Thinking Out Loud

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, 2013

The Wartburg Watch

The Wartburg Watch

Over the years I’ve linked to articles at The Wartburg Watch (TWW) but only in the last few weeks am I developing a deeper appreciation for the site itself. This article constitutes some highlights from things I looked at this week.

The earliest post from March 2009, sets out the purpose:

Are you sitting in your church thinking that something is amiss? Do you think you are the only one who feels this way? Did you try to express your concerns to your pastor?  Did he claim you are the only one who has come to him regarding this matter? Did he seem annoyed that you are questioning him? Did he make you feel like you had done something unbiblical by speaking with him?

Well, join the club! You are not alone. There are HUGE changes occurring in evangelical circles, and they are drawing national media attention. Time magazine just published an article on “The New Calvinism” in its March 23, 2009 issue.  There are new websites and blogs written by average churchgoers who are very deeply troubled by these trends. A rise in authoritarianism and far reaching church discipline are having a detrimental impact on many congregations.  When a little old lady is perp-walked out of her church for simply asking why the church she has attended for 50 years no longer has deacons, you can rest assured that something is terribly wrong in Christendom. We’ll link to the 911 call in an upcoming post.

Wartburg Watch is primarily the work of two people, Darlene Parsons and Wanda Martin, or as they’re known at TWW, Dee and Deb.  They define their goal “is to shine a light into the darkness, exposing hypocrisy, heresy, and arrogance while also examining trends that affect the faith in the public square.  Truth and transparency are of utmost importance to us.”

And the name?

“Remember where Prince Frederick hid Martin Luther when Pope Leo wanted him killed? It was Wartburg Castle. It was here that Luther translated the New Testament into German. This coincided with the invention of the Gutenberg Press. Luther’s writings dominated most of the publications from this press. We believe the Internet is today’s Gutenberg Press.”

I suppose if you’re going to reference Luther, references to the Wittenberg Door (spelled rightly or wrongly) were already taken.

TWW has a huge following. It’s not unusual for an individual article to generate 300 or even 400 comments. (Thinking Out Loud readers, please take note!)

A look at TWW’s home page on Wednesday yielded some interesting stories…

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When Sherwood Pictures emerged as a powerhouse in Christian film, my wife lamented that the role of women in these pictures was secondary if not tertiary. There’s always the aspect of men being strong leaders in their homes and not allowing other things to distract from their commitment to spouse and children, but the films (Facing the Giants, Courageous, Fireproof) are about men (police, firefighter, football players) and the popularity of the movies with women is largely due to the opportunity of being able to go to a Christian film with their husbands knowing the men will enjoy the (sports, suspense, law enforcement) content.

TWW connects the dots between the Kendrick brothers of Sherwood Pictures to an independent film festival, and the Vision Forum, part of Vision Forum Ministries, a conservative, fundamentalist organization which, according to TWW advances:  militant fecundity (no birth control of any kind), patriarchy, what’s called ‘the Quiverfull movment’ (large families), homeschooling, stay at home daughters, no college education for daughters, hyper-Calvinism, young earth creationism.  TWW documents the Kendrick brothers as having an association with the Vision Forum going back to 2009.

It would explain some things, wouldn’t it?

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In between the articles about Bill Gothard, Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, Calvary Chapel and even Michael W. Smith (don’t worry it reflects on him positively), is this a little gem of a piece which shows that TWW isn’t just about hard-hitting Christian scandal stories.

The title sums it up: Why a Father and Daughter Changed Their Opinions About Abortion. Not your average Wartburg Watch article; but I’m so glad I read it.

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C. J. Mahaney and Larry Tomczak, together again after all these years, but not for the best of reasons. In the 1970s, the two were frequent speakers at the early Jesus Music outdoor youth festivals, founded Take and Give Ministries and a church in Washington, DC known as Gathering of Believers. The church would go on to become the genesis of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM). For whatever other reasons they parted, doctrinally, Mahaney embraced — and was embraced by — the New Reformed movement, while Tomczak is decidedly charismatic.

But they share the home page links on TWW because of lawsuits and accusations.  Mahaney is central to stories of the entire SGM movement unraveling, while Tomczak is accused of spanking and depriving a female of food.

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In a world where everybody vents their anger issues and doctrinal preferences online, TWW is a balanced and thoughtful look at the things that take place in the life of the (capital C) Church. It offers original reporting and commentary on a variety of topics such as you do not see elsewhere.

Thanks, Dee and Deb for the hours of work you pour into The Wartburg Watch.

May 14, 2012

Monday Link List

Rejected from the position of Wednesday List Lynx, this one wants to know if a mascot position for a Monday List Lynx is opening up.

Monday?

Because (a) there’s no law against it, and (b) some of these just couldn’t wait!

  • That’s Dr. Gloria Gaither to you, as the southern gospel songstress receives an honorary doctorate in music from Nyack College, a Christian and Missionary Alliance school in New York.
  • Okay, we just lost our younger demographic. So, in the interest of equal time, Hawk Nelson now has a new lead singer.
  • In other music news, here’s 15 Tips for Bloggers from John Newton, the “Amazing Grace” guy and brother to Fig. I hope my family doesn’t notice #14.
  • You don’t usually think of English language Bible commentaries as being tainted by Western culture, but you will upon learning about the Africa Study Bible.
  • The daughter of Teen Mania founder Ron Luce was the only survivor of a weekend plane crash involving five people heading to a youth conference
  • Is it possible that the study saying that religious people are less compassionate is true? Or are they giving more out of moral obligation than emotional response?
  • Here’s a debrief of the movie Courageous; all the movie trivia and hidden details you never knew. And now you know the rest of the story.
  • For those who need to know, here’s a list of all the Christian colleges that have a gay-friendly organizations on or off campus. Is that Wheaton I see on this list? And Biola?
  • Philip Yancey pays the price of frequent mountain climbing in Colorado and undergoes knee surgery. He also explains what they do to make sure it’s the right correct knee.
  • Tony Jones writes, “Catholicism in America seems to continue its quest for irrelevance via misogyny;” and then reblogs a CNN story about a Catholic school that would rather forfeit a championship game than play a team fielding a girl on second base.
  • The proprietors of a Canadian website design company have a background in film production, which creates many different options for churches and Christian organizations.
  • E. Parson Ross isn’t the first person to do this, but her new book on Church Etiquette should be of help to the uninitiated.
  • The 133 member choir, Only Boys Aloud was amazing on Britain’s Got Talent, but this translation of their song’s lyrics shows it was actually a hymn; though the performance is inspiring in any language.
  • Apparently Satan doesn’t want people attending Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville, South Carolina; or so two billboards in town say.
  • Many more to come — Lord willing — on Wednesday

December 8, 2011

Courageous DVD Release Date Set

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:22 am

May 5, 2011

Living on Borrowed Vision

I want to raise a discussion topic here, and to do so, I’m going to appear to come out hittin’ fairly hard.  However, at no point in this am I trying to be presumptuous or judgmental.  I’m just bringing a topic to the forefront so that we can kick it around and see where it takes us.  I’m not suggesting for a minute that the story described here is necessarily a bad idea; in fact, time may prove otherwise…

…Over two years ago, when the movie Fireproof was releasing, I was really impressed not so much with the film’s quality, but with the idea that the movie — and others — were birthed out of a local church.  (The credits were a high point for just that reason.)

On 1/30/09 I wrote:

The movie Fireproof, for the most part, never played in theaters in Canada, so this week’s video release was our first look at the film.   Once again, the people at Sherwood Church delivered an amazing production.   This is the work of one local church. Where were these people when I was forced to view tacky Christian flicks as a kid?

…and a few weeks later on 2/15/09, I wrote

Watching the movies Facing the Giants and Fireproof have convinced me that even little churches can do big things.   Can you imagine the first time someone there said, “Why don’t we make a movie?”   Not everyone can make movies like Sherwood Church, but it costs nothing to dream big dreams, to brainstorm, to introduce possibilities; to empower individual church members with input into the local church’s ‘big picture;’  or input into choosing its destination.  Then comes the harder, next step: To designate one as its radical agenda for the balance of the year.

A few months later, USAToday did this profile of Sherwood Baptist Church, which noted:

Sherwood Baptist Church… is so successful in its movie making ministry that it now coaches others.

“Movies are the stained-glass windows of the 21st century, the place to tell the Gospel story to people who may not read a Bible,” says Michael Catt, senior pastor of Sherwood in Albany, Ga.

The idea is simple.  Sherwood is saying to other churches, ‘If we can do this as a local church, you can do this.’  Or words to that effect.

There’s nothing wrong with catching someone else’s vision.  Hundreds of pastors noted what Bill Hybels was doing at Willow Creek and saw the wisdom of incorporating many of his ideas into their local church situation.  The result is the Willow Creek Association, a sort of non-denomination networking pastors with similar vision, hosting conferences and connecting churches with resources.

Larry Norman once said, “Christianity is in an imitative mode.”  I think he was speaking from the idea of wanting to create music that was different from anything the world had to offer.  But many singers picked up guitars and imitated Larry Norman resulting in the contemporary Christian music or CCM movement, which later birthed today’s modern worship movement.  While we all long for fresh vision, “the sincerest form of flattery” is one way of recognizing that God is using someone else’s vision in ways we can learn from and adapt.

So why did the story that follows grate on me a little bit?

Elgin mega-church hires Hollywood director

ELGIN — In 2002, members of a megachurch in Albany, Ga., felt that God was calling them to make a movie.

With a budget of just $20,000 — less than what big-name Hollywood flicks spend for lunches — Sherwood Baptist Church made a film about a crooked used-car salesman undergoing a moral crisis.

Named “Flywheel,” it was directed, starred in and co-written by Alex Kendrick, one of the church’s pastors. Unpaid members of the church did most of the other acting and crew work. The film was released in 2003, played in only a few theaters, and made just $37,000 at the box office, though it later would go on to sell 300,000 DVDs.

In 2006, Sherwood Baptist again released a movie, this time about a high school football coach facing a midlife crisis. Riding on the popularity a year before of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” it was distributed by a major studio, played in 441 theaters and took in $10 million, or about 1,000 times what the church spent making it.

In 2008, the Georgia church made a film about a firefighter with a failing marriage. Named “Fireproof,” it became the top-grossing independent movie of any type that year, grossing $33 million. Church officials claim that the movie’s message about strengthening one’s relationships “has saved a million marriages.” Sherwood will release its fourth film, a police/family drama named “Courageous,” in theaters all over the country on Sept. 30.

Feeling God’s call to move in the same direction, the Elgin-based megachurch Harvest Bible Chapel has hired a Hollywood director, Dallas Jenkins, as its media director, bought a TV studio/sound stage in Aurora and given Jenkins the assignment of making a series of “faith-based movies” for theatrical and DVD release over the coming years.

Jenkins said he expects Harvest’s leaders to decide on a topic and a budget for the first film within the next two months and start filming by late 2011 or early 2012…

…When Harvest’s pastor, Rev. James McDonald, got the idea of following Sherwood Baptist into the movie ministry, McDonald thought of Dallas Jenkins.

“James and my dad are friends,” Jenkins explains. “He came out to Los Angeles to have dinner with me and explained what he had in mind. I thought maybe I would come back to Illinois a couple times a year to work on these projects. But he asked me to go to work for Harvest full time. I had never expected to come back to the Midwest.”…

continue reading here

I don’t know why I have conflicting and contradictory thoughts about this.  But here are some possibilities.

  1. The Sherwood Baptist story seems so organic.  The films sprang up from within, so to speak.  To hire a director and purchase a suburban Chicago sound stage seems contrary to the spirit of the Sherwood story.
  2. God is already doing great things through Harvest Bible Chapel, Harvest Bible Fellowship and Walk in the Word.  I know that in the heart of every man — and every great Christian leader — there is desire to “enlarge their territory,” but I hope HBC doesn’t spread themselves out too thin.
  3. I keep wondering if the Sherwood story — despite their willingness to pass on their expertise — is something special that God did through a particular congregation which, unlike the Willow Creek example used earlier, isn’t particularly meant to be copied or perhaps isn’t really particularly copyable.

So don’t try to answer the question as to whether Harvest Bible Chapel should do this, because apparently — and hopefully through prayer and Godly advice — they’re already off and running.  I guess the discussion question is: When is a ministry vision transferable to other churches and locations, and when do we simply come alongside to support those to whom God gave the original vision without feeling the need to directly imitate the success that God gave to someone else? 

Today’s bonus item: A preview of the forthcoming Sherwood movie Courageous…

August 4, 2010

Wednesday Link List

There you go.   We’re number one.   Because e-mail is now mostly a mobile thing; social networks and blogs currently dominate online computer time.   Click the image to read the full report.

…I’m not exactly sure about this, but I think I am:  I got an e-mail this week from someone I’ve been e-mailing  for many years, who perhaps didn’t realize that when I send her something and it appears on her screen in blue with a line underneath, that’s a LINK and she’s supposed to click on it.   So just in case anybody here is missing the point, these little bullet points are not an end in themselves.   They are LINKS and it’s expected that you’re clicking on the ones that interest you.

  • The producers of the movies Fireproof and Facing The Giants have a 5-minute documentary on the website for their new movie, Courageous.
  • Can you handle another Bible translation?   Coming soon to a bookstore near you:  The Common English Bible.
  • John Ortberg asks the musical question, “Who speaks for Evangelicals?”  Or to make it more personal, “These days, who speaks for you?”  [Related on this blog, see trend # 10 for 2009]
  • Self-styled “pastor of the nerds,” Tony Kim provides a rundown of his visit to Comic Con.
  • Here’s the video for the book trailer of Peter Hitchens’ book (the brother of atheist Christopher Hitchens) The Rage Against God:  How Atheism Led Me To Faith (Zondervan).
  • The church that markets coffee mugs proclaiming “Islam is of the Devil” has a Quran burning ceremony scheduled for September 11th, though not every Christian group agrees with their tactics.
  • Time for some time-travel with David Fisher:  If you could spend a summer afternoon with any of the saints who are no longer with us, who would make your short list?   Check out his sixteen saints.
  • Another video link, this is a beautiful worship song; check out Keith & Kristyn Getty’s  Creation Sings the Father’s Song.
  • Talbot Davis suggests a different reason for introducing change in our local churches:  Because it creates muscle confusion.
  • Should an Anglican priest have slipped a communion wafer to a dog who went forward?   An interim priest in Toronto did just that, and now the Bishop isn’t very happy.
  • Megan Hyatt Miller — daughter of Thomas Nelson’s Michael Hyatt — comes face to face with her inability to embrace the current social justice movement because she just doesn’t like the poor.
  • Many of you know this story, but for those who don’t here’s an interview Mark Driscoll did with Randy Alcorn explaining why Randy doesn’t keep his book royalties, and why he works for minimum wage.
  • Matt at The Church of No People blog suggests, “…when Christians can’t find the words to share Jesus, a much easier method of evangelism is available.  All you have to do is become a walking billboard.”  Check out Christian socks.
  • This has been up for over a year, but I found it interesting that the people from xtranormal.com (the text-to-movie site) took a script from Lifeline Productions (those little comedy moments you hear on Christian radio) about trying to earn salvation, and turned it into a video.   Watch 1,000 Points.
  • Is she in or she is out?   Vampire author Anne Rice is either out or simply challenging some definitions of  ‘Christian.’  Another author, John Shore, tries to sort it all out.  (No, she writes about vampires, she isn’t one herself…)  As does the Christian Q&A guy, Russell D. Moore who sees this as a definite leave of absence from the faith.
  • Piper gets asked if it’s okay for a guy to listen to Beth Moore, or female speakers in general.   His answer is somewhat conditional.
  • Speaking of women in ministry, Pam Hogeweide has an interesting perspective in Happy Christian Women, which Kathy Escobar then picked up as a natural lead-in to three(1) more(2) posts(3) which deal with “Spiritual Refugees;” people who have been displaced from the church.  Each post includes a 12-minute video.
  • On the topic of links, if you have a blog, consider adding Thinking Out Loud to your blogroll.
  • Hoping to save marine life after the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a 67-year old man has modeled his rescue project on Noah’s Ark.
  • Our cartoon this week is from Rev. Fun.  You see these on various websites and blogs rather frequently, but there’s also a print version that went on sale this summer.   For that person who isn’t internet connected, check out Rev. Fun … Offline from Zondervan.

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