Thinking Out Loud

December 17, 2016

Chickens and Eggs: Which Comes First, Belonging or Believing?

Try Before You Buy?

Later today at Christianity 201, we’re doing a video post from Seven Minute Seminary at We did this about a year ago, and while choosing something for today (it’s on the destiny of the unevangelized) I found this one. At first, I found the reference to “postmodernism” a bit dated. Surely everybody gets that mindset now and its continued pervasiveness among Millennials, right? But as Jim Hampton got into this 6½ minute explanation, I realized that is take on believing vs. belonging was something I hadn’t seen before; the notion that a new generation of seekers really wants to embed themselves in our communities to see if our faith is genuine; if our belief is authentic enough that it translates into our everyday practices. 

But embed themselves to what extent? Singing on a worship team? Partaking of The Lord’s Supper (Eucharist)?

Click the title below to read the article and watch the video at source:

Belonging vs. Believing: Postmodernism and Its Implications for Discipleship

Postmodernism has many implications for how churches understand and approach discipleship. Using youth culture as a model, Dr. Jim Hampton explores how those who have a suspicion of authority and dogma might be included in the process of discipleship by allowing them to participate in community in significant ways.

James Hampton is Professor of Youth Ministry at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is an editor for the Journal of Youth and Theology.

View the growing playlist of Seven Minute Seminary.

March 14, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Some weeks the link list is more a collection of bizarre news stories and other weeks it’s more a collection of solid items promoting deeper Christian thought and growth. This week is one of the latter; more than dozen excellent pieces which all could have landed here as their own blog post and discussion. Get a coffee and come back to the computer for a longer stay.

  • Because the wearing of crosses isn’t a requirement of the Christian faith, the European Court of Human Rights will be asked to rule that no Christian has a religious right to do so. It’s that position versus two British women who want to argue for the right in a case with wide ranging consequences.
  • Not related, but this week I happened on a January blog post by John Voelz explaining why his church forgoes having a cross in exchange for a variety of other Christian symbols.
  • Ed Young cites Willie George Ministries’ article 18 Lessons in 20 Years. A must read for pastors, executive pastors and church board members.
  • Relevant Magazine reports that the sexual revolution is hitting singles in the church just as hard as those outside the faith circle. Whatever happened to True Love Waits?
  • Also at Relevant, Jim Henderson shares an excerpt from his new book, Resignation of Eve: What if Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing to be the Church’s Backbone? The chapter asserts that women are the church’s most wasted resource.
  • Michael Lawrence revisits the issue of “belonging before believing” that is popular today in many faith communities. He says the concept is just creating confusion on both sides of the equation.
  • How well do you know that person who sat next to you last Sunday? Russell D. Moore says that “imposters love the church.” This begs the question, “But why, when there is so much opportunity for debauchery out there in the world around us, do such people choose the church?” Sample answer: “..I think it’s because deception can look a lot like discipleship…”  Take some time working through this one.
  • At Church Central Leadership Community, Mitch Todd challenges the whole notion of creating comfortable environments for those who attend. He suggests that it simply isn’t working, and you would do better to hold your next worship service in a sewer. Well, he almost says that.
  • A well known sect that began alongside the Jesus Movement of the ’70s is slowly moving from a cultic to more orthodox profile. Canadian cult-watcher James Beverley reports on the Children of God.
  • In a major in-depth piece, CNN’s Belief Blog reports on the Mormon crackdown on proxy baptisms, the practice wherein a young person is baptized in place of a deceased person. Certainly, they want to stop the attention currently being drawn to this peculiar rite in the wake of media reports of proxy immersions on behalf of confirmed Jews.
  • Cate MacDonald writes at World Magazine that Bear Grylls and Justin Bieber both say they are Christians but don’t go to church: “The contemporary aversion to church membership is a common response to secular criticisms, but these high-profile Christians might be doing more harm than good. …America’s youth need examples of people who live vibrant Christian lives in the public eye, and encourage them to do the same.”
  • Henry M. Imler hauls out a 2007 study on how heading off to college affects a student’s faith. If you’ve got kids heading off this fall — or there already — this is a must read.
  • Rev. Bob Larson, where have you been? Well, he turns up on Anderson Cooper last week with three teenage girls in tow, who have been trained by Larson to perform exorcisms by the thousands. But Cooper thinks their answers are far too rehearsed, and it’s hard not to agree with him.
  • Two vastly different links from author Karen Spears Zacharias. The first, rather mundane, finds her and husband Tim cleaning up after Wal-Mart
  • …The second one — a book excerpt — is much more sobering. Karen visits a family where a young single mother, now wheelchair-bound, returns to her son and parents after eight months of therapy following being struck by train. Her father sees it all as an answer to prayer. You’ll need to read this twice, and with a box of tissue. You’ll also think of someone to forward this to, I’m sure.
  • Can you stand one more article about ABC-TV’s GCB? This one is worth checking. Are we upset about what the show says about us, or upset about what it says about God? Pastor Jeff has met all kinds of Christians, but says the people in the show are strangers to him.
  • Finally, on the lighter side, Tim Stafford has decided, in the interest of balance I’m sure, to list ten reasons why men should not be ordained. Yes, it says men.

A younger Robert H. Schuller preaches on the roof of the snack bar of the drive-in theater on the site that years later would house the Crystal Cathedral. This Orange County Register photo appeared marking the announcement last week of Schuller's resignation from ministry. Click the image to read the whole story at OC Register.

September 13, 2011

Greeters: An Idea Whose Time Has Gone

I can’t think of a worse way to begin a church visit than one we experienced recently.  The greeter at the door had a slimy hand that made me want to head for the nearest restroom, but we were late and I wanted to get a seat. The woman who was his co-greeter was equally dermatologically challenged.

“I think,” my wife said, “This all began with someone who they couldn’t fit into any other ministry position in a church, and so they said, ‘Why don’t you stand at the door and welcome people as they come in.'”

But that was then. The idea of a handshake is become increasingly archaic. My son’s generation does fist pumps. Certainly a tad more sanitary.

I suggested to my wife that we take a small ice pack in our pockets and then reach our hands out of pockets at the last minute.

“They’ll think you’re dead;” she replied.  She then suggested Vaseline, which you would then remove after the critical moment.

I thought if you did this sort of thing for a month, most church greeters are on a four week rotation and you’d eventually get them all to quit.

“You really should blog this sometime;” I said to her.

To which she shot back, “I already did.”

Dodge the Greeter

This week, my family went to visit a large Pentecostal church we used to attend (two of us did, anyway) long long ago in a galaxy far far away.

The more time I spend doing church at the Motel, the more I enter these services feeling like an “anthropologist from Mars.” But it all comes back to you.

It was much as we remembered it, with a few things we’d forgotten about. One of which, for me, was the greeters.

If you aren’t familiar with this particular ministry, greeters are people who stand just inside the main entry of the church building, for the purpose of shaking hands with those arriving, smiling, handing them whatever documents they’ll need and then turning their attention to the next through the door.

If you are a greeter, I’m sorry, but I only consider my visit to your church a success if I manage to avoid you altogether.

It’s a game I play. I’ve developed several strategies over time, which I’d like to share with you.

1. Choose a path that cuts exactly halfway between two greeters. This only works if they’re not working in tandem (married couples, for example) but if there’s room, each will assume the other is going to get you and, before they realize their mistake, you’re through.

2. Assume a facial expression of urgent concern and walk quickly, looking past and over the heads of the greeters. This creates the impression that you’re trying to find someone in particular right now and won’t brook any delay, and greeters will respect your personal crisis, whatever it is, and let you go.

3. Carry a load that requires both hands. For example, a child and a diaper bag, if you can be rummaging through the diaper bag for something as you slip past the greeters. This may backfire if you look like it’s something they may be able to help with, so use this one with caution.

4. Walk side by side with an accomplice and, just as you reach the critical threshold, turn to speak to your companion, heads close together. Try to look like you’re communicating something “in confidence and just for prayer”. This is also effective if you’re a parent and can look like you’re scolding the child walking beside you for having done something unspeakable just as the family was getting ready to leave for church, without actually humiliating your kid in the church lobby.

5. Skirt closely behind a stranger as they are being greeted. Timing is tight on this one, and if someone is standing in your path, you may be delayed long enough to find yourself face to face with the greeter, so plan your route.

So that’s me.

~Ruth Wilkinson

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