Thinking Out Loud

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.

December 18, 2014

Exodus: Don’t Wait for the Video

Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-Movie-Poster-Wallpaper-960x540

Because I have worked in and around the Christian retail industry for too long, I know that the surge of Christian-themed movies at the box office these past few months always has a ripple effect in the Christian bookstores. Current top sellers in such stores — and their online equivalents — include God’s Not Dead and Mom’s Night Out, both of which had theatrical runs first.

I don’t think you’re going to see the same happen with Exodus: Gods and Kings. For the most part, Christian retailers act as gatekeepers for what their constituency reads or listens to or watches, and the Christian media have not entirely received this movie well, though as you’ll see at the bottom of this piece, there are exceptions.

At The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter writes:

Moses is a central figure in three of the most populous world religions. He’s mentioned more times in the Qur’an than anyone else, and more times in the New Testament than any other Old Testament character. In Judaism he’s not only the central figure, he quite literally wrote the book on the religion. He has, in other words, a lot of name recognition.

…So why does [director Ridley] Scott go out of his way to ruin the story of Moses? The reason can’t be chalked up to “artistic license,” because that would imply some sort of artistry behind the decision. The changes Scott makes, though, are not only art-less, they’re nonsensical and spoil anything of value in his film.

At viewer-rating site, Faith Based Films, one viewer writes:

There is no cloud by day, or pillar of fire by night, or any indication of manna, or the gold, silver and other riches that the Bible teaches were freely given to them by the Egyptians on their departure from Egypt.  It leaves those who know the biblical account wondering how the Israelites will ultimately build God’s tabernacle.  The film’s depiction of a rag-tag herd of refugees—totally absent the riches they took from Egypt, leaving them with nothing to fulfill their destiny of building the tabernacle and all its instruments of worship.

Significantly, the burning bush scene when Moses first encounters God as a child is set in the context of Moses’ journey up the mountain in a rain storm, which triggers a landslide that sweeps Moses downward and results in his being hit on the head by rocks.  He is left submerged in mud except for his face—suggesting that perhaps Moses’ ongoing conversations with God are injury-induced hallucinations or the fantastical imaginings of a schizophrenic. And when Moses is on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, it is Moses and not the “finger of God” writing them—without any hint of the blinding glory of God’s presence. In fact God’s portrayal is never that of a sovereign God of magnificent and overwhelming glory.  To the contrary, he is depicted as a somewhat dirty young boy who chats with Moses while serving tea.

Speaking of that website, Christian Newswire notes:

Scott’s portrayal of God makes him almost unnecessary in the film to the point that Exodus wouldn’t have suffered much if He had not been in it. Ultimately, the movie misses the central point of the story,” said Chris Stone, Certified Brand Strategist and Founder of Faith Driven Consumer.

The issue is the casting at this article at CNN:

We’ve known since the moment the full cast was announced: nearly every major role in the movie is played by a white actor.

What makes it worse for many observers is that, on the flip side, virtually every black actor in the movie is playing a part called “Egyptian thief” or “assassin” or “royal servant” or “Egyptian lower class civilian.”

…The deeper problem is one of conflating whiteness with heroism and power. Is it so hard to imagine our biblical heroes as being nonwhite? Is it beyond belief that one of the greatest empires in world history had authentically dark skin, rather than being white folks just wearing a ton of makeup?

Finally, in the spirit of the biblical ‘Love Chapter,’ Christianity Today finds some good things to say about it:

The costumes, jewelry, makeup, architecture, embellishments and textures in every shot of Exodus feel as authentic as something you’d see under glass in the British Museum. There are few filmmakers who do world-building better than Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator, Prometheus), and on this score Exodus may be his crowning achievement.

Plot deviations and minutiae aside, key themes of the Exodus story are there. Moses is rightly portrayed as a reluctant and rough-around-the-edges leader, though ultimately faithful to his calling. God’s favor upon and covenant faithfulness to the Hebrews is evident, especially in contrast to the ineffectual polytheism of the Egyptians. The presence of God with his people is clear (“God is with us!” shouts Moses on the banks of the Red Sea), even as the “wrestle” between Yahweh and the often-unfaithful Israelites also comes through. “Israel,” after all, literally means “struggle with God.”

Will LifeWay, Family Christian, Parable and Mardel stock the movie when the time comes? That remains to be seen. The film is PG-13 for violence, so some stores may think twice on that basis. But concerns about the film’s accuracy will probably rule the day. 

For a complete look at the differences between the Bible and the screenplay for Exodus, check out this article.  Note: Contains many spoilers; be sure to read all four pages.

 

November 5, 2014

Wednesday Link List

You're not really showing up at the church potluck (or pot-blessed) supper unless you're showing up with a zippered casserole carrier inscribed with the verse, "Serve one another in love."

You’re not really showing up at the church potluck (or pot-blessed) supper unless you’re showing up with a zippered casserole carrier inscribed with the verse, “Serve one another in love.”

Places to go; people to meet!

We end today where we started last week; another movie parody poster from the Orange curriculum. Click the image for details.

Orange Curriculum Parody Poster 2

June 13, 2014

Southern Baptists Condemn All “Heaven” Books

Heaven is for Real books

If you haven’t heard, this week’s Southern Baptist Convention convention (redundancy intended) included a resolution that basically said, ‘To hell with heaven books.’ Blogger Kristine McGuire summarizes the story accurately in this introduction,

There is an article on Charisma News which is reporting that the Southern Baptist convention has issued a resolution stating books (and now presumably movies) such as Heaven is for Real and others like it (such as My Journey to Heaven by Marvin Besteman, To Heaven and Back by Dr. Mary Neal, and 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper) are not in line with “the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife” and are determining to remove Heaven is for Real from Lifeway Christian Stores.

And it’s taken them how many years to come to this decision? Heaven is for Real has been in stores since 2010…

continue reading here

Christian Retailing reported the same story:

…The parent body of LifeWay Christian Stores stopped short of calling for such products to be pulled from the retail chain, however.

Delegates—known as messengers—to the Baptist body’s assembly focused on “the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife,” cautioning against putting books about personal heaven experiences on the same level as the Bible’s description of the hereafter…

continue reading here

But certainly the rule here should be caveat lector, let the reader beware. By extension, isn’t any Christian book in danger of being elevated to the same status of the Bible? And doesn’t this already happen in certain circles, where the words of both Charismatic and Reformed superstars are given an almost divine authority.

Black Christian News reported:

In another cultural pushback, Baptists affirmed “the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife” and criticized best-selling movies and books that have focused on heaven and suggested descriptions of it.

“Many of these books and movies have sought to describe heaven from a subjective, experiential source, mainly via personal testimonies that cannot be corroborated,” they said.

In the same session where the resolution was passed, a messenger asked that Heaven Is for Real be removed “for theological reasons” from LifeWay Christian Stores, which are affiliated with the SBC. The request was ruled out of order.

continue reading here

J.D. Hall at the blog Pulpit and Pen notes:

What’s forgotten is that Burpo’s book (and Wallace’s movie by the same name, Heaven is for Real) is nothing new, novelty, or unique. Phil Johnson gives a good list of books with similar testimonies that have become so prominent in the evangelical marketplace that Tim Challies has come to call the genre “Heaven Tourism.” Johnson gives the list including My Journey to Heaven: What I Saw and How It Changed My Life, by Marvin J. Besteman; Flight to Heaven: A Plane Crash . . .A Lone Survivor . . .A Journey to Heaven—and Back, by Dale Black; To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story, by Mary Neal; 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life, by Don Piper; Nine Days In Heaven, by Dennis Prince; 23 Minutes In Hell: One Man’s Story About What He Saw, Heard, and Felt in that Place of Torment, by Bill Wiese.

continue reading here

Heaven is for RealHis article is titled “Heaven is for Real: Is Discernment Dead?” and makes the point that in the final analysis, “the details of the book ought to strictly and immediately raise the red flag of discernment for even the most elementary of Christians – let alone those serving as provost of Southern Baptist seminaries.” But he seems to disagree that giving so much stock to the child’s story as to render it worthy of condemnation is the wisest move. Good, personal discernment is all that’s needed.

Many articles noted that LifeWay did not actually end up having to remove the book from sales. There’s too much money to be lost, and LifeWay is a cash cow for the denomination. In various places here we’ve reported on instances where the company puts profit over principles, such as Southern Baptists’ wholesale condemnation of women in ministry, while at the same time publishing and promoting the ministry of Beth Moore. 

By falling just shy of condemning the book outright at LifeWay, the company leaves itself open to carrying the DVD, certain to be both popular and profitable. The film has earned $89,007,517 in the U.S. so far according to Box Office Mojo, and ranks 15th for 2014. The movie is scheduled to release on July 22nd from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, with an initial MSRP of $30.99 for DVD and $40.99 for Blu-Ray.

Related:

May 8, 2014

Yet Another Faith-Centered Movie Coming in August

Filed under: media, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:34 am

Calvary_movieposterI’ve got to say this one intrigues me.

Calvary opened in the UK in a respectable 7th place and held on to that place during its second week. As I write this, the movie is still holding on in the top ten, in 9th place.

After reading a little about the movie online, it seems to combine intrigue with enough quirky characters to keep you engaged, and the questions of faith it raises seem to be front and center. The beautiful scenery in Ireland can’t hurt this either. Here’s the succinct “elevator pitch” from IMDb:

After he is threatened during a confession, a good-natured priest must battle the dark forces closing in around him.

A review in The Irish Post provides the movie’s opening line, a reminder that if you’re a conservative Evangelical perhaps this is not the film for you. The Catholic Herald provides some context for that scene, “While the opening scene raises the disturbing topic of the sex abuse scandal, the film is not an assault on the Church.” The reviews headline offers that this film is, “a jet black comedy with serious things to say about faith.” In case you missed that, let me repeat that from all indications this is a very dark comedy, but the Catholic publication goes on to give it four stars. The Telegraph’s review seems to see the opening lines as a microcosm of the film as a whole.

The one-hour, forty-minute film is schedule to open in the US (and presumably Canada) in August. It will be interesting to see the reaction of North American critics.

 

April 26, 2014

Faith Movies in Perspective

I’d never heard of the website Grantland until Sarah Pulliam-Bailey mentioned it yesterday, but there’s some great stats on the faith-based films from the past few years. The article is titled, God’s Not Dead (He’s Playing Now in Movie Theaters). There’s a chart showing some of the current movies in perspective alongside their ‘secular’ counterparts, a chart showing how some of the religious reels fared on opening weekend,

Opening Week Gross Movies Classified as Christian

and a chart showing the total domestic gross for each of those pictures you’ll have to click through to see.

The article is long and raises some good questions:

…But that’s not the entire story. Because there’s the less-glamorous, more uncomfortable side of the story. The how and the why. How are these movies doing well? And why now? It’s near impossible to dive into these questions with a number set, a brief synopsis, a cast list, or even a handful of trailers. Beginning to scratch that surface involves actually seeing these films. Seeing all of them. On the same day. You know, on Easter Sunday.

Which is exactly what Grantland writer Rembert Browne did. Reviews of the four films follow, with the subjectivity that can only be achieved by watching them all at once!

And there’s more to come. On May 9th, Mom’s Night Out opens, and on Wednesday night, we got to attend the first preview showing in Canada. I’ll have more to say about that film in a few days.

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