Thinking Out Loud

May 6, 2010

When Excellence Gives Way to Expediency

For several months now I’ve been kicking around the idea of writing on a subject that has distressed me personally, but I’ve hesitated knowing that I’ve already touched on the issues of (a) radio and television preachers asking for money, and (b) the difficulty of getting off mailing lists once you’re on them.

The current frustration revolves around the fact that over the Christmas period, I made some donations to some organizations, but the value of my donation has been reduced to nil in light of the subsequent solicitations they have sent me to try to get more donations.   I know what mailing pieces like this cost to produce (and mail) and any “ministry credit” that was in my “account” has reset back to zero, or even gone into a negative balance.

Let me pause at this point, and add that, following Biblical instruction, I have gone to them directly on this, and at least one agreed to work with me to solve the problem.   The others did not write back.

There’s one list I’d like to remain on, albeit more minimally.   They produce a devotional booklet that we’ve been using with our family for several years now.  (We read two days at a time, and do other readings on other days.)

The book is produced by a popular radio ministry organization,  but it is multi-authored; that is to say, it is shared around by a number of other organizations with contributions from their key spokespeople.   That said, the producing organization makes sure that it’s man always has:

  • The first word; the lead devotional of each month
  • The last word; the closing devotional of each month
  • The word on any special holidays or other significant days

So yes, it’s a little biased towards the one organization, that happens to be the one from whom I obtain monthly copies.

So I’m at a crossroads, because they’re telling me that if I don’t make a donation soon, I’m going to be cut off from receiving future issues; and many of the devotional commentaries are working well with our family.

But now I have new issue.

We’ve noticed in the last three or four copies a number of glaring typographical errors.   Little things.   Little foxes spoiling the vines, so to speak.   Stupid, trifling, trivial errors that should have been spotted in simple proofreading.

Tonight’s was the worst.   The devotional was based on Psalm 8 with the key verse:

O Lord , our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.  Out of the mouth of babes and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.  (vs. 1-2, ESV)

So far, so good.   But the devotional title is, “Stinkers Minding God’s Store.”   Huh?

I waited through all six paragraphs for the title to kick in, but it never did.  I checked ahead a few pages to see if the header had been transposed from another article.   I even considered the possibility that the reference to “babes and infants” somehow lined up with the word “stinkers.”  (C’mon now, you would have made the same conclusion.)

I get the feeling that this whole thing is being rather haphazardly thrown together.   I haven’t red-lined the other errors, but now I wish I had been keeping score.  (Actually, if you approach your devotional time with a red pen in your hand, that’s not exactly a good thing…)    I’d like to do a mark-up on the text and send it back to them.

While this sentiment might be true, we're talking here about something a little more serious than a compulsive need to make corrections.

We’re all going to make mistakes.   Me.  You.  All of us.   But we need to strive for excellence.   And the more public the forum, the higher the standard we need to aim toward.

I’m just not sure I should be contributing to — and thereby encouraging — something that isn’t more carefully considered before it goes to press.   However, like I said, the nightly readings are registering with my sons, and when you have something that’s connecting with a couple of teenagers, you don’t want to be too dismissive.


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February 20, 2010

My Day With Tiger Woods and Benny Hinn

I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them.

I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me. I brought this shame on myself. ~ from the text of Tiger Woods comments at 11 AM EST, 19/02/10

At this point we don’t know any of the particulars surrounding the announcement on Thursday that Suzanne Hinn, wife of Benny Hinn was filing for divorce.    So please don’t think I am inferring any — absolutely any — parallels between Tiger Woods and Benny.

However, I did not check the “religious news wire” before heading out of town on Friday, so it was against the backdrop of the Tiger Woods press conference that I read the news about Benny and Suzanne Hinn around suppertime.

Benny Hinn and I are not friends or even true acquaintances, but our paths did cross many years ago.   The original crusades he conducted in Toronto, Canada were held in the church that was the base for the mail order business I operated.   The Joyful Noise Record Club had customers across Canada, and later became Searchlight Music, a company I still own in another form.

The head of another ministry based in the building was about to be married, and people from various ministries operating in the Toronto church were invited to the wedding.   Some of us apparently were invited at the last minute.   I had no date for the wedding, and as I remember it, neither did Benny Hinn.   We talked briefly waiting for the door for the reception to open, but I was terrified he would suddenly lay hands on me, cause me to fall over, or announce to everyone some great secret sin — probably lust — that I was harboring at the time.

Fortunately, we were seated at different tables.

Benny’s ministry in Toronto was somewhat high profile — at least among Charismatics — but nothing compared to the size and scope of it when he moved to Orlando and married the daughter of Charismatic pastor Roy Harthern.   The website Precious Daily Devotions tells the story:

In the summer of 1978, on a flight returning from a conference in Singapore, Benny Hinn met Roy Harthern, an Englishman who was pastoring the Calvary Assembly of God in Orlando, Florida. They got to know one another on the long flight. Roy showed Benny pictures of his family. When he came to the photo of Roy’s daughter, Suzanne, Benny heard a voice inside him saying, “She’s going to be your wife.”

Roy Harthern invited Pastor Benny Hinn to come to his home for Christmas, he accepted. When he met Suzanne, Benny remembers jokingly, “I looked into her beautiful bluish-green eyes and my knees became weak”. When his friend Maxine LaDuke met Suzanne, she took Benny aside and confirmed that this was his wife.

Benny knew she was the one. He took Pauline Harthern aside to “ask her something.” Pauline thought he wanted to ask her permission to date Suzanne, but instead, he said “I want to marry Suzanne; I am in love with her.” “Well, well,” Pauline replied, “you really need to speak to her father.” When Roy gave his approval, Benny Hinn immediately went to find Suzanne. Suzanne accepted and Pastor Benny Hinn and Suzanne tied the knot on August 4, 1979.

The rest, as they say, is history.   Hinn catapulted to fame and infamy, as Wikipedia reminds us:

By far the most controversial aspect of Hinn’s ministry is his claim to have the “anointing”, the special power given to him by God to heal the sick. At Hinn’s Miracle Crusades, he has allegedly healed attendees of blindness, deafness, cancer, AIDS, and severe physical injuries. Since 1993, however, investigative news reports by programs such as Inside Edition, Dateline NBC, the Australian edition of 60 Minutes, and several network affiliates in the United States have called these claims into question.

Hinn made a number of unfulfilled (religious) prophecies for the 90s, such as God destroying America’s homosexual community in 1995, the death of Fidel Castro, the election of the first female president of the USA, the East Coast of the United States being devastated by earthquakes, etc., all before the third millennium. Hinn also appeared on the Trinity Broadcasting Network in October 1999 to claim that God had given him a vision that thousands of dead people would be resurrected after watching the network—laying out a scenario of people placing their dead loved ones’ hands on TV screens tuned into the station—and that TBN would be “an extension of Heaven to Earth.”

Again, I have no reason to link the divorce announcement to anything to do with Tiger Woods except to say that it was against that context that I heard the news.   But maybe that’s not it at all, maybe I’m also reading into this story against the backdrop of the post I wrote last week about Todd Bentley.  (But again, there’s been no inference of infidelity, the grounds for divorce filed are irreconcilable differences.)   Another celebrity.  Another Charismatic evangelist.   Another divorce.

There are two sides to every story, and Hinn’s people have allegedly already started going into damage control mode, and not everyone is buying it.

It’s all so very sad.

To those of you who are just starting out in your journey of faith, or building a ministry, remember:  You are responsible for the depth of your ministry; God is responsible for the breadth of your ministry.   Don’t aim for crowds, respect, praise or what some would consider success.     Because success and praise always come at a cost; the adulation of the crowds always comes at a price; and then, if you fail, you take down all the people who worshiped you.

Additional sources USAToday; Bene Diction Blogs On. Picture:  The Daily Show. Update: Confirmation at Benny Hinn Ministries website.

January 17, 2010

Falwell’s Classic “Dear Chicken” Letter

Filed under: Humor — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:57 pm

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this classic letter from the computerized fundraising department of Jerry Falwell’s television ministry.

Thankfully, blogger and rabid U2 afficiando Dave Wainscott at the blog Holy Heteroclite (a recommended bookmark for you) was kind enough to post it to the internet for all to read (or, at least, the first page of it):

If anybody knows the whereabouts online of the complete letter in a text format, I’ll substitute it for the image.

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