Thinking Out Loud

June 24, 2017

Speaking in Tongues (Part Two)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:15 am

It’s a quiet day around here. I probably lost a few subscribers with what I posted yesterday. But it happened. It’s part of my past. I spoke in tongues. Or, if you’re not sure about all this, ‘He thinks he did.’

By calling myself a post-Charismatic — I still use Evangelical as a primary descriptive despite its liabilities — I’m saying that my Evangelicalism is product of a particular movement but one with which I no longer identified.

Why not?

I guess my issue is the excesses of that movement. When John and Elizabeth Sherril wrote They Speak With Other Tongues, they were describing something new and wonderful that was taking place in unexpected places. God used the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans to teach us about the limitless work of His Spirit. Miracles and prophecy and words of knowledge weren’t new to the Assemblies of God folks. Their movement started in the first decade of the 1900s. What took place in the 1970s was new to us.

So where did my journey take me next? The logical place would have been to hang out with the like-minded. A Pentecostal Church. A Charismatic Church. But after staying in my church about a year later, my longing-for-something-more took me to a… wait for it…

…Baptist Church.

This one was known for the excellence of its pastor’s preaching ministry. Well researched. Well delivered. Very applicable. And for a year I holed up there, not going to any social functions or midweek events or youth meetings or potluck dinners. Just Sunday mornings with my Bible and notebook open, drinking it all in.

Forgive this over-simplification, but at that point I had spirit and now I needed word. Despite spending my spiritually formative years in what was at the time Canada’s only megachurch, and being exposed to North America’s top speakers, I think for the first time I understood what would be come a passion for great preaching. And you don’t have to have a nationally renown pastor to get that. It can take place — and definitely does take place — in any church in any size city, town or village.

I did continue to connect with the growing Charismatic movement, but usually at other times and places. I am grateful for both. Someone put it this way:

Too much of the word and not enough of the spirit, you dry up.
Too much of the Spirit and not enough of the word you blow up.
A balance of both and you grow up.

My one need met simply exposed another need not met.

Of course the story continues, but we’ll catch up with that another time under a different headline.

June 23, 2017

Speaking in Tongues (Part One)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:05 am

Myself and a friend had traveled all through the night in his bright red AMC Pacer after visiting with some newfound friends in Pittsburgh following a large outdoor Christian festival north of the city. Our destination was CBN, home of The 700 Club, back at a time when Pat Robertson’s name was held in higher regard than at present.

There was something there that was not present in our church, and we were determined to find out what it was, bottle it up, and take it home with us.

CBN of that day was not the present facility, but a less imposing Channel 27 studio on Spratley Street in Portsmouth. We were met at 5:30 PM at the door by an off-duty policewoman in uniform, who showed us around every inch of the offices and studio and introduced us to “Pops” who functioned as a security guard. “Pops” proceeded to play some hymns for us by inducing variable pitch feedback on his hearing aid. This would be deafening for most of us, but if your hearing’s shot, it’s shot; so he had nothing to lose.

Our tour guard, who also volunteered as a counselor asked us if we came from a “Full Gospel” church. My friend quickly informed her that our church preached the gospel.

I tried to gently amend our answer, saying “I don’t think that’s what she means.”

She tried again, “Does your church teach the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

I informed her that it did not and that we’d seen some things on the program that were somewhat foreign to our typical church experience.

Then she asked, “Would you like to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

To which I replied, “I think that’s why we’re here.”

In fairness, there may have been a qualifying question as to basic salvation, but it’s the above conversation that I remember.

Let me say at this point that while my answer may have sounded confident, I did approach all this with a certain amount of fear and trepidation. I wasn’t sure what we were getting into, even though I’d done some reading.

My biggest fear was the whole slain-in-the-Spirit thing. This was around the time Benny Hinn had started his original meetings back home in Toronto, so this type of thing was not unheard of. I had always pictured my head splitting open on hitting the floor and figured it best not to do that voluntarily. But she had another plan.

She told us to begin to focus on God and who He is and to worship him audibly. I did as I was told. She said to then begin to let syllables form on the tongue and just let them come out. ‘Surely I’m just making this up’ I thought. But my pre-Pentecostal mind had already begun to formulate the idea of tongues as a bypassing of the intellect so I figured I was on safe ground. I can still remember some of the phonetic nature of what I was saying and I could attempt to reproduce that here in writing, but we’ll simply skip that part. To you it might sound like gibberish.

“Now,” she said, “I’m going to lay you out.”

I’ll never forget that wording. I’m not sure if I had been standing or kneeling to that point but very gently and without injury I found myself lying on the floor. I felt like I was being obedient to something that God wanted. But it didn’t seem especially supernatural.

This was back in a time before BankAmericard (now known as VISA) or MasterCharge (now known as MasterCard) so we were traveling paying for things with American Express Traveler’s Checks. I remember at one point placing my hand over my front pocket to verify that they were still there, the way men often reach over a pocket to verify they have their wallet. In other words, I wasn’t off in some distant astral plane. I was calm, awake, aware, rational, and trying to tell God I loved Him while seemingly nonsense syllables were pouring out of my mouth. In other words, maybe this wasn’t such a big deal. Perhaps I was making the whole thing up.

We thanked our uniformed counselor and proceeded to find a motel for the night, returning the next day to watch a broadcast of the show. Because of my interest in television production, I got to watch from the control room, while my friend arranged for an audience seat next to ‘Moose Smith and The 700 Club Band.”

We drove back talking about all types of things, making notes, looking up scriptures, and determined to bring the things we had bottled up back to our friends at our home church in Canada.

Three days later, we would share our story at a large Tuesday night interdenominational Bible study that met in a home. As I was getting ready to leave, the phone rang. It was my friend. He wasn’t going to be there. He had to pack and make travel arrangements as he was leaving in 48 hours for South Africa to do a six-month tour with an international music group that had its roots in Oral Roberts University. He had a call waiting when he got home, and despite being very young, on learning another musician friend was going to do the trip, he had said yes.

So much for bringing change to our home church. Didn’t Jesus send the disciples two-by-two? I thought we were a two but now he was leaving for Africa with another friend, creating a different two. I started to tear up, but remembering all we had learned at the music festival, decided it was better in the long run to rejoice with those who were rejoicing, so I thanked God for this new circumstances and opened my mouth, and some strange syllables came out.

The same syllables.

Up to that point, I would have challenged the validity of my experience in Virginia. This time, the circumstances were different and for me, that three-days-later experience was a confirmation that what I had experienced was not entirely of my own manufacture. I know there are people who read my blog who will want to analyze this and tell me that it was all borne of emotion — there’s a reason it’s taken me nine years to share this story on the blog — but I know the viability of what took place.

…It’s been a long time since I last spoke in tongues, but while I consider myself a post-Charismatic today, I do so recognizing the things I gained from being part of that movement. I am not a cessationist. I believe God is working in the lives of people in unusual and supernatural ways. Aren’t they all just making it up? Some are. But you can’t have a counterfeit $20 bill unless there’s a real $20 bill in existence. There is a genuine experience of worship, obedience and the Holy Spirit that is tied up in this thing called speaking in tongues. I don’t believe it’s the only possible evidence that God is at work in someone’s life, but it’s definitely one of a number of possibilities.

 

 

January 2, 2017

The Perfume at Church Problem: There Ought to be a Law

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:47 am

Part One: The occurrence.

It happened again yesterday. We thought we would take in a New Year’s Day service at the church my son attended for several years. I know these people well. I love what they do.

My wife didn’t make it through the first song. The perfume was overwhelming. This is a church which has for years posted signs, placed notices in their bulletin and had a message included in their pre-service worship slides.

People who wear perfume to church don’t give a damn about those things. They ignore the messages. That’s for someone else, not them. Many of them belong to an older generation who feel they have already capitulated to too many changes in the modern church, perhaps.

But the culture has changed. Allergies and — in my wife’s case — Asthma triggers are more rampant now. That’s the reality of environmental reactions to common chemicals. Oh… and the perfume used today is probably cheaper and more synthetic than its predecessors several decades ago; pure unadulterated fragrances don’t actually bother her.

So here, for the umpteenth time, is her perspective. I might just have to boycott that church myself in solidarity from now on.


This is the Air I Breathe

This is what an asthma attack feels like.

First, you get a tickle in the back of your throat, way down in your chest. It’s annoying, and makes you cough.

But when you cough, it feels different. Like the air’s going out, but then not coming back in again. So you breath deeper, which moves the tickle deeper in your chest and makes you cough several more times.

At this point, you realize what’s happening and your chest starts to feel tight. Like you’re being squeezed in a giant fist and everytime you take a breath in, you can hear it, like a wind tunnel or a storm.

You start to feel a bit dizzy, light headed and need to lean on a wall or a friend for balance. Then, if you’re still standing, your arms start to feel weak and your legs get shaky because there’s not enough oxygen getting that far.

And every bit of focus you’ve got goes into breathing. Just trying to get enough air into your lungs.

So you dig out the puffer. The ‘rescue medication’. You shake it well, like the directions say, then empty your barely functioning lungs, put the puffer to your lips and, with your oxygen deprived mental faculties, try to squirt and inhale at the same time.

Then, to add insult to injury, you have to hold your breath so the medication stays in your lungs for a few seconds. Then, in 5 minutes, you do it again.

It takes about half an hour for the medication to do much good. At which point, you can at least stand up again.

I didn’t have asthma as a child. Like many, I developed it as an adult. Keeping it under control means taking meds everyday, as well as identifying and avoiding triggers. Which for me, includes perfume.

Your perfume.

That stuff you bathed in yesterday before you left the house for church.

I smelled it as soon as I walked in the lobby and my first response was a knot in my stomach. Oh, crap. What do I do? Do I sit in the parking lot while my family worships? Do I insist we all leave? Run down the road to a pharmacy and buy a face mask?

Being a stoic, I decided to soldier through. I thought, How bad can it be? Stupid question.

Did you notice me shaking my inhaler and taking a dose? Did you find it distracting?

I was sitting near you unable to breathe. And it’s your fault.

I spent the rest of the service just waiting for the moment when I could stagger across the parking lot to my car. And it’s your fault.

I couldn’t listen to the sermon, couldn’t sing, couldn’t enjoy the solo. And it’s your fault.

I couldn’t stay afterwards to talk to people in the lobby. And it’s your fault.

I went home and spent the next hour in bed. I’ll need 2 or 3 days to fully recover. And it’s your fault.

I will never ever again visit your church. And it’s your fault.

Don’t bother to tell me that you have the right to wear perfume, that much perfume, to church because I don’t care.

I just want to breathe.  


…This time my wife spent the entire 1 hour, 45 minutes in a coffee shop across the street, allowing us to enjoy the service. If there’s ever a next time, we’re all — all four of us — walking out. 

Part Two: The Denominational Factor.

There is a very non-coincidental thread to all this. It happens only at one particular type of church. And yes, they’ve received copies of the previous blog posts I’ve written on this, such as this one:

It happened again this morning to my wife. Mrs. W. figured that by attending a “camp meeting” style service where the side of the “tabernacle” is all windows she would be safe. Sitting at home it was a fair perception, the reality when we got there proved quite different.

She notices these things more than I. But this time, before we even got inside — which is most unusual — I was aware of the distinctive scent of artificial fragrances. When we walked in the lobby, it hit us like a wall. We headed immediately to a seat on the side under a ceiling fan where we figured everything would blow away from our direction, but it was already embedded deeply in her lungs and was slowly wafting over to the side from the center of the auditorium. We settled on a seat next to an open window. She made it through the service without standing for any of the hymns or choruses; but at home, eight hours later, is still short of breath.

Perfume1As she said — or perhaps whispered — on the way home,

  • it doesn’t happen at the grocery store
  • it doesn’t happen at the bank
  • it doesn’t happen at the kids’ school
  • it doesn’t happen at the post office
  • it doesn’t happen at other types of churches.

The last point is significant. There is a very definite spike in perfume at this one denomination; and our schedule takes us to many, many, many churches in the course of a year, so we ought to know. Three of her last major attacks have taken place in churches of one particular denomination. Sorry… but that’s the way it is.

And these people don’t care.

I say that based on something else that happened this morning. About three “items” into the service, it was time for the opening prayer; what some of you know as the invocation prayer. At that exact moment, a woman walked up to the woman in the row in front of us, grabbed her hand and started into a prolonged greeting and attempt at conversation which lasted throughout (and drowned out) the entire prayer, which wasn’t just a few seconds. Complete and total disregard for anything and anybody else. Or God.

My first impulse — and trust me, I don’t know why it was these particular words — was to say rather firmly, “He’s praying, damn it.” I guess my brain was figuring that the d-word would be appropriate to the urgency of the moment. I didn’t. This means that I would have been swearing during the invocation prayer; which someone would argue is far worse. I let the impulse pass.

“So;” you say, “Why don’t you get the message and stop going to churches of this particular stripe?”

It’s not an easy decision to make. This is a denomination wherein my wife and I have a lot of history. Our youngest son has also recently made his home among this same group of people.

However, I think that, in terms of going to worship as a couple, we made that decision absolute and final today. 


no-scentsApparently, with the passing of about six and a half years, we forgot our resolution yesterday. Time to renew our resolve on that, I guess. Will I send them a link to this? Not this time. I give up. 

Also consider posting notices like this where you worship; make your church a fragrance free zone.

 

 

.

 

May 15, 2016

Open But Cautious

There’s a phrase that I think I first heard used in some Christian and Missionary Alliance settings about the gifts of The Holy Spirit: “Open, but cautious.” Simply put, it represents people who are open to Spirit-led expressions of faith and doctrine but with the caveat of keeping their eyes wide open (or perhaps having one eye on scripture).

While my wife and I don’t attend weekly worship in a Charismatic or Assemblies of God-type of setting, I would say I am very much onside doctrinally inasmuch as I (a) am not a cessationist1, (b) believe in the limitless power of God to do the things people count as impossible2, and (c) believe that the things of God should touch our emotions as well as our minds3.

That said, when info about this camp came across my Twitter feed last night, I found it disturbing:

Signs and Wonders Camp

As regular readers know, I’m a huge believer in summer camp ministry. Find a camp, make sure it’s affiliated with Christian Camping International or Christian Camp & Conference Association or your denomination; and then send the kids as soon as they’re able to be away from home for a few nights. (I even wrote recently about some long-term benefits to be gained, apart from the spiritual immersion value.)

I also recognize that in Children’s Ministry (or KidMin as its now often referred to) there needs to be a point in the curriculum where you emphasize the distinctives of your doctrine, and if your kids are being raised in a Charismatic church, you want them to both have an education and have experiences with different facets of that environment.

So, I like Pentecostals, like camping and like KidMin. So what’s the problem?

Open, but cautious.

I’m not sure; I would just rather it was an adventure camp, or a horsemanship camp; or if you must title it after the teaching theme, a discipleship camp or a Christian leadership camp. I’d rather pin the emphasis on the giver rather than the gifts. I would prefer to focus on the normal Christian life rather than the occasions where God breaks in with the supernatural. I also don’t want to raise expectations for kids about the whens, wheres, whys and hows of sign gifts that could lead to disappointment.

Maybe I’m just a lousy Charismatic. Maybe I’m not attuned enough to the language and culture of some of today’s popular doctrinal streams.

Hopefully I am a realistic Christian who still believes in the ability of God to do the impossible; but with the awareness that the thing that makes the exceptional the exceptional is that it doesn’t happen every day.  So parents, would you send your kid to Signs and Wonders camp?

Signs and Wonders IHOP


1 I have actually never owned a Cessna, nor do I have a pilot’s license. More seriously, I do not see the end of the apostolic age or the completion of the canon of scripture signalling the end of certain gifts.
2 This said, my faith can be as weak as the next guy’s in certain situations, not to mention a trademark Canadian pessimism that at times permeates my prayer life.
3 The things of God should touch our hearts and our emotions, but often they don’t. Spiritual complacency and apathy are always crouching at the door, and when a preacher tries to rev up an audience into emotional frenzy, I am often the first to want to shut down completely.

October 1, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Gospel Van

Photo: Drew Dyck

A fresh crop of October links! Mind you, they’re all dated September. But they’re new to you.

Yes! The links are still also at Parse, the blog of Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today. Click here to read there!

For our closing graphic we return to TwentyOneHundred Productions’ Facebook page, the gift that keeps on giving. 2100 is the media division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  (We poached another one from them for tomorrow…I feel like I should make a donation to my local IVCF chapter…) Click the image to link, or follow them at this page.

Books of the Bible

August 14, 2013

Wednesday Link List

I thought we’d kick off with something timely for back-to-school from Zazzle.com:

Classroom rules poster from Zazzle dot com.gif

Here are this week’s links, and one or two I accidentally left off last week’s list.  As usual you need to scoot over to Out of Ur for the actual linking.

  • Yeah, I know. Three links to Dictionary of Christianese in six weeks.  But how I could pass when the word was narthex? Meet you in the narthex when you’re done reading the rest of the list.
  • A trailer is out for a movie celebrating 40 years of England’s Greenbelt Music & Arts Festival.
  • Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love is an all-time Christian fiction bestseller. Now, word that after many years, Bridge to Haven, a new title, will release in spring 2014.
  • Essay of the Week: A Facebook fast isn’t fasting. Actress and writer Hannah Rivard guest posts at The Rebelution, the blog of Alex and Brett Harris.
  • A Tennessee judge rules you can’t call a child Messiah.
  • The above item reminds us of a story we did a few months ago: In New Zealand you can name a kid Faith, Hope or Charity, but not Justice.  (They turned down two Messiah’s there also.)
  • Because your kids’ picture Bible storybooks tend to be family friendly, odds are that these five stories didn’t make the final edit.
  • Related: A serious management feasibility study on how Noah got all the animals to fit inside.
  • At Stuff Christians Like, a few lines of dialog that even your adult Bible is missing.
  • The best articles on Bible translation are always written by people who actually do Bible translation.
  • Despite being on record as not wanting to speak to certain topics, it turns out that C. S. Lewis actually did address homosexuality.
  • You’ve heard him on radio, now meet the face behind the voice: Christian financial planning expert Dave Ramsey takes to video.
  • If we believe in the priesthood of all believers, does that by definition diminish the need for structured leadership?
  • Another outdoor concert stage collapse, this time involving Christian bands MercyMe and The Afters at the Cleveland County fairgrounds.
  • The names have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty: A tale of two pastoral transitions.
  • We may be on a journey to eternal life, but a Pew Research survey claims that only one in three of us want this life to last eternally.
  • David Hayward aka The Naked Pastor is the latest Christian blogger to try the podcast thing.
  • Confession isn’t just good for the soul, it’s necessary for taking steps toward a holy God.
  • In the Assemblies of God denomination, growth is taking place, but their trademark distinctive, speaking in tongues, is on the decline.
  • Is it blasphemous or just plain vulgar? A UK vicar claims the former Archbishop of Canterbury rode in her car and wasn’t disturbed by her edgy and controversial bumper sticker.  [Content advisory]
  • Related: Describing her book as “a messy profanity- and prayer-laden theological memoir,” the Sarcastic Lutheran aka Nadia Bolz-Weber introduces Pastrix. No wonder reviewers like myself aren’t being given advance copies. Here’s a video trailer. [Much stronger content advisory: NSFCO (Not safe for church offices)]
  • In your local church, do you have the gift of diapers or the gift of chairs?
  • Hoping to flee what they consider U.S. government interference in religion; a family ends up lost at sea.
  • I never know how to end the list each week, but the Canadian in me is drawn to this.

The graphic below was located at The Master’s Table, where similar things can be found each Monday. (You’ll have to look up the verses.)

reading-from-john

One thing I really miss with the new arrangement is the feedback from readers on particular links. So feel free to comment either here or at Out of Ur.

May 15, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Giving Thanks

“For what we are about to receive…”  The human and the dog seem sincere but cats are always overly dramatic. (And why does the cat have a marking that looks like another cat’s tail? Photoshop? No way!)

Time for another link list. Try to have your suggestions in by 6:00 PM Eastern on Mondays. More during the week at Twitter.

Songs with substance: Classic worship

If you check the right hand margin over at Christianity 201, you’ll see that all of the various music resources that have appeared there are listed and linked alphabetically. Take a moment to discover — or re-discover — some worship songs and modern hymns from different genres.

April 27, 2012

Drawing the Body Together; Tearing The Body Apart

For years now I’ve been carrying on an ongoing dialog with a Pentecostal minister.  He was the one who first used the term, “the Charismatic-ization of Evangelical worship music,” while at the same time indicating that in many Assemblies of God and Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada churches, there is a decreasing presence of the gifts of utterance (particularly tongues and interpretation) such that the weekend service at a Pentecostal church now more resembles that of a mainstream Evangelical denomination, and the worship at the mainstream Evangelical church is slowly adopting elements (worship flow, extended songs, hands raised, etc.) once found only in Charismatic churches.

I was explaining that to someone this week when it suddenly occurred to me that the same time as there is a drawing together taking place along the charismatic axis, there is an increased distancing taking place along what we could label the Reformed continuum.

I call it the Reformed continuum and not the Calvinist-Arminian continuum because the issue is not predestination or eternal security. Those differences have always been, always will be, and do not come as a surprise to our Heavenly Father.  I’m referring instead to the way in which the New Calvinists, militant Calvinists, or YRR (Young, Restless, Reformed) crowd are slowly inching away from everyone else; slowly separating themselves from mainstream Evangelicalism, if — as some will want to argue — they were ever there.

I have written before how one of their number refers to insiders in their movement as “real friends of the gospel;” implying that the rest of us are not friends of the gospel; and how a popular online book distributor had to create a Reformed boutique site to earn the trust of Calvinist customers.

In August of 2010, I called this phenomenon the Cultization of Calvinism.

The larger picture is that it takes Reformed people and Reformed literature out of mainstream Evangelicalism, and takes mainstream Evangelicalism out of the Reformed sphere of awareness. It increases compartmentalization; a kind way of saying it advances what I’ve termed here the cultization of Calvinism, which, I would think from God’s perspective at least, is rather sad.

I believe one of the healthiest dynamics of Evangelicalism has been the cross-pollination that takes place through inter-denominational dialog (Br. – dialogue) and worship. Instead of conferences where only one theological brand is raised, we need to encourage events in which a variety of voices are heard. Instead of bloggers posting blogrolls where they are afraid to list someone who is outside their faith family, we need to be familiar with the much wider Christian blogosphere. Instead of encouraging Christian young people to only read certain authors and one or two particular Bible translations, we need to encourage them to study the wider compendium of Christian thought.

Two years later, I don’t want to return to that discussion here except to say that it’s notable that there is a shrinking of differences taking place along the Charismatic axis at the same time as differences become more pronounced — or perhaps, better to say borders become more pronounced — along another; not unlike the situation where the earth is at times closer to some planets and farther from others.

The subjectivity in this is huge. If you are old-school Pentecostal, and mourn the loss of tongues and interpretation, you have reason to be concerned. If you are Baptist, and find it genuinely upsetting when people raise their hands in worship, then you will dig in your heels and seek a more conservative faith family. If you are Reformed, you may find yourself become intolerant of mainstream Evangelicals if you view their views as heretical.

How this effects the corner of the Christian universe you call home I suppose depends on what potential interaction you have with people of both groups, or in which group you personally reside.

A wise person is one who will step back far enough to see the big picture, and note the trends taking place.

Image: Although the book in the graphic isn’t referenced in the article, the image was priceless, and I decided it was only fair to use the full jacket, acknowledging author Mark Johnston and Christian Focus Publications.  Learn more about it by clicking here.

November 28, 2011

A Refreshingly Different Guest Speaker Contract

While logging into my blog this morning, I checked to see how we were doing on Christian Blog Topsites — yes, I do check stats now and then — and noticed that Supernatural Truth was registering a very high number of visitors for such an early hour.  (The link is to their homepage, the blog link is below.)  I decided to investigate Art Thomas Ministries a little more closely.

He’s obviously a Charismatic — his book, published by Destiny Image, is titled The Word of Knowledge in Action — and it’s easy for non-Charismatics to jump to conclusions when they see spiritual gifts and evangelists on the same page.

So I decided to check out his page labelled “Financial Compensation.”  If you haven’t been party to guest speaker contracts, it’s a very dark world, not unlike the dark worlds in the video games my kids are forbidden to play.  Like rock star contracts.  M&Ms in the dressing room with all the red ones removed.  A pre-service snack with three types of imported cheese.  A minimum three star hotel.

I was figuring, here’s the catch, this is the page where I roll my eyes and click away to something else.

Instead, I found this:

Financial Compensation:

The most common and obvious question I receive from pastors and ministry leaders who invite me to speak is in regard to financial compensation for ministry.  What do I charge?  What are my expectations?

The answer is very simple.  All I ask is for simple travel and lodging to be covered.  If food can be included, that’s a blessing.  Outside of these, I do not request any payment whatsoever.  If a church can provide beyond these, then I consider it a blessing.  But nothing is required.


Travel:

If the church or event is within a half-hour of my home (in Plymouth, Michigan), I do not need any compensation for travel.  If traveling by car, I will usually come with my wife and son.  If the church or ministry cannot afford lodging for all three of us, then I will be happy to come alone. The current “business” rate-per-mile is preferred.  If distance requires air travel, then I’m happy to travel alone.  Economy class is fine–I don’t need any special treatment.  If I do travel by air, I’ll need someone to receive me at the airport and provide for my return.


Lodging:

If the church is within a one-hour drive of my home (in Plymouth, Michigan), then I’m happy to commute for each day of meetings.  If, however, distance requires lodging, I am happy to sleep on the floor of a tent in the church’s backyard.  Anything beyond that is a blessing!  I do not have a problem staying with a host-family or sleeping at the church.  I would, however, like to be able to shower so as not to offend the visitors!


Food:

I can be happy with peanut-butter and jelly, three meals a day.  Anything more is a blessing.


In Summary:

While some of these statements may have seemed like humor on my part, I truly do mean them.  I care more about ministering and representing Jesus than I care about my own personal comfort.  I lived for twelve days in the bush of Uganda, traveling about an hour each day down muddy roads with three of us on one motorcycle.  No electricity.  No running water. The least accommodations in America can surpass that in quality.  My desire is to love the Church rather than be a burden to my brothers and sisters…

Well that was refreshingly different.  So, okay; now if this is true, and he means this, which I Cor. 13 tells me you have to accept at face value, then this guy could not only have a blessed ministry, but he could change the world.

I mean that.

BTW, he also has a blog, and the most recent post on this morning was a very lengthy piece about the verse that says, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…” (I Corinthians 14:33.)  I know that disorder is the first thing most mainline Protestants or mainstream Evangelicals think of when we picture a church bringing in a Charismatic or Pentecostal guest speaker.  But he addresses this issue in a balanced way, and I encourage you to read it.

I’m sure there are d1scernment ministries (spelling mistake intentional to avoid attracting certain types of comments) who would love to spend a quiet afternoon jumping all over Art Thomas’ doctrines and theology, although personally, I have more sympathies for the spirit-filled crowd than most of you imagine. But if you hold your fire and simply examine his financial compensation page, which is all we’re asking you to do today, you find something rather faultless, rather blameless.

And it needs to be held up as model.  For all of us.

August 26, 2010

The Cultization of Calvinism

It happened again yesterday.

My son got a package in the mail from the Christian camp where he did a four-week leadership training course, containing a magazine and other resources.

John Piper was on the cover of the magazine, there were advertisements for Crossway Books and the ESV Study Bible, a couple of references to Mark Driscoll, a reference to the Together for the Gospel conference.  And many such clues that this was not really a mainstream Christian publication.

I’m okay with that.   I told him he should make an effort to read every article.   I’m glad the camp took the time and expense to send it to him, along with an encouraging personal letter from the two directors of his leadership course.   We actually worshiped in a Christian Reformed Church just two weeks ago.

But it was another reminder how there are different clusters of people, belief and thought; and how, just as Calvinists of previous generations were somewhat segregated by Dutch ethnicity, today New Calvinism has emerged as a dominant (especially online) cluster.

Some of you probably like the word cluster over the word cult, but in fact, any identifiable group fits the dictionary definition; the problem is that we’ve tended to use it in the last 30 years or so as an abbreviation of false cult, which is another matter entirely, usually involving unique books and writings considered to be divine, and often the presence of private compounds and Kool-Aid.   However, of the eight definitions of cult at dictionary.com, only #6 indicates “a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.”

The decision by the largest online Christian book distributor to set up a separate site just for people of Reformed doctrine is another example of this.  The company has massive buying power, and has a large share of the Christian book business, but surveys revealed it was seeing only a trickle of commerce from Calvinists because they preferred to buy from their own sites, where presumably materials are carefully filtered.   The larger company had no choice than to do that filtering.

But this is something that neither Charismatics nor Catholics have ever propelled them to do.    The Charismatic and Pentecostal world — as any visit to the Elijah List site will confirm — has its own authors and a large supply of its own worship music, distinct from the mainstream worship we hear on Christian radio.

But Calvinists are readers, and as the blogosphere indicates, many are also writers, though a good percentage of the bloggers employ more of a ‘cut and paste’ approach to content generation.   (With, I might add, a great overlap into another emerging subgroup, the Academics.   American prosperity has permitted large numbers of U.S. Christians to enjoy advanced and continuing education, but much of the writing, as Acts 18:15 and 2 Tim 2:14 reminds us can consist of quarreling about words which leads to strife.   See also this post.)   On the other hand, other brands (or cults!) of Christianity tend to be more about about doing which is why the internet has, just as one example, a critical shortage of Salvation Army bloggers, as I noted in back in May ’08.

But because of the fragmentation taking place, I suggested to the senior editor of Christian Retailing magazine that instead of just having Charismatic and Catholic specialty bestseller charts, they should also have a Calvinist or Reformed specialty list each month as well.   Really, if they’re going to do the former two, they might as well do the latter.    But what if he takes my advice?

The result would be distinctively Reformed shelves in Christian bookstores (which probably already exist in some) where Calvinists could browse the shelves untainted by titles which disagree with their views.   And what is the result of that?

The larger picture is that it takes Reformed people and Reformed literature out of mainstream Evangelicalism, and takes mainstream Evangelicalism out of the Reformed sphere of awareness.   It increases compartmentalization; a kind way of saying it advances what I’ve termed here the cultization of Calvinism, which, I would think from God’s perspective at least, is rather sad.

What is, in a discussion like this, the better part?

I believe one of the healthiest dynamics of Evangelicalism has been the cross-pollination that takes place through inter-denominational dialog (Br. – dialogue) and worship.    Instead of conferences where only one theological brand is raised, we need to encourage events in which a variety of voices are heard.   Instead of bloggers posting blogrolls where they are afraid to list someone who is outside their faith family, we need to be familiar with the much wider Christian blogosphere.    Instead of encouraging Christian young people to only read certain authors and one or two particular Bible translations, we need to encourage them to study the wider compendium of Christian thought.

Basically, we need to avoid situations where our personal preferences lead to being cut off from the larger, worldwide Body of Christ.

Paul Wilkinson

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