Thinking Out Loud

November 27, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Biblical Disaster

Our opening graphic, “Biblical Disaster,” is from an Auckland, New Zealand artist, Glenn Jones.  Click the link to see more.   Our closing graphic is proof that some book covers are simply funnier in Spanish.

Once again, we continue our symphony of shortcuts to articles and stories you may have missed. BTW, I do check comments both at my blog and Out of Ur; so let me know what you think of the mid-week madness. 

Click to read this week’s links at Out of Ur, the blog of Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today.

The rest of the week, Paul Wilkinson rants at Thinking Out Loud, and assumes a much more pious posture at Christianity 201.

Spanish - When Donkeys Talk - Tyler Blanski

Advertisements

May 19, 2012

Manufacturing Worship

Filed under: Church, music, worship — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:48 am

A guide for church musicians.

Method One

  • Go for a full sound, lots of volume, lots of rhythm, full bass, crisp percussion; set it against a designed stage background with quality lighting, with lots of motion on stage by the singers and instrumentalists; choose favorite well-known songs; get the audience clapping and shouting and have the team leader constantly encouraging the audience to sing out loud.  Aim for excellence, energy, emotion.

Method Two

  • With each singer and musician giving the best they can give, aim to create something that can only be called beautiful, because it is a foretaste of the worship that takes place in heaven now; worship which we will someday join in.  Aim for transcendence, for beauty, for richness, for adoration.

April 25, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Heads I post this, tails I don't.

Welcome back to another edition.  Has it really been a week? And just eight more months to Christmas!

  • Our lead item this week is a look at the idea of presence in preaching, particularly as it applies to multi-site churches where the pastor’s sermon is on a giant screen. Carl Trueman makes his point well, and if you only click one link this week, make it this one.
  • Much sadness at the U.S. headquarters of the Voice of the Martyrs charity, following the death of the executive director, who it appears took his own life after allegations of molesting a young girl.
  • The sinking of the Titanic proved to be the basis of several sermons in the weeks that followed, 100 years ago. “By the time Titanic put to sea, this language had evolved into a boast — reportedly shared with passengers — that ‘God Himself couldn’t sink this ship.’ Thus, when the liner sank on April 15, 1912, preachers on both sides of the Atlantic were among the first commentators to raise their voices in judgment…”
  • Have you ever heard of someone stating a personal opinion about something, but trying to pass it off as Biblical? SFL got over 300 comments when they ask that question. Here’s an example: “One pastor I had… said that a podium or plastic stand was unbiblical. He said that Ezra used a pulpit of wood, and anything else was sin.”
  • Chances are that Easter and Holy Week looked a lot different at your church than it does in most of the 37 pictures from around the world at Boston.com’s The Big Picture. This is a crash course on the variations of Christianity. (Higher speed internet helps on this one.)
  • While away from his home in Canada, uber-blogger Tim Challies finds his U.S. hotel causes him to pass by an abortion clinic. Sample:  “… our society not only allows this to happen, but is actually complicit in this genocide.”
  • Not far from the Lincoln Tunnel in the middle of the part of New York City they call Hell’s Kitchen, Metro Baptist, with only 100 members, provides support to about 1,500 people annually.
  • Here’s a project we’re doing personallythat I will mention again in a week or two: We’re uploading some of the ‘lost’ songs in the history of contemporary Christian music so that more people can here them. Warning: It’s a very diverse collection.
  • You haven’t fully explored the religious sector of the internet until you’ve read a few entries from Sister Mary Martha.
  • Doug Wilson picks up the effeminate worship services issue, but Mike Morrell at InternetMonk finds the whole premise misguided.
  • Meanwhile, Perry Noble thinks there more pressing problems for The Church to deal with, four problems in particular.
  • Tony Jones explains why he agrees with the critics who panned Blue Like Jazz: The Movie…And then, if you want details, there’s this review.
  • Garfield without Garfield? Actually it’s the David Crowder Band without David Crowder. They call themselves The Digital Age. Here’s a rehearsal session of How Great Thou Art.
  • Darrell Vesterfelt guests at Nicole Cottrell’s blog on the relationship between sin and insecurity.
  • Left this out last week by accident, but enjoyed reading where Shauna Hybels Niequist — okay, I added the middle part of the name; she doesn’t — finally got to meet favorite author Anne Lamott.
  • When a Canadian Christian bookstore owner is also a YouTube user, sometimes enough is enough when it comes to the relentless message that “This video contains content from EMI, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.” Time to send a wake-up call.
  • Lisa McKay, whose husband works for a humanitarian org in Laos guests at Rachel Held Evans’ blog on her fears upon becoming a new mom.
  • In Tennessee, allowing holding hands and kissing could lead to sex, so a newly legislated curriculum refers to both as “gateway sexual activity.”
  • I thought the picture below adequately describes the weather the past week across North America, where we seem to get all four conditions coming and going in any 48 hour period…

October 24, 2011

First, The Bible Wars; Then, The Music Wars; Next…

Collectively, churches and changes don’t go well together.  Whether it’s change in the way people dress for worship; the addition of multiple service times and Saturday night services; replacing the choir with a worship team; or the preacher switching from the NASB to The Message; we tend, as a group, to be very uncomfortable with the transitions. 

In Evangelical circles, the ongoing tension is often expressed as, “The Bible Wars,” or “The Music Wars.”  Like the weather, everyone has an opinion on these topics, and some people simply vote with their feet and move on.

For Roman Catholics, the parish system dictates where your primary place of worship is located.  Catholics actually led the rest of us in the switch to contemporary music, with the folk masses of the early 1960s, so it’s not a prime breeding ground for music battles.  Their scripture readings form a smaller part of a much larger liturgy, and use the NAB (New American Bible), NRSV, Jerusalem Bible and even the Catholic edition of the Good News Bible allows some flexibility.

In fact, the NAB went through a revision this year; a revision somewhat ignored by the rest of the Christian community, and totally overshadowed by the release of the 2011 edition of the NIV.  But it was not without controversy especially over — you can pause and make a guess here — the use of inclusive language.   So now we hear the NABRE (revised edition) is “approved for private use and study.  It will not be used in the mass. “

While we wait for that story to sort itself out, comes word this week that changes are coming to The Missal, a book which really has a larger place in the structure of the mass than the Bible itself.   What might be called “focus groups” are getting together across the USA to “test drive” the new order of service, as USAToday Religion reports:

…They [are] preparing for a revised text of the Mass that will take effect on Nov. 27, the first Sunday of the liturgical season of Advent and of the church year.

The revisions reflect a new translation for the English-speaking world of the Roman Missal, the official Latin-language set of worship documents. It includes words and instructions for conducting the Mass, the central act of Catholic worship, in which priests bless and distribute bread and wine as essentially the body and blood of Jesus.

Virtually every prayer and proclamation in the Mass is undergoing at least some revision, marking the biggest change in worship for American Catholics since they began having Masses in English rather than Latin after the reformist Second Vatican Council of the 1960s.

Much of the debate within the church is over whether the changes, ordered by the Vatican to achieve more literal translations from the Latin, are good or bad.

Proponents say the new version is a more precise reflection of the original Latin. They say it is richer in its poetry, more reverent in its references to God and fuller in its allusions to the Bible and church creeds.

Critics say the Vatican dismissed years of work by scholars who had been working for the bishops of English-speaking countries. They call the new version rigidly literal — difficult for priests to recite and lay people to understand.

It contains technical theological terms — such as Jesus being “consubstantial” with the Father, replacing the current phrase “one in being,” and “oblation,” replacing the term “offering.”

But for many Catholics, such discussions haven’t even registered.

A national survey released in August found that three-quarters of Roman Catholics are unaware of the changes to come.

continue reading the story at USAToday

Other highlights from the article:

  • [Michael] Diebold sees the revisions as showing “symbolically where Rome is headed” — away from a cooperative vision of church as the “people of God” toward one defined by its hierarchy.
  • Others worry about how young people — whom Catholic and other churches are already struggling to retain — will react.
  • The Rev. Joseph Fowler, a retired priest, said the phrasing is “going to be very foreign” to people.
  • The vocabulary is “not the language of the street, it’s not the language I may pray on my own,” [Archdiocese worship director Judy Butler] said. But it reflects the current Vatican emphasis on using a “sacred vernacular” — which people recognize as devotional language.
  • “If any priest picks up that Missal on that first Sunday and has not read it out loud, he’ll be in over his head,” said the Rev. Paul Scaglione, pastor at St. Barnabas.

So for non-Catholics, how does this affect you?

I think that for the most part, Protestants and Evangelicals have done a decent job of surviving the Bible wars and music wars, but not so good a job at “refreshing” the liturgy.  We still tend to lapse into dated and awkward phrases at time, and the repeating of the ‘words of institution’ at The Lord’s Supper or Communion could easily be refreshed since they are straight out of I Cor 11 and the other translations already exist.

While mainline Protestant churches focus more on liturgy, Evangelicals focus on the sermon, and this is another area where help is needed.  One Atlanta pastor is known as “one of America’s top communicators;” but I wonder if the issue is not the number of people in the pulpit on Sunday morning who simply aren’t good communicators, or are perhaps really bad communicators.

The Roman Catholic church is working to address a badly needed change; but it’s insistence on a “sacred vernacular” that is difficult to grasp may signal change that is moving in the wrong direction.

Some excellent articles on the new missal can be found at Catholic San Francisco:

Again, from a non-Catholic perspective, it would be great to see so much thought and consideration being poured into the words spoken during our worship services, especially given the Evangelical penchant to speak extemporaneously, or as one pastor told me years ago, “to wing it.” Winging it simply doesn’t respect people’s time, intelligent or the place of things sacred.

August 24, 2010

Seeking the Symbolism: Our Visit to a Catholic Church

On Sunday, for the fourth or fifth time, we visited a small church which is a breakaway group from the local Roman Catholic church.    The split from Rome was, I believe, over the issue of the ordination of women priests, but I believe there were some other issues; many of which the congregants of this church have perhaps forgotten.   The service uses the same lectionary readings as other Catholic churches in Canada follow, but there are also some variations in other places.

The group averages between thirty and fifty people, and we return occasionally to offer encouragement; but also because, of the 37 churches and home churches I’ve visited in our area, they are the most friendly and the most welcoming.    (And their worship band is probably one of the best, also; especially considering their involvement in the liturgy.)

This time around we arrived late and were seated closer to the front and I found myself noticing things I would have missed before.   The symbols on the stole the pastor was wearing.    His kissing of the altar table at the beginning and end of the service.   A reference to the table containing water and wine, representing the humanity and divinity of Christ.

On a Sunday that many Christians worshiped in ‘neutral’ auditoriums devoid of icons and physical actions of worship (and in a few cases, equally devoid of depth or mystery) I couldn’t help but think that this is the extra dimension of worship some say they miss, and others say is going to make a comeback.  (Though possibly minus the kissing of objects, unless their origins are Greek Orthodox.)

Also, this is worship style where the emphasis is not on the sermon.  Although I’ve heard a couple of great messages in this church, my Evangelical friends would consider the one on Sunday to be sermon-lite.   So the other forms of the service matter more in this context.

After the service I grabbed a notebook and made four quick observations, written in the form of questions:

  1. What is taking place? In today’s mega-churches you wouldn’t necessarily catch all the things I caught sitting just a few feet away.   And there were others I missed, forgot, or haven’t listed here.  Are people as trained today to have the same attention to detail as when some of these forms were instituted?
  2. What is the significance of what is taking place? The wine and water on the table were explained.   Other things are perhaps already known to this congregation.   But what of the people who miss the memo?  Or visitors like us?   Perhaps the reason some people don’t connect with the more liturgical churches is that nobody has explained the backstory behind the ‘sacred actions’ of worship.
  3. How much of this registers with people? To what extent do people connect the dots between the physical actions of the priest or pastor and their person worship taking place among those gathered?   I suppose much of this hinges on whether or not the leader is there on behalf of the people or if he is modeling a pattern of worship for them to follow in the hearts.  How do their acts of worship on the platform, stage or chancel become my acts of worship?
  4. What difference does that make? How does this permeate the next 167 hours of my week until we meet again next Sunday?   For example, how does a consideration of Christ’s combined humanity and divinity infuse my thoughts of what it means to be a Christ-follower throughout the week?  Is there a practical application?  This is where the discussion of ‘relevance’ meets formal liturgy.

But I think you could apply all of this to Evangelical and Charismatic churches as well:

  1. What’s taking place?
  2. Why?  Why do this?  Why those particular songs or prayers?
  3. Is the answer to #2 obvious to the congregation?
  4. How does this service make a difference in peoples’ lives?

February 24, 2010

Link List Anniversary Edition

The celebration of our second birthday, which is actually today, got bumped to yesterday so we could observe Link Day.   Priorities.

I gotta admit, last week’s link list was amazing.   If you missed out on that one, here’s a link.   But there are some really good things here as well.  Who says blogging’s dead?

  • Well this is no surprise:  Music legend and now part-time theologian Elton John announces that Jesus was gay.   You can pass on this one but if you insist, go here and here.  (Don’t bail yet, the links get better after this…)  Actually you might want read this response at Captain’s Blog.
  • But seriously, sexual attraction is something you need to talk about with your kids, beyond the usual ‘birds and bees’ talk.   The subject is dealt with by Jay Younts  here at Shepherd Press’ blog in one part of a six-part article on conversations parents need to have with children.
  • Here’s a link with great potential value to anyone involved with any kind of sexual addiction or blatant sexual sin.   Pete Wilson describes this as a sermon he was reluctant to do, but some amazing things took place when he confronted this topic, and I believe will continue to happen as people view it online.   If you or someone you know is dealing with this issue and is willing to invest a half hour to hear some straightforward talk on the subject, then click here.
  • This week I learned a new word while reading about reproductive technology:  snowflake children.  The term came up in a Q & A on Russell Moore’s that asked about the ethics of  embryo adoption.
  • I’ve been so busy e-mailing this link to people, I can’t remember if I’ve included it here yet.   Behold the Lamb by UK worship leader Stuart Townend is an awesome communion song.
  • Floodgate Productions is one of many companies producing video clips for church use, but this one in particular is recommended for church websites, though I think you could show it Sundays as well.   Watch the two-minute clip, Around Here.
  • Unless you’ve been living in a blog vacuum, you know the topic of the week has been Brian McLaren’s new book, A New Kind of Christianity. Rather than specify a specific link, why not type his name into Google Blog Search.
  • This might be a repeat, but if you haven’t yet, take some time to read some backstory behind Shaun King, blogger at Shaun in the City.   The accident report is called I Experienced a Miracle and I’m Not a Loon.
  • Our new blog for the week is a sort of Best of YouTube meets Stuff Fundies Like.   Wild and wacky and all somehow Christianity-related video clips abound on Crazy Christian Clips.   (One of my favorites, still, is this one.)
  • Most of us can’t remember when the Roman Catholic mass was conducted entirely in Latin, but now Muslims are dealing with how much English to include inside mosques without violating Islamic law and betraying their culture.    Read it at USAToday Religion.  (I wonder if there’s a The Message-style version of the Qu’ran in their future?  No, not really.)
  • New Kind of Church  idea #68,251 from Christian Week:  Church in a bowling alley.
  • Prayer Request:  Church Report is reporting the arrest of the leading evangelical pastor in Iran.
  • I think Kevin Leman’s books on marriage and parenting meet a definite need.   But when he’s on Christian radio — which he does a lot of — he can be exceedingly blunt when he talks about sex.   I wouldn’t suggest playing this video clip if you’ve got kids or teens nearby.
  • Considering a blog, Twitter of Facebook sabbatical? How about, more accurately, a sabbath-ical? First check out what Scott Couchenour has to say here (it’s short) and then especially here.  (I’ve been doing this for several years.)
  • Our upper cartoon is from ASBO Jesus, by UK blogger Jon Birch.  Our lower cartoon is Preacher’s Kids by David Ayers which you can catch weekly at Baptist Press.   If this still wasn’t enough, check out the sidebar, “Oh, Oh, The Places We’ll Go” and especially the ones that begin with the word Links.

September 17, 2009

The Meaning Manifesto

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:17 pm

This is a reblog from six months ago.    In a series of “what ifs” I am trying to suggest that a lot of what we do in the name of ‘church’ really lacks underlying meaning and purpose, but that another way is possible.



god-is-with-us

Because I paid the ultimate price for some things I wrote here a few weeks ago, I’ve had a lot more time to think about what it means to expect God’s presence in all that we do “at church.” I’ve heard people talk about being at a fairly typical church meeting thing, and “then God showed up.” This may assume that he wasn’t “showing up” at previous meetings, or it may mean that he was there all along but an awareness of his presence finally broke in on the assembly.

When leading worship, I have often — though not every time — begun by following the traditional concept of invocation; inviting God’s presence into our time together. Or at least, sort of. I take it as a given that God is already among us, especially on Sunday morning. He never misses our church service, right?

So I’ll begin with something like,

“Lord, we don’t presume to invite your presence because after all, you said you would never leave us nor forsake us. Furthermore, we sometimes say that this building is your house, a place set apart for your worship, so we know if you’re omnipresent, you’re everywhere, then certainly of all places you are here. No, instead, we ask you to help us have an awareness of your presence, an awareness of a presence that already exists, but we’re too distracted to realize. Open our hearts. Meet with us today in a special way. Amen.”

The fact of the matter is however, that some things the church — as opposed to The Church — does are purely perfunctory. And I think a church business meeting is a good example of that. Unless of course, you are committed from the beginning that this business meeting is open to the possibility of God breaking in and doing something greater.

Basically, the question I want to ask is, “What if we spiritualized church?” Yeah, seriously. What if we decided there were no task-only, business-only events, but lived out each time we gathered together as moments full of eternal possibilities? What if…

  • What if every item run through the church photocopier had to have a ministry value, even if it was just a verse tacked on at the end?
  • What if every church spring cleaning day was seen as a teachable moment, the way Jesus taught as he walked along the road with his disciples?
  • What if every mailout and every church newspaper advertisement kept its seeker appeal, but still contained the DNA of the gospel?
  • What if every church business meeting was more like a town hall forum where old men (and women) could prophesy and young men (and women) dream dreams?
  • What if every time there were announcements, they were viewed not as commercials, but as opportunities for greater fellowship, greater teaching, greater service?
  • What if every time there was a collection or offering, it was truly viewed as an act of worship?
  • What if your tax receipt for those donations was accompanied by a note of thanksgiving, or a teaching on how God delights and will reward our cheerful giving?
  • What if every salesman, tradesman, public sector worker, etc., who came in the front door of your church was told, “It’s no accident that you came in just now…” and then heard a piece of the particular good news that he/she needed that day?
  • What are the “What ifs” that your heart longs for?

That’s what I mean by “spiritualizing Church.” Yes, God is there with us all along, but we need to leave him a place to break into our program.

god-is-with-us1

Quick example. Before we got married, I was a performing Christian solo artist in southern Ontario. I worked alone. One time, a friend of mine who was a professional, recording-studio quality jazz bass player offered to do a concert engagement with me at a local church. To maximize his talents and contribution, we rehearsed the songs with some instrumental ‘bridges’ in them so he could do a few improvised bass solos.

But when we actually got out before the audience, I got distracted and started playing the songs the way I normally do, moving quickly from verse to chorus to verse. At the end of the first set, I realized this and told him, and his reply was, “I was trying to break in, but I couldn’t find a place to jump in.”

I think that’s how the Holy Spirit would say it to us today. I was there, but you didn’t leave me any room in the program. (See this post, Blocking Peoples’ View from exactly one year ago, for another way of describing this.)

Nobody is saying that God isn’t with us. But we need to see the spiritual possibilities each time we get together, even if it’s just to rake the leaves on the church lawn or clean the church kitchen. And just think, if we were really focused on doing this, we could actually invite our neighbors to “help out” in our church clean-up day, and they might actually see Christ in the most seeker friendly of all possible environments.

It would also revolutionize the way we do things outside of church. We would be spiritualizing or God-focusing our entire lives. Nah. That’s way too radical.

…After committing to write this piece a few days ago, I came across this today from Kaybee, a regular visitor here, on her blog Important to Me. She looks at the way we approach our local church as a sign of what our expectations are. Do we expect that God is really waiting to meet with us?

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.