Thinking Out Loud

February 13, 2019

Wednesday Connect

First of all thanks to those of you who responded to Last Wednesday’s “serious week” of highly focused items without the tabloid-style stories. The stats were encouraging. This week’s list needed to be completed by Saturday night, so apologies for things which broke earlier this week that I’m not aware of. Graphics like the one above appear at the start of the week on the Happy Monday feature from Clark Bunch. I love that type of humor. He will have posted something newer by the time you read this, so here’s a link to both this week and last week!

♦ The Archbishop rides again! First, he shocked everyone with his “speaking in tongues” revelation. Now this: ‘Who cares’ if you’re Protestant or Catholic?

♦ He was doing apologetics before some of the rest of us knew what the word meant. The UK’s Michael Green passed away last week, so Premier Magazine re-ran an interview it did with him in 2010.

♦ Before he died of a lethal injection, Dominique Ray was a Muslim who was on death row. All he wanted was to have his imam present in the chamber. “Ray has exhausted his death sentence appeals and now only seeks to die with a measure of spiritual comfort. Alabama automatically gives Christian inmates this benefit: Since 1997, the Rev. Chris Summers has witnessed nearly every execution in the state, kneeling and praying with prisoners just before they are killed.” The state of Alabama said no, even though the imam already had clearance to visit the prison

♦ …Alabama then solved the problem by banning all “spiritual advisors” from being present during executions; including prison chaplains.

♦ Essay of the Week: “It is an interesting fact that Christianity’s three most famous creedal statements, the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, contain no moral doctrines.  They contain metaphysical doctrines, e.g. the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement; and what I suppose may be called historical-miraculous doctrines, e.g., the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the Ascension. But no moral doctrines: nothing about the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the two great commandments – love God, love your neighbor.”

♦ What will your life be remembered for? Often it’s the things we do near the end. If we start poorly but end well, people remember the ending. If we start well, but end poorly, people remember the end. This article by Julie Roys solidifies the characterization of James MacDonald as a “mob boss.” What a shame if this is his ultimate legacy

♦ …On the weekend, one website was reporting MacDonald was already gone from Harvest. (This story may be updated or the situation may be altered by the time you read this. One of the drawbacks of an early deadline this week.) (For updated news, see the Twitter feed of WLS radio personality Mancow Muller.)

♦ They don’t just think evangelism is optional, but they actually dare to say it’s “wrong.” Barna Research “is releasing Reviving Evangelism, a new report based on research commissioned by Alpha USA. This study looks at the faith-sharing experiences and expectations of Christians and non-Christians alike. Among the major findings in this report is the revelation that Christian Millennials feel especially conflicted about evangelism—and, in fact, almost half believe it is wrong to share their faith.”

♦ Last week’s National Prayer Breakfast. I actually spent some time trying to find a good summary of the event and finally settled on this one. It’s one of those silly “5 things” articles where you have to click to get the next thing, but it covered details other had not, like who led worship and the bipartisan prayer moment.

♦ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Let’s talk about virginity-shaming.

♦ The people God puts next to you on an airplane; those moments when God says, “He’s not an airline companion in the next seat. He’s a mirror.”

♦ Justin Bieber talks to Vogue magazine: “Justin has been especially focused on his own moral development lately, what he describes as ‘character stuff.’ Last fall he made a decision to step back from music for the moment to focus on being the man he feels no one ever taught him how to be, and above all a good husband. ‘Just thinking about music stresses me out,’ he says. ‘I’ve been successful since I was thirteen, so I didn’t really have a chance to find who I was apart from what I did…”

♦ Chris Pratt talks with Stephen Colbert about trying The Daniel Fast, a Biblical diet

♦ …but actress Ellen Page has called Pratt out for attending Hillsong, which she sees as an anti-LGBTQ church…

♦ …meanwhile, the day after The Late Show appearance, Pratt remembered that it was Christine Caine who was the source of a powerful quotation that left Colbert deep in thought for a few seconds: “If the light that is within you is not greater than the light that is on you, the light that is on you will destroy you.” He says that quote has helped him survive Hollywood.

♦ Though it’s still not known how many LifeWay bookstores will be closing, current President Thom Rainer said the company “did all they could” to save them.

♫ Elias Dummer, lead singer for the band The City Harmonic has a new solo album, The Work, Vol 1. Check out the song Heartbeat

♦ Parenting Place: Everything you need to know about e-cigarettes in one infographic.

♦ “Unofficially, Disney World and Disneyland have had Gay Days since in the 1990s, but there has never been an officially sanctioned LGBTQ event until now.”

The original blog post for this has long disappeared, but I can’t think of a better day-before-Valentine’s-Day link: Biblical ways in which a man gets a wife.

♦ You’ve always wanted to find this: The best way to refute Jehovah’s Witnesses on their reading of John 1:1. You just have to memorize everything Donall and Conall say

♦ Finally, and I quote: “A man is suing his parents for giving birth to him without his consent.” An exercise in logic and bio-medical ethics.


source: Southern Baptist Memes

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February 6, 2019

Wednesday Connect

This week’s list starts out like many of them do, but actually manages to stay focused all the way through. Looking for tabloid stories? That contributor took the week off.

♦ Today’s lead item: If “Your church is more interested in defending against the outsiders than finding lost sheep;” or if “Your church is predominately known for its judgment and condemnation rather than its love and mercy;” then it’s easy: You’re attending an Old Testament Church.

♦ A Forrest Gump moment, or a complete fantasy? John MacArthur claims he was with civil rights activist Charles Evers when MLK was asassinated. Evers claims it simply isn’t so.

♦ Essay of the Week: Aging Grace-fully. A wonderfully written memoir of his grandmother by Philip Yancey.

♦ Francis Chan in an interview that “no one in the U.S. is reading” said this about being an Evangelical:

We walk around in America with so much arrogance. Everyone tweets, everyone blogs, everyone wants their voice to be heard. And I’m trying to explain to them: “I’m to shut my own voice out of my own head and trust his words above mine. How you label me for doing that is up to you. I’m just trying to be a person who follows the word.

♦ Retro: Another local church is going back to the hymn book. (For them, I hope this works!)

Our return to the hymnal will not cause us to turn our backs on the use of technology. We will continue to use screens and put words from the hymns on the screen, but we will put an emphasis on using the hymnal too—in order for us to follow the flow of the song and to learn how to recognize the direction of the notes so that we can remain on key as we sing. This will enable us to teach another younger generation on the importance of singing and how to use the hymnal to sing corporately to the Lord.

♦ Just as I Am: In a possibly related article a look at what Evangelicals call “The Invitation Hymn.”

Preaching worthy of the name calls for people to take specific steps. Granted, the response that is appropriate at the end of any lesson will not be the same for each person in the audience. But if the sermon does not call for any kind of response from anybody, it would be well to ponder why it was preached in the first place.

♦ Think that churches are dying in the UK? Check out the backstreets of London, England. But note, these are ethnic churches.

The busy scene at the Celestial Church of Christ is repeated at a half a dozen other African Christian temples on the same drab street and in the adjacent roads – one corner of the thriving African church community in south London. Around 250 black majority churches are believed to operate in the borough of Southwark, where 16 percent of the population identifies as having African ethnicity.

♦ Provocative Headline of the Week: Is ‘First Reformed’ the Best Faith Movie Ever or Pure Blasphemy?

♦ …While we’re on the subject: Do Christian film creators know their movies suck? (This whole article is a great insight to what goes on behind the scenes, and by that, I don’t mean on set.)

Who am I to doubt that? Maybe the Lord did want them to make a film. However, I doubt very much the Lord wanted them to throw together a script, buy a cheap camera, gather up a few friends from church and make a movie. Come on. Be real. If the Lord told you he wanted you to be a doctor, you wouldn’t buy a scalpel and start operating on people the next day.

♦ Which type are you? In what the author calls “10 Contemporary Evangelicalisms” there is a category classification that begs you to put an “X” in the box where you think you fit.  Which brings us to…

♦ Analogy Avenue: “You see, it’s supposed to work like this: The world of churches is like a big mall, and there are many different kinds of stores. You choose one store–ONE–and you go there for everything you need. You are LOYAL to that store. You BELIEVE in that store and what it’s all about; in the way it does things. You persuade others that your store is the one and only store real shoppers patronize. You buy name brand merchandise at every opportunity. It’s your store. Yes, there is a mall, but you only need one store.” An encouragement to shop the entire mall.

♦ Wow! Did my wife write this? Here’s an article that gives voice to all the women who are tired of Bible studies that are about feelings. A call for women’s ministry resources which get to the heart of genuine Bible study.

♦ With an already 30-year low birth rate in America, some residential neighborhoods are lacking amenities for families with kids. Municipalities are restricting permits for houses with multiple bedrooms and allowances for daycare centers.

♦ Pastor Place: I totally loved this short article, titled Fortnight Evangelism. “If you want to build bridges with the next generation, especially the boys, an easy point of connection is to talk about their world. And their world right now is one thing: Fortnite.

♦ Fallout continues for Karen Pence, wife of US Vice President Mike Pence, as the Christian school where she teaches has a tough stand on LGBTI lifestyles for staff and students, and now another school affirms they will no longer participate in events at Immanuel Christian School.

♦ Chicago area Youth Pastor Joshua Nelson who writes at The Sidebar Blog:

  • Regarding the youth in his church, someone once suggested to him they should “just sit on the sidelines until their time came.” That prompted the article Too Young For Church. However…
  • …Then, a week later, the other side of the coin: “Just as the Body is deprived if young people are not championed, so too is the church deprived if the elderly are forgotten.” Check out Too Old for Church.

♦ Who to watch: It’s been awhile since we ran links to the Young Influencers Lists by Brad Lomenick. The last two produced were for October and November of 2018. 

♦ In a post entitled “The End” Michael Gungor says this is the end for Gungor, the musical group. But haven’t we heard this song before? (Or one like it?)

♦ Canada Corner: Statistics Canada stopped collecting data on marriage in 2008. However, 30 prominent academics are asking the government agency to restart the practice.

Once you understand that marriage is a public institution and is a marker for things other than just your own personal relationship, you want to have that data to be able to discuss the other things it correlates with. For example, social isolation, childcare, aspects of eldercare, how public policy is designed around those issues. I think marriage would have a bearing on them.

♦ Continuing in Canada for a moment, this foster parents case continues for one couple:

…In the week of April 30-May 4 of last year, they met with a Child Services social worker. The social worker asked the couple, one of whom is a pastor, if they “still” believe “in some of the more outdated parts of the Bible” and if they considered homosexuality a sin. Last October, the couple received a letter from Child Services declining their application, stating that “the policies of our agency do not appear to fit with your values and beliefs.”

♦ Maybe it’s all Greek to you, but to him, Greek was a lifetime passion. Dr. Robert “Bob” Mounce passed away on January 24th at age 97. [His son, and also a respected Greek scholar, Bill Mounce reflects on his father’s death.]

♦ At what everyone must agree is “a particularly sensitive time in Israeli-Palestinian relations;” the dispute now centers on a new collection of artifacts in the West Bank which some are calling, a new cache of Dead Sea Scrolls.

♦ Leadership Lessons: Are two sites better than one? This pastor confesses to four mistakes his church made in going multi-site.

Finally…

…Not finally. We usually have a number of bizarre stories in the final few links here, but they distort the stats and just for this week, I decided to take this whole thing more seriously and just run some links to some solid news stories and opinion pieces that would be helpful to some of the people who read this each week, even if they’re not the majority.


Two months ago Mark Hall of Casting Crowns posted this on his Twitter account: “Doctors put me on vocal rest but I know there’s still plenty of ways that we can point to Jesus! How do you point to Jesus! Just started drawing again!” (The band has a new tour starting February 21st.)


Yes, they were serious. Now you can tell someone’s eternal destiny by their political party… I followed this account on Twitter for exactly five days. Some of the items they posted were informative, but there was no denying that overall tone of the organization could easily lead to someone’s spiritual demise, regardless of party affiliation. This is what the Gospel of Hate looks like. Sorry, no link for this one.


Miranda Rights for PKs (Pastors’ Kids)

January 30, 2019

Wednesday Connect

This week’s list delves into some social issues and honestly, it was discouraging to include these but I felt that in view of the New York State decision (which we’re assuming you heard) it’s worth keeping aware of these developments.

♦ You’ve heard of Jonah and the Whale; now meet Casey and the Bear. Did God send a bear to take care of a boy? How did the boy survive two days in frigid temperatures; weather so adverse the search was called off? We might never know.

♦ The second coming: Perry Noble (pictured) is back. At the first service at Second Chance, he reports 725 people attended with 18 first-time decisions. Read what he wrote before that first service.

♦ Essay of the Week: In the Boston Globe, the link between religiosity and generosity. “…'[N]ones” will outnumber Catholics by 2020, and will be more numerous than Protestants by 2035….[A] decline in religious ties is ominous for reasons having nothing to do with theology. America has always been extraordinarily charitable. But that generosity has been disproportionately linked to faith. As faith shrinks, charity — and the good works charity sustains — will take a hit.”

♦ No, it’s not a Babylon Bee article, and it’s not actually new. Earlier this week Drew Dyck (author of Your Future Self Will Thank You) posted a link to the Wikipedia page for the Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptist denomination. (Never ceases to amaze me who gets a page on Wikipedia and what they feel doesn’t qualify.)

♦ Bringing the Bible back to school: North Dakota Rep. Aaron McWilliams has co-sponsored a bill — supported by no less than Donald Trump — to bring Bible classes back to school. “‘There’s a separation of church and state, but there’s not a separation of books from education,’ McWilliams said, adding that unless schools allow classes about religious texts, the state ends up ‘establishing a religion of secularism within our school by not having anything else.'” …

♦ …But Jonathan Merritt makes a valid observation “If conservative Christians don’t trust public schools to teach their kids about sex or science, I can’t imagine they want a government employee teaching kids about sacred scripture.” [Source: Twitter.]…

♦ …Meanwhile, Christian parents have more to worry about. Kids are referred to “experts keen to affirm their children as transgender,” according to journalist Abigail Shrier writing in the Wall Street Journal. “Parents said they were ‘terrified’ that opposing treatments recommended by therapists and others would result in their child refusing to speak to them…Therapists and psychiatrists undermine parental authority with immediate affirmation of teens’ self-diagnoses. Campus counsellors happily refer students to clinics that dispense hormones on the first visit.” …

♦ …And if you’re not disturbed enough, CBN News reports on a video on a channel for kids with more than two million followers which attempts to normalize abortion. “She compares having an abortion to a bad dentist appointment and a bodily procedure that’s ‘kind of uncomfortable.’ She also tells one child that she believes abortion is ‘all part of God’s plan.’” [The second link here is to the video itself, which CBN did not directly link to. If your computer is in an area where kids could hear the audio, discretion is advised.]…

♦ …Meanwhile, after the New York State decision, some are calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo to be excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.

♦ There’s no succession plan. At some point, some megachurch pastors will want to retire. Nobody is waiting in the wings. Millennials don’t want the job. “In fact, we are seeing search committees or their equivalents taking longer and longer to find a pastor… we have a supply and demand crisis. The demand is growing, and the supply is small.”

♦ A former co-anchor of Good Morning America’s weekend edition, as well as a former co-host of ABC’s The View, Paula Faris has launched a podcast for ABC-News, Journeys of Faith. “An intimate look at how some of the world’s most influential people lean on faith and spirituality to guide them through the best and worst of times.”

♦ Yes, you can live without it. An interview with a 40-something pastor who has no cellphone. “I don’t see any negative impact on my ministry. I might be better. When I am listening to you, I am listening only to you. When you send me on a retreat to pray, I only pray for you and for our church…Before cell phones I was not considered a focused or warm and fuzzy person. But now the bar for what is considered focused has dropped so low that I am considered nearly super human in what I can accomplish.”

♦ This story reminded me so much of last year’s story involving John Chau, the young missionary who wanted to evangelize an isolated tribe off the coast of India. Only this time the story takes place in Brazil.

♦ Another website dedicated to exposing James MacDonald. Read the most recent post at Harvest Bible Chapel Fraud

♦ …and a well-known Chicago radio personality who was a friend of MacDonald’s speaks out against the pastor

♦ …I told you so. This article appeared on this blog in April, 2013 and drew 68 comments, which is unusual for Thinking out Loud. It showed where MacDonald’s priorities were then (as now) preaching about money and finances on Easter Sunday morning.

♦ The Bible doesn’t talk about politics? Not so fast. “…[T]he birth of Christ took place in the shadow of the twin pillars of a typical political Empire: economic power and military might.” (This is so well-written; I’m also featuring it Friday at Christianity 201.)

♦ Over at Internet Monk, Chaplain Mike is working his way through the book The Bible and The Believer by Mark Zvi Brettler, Peter Enns, and Daniel J. Harrington. In the third of three posts, he looks at the contribution of The late Daniel J. Harrington, who provides insight into a Catholic reading of scripture. (Be sure to track back and read the earlier parts to this, including the Jewish perspective, and also don’t miss the comments.)

♦ Make sure you copy right: Each year various types of “books, songs and films that entered the public domain on Jan. 1, 2019 — the first time that published works’ copyrights have expired since 1998.” The reason is due to a 20 year extension that was placed on the expiry date

♦ The church abuse story background: For those who want to play catch-up regarding the C. J. Mahaney story, this article about Mahaney and Together for the Gospel (T4G) is what you’re looking for.

♦ Q2019: John Mark Comer is among the featured speakers at this year’s Q. April 24-26 in Nashville.

♦ Provocative headline of the week: Evangelical Christians need an exit ramp from Trumpism. “Some of his evangelical disciples have explicitly said there is nothing he could do to lose their support. Yet a divorce is not impossible, and it won’t require white conservatives to suddenly back a Democrat. Trump’s white evangelical support has already fallen in the wake of chaos in the administration and the longest government shutdown in history. If the walls continue to close in around the president, he may yet lose even more support…”

♦ Book excerpt from What if It’s True by Charles Martin (Thomas Nelson, released 1/29)

Because if this story is true, then the King of all kings, the infinite God who spoke the Milky Way and me into existence — because He loves me deeply — stepped off His throne and embarked on a rescue mission to save and deliver a self-centered slave like me.

What kind of king does that?…

…You and I have a problem, and the appearance of a baby boy in a nameless stable in Bethlehem is our first clue that the problem is out of our control — that after a few thousand years of pleading with us to return to Him, He has come to us. To save us from ourselves.

♦ Adam Ford’s cartoons are too big to reproduce here, but with New York State’s recent abortion decision, this one is somewhat timely.

♦ Great marriage advice from Pat Boone, on the loss of his wife Shirley after 64 years together: “We didn’t have the perfect marriage, but it helps to marry a magnificent woman… You make your commitments to God and each other, and in troubled times, you hang on to the commitment to God, and to your kids. You see the problems through and you find you’re stronger because of it.”

♦ Sadly, another child sex abuse story involving a youth/children’s worker, only this time it’s at a satellite campus of the Texas megachurch headed by Matt Chandler.

♦ Finding that he can’t be a donor for his mother, an Ohio pastor gives part of his liver to a stranger

♦ Attendance was down at this year’s World Youth Day in Panama.

♦ Book Review: Lorne Anderson looks at how the lives of 14 people are reflected in Moral Leadership for a Divided Age.

♦ “If two or three of you…” With this new Click to Pray app you can agree in prayer with what the Pope is currently praying for/about.

♪ New Music: From Tampa, Florida, check out Never Leave Me from Reach City Worship

♪ … also new this week from popular singer musician performer Kirk Franklin, Love Theory.

♪ Singer Ray Stevens turned 80 last week. He’s recorded a number of gospel songs such as Turn Your Radio On and my favorite version of Love Lifted Me.

♪ Musician James Ingram died yesterday. His song Ya Mo Be There was a hit on progressive CCM stations.

♦ Finally, who else but Jon Crist:

 

 

November 2, 2018

You Can’t Throw Money in the Kettle if You Don’t Carry Cash

For 120 years, The Salvation Army’s Christmas kettles have been synonymous with the holiday season and the spirit of giving. Kettles are already on the streets in more than 2,000 locations across Canada, collecting spare change and cash from passersby to help us serve more than 1.7 million vulnerable people in 400 communities across the country each year.

After a break of a few years, we’re back with another year of providing our online friends in Canada an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people in need. (American readers: Just wait a few paragraphs!) The program in Canada is called iKettle. Any of my Canadian readers can host a kettle with a few clicks of the mouse.

So first this is where my Canadian* blog readers kick in. You can’t toss spare change in the kettles anymore because you pay for everything with plastic cards, and you don’t get change. Any bills in your wallet are probably there for emergencies. Plus, while it pains me to say this, a lot of you shop online and don’t even have the collection kettles in your face anymore. (Maybe that’s why you shop online!)

So here’s where you go to contribute*

Donations stay in the community where you live, so if that’s Winnipeg or Calgary or Ottawa or Halifax or some place in-between, that’s where the money will be applied to the Salvation Army Family Services branch; including smaller towns where they have an active presence.

I really hope you’ll help us launch this over this weekend. We will be repeating this appeal on the blog several times during. Our giving can meet the needs both in overseas relief and development and in the cities and towns closer to home. This is an opportunity to do something on the domestic front in yet another year that’s been rough on many people.

*For my American readers there is a secure online donation website just for you.

There are also online opportunities to give in most parts of the world where the Salvation Army operates.

This is a trusted, respected ministry. When you give, you’re giving locally. But don’t just give. Consider volunteering. Share the link to this article with Facebook friends. And by all means, find one of the many books that tell the William Booth or Salvation Army story and read every page.

Do your giving
while you’re living
so you’re knowing
where it’s going.

November 30, 2017

Short Takes (4): Alumni Association Appeals

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:20 am

You chose your college…
You selected a residence…
You paid your tuition…
You bought your textbooks…
You took the classes…
You wrote the exams…
You repeated the cycle for several more years…

And now they want money.

Even if you completed a one-year certificate course from a trade school, it’s possible that you’ve received a letter in the mail asking if you’d like to contribute financially to your alma mater.

But included in this mailing list there are people who attended that university or college for the express purpose of earning a sufficient income that would allow them to support very specific charities of their choice. In other words, people who do have a philanthropic bent; who do see themselves as among the givers; but who have other passions and world concerns that they would like to make the object of the charitable giving. Some people would simply rather build fresh water wells in Africa than have a first-world educational institution put a new wings on the library.

Chances are, the alumni appeals are among the few donation solicitation lists you can get on without having made an initial contribution. Furthermore, if my experience is any indication, while other organizations will drop you from the mailing list if you don’t give, alumni appeals will probably persist over the course of your lifetime.

If find the whole thing rather guilt-inducing. Furthermore, my life has taken me down a different path and having surplus income has not been part of that equation. When we are able to give, we give to Christian causes that, if Christians don’t support them, no one else will. Even so, any level of success or achievement I’ve felt in my chose career of being in parachurch vocational ministry has been due to other influences and wasn’t dependent on the courses taken toward my undergraduate degree.

If I had completed that MTh I always wanted, maybe I would feel differently about a Christian college asking for money. But — and I’m not saying this to be provocative — with the higher tuition that Christian universities and seminaries charge, it’s hard for some people to believe they need anything.

So what about you? Are you, as the Beach Boys would say, “true to your school?” Or do the appeals from your college end up unread in recycling?

 

 

October 9, 2017

A Godless Generation That Doesn’t Give; Doesn’t Tithe

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:57 am

At a weekend family gathering, my nephew shocked me somewhat. We were talking about a situation in three neighboring towns where Episcopal (Anglican) churches are losing money at a rather alarming rate and there is some discussion about which which church should ultimately survive, as each feels great emotional attachment to their land and buildings.

I’m not sure what happened, but there was a transition in the conversation and suddenly he said, “I’m part of a Godless generation; we don’t tithe; we don’t give money.”

So I asked him, “What about secular charities?”

“No… Nothing.”

In the car on the three hour drive home, we discussed the implications of this for not only local churches but also charities which depend on the kindness of a donor base. What happens when those builders and boomers die off?

On the positive side, we know that while Episcopal churches are bleeding money and members, there are many megachurches that are packed each week, with the very demographic you might have expected to have given up on church.

Second, I look at North Point Community Church (Andy Stanley) where they’ve “kicked the bucket;” giving up on passing a collection plate/bucket/basket/bag because so many of their members have automated their giving.

(Before moving on, I think any church that struggles with support needs to look carefully at what’s working at North Point in Atlanta.)

I feel sorry for my nephew; he never gets to be part of so many good things that so many great people are doing in so many needy and hurtful parts of this world. He doesn’t get the reports of how the donations helped or read the letters from his Compassion sponsored child. He doesn’t get to share the pain of loss with hurricane victims or be part of facilitating the transplantation of a family in war-torn Syria to a place of peace in Canada or Germany.

Of greater concern of course is that he considers himself Godless. Quite opinionated about which Episcopal churches should close mind you, but involved only to the degree of an armchair quarterback questioning the coach’s decision to run a pass play when it’s fourth and fifteen.

My heart aches for him.

September 7, 2017

Crowdfunding “Maybes” vs. Supporting “Already Dones”

Crowdfunding

Driving home on a Fall day two years ago, a radio station was discussing crowdfunding as “the new panhandling.” The hosts were skeptical about the projects, the necessity, the ethics and the fact that it has become all too easy to put your request out there and wait for a response.

That got me thinking (but not out loud, as the drivers in the other lanes tend to worry when the guy in the next car is talking to himself.)

What if instead of crowdfunding people for something they say they are going to do, what if there was a site which allowed people to help someone for something they’ve already done?

Something like, “Last week my wife and I got to participate in a great opportunity to help some individual/group/cause in a special way, but now we are unexpectedly out of pocket to the tune of $3,000 and would like to find others who can share in the blessing of what happened that day.”

The obvious benefit here is that instead of wondering if the trip is going to be funded, the charity album is going to get recorded, the business is going to be launched or the medical treatment is going to be deemed necessary; the thing, whatever it is, is already a done deal. There can be pictures, documentation, links.

It’s a way of saying, “I/we believed in this to such a great extent, that before there was an opportunity to create a web page and ask people for help, we stuck our necks out and wrote the check (or bought the ticket, or booked the flight or studio time or concert hall, or registered the trademark, or started filming). But now we want you to help us in something that is already past the half-way mark in development.” Or, “…something that is already a fait accompli.”

That way you could trust that the project is not a pipe dream or a flight of fancy. You would know that the gears are in motion.

If you’ve ever been unemployed you know the adage that it’s easier to get a job when you are already working. There’s a momentum there, which leads to a confidence. Similarly, I would argue that it’s easier to get people on board for something that has already gained traction, or has already proven itself. Some people like to back a winner; as it stands now, most crowdfunding projects are at best a wish.

What we’re really asking here, is what if some of crowdfunding was about events in the past, not conjecture about a possible future.

Let’s take this further:

  • Suppose for a minute that the person seeking the funding was required to show the project had some substance?
  • What if the person seeking help was asked to prove that they have also put some of their own capital into the request in question?

Wouldn’t that encourage others to get on board?

So what’s a good name for such a website?

images for graphic collage: Plan To Start

May 20, 2017

Giving Anonymously

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:35 am

The church I grew up in had a small 1′ x 3′ brass plaque on the end of every pew showing the name of the donor who had sponsored that pew. As far as I know, those plaques are still there. The senior citizens complex where my mom spent her last years had a wall which showed the donors for the building project, classified into various categories by size of donation. The university I attended does the same thing in their quarterly magazine showing the names in several amount ranges.

But what if you want to give anonymously? It isn’t always easy.

Still, some hold to a Christian ethic of doing good works in secret. They really don’t want themselves to be part of the picture.

The Direct Approach

This approach simply foregoes the anonymity. It says, this is something the Lord told me to do; or I don’t want credit for this, I am simply doing what the Holy Spirit is directing. I witnessed this just yesterday. It’s beautiful. But later I was asked by the recipients, “Who was that person?”

Online

If you’re giving to support a missions project (or something similar) that offers the option of giving online, the way these programs are set up make it difficult for the funds to reach the recipients without some type of notification being received which has a name attached to it. Some sites do allow the donor to remain unknown.

Other Electronic Options

You can email funds these days, but not knowing where it’s coming from, the recipient would probably suspect spam. Unfortunately that’s the world we live in.

Cash and Dash

We were the recipients of such donations on a few occasions. We opened the mailbox and there was an envelope containing, I believe $100 in cash. This is risky these days, and many people don’t carry enough cash to do this sort of thing spontaneously. Of course a check (that’s cheque for my UK readers) would cancel out any anonymity as the name and address are quite visible. I wouldn’t recommend actually mailing the cash envelope, so you might be seen dropping it off, unless you knew when they weren’t home. Complicating this are addresses which no longer have physical mailboxes.

The Intermediary

I have to do this over the next few days. I was given the gift card last week with clear instructions not to tell the recipient who it’s from. This is probably the best form of the type listed here, though the recipient might still connect the dots.

Gift in Kind

You could go to the utility office and offer to pay their bill. Would the local power company allow you to do this? Would they notify the recipient? Things are so bureaucratic these days that some might refuse.

Any other suggestions? How would you anonymously give someone money in a paper trail world?

 

January 19, 2017

The Harsh Reality of an Aid Worker’s Life

Filed under: books, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:12 am

Today’s a bit of an exception: A book that’s not new (published in 2012) and not carried by Christian retailers. Rather, it was loaned to me by a friend who met the author at a work-sponsored event several months ago and thought I would enjoy it. I need to return the book to him now, so I don’t even get to keep it, which means I really didn’t need to bother to write anything about it but the fact is, I’m really pumped (a pun which will you’ll get in a minute) about this and want to share it in the hope some of you might track it down.

wine-to-waterWine to Water: How One Man Saved Himself While Trying to Save the World (Avery) is the suspense-filled autobiographical account of how Doc Hendley went from bartender in a college town to founding his own charity and being sent carte blanche to Darfur, Sudan by Samaritan’s Purse to develop a program to bring fresh water to people there regardless of their religion or politics.

Ever watched or read an appeal for a third-world charity and wondered what the people on the ground actually do when they wake up each morning? It’s possibly the polar opposite of what you imagine. As the story unwinds, Hendley is basically an actor in a play in which he has to write (and re-write) the script daily. There is guaranteed opposition and no real promise that you’ll live to the same the next day. In one harrowing tale, he is at a loss to understand how a bullet fired directly at his head could possibly have missed.

If you haven’t figured it out, the book’s title relates to how Hendley the Bartender begins a series of pub-based fundraising events with the aim of helping with the world water crisis. But he does so not knowing where the money will be used. When he first connects with Samaritan’s Purse, they actually turn down his donation and invite him to see the situation firsthand before he spends the first dollar.

I mentioned at the outset that Wine to Water isn’t sold at Christian retail, but perhaps it should be. On a personal level, Hendley strongly identifies with his religious upbringing as a preacher’s kid.  His personal faith in God and the power of prayer ought to be a challenge to the rest of us who perhaps have the dotted the is and crossed the ts when it comes to doctrine and theology, but may be missing out on actual real faith. I think it’s true that there are no atheists in foxholes.


Read an interview with Doc Hendley on the book’s page at Avery/Penguin. Donations can be made at winetowater.org .

December 27, 2016

Year End, Tax Receipt Incentive Giving Can Be Creative

decemberBeing self employed and in retail means Christmas time isn’t a lot of fun. We‘re still short on one of our supplier payments. We don’t pay ourselves a salary, so getting bills paid is a major goal.

It’s also a good time to start thinking about our personal finances, and in particular, our charitable donations. Not knowing exactly what our income is going to be makes it harder to figure out what we should be giving, but I don’t know anybody who, at tax time in April, looks at their receipts and says, “I should have given less.

Giving shouldn’t be done in December just to get a tax receipt. We give because we’ve been blessed, and because God commands it. But December is a good time to take stock of our personal finances and see what we can do to help others.

Here’s a principle I believe to be important:

You may be tempted to give something to charities in the broader market, but remember that the broader population will respond somewhat to their appeals. I believe there are Christian causes that only we can give to, and we should “do good to all… especially those which are of the household of faith.”

So who can we bless this year? Here’s some suggestions:

  • Our first responsibility is to our local church, the place we call our spiritual home, where we receive teaching, prayer support and fellowship
  • If there’s a “second” on the list, for many this year it is giving to relief and development in the third world, especially projects which are bringing fresh water wells to areas that don’t have potable water, aid the fight against human trafficking, provide start-up funds for micro-businesses, deal with health issues in countries where access to medicine is still limited, or assist oppressed people — especially women — see justice.
  • Is there someone in your area who does student ministry who is lacking in financial support? Consider urban missionaries and youth workers with Youth For Christ, Campus Crusade, InterVarsity and YWAM.
  • What about camp ministries? These make a huge difference in the lives of children, but aren’t fully supported by fees. Is there a Christian summer residential camp that is in need of funds for capital projects or to sponsor children in the summer?
  • What about your local Christian school? A regional Bible College, or Christian University College? Do they need money for capital projects, or are they operating at a deficit?
  • Do you have a local Christian radio station? This isn’t limited to the “preacher programs,” the stations themselves often need additional support to pay staff and overhead. I also find you get more balanced doctrine with most Christian radio than you do with Christian television, plus, you really never, never know who the station is reaching.
  • Who is working with the poor in your community? Is there someone providing meals, or transportation or moral support to people who are disadvantaged economically? If no specific organization comes to mind, consider the work of The Salvation Army.
  • If you own or work in a bookstore, that means you love the written word. Consider those who are putting the scriptures in the hands of people who don’t have them, such as Wycliffe Bible Translators, The Gideons or the various Bible Societies. 
  • What about those invisible ministries that come alongside other organizations? Previously on the blog we’ve written about Engineering Ministries International, Christian Salvage Mission and Partners International.
  • You first considered your local church. Is there another church in your community that is doing good but struggling financially? This year we heard a story of one church putting another local church on their missions budget with a sizable donation. We’re all playing on the same team, and what a wonderful witness this is to those who think we’re competing. 

Also, there may be a family in your community, or in your extended family, or someone you work with who cannot provide you with a tax receipt but needs a blessing this Christmas. Consider also directly donating to someone who is in need. 

You can’t leave this to the last minute, but secure online giving means you can cut it pretty short. Wait on whatever you were going to click to next, and respond as your heart leads you.

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