What if instead of a Jewish prayer book, that was a Bible or a hymnbook that you recognized in the picture?
What if instead of happening half a world away this took place in a Christian church a few blocks from your house?
What if instead of the victims having foreign-sounding surnames, the names were people that you knew personally?
…Religious terrorism always happens somewhere else, but what if…?
Our graphic image theme this week is parody. The upper one is a supplement to the Orange Curriculum, a weekend service Christian education experience for children. You can click on the image and then surf the rest of the web page to learn more.
A bumper harvest this week; get coffee first.
- The downside of giftedness: “When we elevate people in the church based on our need and their gifts, we put everyone in a precarious position.”
- This children’s book’s publicity was so ubiquitous this week, it’s hard to imagine that eleven publishers said ‘no.’
- A 2,400 seat auditorium and only 150 in attendance. New Birth Church in Charlotte has entered foreclosure.
- Two weeks ago, someone posted a threatening note on the doors of every church in Ashland, Nebraska.
- VBS Debrief: In a two-part essay, a mom recalls the realization that the program in which her kids were registered was too focused on peripheral issues. Part One: Initial concerns. Part Two: Pulling the kids out.
- Rapidly shifting demographics in the UK church: “In five decades, the number of people with no religion in Britain has grown from just 3 per cent of the population to nearly half, according to a new survey. Among adults aged under 25, nearly two-thirds define themselves as “nones”, or people with no religious affiliation...”
- …and staying with the UK for a moment, a look at the pressures Independent Christian Schools there are feeling.
- On last week’s shooting at the Canadian Parliament Buildings: One man writes while still under lockdown, and then reflects further a day later…
- …and Canadian author Sheila Wray-Gregoire visits Ottawa and the shrine that appears hours later.
- Come see the softer side of Calvinism.
- The case for bi-vocational ministry, increasingly becoming the new normal.
- Whether it’s over a wedding cake, invitations or flowers; you haven’t really considered the full implications of gay marriage until you’ve put a face to it. This video was shown Monday at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Conference in Nashville.
- God is not mentioned by name in the Book of Esther, so later on, Jewish scribes fixed that problem…
- …More recently, saving Halloween — apologies to Kirk Cameron — and what one observant Jew plans to do with the scary day falling on a Sabbath.
- Church leadership, by definition, means often having difficult conversations.
- Essay of the Week (1): A book review of Drew Dyck’s Yawning at Tigers is really the springboard for a much longer article on God’s transcendence.
- Essay of the Week (2): The power of event; how going to church reminds us that we are the church.
- Essay of the Week (3): Take a moment to get inside the thoughts of how some women in the church feel as other-class citizens. (The bullet-point section is worth discussing with your church staff.)
- Essay of the Week (4): This one isn’t for everyone, but those curious might linger on the blog and look around at other items. It’s a website for Messianic Christians who no doubt wrestle with what to retain and what to discard from Jewish practice. This one is about whether or not to keep having a Mezuzah at the front door.
- Essay of the Week (5): Author Sarah Bessey on the firing of a well-liked Canadian (and NPR) radio personality, and its relationship to violence against women.
- One time I had a dream. I saw a set of footprints. Later on, a lot of people saw a Footprints Statue in the park.
- The raw 7-minute video as Mark D. takes the stage post-resignation at Robert Morris’ Gateway Conference.
- Tony Jones looks at some interesting stats from eight denoms on clergy who see themselves as part of the Emerging Church Movement.
- If it’s Wednesday, there must be another faith-related movie to mention. This time it’s the film adaptation of Anne Rice’s extra-Biblical novel about Jesus’ childhood, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt now filming…
- …and from the African American community, the movie For the Love of Jesus described as “an up close and personal look into the lives of Christian Pastors raw and uncut…”
- Literature: Take a peek at a section of Mind Has Mountains, a forthcoming memoir.
- As this article reminds us, some of the top-priced residential real estate in the United States is owned by the Roman Catholic Church.
- The Church of the Nazarene is shutting down Beacon Hill Press in just over 30 days.
- That United Methodist minister who was defrocked last year for officiating at his gay son’s wedding has had his credentials reinstated.
- Also at Religion News Service, the Westboro Baptist saga continues.
- Video of the Week: The band The Surrender reworks old hymns…
- …Meanwhile, the author of Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns believes the decline of contemporary worship is imminent.
- Emily Wierenga guests at The Better Mom: Parenting is fine as long as you don’t become one of those parents.
- Essay from the broader internet: Stop Sleeping With Liars.
- If a blog post begins with the word ‘farewell,’ you know a popular Christian figure is about to get trashed. Sometimes, an apology is in order.
- Perspective: It’s one thing to be single at a wedding. It’s another thing to attend 32 weddings single.
- KidMin: I don’t know if you have to be using the Orange curriculum to buy their materials or if you can just order items piecemeal, but these movie poster parodies are awesome. (Click images to enlarge; one is pictured above, but not focused enough to read the detail.)
- The Church horror stories contest found a winner. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable it would be being in this church service…
- …Maybe it feels like Tim Challies’ first-time visit to a health club: “Let me explain. I am a pastor and I think, for the first time, I understand what an atheist feels like when he walks into church… I don’t know what the expectations are here, I don’t know how anything works, and I feel like a total outsider.”
- While this blog post is unabashedly commercial, there’s an interesting section in the middle on how things worked for musicians in the years before royalties…
- …Of course, even before that, worship might have had its complications.
- I suppose everyone’s baptism is special, this one was just specialer.
- Oh to just be turning thirty! Tyler Braun’s birthday wisdom.
- Our closing graphic (below) belongs to Church Curmudgeon who appears to have graduated from simply posting his coffee hymn parodies on Twitter to full-blown sheet music.
The rest of the week Paul Wilkinson offers you a daily choice between trick at Thinking Out Loud, or treat at Christianity 201.
Whether it involves a wedding cake, printed invitations, or floral arrangements, everyone has heard a story involving a principled store owner who refused to do work for a gay wedding. But this story has a few twists. First, the proprietor, Barronelle Stutzman, had in fact done work for the couple previously; she was simply uncomfortable with doing the flowers for the actual wedding. Second, the couple didn’t file the complaint; if I understand correctly the state’s Attorney General heard about the situation on social media and filed its own charges.*
This video was produced in March by ADV, Alliance Defending Freedom. It’s newsworthy today after being shown hours ago in Nashville at a conference of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, where the owner of the flower store then greeted attendees in person.
*I hope I got that right; as a Canadian I don’t always get the nuances of U.S. law, but clearly there wasn’t the normal “plaintiff” that you usually find in stories like this.
The links are on me! Actually, the Religious Newswriters Association people were all at a convention last week, so mysteriously, there was no news.
- When the courts rule allowing distribution of religious pamphlets, remember that means all religions.
- Vicky Beeching was interviewed by the Unbelievable podcast host Justin Brierley as to whether a person can still claim to be Evangelical if they are gay.
- Fox News aired a 10-minute feature and first interview with Meriam Ibrahim following her resettlement in the U.S…
- …Meanwhile, Thursday (9/25) marks the two-year anniversary of Saeed Abedini’s imprisonment in Iran for his faith. His wife plans a prayer vigil outside the White House to urge the President and State Department to do more.
- Copycat Churches: “When it comes to church planting in this decade, everyone is putting up the same taco stand.” 25 questions to determine if you’re just doing what everyone else is. (This originally appeared in the summer, but is worth noting.)
- On his CT blog The Exchange, Ed Stetzer proposes a fresh paradigm for issuing pastor credentials.
- I’m not sure what I would be thinking if the head of my denomination expressed frequent doubts about God’s existence.
- So how about a worship service that makes you feel terrible? “We must first feel the weight of God’s glory pressing us, pulverizing our vain attempts at good works into dust.” Why part of worship’s job is to make us feel uncomfortable.
- A Moody Publishing author slips in to Oprah’s Life You Want Weekend in prayer, and leaves still praying.
- Worlds Colliding: Ministry meets martial arts in a short clip from a New York State church’s fight night. (The most bizarre video you’ll watch this week.)
- Okay everyone, yes, I missed the irony in a link last week. That Caribbean study cruise is on the theme of enduring persecution and suffering.
- Church History (Recent): Termed “The most comprehensive summary of Youth for Christ’s 70-year history that’s been written;” this takes you to a 25-page .pdf. (Billy Graham was given half a desk to work at.)
- An Orthodox Jewish sect posted notices around a section of London last week trying to segregate men and women on sidewalks.
- This just in: Church choral music is dying. Here’s one person’s suggestions as to why.
- The noise is always louder when a celebrity falls off the purity wagon.
- Recycling the September Service Sermon: The problem with this message is that not everyone can lead a small group.
- Academic Alley: This review of two chapters of a book on New Testament ethics leaves me wanting to read more.
- Essay of the Week: Lots of buzz around the ‘net for this refreshed and expanded ‘guard your heart’ type of message that Sarah Bessey titled Guard Your Gates.
- A Jewish lawyer, writer and rabbinical student praises Chick-fil-A’s Truett Cathy for honoring Christianity’s sabbath.
- Even if the Left Behind remake is popular, the doctrine it’s based on is not, either among scholars who study Revelation, or people in general outside the U.S. Sample: “Rapture-based theology teaches us to think and hope for an escape from this world, not endurance to persevere in it.”
- Pastoral Refresher Course: Eight concise reminders for officiating at a funeral.
- Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace is into a nautical theme lately, with articles about cruise ships versus rescue boats and turning around large ocean liners. (The second article is actually about forming local apologetics organizations.)
- A New Testament professor challenges popular interpretations of four gospel parables.
- Religious institutions that put emphasis on dress codes turn students and staff into modern Pharisees. (One student: ” They’re [the codes are] contributing to the spiritual shallowness of our membership”)
- Adding a second service next month, one pastor sees multiple services as a big win.
- This should be one of the weird stories we end with, but I’d hate for anyone to miss out on Jim Bakker’s Time of Trouble Beans and End of the World Biscuits.
- Though he wasn’t a featured guest, Lecrae performed last week on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
- Working the seniors’ home circuit wasn’t the way Pastor Conrad wanted it to end.
- When a church picketed a strip club, they probably didn’t consider the means whereby the club would fight back.
- In a recently released documentary film, Nashville pastor Pete Wilson notes that sex trafficking is taking place just 50 feet from his church’s front door.
- The California Southern Baptist Convention expelled a church over… well you can probably guess what issue.
- Billed two weeks ago in Toronto as “Festival of Hope,” the Franklin Graham team rolls into Erie, PA this Saturday and Sunday under the banner “Rock The Lakes.”
- This item links you to the first chapter of a Christian mom’s sanitized fan-fiction of Harry Potter aka Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles. Also some clarification of her intent.
- A “Virginity Rocks” T-shirt results in an eighth-grader being forced to change.
- Lost Songs Department: From 41 years ago — gasp! — Jesus Music band The Archers’ Put On Jesus. (It says The Archers, not The Archies.)
- If you’re up for one more round on this topic, a former women’s ministry leader at Mars Hill answers questions.
- It always amazes me how people who can’t do everyday tasks are able to do extraordinary things.
- Finally: When your child swears in Sunday School: Identifying 15 Awkward Church Moments.
Our closing graphic is from eScapegoat, which allows our Jewish friends to transfer their sins to a goat roaming the internet collecting sins for Yom Kippur. (Note: No actual Halachic atonement implied.) Click the image below to visit.
And you thought I would take the day off, didn’t you? Well, the link list crew worked all New Year’s Day to bring this to you.
- Russell D. Moore has a unique observation post from which to consider the decision by the Russian government to suspend adoptions of Russian children by Americans. I think his two Russian born children would agree with his summary.
- Hi readers. Meet Matt Rawlings. Matt read 134 books last year. How did you do?
- And here’s another Matt. Matt Appling has put together an amazing essay on why the concept of shame is ripe for a comeback.
- David Murrow has an interesting idea in which popular TV pastors are a brand that is a type of new denomination. He also has other ideas about what the church will look like in 50 years. (Or read the Todd Rhoades summary.)
- Some readers here also blog, and if that’s you, perhaps you do the “top posts” thing. (I don’t.) But if you had a post-of-the-year, I can almost guarantee it weren’t nothin’ like this must-read one.
- “This is the most egregious violation of religious liberty that I have ever seen.” Denny Burk on what is largely a U.S.-based story, but with justice issues anyone can appreciate: The case of Hobby Lobby.
- Can some of you see yourself in this story? “It’s really hard for me to read God’s word without dissecting it. I like to have commentaries and cross references. I like to take notes. I like to circle, underline, rewrite. And then my time with God turns into another homework assignment.” I can. More at Reflect blog.
- This one may be sobering for a few of you. David Fitch offers three signs that you are not a leader, at least where the Kingdom of God is concerned.
- “We put people into leadership roles too early, on purpose. We operate under the assumption that adults learn on a need-to-know basis. The sooner they discover what they don’t know, the sooner they will be interested in learning what they need to know…At times, it creates problems. We like those kinds of problems…” Read a sample of Andy Stanley’s new book, Deep and Wide, at Catalyst blog.
- So for some of you, 2013 represents getting back on the horse again, even though you feel you failed so many times last year. Jon Acuff seems to understand what you’re going through.
- Dan Gilgoff leaves the editor’s desk at CNN Belief Blog after three years and notes five things he learned in the process.
- More detail on the Westboro petition(s) at the blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars; along with our get well wishes to blog proprietor Ed Brayton, recovering from open heart surgery.
- Rachel Held Evans mentioned this one yesterday: The How To Talk Evangelical Project. Sample: “If Christianese was a language, evangelical was our own special dialect. A cadence. A rhythm…” Click the banner at the top for recent posts.
- Not sure how long this has been available, but for all you Bible study types, here’s the ultimate list for academically-inclined people who want to own the best Bible commentary for each Bible book. (And support your local bookstore if you still have one!)
- Bob Kauflin salutes the average worship leader, working with the average team at the average church. Which despite what you see online is mostly people like us.
- Flashback all the way to September for this one: Gary Molander notes that the primary work of a pastor is somewhat in direct conflict with the calling they feel they are to pursue. He calls it, Why is it So Stinkin’ Hard to Work for a Church?
- Nearly three years ago, we linked to this one and it’s still running: CreationSwap.com where media shared for videos, photos, logos, church bulletins, is sold or given away by thousands of Christian artists.
Well they don’t build megachurches like this anymore… This is the First Church of Christ, Scientist (i.e. Christian Science) in Boston in a 1907 photo at Shorpy.com.
To begin this link list, you need a blank piece of paper.
- Let’s start out with something completely different. Without clicking through… One of the best selling Christian books of the past 20 years has been The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Name the five languages without peeking.
- How about another top five list? Again, without clicking, what’s your guess as to the top five churches in the United States by attendance. It’s about 3/4 of the way down the page.
- Finally, before you click that link, what do you think are the top five Bible verses searched for at BibleGateway.com? Oh, and the one you think is number one, actually isn’t. [More on that subject with our People’s Bible page sample.]
The regular links
- If you lead a small group, here’s a YouTube channel you should know about while it lasts, because when it comes to small group discussion-starter videos, Zondervan is giving away the store.
- Is the window on religious freedom in Russia about to close? Some people feel Christians could be adversely affected by a new law.
- Borrowing material from the “public domain” Bible simply makes good economic sense for Hollywood.
- He was an Independent Fundamentalist Pastor and now he’s an atheist and humanist.The blog Galatians Four looks at what can happen when your church is filled with abuses.
- Russell D. Moore knows that the 2012 election has got more people talking to and about Mormonism. So he offers a few suggestions on confronting LDS theology.
- Stephen Colbert gets serious at a Catholic university to profess his love for his Roman Catholic faith.
- Being the worship leader in a church isn’t easy. That’s what Jonathan Sigmon’s pastor said one recent Sunday. But there are also some blessings that come with the job.
- Not everyone will agree with one of the points on corporal punishment, but the rest of these seven tips for Christian parents should meet with approval.
- For those of you who like to go deep, here’s an article about Augustine and the literal interpretation of Genesis 1.
- You know it’s a slow news day at Christianity Today when the Facebook page, Awkward Couples of Liberty gets its own article. (My wife points out that in this instance, the university is not aptly named…)
- Listen online to three sample songs from Matt Maher’s new album, The Love In Between.
- This will cause a few people to say ‘I told you so.’ Brian McLaren led a same-sex commitment service in Maryland; one of the grooms being his son Trevor. The story has attracted over 120 comments so far at the CT Live blog.
- Here are a dozen things that, thankfully, your pastor probably won’t hear in heaven.
- The Big Picture pics of North Korea are obviously propaganda, but it’s the unanimous response of reader comments that seal the deal.
- Happy Birthday to the Compact Disc, which turns 30 this week.
- Meanwhile, over at the daily comic strip Retail by Norm Feuti, the “Christmas” versus “holiday” semantics debate has already begun: