the transition from one generation to the next. My generation has lived with the “long shadow” syndrome. The long shadow occurs when a key senior leader, often a creative and crusading “Moses”, continues for so long that his or her shadow blankets the one who is following. And the up and coming leader never gets an opportunity to nurture his or her own vision. Instead, the potential leader gets trapped by serving the older and never really develops the fine edges of his or her own leadership.

Managing Moses’ ideas

Joshua became the manager of Moses’ ideas. And how necessary it is that crusaders nurture and train managers to put their ideas into order and practice. Joshua succeeded because he refused to succumb to the weakness which plagues all managers: maintaining the status quo. Rather, he nurtured his vision and risked beyond the borders of Moses

January 15, 2015

Missions Models: Paying the Staff

Ministry Salaries Deputation SupportWe continue where we left off on Monday and Tuesday with more of our missions theme. Today we want to look at how the actual mission workers — as well as people working for Christian parachurch organizations — get paid.

Salary – Several lifetimes ago I was hired by the publishing division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF). I was the warehouse manager for the Canadian operation, and to the best of my knowledge this was the only time in my life I was ever covered by a dental plan, though being young and carefree I never used it. They were probably the best organization I ever worked for full-time. I was also hired for three years by our local Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, and again, it was a fixed dollar amount, though I was basically subcontracted to them which meant not technically on their payroll. I also worked briefly for the Canadian Bible Society and again, the job included a guranteed pay rate, as did all the jobs in their head office.

Raising Support – Several times in my life I’ve been offered an opportunity to work with the too-often repeated phrase, “but you need to raise your own support.”  Sigh! Do they want me, my gifts and abilities, or simply to exploit my network? Some of these Christian organizations actually don’t have a cap on the number of people they will hire; if you have the support raised, you’re welcome to come on board. (The organization takes 10 to 20% off the top for ‘administration.’)

Base Salary + Donations – This one is a combination of the two above, and the place I’ve seen it practiced most often is with students working at Christian summer camps. They are promised a very conservative rate of pay which includes meals and housing, but can then do fundraising over and above that in order to increase their bi-weekly pay. Sometimes the donors remain on the camp’s mailing list long after the kids have left and the last canoe has been stored away, which can be a bit of a windfall for the camp long-term.

Deputation – This is a word used largely in the Evangelical community to describe the relationship missionaries have with the local churches that support them. It usually means that when they are home on “furlough” instead of having a season of sabbath rest, they spend their weekends driving around to visit those churches, hand out prayer cards, set up a table in the lobby with artifacts and possibly even preach the Sunday morning sermon. This guarantees that they will be kept on the missions budget for the following year. 

Bi-Vocational – We usually hear this term used in conjunction with pastoral ministry, as it’s a growing model. But anyone serving part-time in ministry and part-time with a ‘secular’ job qualifies. There are really two meanings to bi-vocational; sometimes it means two part-time jobs, but other times it may mean the ministry job doesn’t really pay at all. Despite this, the ministry job may actually have demands that leave the individual ‘on call’ 24/7. There’s a saying that, “When they have you part-time, they have you full-time.” You’re expected to be available at all hours.

You Pay Us – In many cases, the person working for the organization actually pays for the privilege of doing so. In the case of an organization like YWAM, its entry program, known as Discipleship Training School is really an educational opportunity, not anything resembling actual employment. Participants can do fundraising to cover the costs, or if they’re coming out of the business world, or a students who took a year off to raise funds to take any of YWAM’s schools, they might just show up on day one with their checkbook and pay it that way. However, in other organizations (i.e. not YWAM) the line between education and training and the need for people to actually work on the organization’s behalf is rather blurred. If you’re paying to sweep floors or do dishes, and that is the majority of your responsibility, then you have the worst of both worlds: It’s not a job, and you’re not learning anything.

Are there some I’ve missed? Probably. One faith ministry I worked for frequently gathered the staff together and announced that the payroll would be late that week. I was a single guy, but there were people working for them that were the sole earners in their family, with dependent children. That’s why I’m sure this story is incomplete; there are all manner of variations out there because, after all, “It’s the Lord’s work.”

July 17, 2014

The Moral Quandry of Website Re-Design

Filed under: bible — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:11 am

computerIf you have any technical skills at all, there are boatloads of money to be made in convincing website owners, including a great many Christian organizations, that their website needs to be upgraded.  Sometimes this is true. Most of the time it is simply not the case that the thing needs a fresh coat of paint.

In many cases, websites are under-performing because they are simply not maintained. In other cases, designers have supplied the organization in question with a great template but no little about the mission of the company or ministry to be able to supply content. In yet other cases, consultants are using minor technical glitches to justify a total refit.

Unfortunately, in other cases, the only argument that can be made for change is that people simply want a website that looks current, or want change because every other organization they deal with has upgraded their site this year.

In the case of what is probably one of the most widely used sites among Christians, BibleGateway.com, the changes necessitate relearning a website that was comfortable and familiar.  Things that were at the top are now at the bottom. The “resources” page now consists of a number of links to product that is being sold, not coincidentally, by the site’s new owners, HarperCollins Christian Publishing.

Probably knowing the need to hedge their bets, the site has the option of reverting to the “old” Bible Gateway.

I guess the thing that bothers me most is that designers get paid big bucks to ply their HTML trade, while writers, content-producers and not-so-technically-gifted creatives work for peanuts. This happened to us literally. After not getting much direction from the author and then not hearing anything for several months, a bag of peanuts showed up in the mail. Seriously.

Christian organizations need to save their money and not be obsessed with having the best-looking site in town when website users may not even appreciate the changes. And designers need to stop bleeding organizations of the tithes and offerings they have collected from sincere donors.

Now then. Having said all that, I do have some friends who are website designers, and there are some sites out there that are hopelessly out of date. This wasn’t directed at them, but rather at the industry that revolves around change purely for the sake of change.

And yes. This blog has had the same theme since it started. I’ve looked at alternatives but there have been reasons I’ve stuck with the familiar red border and the thin serif-font lettering, also in red. Oh wait, that’s TIME Magazine. I’ll change when they do.

 

April 28, 2014

Community Presence versus Ministry Support

Offering PlateIn the community where I live, a transformation has been taking place over the last few years in how we approach charitable giving. Historically, the mindset that I was raised in suggested that we give toward those organizations which only church people will give to. That’s been my response to canvassers and telemarketers, “Our giving is directed toward church-based charities;” which is slightly inaccurate because we’re talking about parachurch organizations, but it gets the point across.

Recently however, the churches themselves have been turning over the proceeds from some large gatherings to broader community causes. It’s showing that we are supportive and willing to invest in those causes as well as doing our church thing. I think this is a worthy concept.

The problem is, in so doing, Christian ministry organizations serving our community aren’t receiving the proceeds from those annual gatherings. Furthermore, the number of parachurch organizations operating in our area has grown from 12 to 14 in the last two years. Many are under extreme financial pressure at the same time as the size of donations being made to the non-religious charities are rather huge; amounts that would go a long way to fuel various ministry efforts.

Is there a balance to be had here? Is it necessary for the pendulum to swing to the opposite extreme first, before coming to rest in the middle? Should Christians show our support for causes that already enjoy wide community support, or should we stick with organizations that mix compassion with gospel proclamation?

March 8, 2012

A Message to Elder Evangelical Statesmen: Retire Graciously

I’m not sure the mystery writer known as Bene Diction has connected the dots on the last three (almost) consecutive posts that ran on his blog on March 6th and 7th. To me the common theme is inescapable.

First, we have John Piper make pronouncements as to the message behind the run of tornadoes in the U.S. heartland that left dozens dead and thousands homeless. This is nothing new. Piper is required to have a take on everything. It’s in his job description. Just as sure as the morning DJ on the local radio station will fill time between commercials pontificating on the events of the day prior, so also does JP feel compelled to weigh in on everything from soup to nuts.  Bene D links to Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk, who in one of his most heated posts ever, spares no words to express his disdain for Piper’s analysis:

After directly attributing these devastating, death-dealing storms to the sovereign, all-controlling God, Piper comments on what he might be trying to teach us. Despite his own warning — “We are not God’s counselors. Nor can we fathom all his judgments. That was the lesson of Job. Let us beware, therefore, of reading the hand of providence with too much certainty or specificity.” — Piper goes on to read three lessons in the storms:

  • Like Job, we should just submit and say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
  • We should heed Jesus’ words in Luke 13:4-5 and take every storm as a divine warning to repent.
  • We should not think that God’s people themselves are exempt from such judgments.

This is a pastor’s message in the immediate aftermath of a terrible disaster.

How comforting. How helpful. How sympathetic. How sensitive. How pastoral.

Not.

But then, a day later, Bene D. reports on the firing of three family members from the Crystal Cathedral/Hour of Power; a media ministry conglomerate now just a shadow of its former self. Lesser people would have waved a white flag at this point, but apparently the church and its television broadcast are soldiering on.  Bene links to the Orange County Register:

…On Sunday, Sheila Schuller Coleman is expected to give the sermon.

Meanwhile, the Hour of Power program, which once reached millions of viewers across the world, will replay previous episodes for the next few weeks while leaders “determine a new direction for the show.”

“Organizational changes affecting ministry leaders are never easy to make, especially when it involves individuals who have devoted their lives to this ministry and have served with great distinction,” John Charles, president of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries, said in a statement. “This was a very difficult decision the Crystal Cathedral Ministries board of directors prayerfully deemed was necessary in order to make a change in direction for the ‘Hour of Power’ and reverse recent declining donations and viewership.”

Five other individuals were expected to lose their jobs in the reorganization.

“Because of privacy concerns, we won’t identify them,” the spokesman wrote in an e-mail.

This is the latest shake-up for the troubled ministry. Last month, Schuller Coleman was removed as the chief executive officer and president of the Ministries and replaced by Charles, who had previously held different positions with the Cathedral.

Then, on the same day, Bene D. reports the apology (sort of) from end-of-the-world date-setter Harold Camping, with the spin emphasis on the people who delved into Bible prophecy as a result of his flawed prophetic calendar. For this, he links to the Family Radio ministry website via Strang News:

Yes, we humbly acknowledge we were wrong about the timing; yet though we were wrong God is still using the May 21 warning in a very mighty way. In the months following May 21 the Bible has, in some ways, come out from under the shadows and is now being discussed by all kinds of people who never before paid any attention to the Bible.

Do you see the connection? All that’s missing is Fred Phelps and the guy who was going to burn the Qur’an, whose name we have thankfully forgotten.  

Ministry organizations and individuals who have contributed greatly to the spiritual life of many have a sell-by date, and it’s time to disappear graciously and start writing memoirs. Memoirs that can be edited by others, as opposed to media statements and blog posts which appear all too quickly.

I say this with empathy. Having already reached an age where I have been sidelined from certain activities — worship leading is apparently now a young man’s game — I know that being silenced is not easy to take. But in the case of the men and women at the center of these three stories, it’s necessary.

Time does not permit me the luxury of fleshing out this topic as fully as I would like, but perhaps some of you can continue in the meta. Meanwhile, I want to add one extra story.  James Alexander Langteaux is a former senior producer for The 700 Club, who is the author of the forthcoming (April) book, “Gay Conversations with God – Straight Talk on Fanatics, Fags and the God who Loves Us All.  In an interview with Phil Shepherd at Huffington Post, he’s asked how he thinks his former boss, Pat Robertson will react when he comes out of the closet in a major way:

“…Well, after the uproar that resulted from Pat’s comments of dementia being grounds for abandonment in a marriage union, I’m not sure that really matters much…”

In other words, in Langteaux’s eyes, Robertson has already lost his voice.

Joining the dots in Bene Diction’s stories, John Piper, the Crystal Cathedral and Family Radio have lost their voices, too. 

Just as today’s younger communicators need to earn the right to be heard, the elder statesmen of the Christian church need to see that the ‘wisdom of age’ is not a respect automatically granted. Rather, it needs to be proven on a regular basis by statements that continually reflect that the person in question is wise.

In the end, the only expiry dates on credibility in ministry life are the ones we create for ourselves.

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