Thinking Out Loud

February 27, 2015

Target of the Month: Andy Stanley

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

Andy Stanley - Why in the WorldIt only takes one or two conservative bloggers to write something against a particular pastor or author and quickly, and all their many acolytes jump on the bandwagon. It was such with Mark Batterson’s book The Circle Maker, though few of his critics had ever bothered to read his earlier works, or, as the criticism continued, his new book The Grave Robber which is nothing more than straight commentary on the miracles in John’s gospel.

I noticed over the past week that North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia has become the most recent target. I have followed Andy’s sermon series to the point where I can safely say that there is not a sermon that he has preached in the past six or seven years (or however long the streaming site northpointonline.tv has existed) that I have not heard. I believe I can offer an informed opinion based on a high degree of intimacy with where he is coming from.

While I believe he needs no defending I wish to offer what follows.

1) You cannot preach the whole compendium of Christianity in a single sermon.

Anyone who tries to isolate a particular theme in scripture from the larger picture, and then pretend that it represents the entirety of Christian doctrine would be foolish. So when Paul speaks in Philippians about adopting the attitude of humility, you could try to extrapolate from that the idea that Christianity consists merely of walking with a humble attitude as Christ did, and you would miss other themes such as his divinity, the need for repentance, the atoning work of Calvary, the second coming judgment, etc.

You can try to work everything in to your weekly sermon if you wish, but your preaching will become repetitive, and you won’t leave enough time to really grow your people in different areas. Each of the epistles and each of the minor prophets has a particular emphasis; and while it’s helpful to see the Christological features of a particular book, it’s not helpful it appears forced.

2) Veteran Christians are in emotional bondage to certain words and phrases.

It was Canadian pastor Bruxy Cavey who first pointed this out to several of us. He had just preached a long sermon where he passionately referred to “the Kingship of God,” and then as people were leaving took some criticism from a woman upset that he had never mentioned the sovereignty of God. Sovereign and King are the same thing in my dictionary, but because he didn’t use the right words, she wrote him off.

In the rush to condemnation, many critics have an imaginary checklist and as preachers use certain references they award approval. (Right now “gospel” is worth five points for the initial use and three points for each additional usage; “ESV” is worth six points.)

3) Sometimes it takes a fresh analogy.

I believe the purpose of Jesus’ parables was in part to restate truths in a fresh way.  In my own discussions with people about a particular issue, I’ll speak about the way I believe God intended us to live, and then borrowing a computer term, I’ll suggest we need to ask God to help us “restore default settings;” i.e. return to the original design.

I don’t believe for a minute that anyone doing this on a regular basis is departing from orthodoxy any more than translating the book of Mark into Swahili is an affront to the original Greek text.

4) The best local church preaching is contextual.

There is a clash of objectives that takes place when a local church puts their sermons online for the world to watch. For that reason I’ve heard that a handful of churches are opting out of media pages on their websites. The sermons were preached in a single location at a particular time for a unique group of people.

Andy Stanley has an interesting demographic thing going on right now at North Point. You see it reflected occasionally in the testimonies of people being baptized, but it really needs to be the subject of a whole other article than we have space for here. Suffice it to say that in the current sermon series where he is speaking about “the Temple model,” he is really addressing the problem of religion in a way that mostly avoids the R-word; and he’s doing this with a particular hearer in mind. Perhaps it’s just one person, that one person coming from a place in life where this approach resonates, and then it is being expressed to a larger audience.

5) It doesn’t get more exegetical than this.

The complaint is often that ‘seeker-sensitive’ churches have topical sermons, but as I watch Andy Stanley working his way through passages on a phrase-by-phrase basis, what I see is a very old-school style of teaching — you can easily visualize people marking their Bibles — being offered with freshness and passion. Last Sunday’s message (the fourth in the series) had six specific passages (they’re posted for reference before and after the sermon) of which at least a couple went into great detail.

But before I dismiss this, why are we still hauling out this ‘seeker sensitive’ label? That’s so 1983. Survey results at North Point among people attending five weeks or less shows a desire on the part of many to go deep and jump into service. The people who show up and brave the traffic congestion at the various North Point sites in greater Atlanta are not necessarily doing this just to fill a spectator role. (Study results at Willow Creek also confirm this.) When you castigate the church with a pejorative use of the ‘seeker sensitive’ adjective, you’re really demeaning very sincere people who hunger after more of God.  The problem is not that some churches are seeker-friendly; the problem is that too many churches are seeker-hostile.

6) Listeners are encouraged to come back for more.

There is a classic story of Dwight L. Moody opting one week not to give an altar call, which proved to be the week before the Chicago Fire in which many perished. The story is told to encourage pastors to lead people to a point of decision on a weekly basis.

While the imperative of the gospel is “choose today who you will serve,” and “now is the acceptable time, today is the day of salvation;” odds are that an Atlanta fire will not consume the city in the week to come. The whole point of a sermon series is to build toward a conclusion.

The first Sunday of any of the North Point series is intentionally introductory. But the final Sunday often ends with the band playing the 21st Century version of Just As I Am, or some song that leads people to a point of decision and taking next steps. I don’t believe it’s fair to isolate any particular messages without looking at the whole.

7) We often misunderstand the role and power of sermon.

I’ve written before about how ideally, Evangelicals need to see sermons through a sacramental lens. Compared to Roman Catholic or Mainline Protestant churches, we place greater emphasis on the message than the ‘liturgy’ which proceeds it in Evangelical churches, and we do sometimes pray that through the teaching of the word, ‘we will leave here different than when we came in.’ So we need to preach for change.

But we also have to understand that this sometimes takes place over time. Last summer I purchase some clear wood stain as well as a gallon of opaque wood stain for another project. With the clear product, it took layers and layers and application before I noticed a difference taking place and it immediately struck me that this is what happens with sermons. Applied to our life in layers, the effect is initially invisible, but evidenced over a lifetime of faithfully attending to hear from God’s set-apart leaders.

For those reading this, ask yourself: What was last Sunday’s sermon about at the gathering you attended? Some might have an answer; many might have forgotten.

8) I believe Andy Stanley crafts his sermons with the criticism anticipated.

There are times I’ve listened to a North Point sermon and it has struck me that Andy is saying something in a certain way in anticipation of criticism or misunderstanding. Obviously no one wants this. He works to make identification with conservative Evangelicalism, while speaking its truths to those who are new to the doctrinal and theological concepts.

Thankfully, the ministry that I believe God has raised up at North Point has operated in such a way that many of the complaints and accusations brought against other large churches just don’t stick; in fact their Christian Education program has been a model for churches around the world and their track record on charitable giving has been exemplary.

That people miss these obvious signals and forge ahead with criticism I believe says more about the critics than the one being targeted. The survival of many ‘watchdog’ or ‘discernment’ ministries hinges on always having fresh targets and their followers thrive on all the negative messaging.

All this to say, I encourage you to check out the series Brand New at the website brandnewseries.org .

 

 

February 25, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Family Circus 02-22-15

First, the PARSE links for Pastor People:

Carl Trueman on Evangelicals as Johnny-Come-Latelys to Lent - “I suspect that the reasons evangelicals are rediscovering Lent is as much to do with the poverty of their own liturgical tradition as anything. American evangelicals are past masters at appropriating anything that catches their fancy in church history and claiming it as their own… I also fear that it speaks of a certain carnality: The desire to do something which simply looks cool and which has a certain ostentatious spirituality about it…” Hmmm…

The Church and Beer Combo Meal - This time it was PBS’ turn to highlight the trend: “At Pub Theology in Washington, most believe that traditional churches are too rigid and confining… It’s estimated there are upwards of 130 church pubs in the US, many more in Europe, and that the number is growing.” But not all clergy interviewed for the story were supportive.

Debriefing the Sermon You Just Preached - Of the four points in this article, the second addresses the great vulnerability of a pastor right after speaking: “Any criticisms you hear need to be received, graciously acknowledged, and then honestly considered, but not one hour after your sermon.  Most of us who have just poured our hearts out in preaching are not at a good place to evaluate criticisms.  Always graciously receive all comments.  However, those comments that may be particularly hard or even harsh to hear are better evaluated after two good nights of sleep.  Write them down.  Leave them on your desk.  Try to forget about them until Tuesday…

New Church Construction at its Lowest Since 1967 - In a four minute audio segment, NPR looks at the house church movement. “The Bible says, ‘What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has has a hymn, a word of instruction, or an interpretation’ — all of this done for the strength of the church,” [Greg] Stultz says. “Where is that being done?” Furthermore, one of the groups would actually qualify as multi-site: “Three years later, Redemption now has three house churches that meet around Bristol. Once a month, they have a group service…”

Memo to Pastors: Knowing Your Audience when You Preach on Sex - “In your congregation are numerous people who have committed adultery. There are hundreds of porn addicts and fantasizers of both genders. We are not a sexually pure people. So please don’t preach like we’re riding on your high horse with you (whether or not you mean to be up there). The Bible is clear about sex and its place in marriage, and it is your job to preach it. But when you stand up there and preach like ‘we all know fornication is evil’ it shames us. When you lay low the adulterers with your scorn it shames them. And are you even thinking of those who became sexually active by force through rape or molestation? How low must they feel when you speak of the “loss of purity” like it’s a candle that was blown out?”

Revisiting the President’s Conversion Story – Within the church we call it a testimony. We call it a conversion. So when Get Religion — a website that reports on how religion is reported — looked at a recent statement by Governor Scott Walker, it also hauled out a 2007 transcript of Obama’s own description of the day he responded to the altar call: “…I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity [United Church of Christ] one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany…But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works.”

Writing a Book for Limited Distribution - Every once in awhile, an article surfaces which is more than six months old, but would be new to many of you. So even though older things online aren’t as cool as things written yesterday, here are 5 Reasons to Write Books for Your Own Congregation.  Sample: “You know your audience. Few writers get to target so specific an audience because most mass market books are geared for the widest readership possible. But when you write for your own congregation, you can tailor your subject, approach, illustrations, and suggestions to your unique ministry setting.”

Poll Results - Not entirely scientific, but Thom Rainer asked his Twitter followers for reasons why churches today seem to be less evangelistic than in the past. Here’s some random samples: “Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.” “Many church members think that evangelism is the role of the pastor and paid staff.” “Church membership today is more about getting my needs met rather than reaching the lost.” “Some churches have theological systems that do not encourage evangelism.” “Our churches have too many activities…” He grouped the many responses into a list of 15 reasons.

Rob Bell on Gay Marriage - Excerpt: “One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness,” Rob Bell said. “Loneliness is not good for the world. Whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It’s central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with.” That statement prompted a question from Oprah: “When is the church going to get that?” “We’re moments away,” Rob Bell said. “I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and co-workers and neighbors and they love each other and just want to go through life with someone.”

40 More Recommended Articles - If you’re a pastor trying to balance vocational ministry with marriage and parenting, David Murray, author of the just released book The Happy Christian has 40 online resources you don’t need to search for.

Counseling for Pastors - “The counselor assumed I was making a referral. He was surprised that I was scheduling myself. That first appointment was so healing, so fresh, so needed… In our next church board meeting I presented a proposal about the church both requiring and paying the cost of each staff member seeing a counselor at least twice that year. After a healthy discussion, they agreed.

Please remember that inclusion of items here or at PARSE does not imply endorsement.

Water into Wine Birthday Card

Short Takes

  • Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas is now a multiple award-winning movie, though these may not have been the type of awards they were going for
  • …In other movie news, the creators of Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and Courageous have a new title in the works. Check out the preview for War Room, releasing in theaters August 28th…
  • …But when the history of Christian movies is written, the one story that won’t get left out involves the classic, The Jesus Film, which has now been translated into 1,300 languages.
  • In a more detailed look at Rob and Kristen Bell’s comments on gay marriage, a response from Line of Fire host Michael L. Brown: “So, according to Rob Bell, the Church of Jesus should follow worldly culture and deny the plain teaching of God’s Word in order to be ‘relevant…’ I guess what’s trending on Twitter trumps the timeless wisdom of the living Word of the living God, I guess an emotional appeal carries far more weight than transcendent Truth.”
  • I do not, for one minute, understand what people get from reading Chris Rosebrough, even though I might agree with him on a number of issues. He recently created these faux-billboards. Some of them are funny and also quite true, but what is gained here? Yet, as the author of the piece linked here points out, people do need more discernment. (But I wouldn’t want this to be the tenor of my discernment ministry.)
  • Twitter is reading our tweets. (It’s probably in the agreement when we signed up.) So based on your Twittering, an analysis of the top 100 things we gave up for Lent.
  • Jamie the Very Worst Book-Reviewer on that… that book… which became a movie.
  • A Detroit doctor refuses to treat a baby who has two moms.
  • What to do when you don’t know what to do: Setting personal parameters for the issues that aren’t black and white.
  • This summer, Pope Francis be a plush doll from the same company that does Yankees’ pitcher Derek Jeter and the Green Lantern, Bleacher Creatures, announced just as we’re hearing that a figurine from the Playmobil toy company of Martin Luther — aka “Little Luther” — is shattering sales records.
  • KidMin Korner: Ideas for sharing St. Patrick’s Day with children.
It was a funny joke, and now, apparently, also a product.

It was a funny joke, and now, apparently, it is also a product.

February 15, 2015

Weekend Link List

Crossing the Red Sea - 21st Century Edition

Crossing the Red Sea – 21st Century Edition

Some really good story teasers here; pick a few and click through to read…

  • Paying the Price of Criticizing Your Church – Byron King, who is what we would call a district superintendent in the Mormon Church, has informed popular Mormon podcast John Dehlin that he is no longer part of the LDS church: “‘I acknowledge your right to criticize the Church and its doctrines and to try to persuade others to your cause,’ King writes in the letter. ‘But you do not have the right to remain a member of the Church in good standing while openly and publicly trying to convince others that Church teachings are in error.’ In addition to the charges listed in the letter, Dehlin claims he’s being targeted for expressing public support for same-sex marriages, and the ordination of women.”
  • Sermon Feedback in Real Time – “Whatever your background, most communicators…enjoy having people in the audience provide feedback… Verbal call and response feedback. Responding in the moment… [S]ome of you that are immediately thinking if anyone spoke up during our Sunday services that they would be immediately removed… Now in the church I group up in, there were only a few folks who had ‘permission’ to respond to the sermon on a Sunday morning, and they usually went with the traditional  ‘Amen’ or ‘Hallelujah…'” What follows this introduction is a wild and wacky list of 50 alternative words or phrases you can use to encourage the person up front. (Or throw him or her completely off their game.)
  • The Pendulum Swing of Ministry - “1. I’m doing an awesome job vs. I’m doing an awful job. 2. I’m completely overwhelmed vs. I’m so bored 3. Things are going great personally vs. I’m in the ditch. 4. I love the church vs. I’m so frustrated with the church. 5. Micromanagement vs. Abdication.” “Knowing the pendulum swings of ministry and leadership can help you manage the pendulum swings of ministry and leadership.”
  • Proof-texting the Quran – “Instead of taking the time to actually read the Quran ourselves and listen to faithful Muslims tell us what their faith is actually about, we’ve allowed ourselves to buy into the hate-filled lies of fear-mongers on the Internet, cable news, talk radio, and even the pulpit. We cling to the cherry picked verses they throw out from a book they’ve never read and rally around the converted outliers they parade out to confirm our suspicions of a secret Muslim conspiracy to take over the world.”
  • Anatomy of a Transition – “…The all-white church moved to its current location in a mostly white neighborhood in the early 80s — and its new neighborhood began to change. In addition to a racial change, the neighborhood’s major employers moved to other places. And we realized we needed to bring in younger, more diverse members to help our church thrive. Our church had to make big changes or die…While our diversity is increasing, we must continue efforts to reflect the racial makeup of our neighborhood. But after much prayer, strong lay leadership and a willingness by many to be courageous, change has come… We have made the change from survival mode to the hope of thriving.”
  • A Different Take on Free Will – A book review: “I also wonder if [author Vincent] Bugliosi has thought about what the elimination of free will would accomplish. This of course would not be difficult for God to do. He would simply reoccupy the space He has created between us and Him and would force us to do His will. Whatever God wished to do with us, whatever task He had in mind, we would simply do – without complaining, without resisting, without evading. We would be, in effect, machines. If God ever does listen to Bugliosi and grants this wish, I certainly hope that He also eliminates our self-awareness. I can think of no worse fate than to spend endless time being controlled, directed, adjusted, worked – totally devoid of any ability to plan or to choose or to accomplish.”
  • Christian Fiction Sales Down 15% – Publishers Weekly reports the drop in one particular category of Christian book sales, “Many see what [Tyndale’s Karen] Watson calls ‘a winnowing away’ of Christian houses publishing fiction as part of the reason for the drop in sales. Moody Publishing’s River North imprint moved from 8-12 releases in 2013 to 3-5 in 2014. Abingdon Press ‘paused’ in acquiring fiction in August 2014, pulling back from its 25-35 fiction titles per year; and B&H Publishing Group ‘realigned’ its fiction strategy to only publish novels tied to brands such as B&H Films or other cross-platform initiatives.” But the article stresses that the publishers are “not in panic mode.”
  • Describing Your Dream Church – “Talking about one’s “dream church” is–increasingly, I’ve come to think–an exercise in not only futility but flat-out gospel denial. The church does not exist to meet our every need and satisfy our various checklists of tastes and “comfort zone” preferences. If anything it exists to destabilize such things. The church should draw us out of the dead-eye stupor of a culture of comfort-worship. It should jostle us awake to the reality that comfort is one of the greatest obstacles to growth. The two years I’ve attended my current church have been difficult and full of discomfort, but also probably the most spiritually enriching two years of my life.”
  • When a Social Media ‘Friend’ DiesHow do you mourn someone you only knew as an idea?” Right there, you may disagree with the premise. The article continues, “I will experience more death than my parents, because I know more people than my parents. People I haven’t given any thought to in years, people who – for all generations before mine – would have simply slipped out of mind, can remain on my social radar simply because there they are, archived. Here, look: a wedding album. There: a birthday reminder. And inevitably, at some point: a death.”
  • Atheist Reaps Huge Profit from Bible App – “A self-professed atheist is reportedly making over $100,000 a year selling a Bible app that he designed… Trevor McKendrick found a gap in the app market for a Spanish translation of the Bible and made the app for about $500. He now makes about $6,000 a month for his app and has added an audio version as well. The Mormon-raised app designer said that he feels guilty about profiting from a book that he believes to be a work of fiction.”

Short Takes

 

Literal Bible

 

Inclusion of stories here does not imply endorsement.

February 4, 2015

Wednesday Link List

 

I think this guy is late for the evening service. He may not have his Bible, but he remembered his cross.

I think this guy is late for the evening service. He may not have his Bible, but he remembered to take up his cross.

  • Living Ministry Life Backwards - From The Washington Post: “For most of his career, Joshua Harris was the kind of evangelical pastor who chuckled at the joke that ‘seminary’ should really be called ‘cemetery…’ That is, until Sunday [1/25], when the 40-year-old announced that he is leaving to go to seminary, saying he needs formal education and training and more exposure and connection to other parts of Christianity… Harris said he expects that studying at Regent College, a graduate school of theology, will broaden his perspective, including on accountability.” (Links to full sermon/announcement video.)
  • Getting Back on the Horse You Fell Off – After battling the Ebola virus in the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Dr. Rick Sacra is back in Liberia. “Thomas Curtis is senior pastor at the Sacra’s church, Holden Chapel, and a long-time friend and prayer partner. He said watching Sacra battle Ebola this last year helped to grow the congregation’s faith and united several area churches in prayer. He said members at Holden Chapel are excited that Sacra has returned to serve in Liberia. ‘It wouldn’t make sense to us if he didn’t because he’s not that kind of person…'”
  • Church Planting in Sin City – “The [San Francisco] Bay Area has never been perceived as religious: a 2012 Gallup poll found that fewer than a quarter of residents identify as “very religious” (defined as going to church weekly), as opposed to 40% of the nation as a whole. High salaries have drawn droves of well-educated millennials to the booming tech sector, which correlates with lower religious sentiment. So far afield from the Bible belt, the region is in fact seen as hospitable to all forms of old testament abominations: fornication, paganism – even sodomy. If you look around, however, you’ll notice a bumper crop of newer Christian ministries…
  • The Danger of ‘Winging It’ in the Pulpit – While the Perry Noble Christmas sermon on God’s “Big Ten” brought some major doctrinal concerns, perhaps a greater problem was the backstory on how the sermon happened at all: “Sometimes you are put on the spot and have to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you. This was not one of those occasions. Perry Noble got caught up in excitement and interrupted a program to deliver a message that he was in no way prepared to give. Preaching is not just some form of spiritual motivational speaking, it’s declaring the word of God. Even the goofiest sermon is a sacred act of worship that is meant to call those who hear to a deeper relationship with God. It’s just irresponsible to take that lightly. There is a real danger that can come from misrepresenting God’s word. I have no doubt that had Perry Noble spent a few hours preparing this message (instead of 10 minutes) that a lot of the controversy surrounding it would be almost non-existent.”<
  • Gideons Face Roadblocks in Georgia – Did the framers of the constitution intend this? For most Christians, clearly not, but it doesn’t stop secularists from continuing to marginalize Christianity in public places. “Some board members are in favor of the proposal. However, school board attorney Tommy Coleman says it’s unconstitutional for them to allow the Bibles to be distributed on school grounds. Glenn Phelps, with the Gideons, presented board members with a map showing many other South Georgia counties that allow Gideon Bibles to be distributed. But Coleman held that if it was happening, those school boards were not obeying the law…He said he doesn’t believe there’s any practical way to legally distribute Bibles to students at school.”
  • Podcast of the Week – Steve Brown talks to CCM singer Jennifer Knapp about coming out (which he thinks might lose him a radio station or two).  “I had people writing…the worst is the anonymous stuff… I’ve had people disagree with me in public spaces and come to shows and say they’re disappointed in me, but those are pretty tame in comparison to the anonymous kind of stuff that you get… The thing I didn’t anticipate that absolutely happened was an overwhelming responsive of positivity.” 43-minute audio.
  • The Worship Article That’s Got Everyone Talking – Perhaps it’s just the fact that articles that begin with a number (6 Tips, 5 Principles, 7 Ways) always get traction; but it seemed that everywhere I turned last week, someone was including this in their own internet roundup. Check out 15 Worship Decisions We’ll Regret Later. (Sample #10 – Not providing a venue for creatives to express their art as worship.)
  • Micro-Church Planting – “There are 60-some beds at the Kings Motor Inn, but it doesn’t seem like our friends find much rest here. People bounce from room to room, cars come and go, kids play in the parking lot. Everyone looking to escape, to feel some peace, but nobody really finding it.” They call it Dope Church. Fife, Washington is on the I-5 corridor, which is also a corridor for drug and sex traffic. Some snapshots of ministry life at the motel.
  • Moody Press Offers To Trade Books - The conservative Evangelical publisher is inviting readers an opportunity to mail in their copy of 50 Shades of Grey and receive in exchange a copy of Pulling Back the Shades by Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery. The latter book helps undo the damage done by the former. (You can also read a sample chapter at the site.) Related article: How 50 Shades of Grey Harms Women & Jesus Saves Them.
  • The Angst Your Church Sound-Tech Faces – “The stage was set.  The equipment checked and double-checked.  The band was plugged in and ready.  Everything was as expected until they played the first song…They sounded horrible.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the musicians were horrible.  The house mix sounded atrocious…” I’ve probably never seen an article that so well exposes the heart of that guy at the back who is under-appreciated and dealing with his own self-doubts.

Short links and things that got cut from Parse!:

  • A different kind of Baptism invitation: Don’t come forward, go out the door.
  • Everywhere I went online this week, people were talking about the band I Am They. Check out the song From The Day. (Also posted here yesterday as it turns out!)
  • Trinity Western University in British Columbia, Canada continues to its battle to see the school represented by various law schools on a province-by-province basis including this recent victory in Nova Scotia.
  • The Hour of Power with Bobby Schuller TV show is getting a makeover with a new producer who has done similar work for Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer; as well as a host of denominations and organizations.
  • On the wearing of leggings as pants, there is no end of media coverage. Read the original story with the ABC News video clip. And coverage here. And here. And…
  • As we’ve said before, there are no cats in the Bible, but dogs do not fare well in its pages.
  • is this transcription correct? if so, it’s the only time that e. e. cummings used a capital letter… see what may have occasioned this exception.
  • I can see using this “service countdown” video at youth group, or even mid-week, but I’m not sure it would work in even an informal Sunday morning. Then again, churches are changing right.  Step away from the computer and enjoy 5 minutes of exercise.

February 1, 2015

Weekend Link List

Lloyd the Llink Llist Llama Crashes the Party Exactly One Year After His First Visit Here

Lloyd the Llink Llist Llama makes his annual appearance

Once a year the List Lynx gets bumped. If the llama sees his shadow…

  • From Worship Leader to Lead Pastor - Of course they don’t use that terminology in the Church of England, but Tim Hughes is moving from the church that gave the world The Alpha Course to be “Priest in Charge” of a church in downtown London. “While a significant change for the worship leader, he’s keen to point out he won’t be putting his guitar down anytime soon. Inspired by a book called Chasing Francis he says he wants to become an ‘artist pastor’ who leads in creative ways. He said: ‘You lead out of who you are. I don’t want to think the leader who works in a church is someone who does x,y,z. It’s what are my gifts? What are my strengths? The big thing is leading with a team, and a community. I’m not gifted in everything so I need people who can help supplement that.'”
  • David and Goliath is Next in a line of Religious Epics – The film’s director: “‘Well first off, I’m not only a director, but also an evangelist,’ says [Tim] Chey who has spoken at some of the largest churches in the U.S. and abroad. ‘So obviously I’m not going to make a film that’s Biblically not correct or does not give honor to the Lord.’ David and Goliath is considered one of the big three Bible movies hitting theaters after Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings. The film wrapped principal photography in North Africa and in studios in London and opens as a platform release nationwide on April 3. Chey refers to the backlash of the film ‘Noah’ which many Christian pastors and leaders shunned. The film still was a box office hit at $120 million, but Christians stayed away in droves.”
  • An Open Letter to High-Profile Pastors – “Famous pastor, your actions and words (written and preached) have ripple effects which reach into the churches whose pastors do not carry your clout. It’s not because they are less gifted or less faithful. It’s because the famous man’s words carry more weight, even in our churches. So when you mess up and preach things that fail to square with God’s Word or you appear alongside false teachers it leaves the rest of us to deal with it in our own churches. These are people we love and pray for and visit in the hospital. You don’t know them. You’ll never meet them. But they listen to your teaching and read your books. Because they never see your own faults they tend to place you on a pedestal.”
  • The Theology of Afterlife – Even within Evangelicalism, there are differences as to what happens when we die, or more particularly, what happens to the unbelieving, unregenerate upon death. Views range from annihilation of the soul to eternal conscious torment. Scot McKnight has assembled a number of texts from the period of Second Temple Judaism that show an equal diversity of teaching. He presents them raw and without comment, except to note that, “Into this kind of diversity Jesus and the apostles stepped and spoke of judgment.”
  • Ultimately, the Kids Don’t Want the Y-Min to be Cool – “I think there is a reason youth ministers on average only last 18 months before they move on to a new church. Teenagers are stress machines with enough emotional baggage to sink a ship. You can be great at playing games, planning outings, and writing jokes into lesson plans, but if at the end of the day if you don’t love your kids I don’t know how you are going to make it…In spite of what people might tell you, teenagers don’t really want a youth minister who is “cool.” …What youth really want is the freedom to be who they are, and to be loved for who they are.”
  • Church Staffing: Smaller is Better – You’d expect a pastor on the frontlines of multi-site to be all about growth and numbers, but when it comes to staff size, Craig Groeschel leans toward the idea that a few too few is better than a few too many. Sample: “In ministries, a bigger staff often means a smaller volunteer base. When you start to hire people to do what volunteers once did (or could do), you rob your church members of the blessing of using their gifts in ministry. When you stop empowering volunteer leaders, you lose a great source of future staff members and ultimately weaken the strength of your church or non-profit.”
  • NYC Too Pricey for this Non-Profit – The American Bible Society is moving to Philadelphia:  “‘New York has become so extraordinarily expensive that nonprofit staff cannot afford to live in proximity to headquarters,’ said Roy Peterson, the society’s president and CEO. ‘We don’t have a cohesive, synergistic global headquarters staff right now. And that’s why we wanted to find a city that was diverse, rich with culture and churches and language, but yet affordable.'” The new home is just a block from the Liberty Bell.
  • Preaching to the Crowd You Wish Was Present – Some fairly standard advice is that if you’re a church of 50 and you’d like to grow to 250, start preaching like there are 250 people in the room. But an expert on small(er) church ministry rejects that: “That’s some of the worst advice I’ve ever received in ministry. And I’m not the only one who’s received it. Many of you have heard it too. Some of you may have repeated it. If so, stop. It’s not a good idea. In fact, it’s a very bad idea. The only time we should preach like the room is full is when the room is actually full.”
  • Not Enough Links for Ya? - You can always check out our weekend competition at Internet Monk. If you prefer story leads more related to pastors and church leaders, check out Dash House.

We end with Mark Gungor’s 9-minute rant on the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings.

January 11, 2015

On The Sunday Lunch Menu: Roast Preacher

roast-preacherOne of our pastor experiences was really strange. One never knew truly what the guy was thinking, which means the drive home from the morning service was always filled with differing opinions as we tried to dissect the various points. One time, he placed a coffee maker on the podium suggesting, “God is the water;” and concluding with, “We are the beans.” This got us singing the chorus from “We Are The World” all the way home, substituting “beans” for “world.”

On the other hand, we attended another church where the pastor clearly had a double portion of the gift of preaching. However, never once did we discuss anything he said in the car heading home. He had said it all. Perfectly. With nothing to add.

In hindsight, I’m not sure which is to be preferred. I actually like discussing the sermon in the car on the way home, especially when there is a point of doctrine that was controversial, or the use of an analogy — such as the coffee maker one — that is a bit rough around the edges. I often think what I might have done with the same passage, or how a particular point might have made more clearly. I am not ashamed of this at all, in fact I wish I had kept a journal or notebook solely for the purpose of recording when particular sermons might have served as a springboard to another idea based on the same text.

On the other hand though, on many of those drives home, there were a couple of sets of little ears in the back seat. Little ears don’t understand the difference between a critique and a criticism. The difference between unhelpful criticism and constructive criticism. The difference between not liking what someone said versus not liking them as a person. So one has to be careful.

The problem arises when adults are equally lacking in understanding the distinction. If you are a pastor, know that I can violently disagree with something you said, but it doesn’t mean I don’t like you and it doesn’t mean I won’t love everything you say the following week. Unfortunately, people tend to take things far too personally. (It was once said of me, in reference to a particular pastor, “He can’t stand that guy.” Seriously. That was their takeaway. Simply wasn’t true.)

Furthermore, I know some pastors who would be thrilled to think that people were discussing their sermons in the car on the way home, or over dinner. Better that than forgetting them the minute they leave the building. Better heated engagement of the topic or text than apathy.

But maybe not so much in the actual church building, in earshot of others. Jon Acuff makes that quite clear in a 2009 Stuff Christians Like post. In keeping with the spirit of “Roast Preacher,” I wouldn’t necessarily give this particular post a “10” or even a “9,” but the set up was positively brilliant:

Two weeks ago at church, on my way to pick up my kids after service, the guy behind me said, “It was entertaining I guess, but that didn’t feel like church at all.”

I immediately turned around and was about to hit him with my copy of the English Standard Version of the Bible, which I’ve been told leaves bruises that are 14% closer to the original intent of the Hebrew, but he threw up the gang sign for “First Time Visitor.” I backed off instantly. If there’s one group of people you can’t strike with a Bible at church, it is first time visitors. Pastors really frown on that.

So instead, I just glared at him with a look that said, “You enjoy that first time visitor status, because next week, it’s gone. Soon you’ll just be a second time visitor and there’s not a gift basket that comes with that.” Then I backed away slowly, keeping my eyes on him.

It didn’t happen exactly that way, but I did hear someone complaining and it made me sad. …

 

October 15, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Sunset - Mark BattersonThis is another photograph in a continuing series by people known to readers here; this sunset was taken Monday night by author and pastor Mark Batterson.

 

On Monday I raked leaves and collected links; you could call it my own little feast of ingathering.

Paul Wilkinson’s wisdom and Christian multi-level business opportunities — “just drop by our house tomorrow night, we have something wonderful we’d like to share with you” — can be gleaned the rest of the week at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201 and in the Twitterverse

From the archives:
The problem with out-of-office email notifications:


Lost in translation: The English is clear enough to lorry drivers – but the Welsh reads “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated.” …Read the whole 2008 BBC News story here.

October 14, 2014

Preaching That Shakes Things Up

Filed under: Church, ministry — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:14 am
“A church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed, what gospel is that? Very nice, pious considerations that don’t bother anyone, that’s the way many would like preaching to be. Those preachers who avoid every thorny matter so as not to be harassed, so as not to have conflicts and difficulties do not light up the world they live in. They don’t have Peter’s courage, who told that crowd where the bloodstained hands still were that had killed Christ: ‘You killed him!’ Even though the charge could cost him his life as well, he made it. The gospel is courageous; its the good news of him who came to take away the world’s sins.”

~Archbishop Oscar Romero – 1978 I

October 10, 2014

The Clergy Caste and the Laity Caste

I originally posted this two years ago. I think I was somewhat angry when I wrote it. Sometimes that makes for the best blog items. Returning to it two years later, the anger is now more of a lament that things are the way they are in the church.

We had the option of staying in Toronto where we attended a church where people in leadership share the Sunday morning preaching responsibilities. But we felt God was calling us to a small town that didn’t have a church of that denominational stripe, or one where shared teaching was practiced. For years and years I had no regrets. But then, about 2-3 years ago, the regret just started pouring out of me.

I also think of how having to prepare weekly messages would have developed my Christian walk. Sometimes, I admit, I need to be forced into situations that create the fertile ground for spiritual growth. Mind you, I did do some messages back in the day that were terrible. It kinda works both ways…

…Anyway, what follows is what I wrote exactly 24 months ago. I believe in the concept of the church “setting people apart” for vocational ministry. I just don’t think that means they can’t share teaching/preaching responsibilities…


When
it comes to the availability of information and resources, these are interesting times. There is nothing that can’t be accessed, and as a member of the laity, it is easy to ‘pig out’ on all manner of commentaries and Bible reference materials that heretofore tended to be the exclusive property of those in vocational ministry.

Nowadays in any given denomination, it’s easy to find pastors who can’t preach their way out of a wet paper bag, and to hear as many stories about an absolutely phenomenal adult Sunday School Bible teacher with great gifting, who works the rest of the week on a automotive assembly line or is a cattle farmer, or sells restaurant supplies.

This week I was hoping to connect with a pastor friend, who mentioned that he had come down with somethingitis. I fired off an email joking, “Let me know if you need me to preach.”

Well, not so joking. I’ve actually done the Sunday morning message in his church many years prior to his arrival here, and for that matter, at six other area churches.

He ended up not being able to preach, as no doubt his somethingitis turned into otheritis. A mutual friend — who happens to be ordained — jumped in and filled the gap. I just chanced to hear about this yesterday afternoon on my way to the bank. After cashing a check, I walked back to my car and a strange thought hit me, “You’re not going to get those opportunities in the future because you’re not part of the clergy class, they are the ones who have the hidden secrets.

You know the hidden secrets, right? Well, actually you don’t; that’s the point. That extra bit of information that does not exist on line; the things passed on when you reach your 32nd degree ordination. The mysteries of faith that cannot be revealed to the common masses. The things not even known to that eloquent adult elective teacher.

That’s why the great chasm between the laity and clergy exists. There are some things simply too great — too lofty — to pass on to the rest of us. And that’s why the next time your church offers to help people ‘develop their gift,’ they do not include you in that gift-development if your gift happens to look terribly similar to their gift.

October 8, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Okay, so this was everywhere online this past week, but if you missed it here’s an explanation of the Biblical phrase Gird Your Loins. (click image to link)

Gird-Up-Your-Loins-2

Here are the news and opinion pieces from the past week that stood out. You can also read today’s links at PARSE by clicking here.

Because this is Blogger Appreciation Month, you can catch Paul Wilkinson at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201, or @PaulW1lk1nson on Twitter.

Hotline to God

 

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