Thinking Out Loud

March 16, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Survived the Ides of March did you?  In honor of St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, we’re in green today!

  • Hands down, today’s top entry has to be Mark Galli’s very balanced look at Rob Bell’s Love Wins at Christianity Today.
  • Here’s Bell being interviewed by Martin Bashir on msnbc.com who, refreshingly, begins by asking Bell for his take on the disaster in Japan.
  • If you read the book Life Without Limits you know the story of Nick Vujicic, a young man born without limbs. What you may not know is that Nick been cast in a Depression-era film The Butterfly Circus, about a limb-less performer in a carnival sideshow.  You can buy a copy on DVD for only $12.99.
  • Here’s a preview of an organization I’m going to be a full profile on sometime soon.  Megavoice is an organization, a Bible translation project, and a playback device that has no moving parts and needs no batteries.
  • The Church Report has a summary of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s forum at Saddleback with Rick Warren in which the former PM discussed the role of faith in a 90-minute Q & A session.
  • Blog discovery of the week:  GraceWorks has archives going back to January of 2000 — that’s eleven years ago.  As Homer Simpson might say, “Was the internet even available for computers back then?”
  • The plot thickens:  In episode three of John Shore’s Smith Family Chronicles, Bob and Betty discuss daughter Jane’s gayness.   But does Bob let something slip out accidentally?  A new episode every Friday. (Also, FYI, some backstory on the series in this article.)
  • When I blogged last week about looking for “something completely different” (obvious Monty Python reference), I got a reply from Anita who blogs at Dreaming Beneath The Spires from C. S. Lewis country, Oxford, England.
  • Good evangelists always have some good stories.  Our latest catch from Stuff Fundies Like is this video, a reworking of the old hymn “I Love to Tell the Story.” A total and complete reworking.
  • Here’s a bonus video link to something at Lance Morgan’s blog (HT Pete Wilson) titled “A Message To The Sound Guy.” This might strike a little close to home for some church volunteers
  • No link for this one, but Thomas Nelson’s Book Sneeze program, by which many of your favorite bloggers get their books to review, is sounding out its membership on the idea of sending review copies out as e-books in order to save money.  Good idea or bad idea?
  • Speaking of books, don’t miss the two book mini-reviews here from the past weekend, both centering in on books with the word “lies” in the title!  (Would I lie?)
  • If you can’t stop wacko protests at military funerals, get The Patriot Guard to cover them over and drown them out.
  • Last month Trey Morgan posted Francis Chan’s Ten Signs You May Be A Lukewarm Christian from Crazy Love, a book I’m finally getting around to reading.
  • That’s all I’ve got time for this week, but suggestions are always welcomed.
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April 12, 2010

Sorting Out Rick Warren’s Invite from John Piper

When I started this blog it was with the determination to be different.   Although it has the usual “about” page, plus an extra one called “Behind the Scenes,” the real mandate to do this is found on a page titled “Life in the Blogosphere” which is no longer available here.

In that page is a list of six or seven things I wanted to do here, and they’re all fairly general one except for one.   It said, “I don’t really get the whole John Piper thing…”   (I’m actually breaking one of my own blog rules by getting into this!)

When I started reading Christian blogs many years ago, and also when I started writing one over two years ago, it seemed like Piper was ubiquitous.  People were searching online for everything the man had ever said; waiting with bated breath for the lasted video upload from Desiring God; tripping over themselves to cut-and-paste his latest take on some hot-button theological (or not so theological) issue from someone else’s blog to their own; and quoting his words in articles and opinion pieces as though they were the Word of God itself.

That continues to this day — it’s no wonder the guy is taking a few months off; who could live with that pressure? — but I’ve since learned to keep my bookmarks and published blogroll more balanced, so I only see a small percentage of what persists from the reformed (or in some cases neo-reformed) sector of the internet.

People often ask, “Who will be the next Billy Graham?”   Honestly, I’m glad that we are living in a time when no single non-Catholic Christian leader speaks for all of us.  (I think it helps direct the focus to Jesus!)   I’m glad that this particular type of leadership role is somewhat fragmented.    There’s some good and bad in this, as I mentioned in my post, Top Trends Affecting Your Church in 2009 over a year ago:

Trend #10: Conflicting Spokesmen — Who will be the next Billy Graham? It probably won’t happen that the future will see the focus on a single individual who speaks for all Christians or all Protestants or all Evangelicals.  Since many key spokespeople disagree on secondary and tertiary issues, it will sometimes appear to that there is a lack of consensus.

You see this most clearly in the present teapot tempest over Piper’s decision to invite Rick Warren to the Desiring God conference.  (Over 40,000 posts and web articles served on this topic to date. Would you like fries with that?)    People who like Piper don’t like Warren.   (I was going to put a qualifying phrase in there to temper the generalization, but decided to let it stand.)    Take Phil Johnson for example:

I can’t think of anyone who would make a finer poster-boy for the pragmatic, spiritually impoverished, gospel-deprived message of modern and postmodern evangelicalism than Rick Warren. He is shallow, pragmatic, and chameleonic. He is a spiritual changeling who will say whatever his audience wants to hear. He wants desperately to be liked and accepted by Muslims, evangelicals, and everyone in between.

Too bad Phil doesn’t tell us what he really thinks.

Some feel that Warren is well-chosen as the man to fill Graham’s shoes in civic affairs such as the inauguration of a President and see him as the spokesman for the Evangelical church.  (A feeling, I might add, that sits better with me than the choice of T. D. Jakes or Joel Osteen.)

But — recent events notwithstanding — Piper’s followers, who are extremely well represented here in blog-land still see him as the man who has the final word on doctrinal matters.   Warren can offer public prayers and say grace at prayer breakfasts, but it’s Piper they really need to give them direction.   So they aren’t quite sure what Piper is up to inviting Warren, though Scot McKnight is one of many who endorses the decision.

Personally, I think I have a good idea what he’s up to; and I think the invitation and the decision to take a sabbatical are better understood when seen in the context of each other.  (The blog, Black Calvinist presents some excellent insights, as well. while blogger Stephen Macasil thought perhaps it was an early April Fool’s prank!)

But here’s my point:

  • 100 years from now it won’t matter

And here’s my other point:

  • 100 days after the conference it won’t matter, either; perhaps even 10 days later

These things preoccupy bloggers — many blogs thrive on controversy and division — and a handful of Christian periodical writers, but they disappear in the dust very quickly.    Plus there’s this, from I Cor. 3: 4, 5, and 7 —

When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I prefer Apollos,” aren’t you acting like those who are not Christians? Who is Apollos, and who is Paul, that we should be the cause of such quarrels? Why, we’re only servants. Through us God caused you to believe. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. The ones who do the planting or watering aren’t important, but God is important because he is the one who makes the seed grow. (NLT)

You would that the upcoming conference will change Christianity forever to read the passion of bloggers and those leaving comments on their blogs.   It won’t.

The world will continue.  This will neither usher in a new reformation nor a new apostasy.  The gospel will continue to be preached in all the world for the witness.   Wait and see.   (What’s that verse in I Cor. say?  Love believes the best.)  Speculation just isn’t helpful at this time.

On the weekend, blogger Tim Challies was interviewed during the final hour of The Drew Marshall show.   I didn’t realize that Tim’s background includes time spent in both Warren-type and Piper-type churches, and the subject of the conference was covered.   The April 10th interview will be posted online on Friday, April 16th and you can catch it here.

Video embed of Piper’s response to the critics.

Photos:  The two were sitting side-by-side at the June, 2009 funeral of Rev. Ralph Winter.  (Christian Post)

No “chameleonic” is not a word.   “Chameleon-like” is what he wanted.

By “neo-reformed” I mean to infer not an extremeism (though this does happen) but rather — largely due to the internet —  people who have been recently swept into Calvinism because of various ‘appeals’ who will later, as they work out the nature of God in scripture, find themselves not tethered to Reform doctrine and will gravitate to some other position.   But there’s also Scot McKnight’s definition.  (And Roger Olson’s supplemental piece.)

September 19, 2009

Don’t Judge a Book By Its 2,900 Covers

Rick WarrenAs far as the book industry is concerned, Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren is the number-one, all-time, best-selling, non-fiction hardcover book in history. Period. So you can see why everyone is excited about the November release of The Hope You Need (Zondervan).

Well, not everyone. Certainly not at the blog, Church Marketing Sucks — yes that’s the name of it and don’t laugh, it was recently rated the 11th most popular Christian blog.

Their point of view, as outlined in this post, concerns Rick Warren’s decision to open the book jacket design up to a $5,000 competition, what graphic designers refer to as “spec work.”

Unfortunately, it’s not such a sweet deal. For the hundreds of designers who spent hours of time on your project, it’s a total loss. These kinds of projects communicate that their work is of little value.

As a double whammy, it’s not a very sweet deal for you, Rick. The quality of work you get is going to be sub-par … because the designers didn’t have the benefit of a working relationship with you the client where they could be privy to all the ideas, expectations, insights and everything else that goes into making a creative project work. In a nutshell: You’re not getting the best work because you’re not valuing the worker.

While the mechanics of getting a book to press don’t often register with readers, you really should read the whole article, and if for some reason you can’t, then you really MUST have a look at the 2900 contest entries.* You have to wonder why, given the success of its predecessor, a book that is this important is being put through this bizarre tendering process.

I can guarantee you’ll never look at a book cover the same again.

porpoisedrivenporpoisepurse driven

*That’s about 2,946 as of the contest closing.  Entries will remain posted online at the linked site until October 2nd, 2009

~from the blog, Christian Book Shop Talk

April 24, 2009

Church for the Wealthy: Saddleback Laguna Woods

front_gate

If your view of church is that it’s an equalizer; that there is neither “male nor female; this ethnic group nor that ethnic group; or rich nor poor;” get ready to have that ideal shattered.

And the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
He said you look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you’ll do
So I took off my hat I said imagine that, huh, me working for you

jim-casparSaddleback Community Church has planted a church in the middle of a gated communityLaguna Woods in Laguna Hills, CA — and no, you can’t visit.   Neither can the Mystery Worshiper from Ship of Fools, nor can Jim and Caspar go to church for a visit, unless they or you are invited by a resident on the inside.

And the sign said anybody caught trespassing would be shot on sight
So I jumped on the fence and yelled at the house, Hey! what gives you the right
To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in
If God was here, he’d tell you to your face, man you’re some kinda sinner

To be fair, (a) this is a community of 18,000; an unreached people group you might say, and (b) southern California invented the whole gated community thing; they exist there on every block the way Waffle House or Cracker Barrel exists in the southeast.    Still, there’s something unsettling about this, if only because (a) if it’s been done before, it’s certainly been low key and (b) it’s hard for anything connected with Saddleback to be low key.

I became aware of this through the blog called (wait for it…) Church Marketing Sucks and its link to Monday Morning Insight.    Before you jump to conclusions, I’d encourage you to read ALL the comments attached to both posts, since they provide not only opinion but further background information, some of which question whether gated communities should exist in the first place.     Still…

And the sign said everybody’s welcome to come in, kneel down and pray
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn’t have a penny to pay,
So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign
I said thank you Lord for thinking about me, I’m alive and doing fine

Having listened to the arguments for and the arguments against Saddleback’s initiative, I gotta say, I’m at a loss for words.   I just don’t know,  if I was sitting in the conference room at Saddleback a year ago or whenever this egg first hatched, which side of the opinion spectrum I’d be on.

veggie-gated-communityThe Gated Community
Is where we’ll always be
Our smiles are white
Cause we’re inside
In comfy custody
And when you come to visit
You can stand outside and see..
What a smiling bunch we are
In our gated unity!


On the one hand, I want to applaud Saddleback for their inventiveness, for recognizing a particular people group some of which are retirees who don’t get out in their cars as often as they’d like.   On the other hand, I’m reminded of something that served the United States Evangelical movement perfectly well for the better part of the last century:  (wait for it…) Bus Ministry.   (In capital letters, no less.)   Especially with the main Saddleback campus only ten minutes away.

Oh! The Gated Community

Is where we like to be

Our clothes are never dirty

And the lawns are always green

And when you come to visit

You can stand outside and see

What a tidy bunch we are

In our gated unity!


I guess my biggest concern is that everything we do should be without a hint of suspicion, so the blog comment that Saddleback is just ‘following the money’ has some justification, at least on the surface. And I often think about Proverbs 16:2, which says (he paraphrased) that everything we do can be rationalized one way or another, but God is busy checking out our motivation.   (And also reminded that no one is to judge the servant of another.)

The Gated Community
Is where we’ll always be
Our smiles are white
Cause we’re inside
In comfy custody
And when you come to visit
You can stand outside and see..
What a smiling bunch we are
In our gated unity!

So what are your thoughts?   If you have an issue with this, what’s the problem?   If you’re at peace with this, why do you think it’s got so many others steaming?

Lyrics from “Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band (lyrics from the band’s home page) and from “The Gated Community”  from Veggie Tales’ Sherluck Holmes and the Golden Ruler (from Veggie Tales lyrics site.)   See sites for full lyrics with choruses not printed here.   Pictured gated community in Atlanta, GA    Persons priveleged to attend Saddleback Laguna Woods will be happy to know that free coffee and donuts are available both before and after each service.

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