Thinking Out Loud

October 30, 2016

Where’s My Casserole?

For that very small percentage of my readers who live in my local area, please know that as we often do at Thinking Out Loud, the purpose of today’s piece is to provoke thought and is not intended as criticism of any church or churches.

As readers here know, my mom died on October 10th. Because I have my feet planted in two local churches and am known to people in other churches as well, I felt very blessed to be surrounded by the prayers and support of a loving Christian community. The emails, cards and a couple of phone calls were deeply appreciated.

One of the two churches follows the larger church model that is probably familiar to many in Thinking Out Loud’s mostly American readership. There isn’t what’s called the “pastoral prayer” in weekend services, so hospitalizations and bereavements are therefore not always made known to the broader congregation. There is an email that goes out however, though I believe this is a different list than those who receive the weekly announcements email.

casseroleIt was many days after the funeral that in jest, I said, “Where’s our casserole?” It wasn’t that I wanted one, truthfully I don’t even like casserole, especially one that my wife didn’t make, as she is an excellent cook. But after we laughed — and laughter is something that was rather absent in the weeks before my mother’s passing — she noted that it might have been nice to come home the day of the funeral and simply stick something in the microwave…1

We showed up at North Point’s Buckhead Church on a rather quiet day in 2008 and got what I believe was a rather unique behind-the-scenes tour. There were things I didn’t know about Andy Stanley’s church; things you don’t see or don’t think about when you’re streaming the Sunday services. I wasn’t surprised that Andy doesn’t do weddings. A lot of megachurch pastors don’t. But even the army of campus pastoral staff doesn’t do them at any of their locations. There isn’t a chapel. The couple-to-be must source a location on their own, and then a North Point pastor will officiate. I suspect the funeral protocol is somewhat similar. A few years back, I do remember seeing this discussed on an FAQ page, but this week I couldn’t locate it…

I understand that things must change. In another time and place the local radio stations would broadcast funeral announcements at noon each day. They also interrupted programming if the police were trying to contact someone on an urgent family matter. (“Mr. Roger Millberry of Jefferson Heights, believed to be vacationing in the area is asked to contact police…”) Even the more progressive rock and roll stations persisted in this and more, including afternoon announcements of which horse took the win, place and show at the local track, well into the 1970s. (“Pinocchio, by a nose.”) Well, at least on AM. FM was too cool for such things.

Our church services have become performance-oriented and we certainly wouldn’t expect announcements of this type at the movies or sporting events, would we? But church is supposed to be different. It’s supposed to be about the family of God gathered together. This is what I believe Millennials are longing for and what will draw them into the Christian communities they will form. (That in turn begs the question we posed in February, what will happen to the abandoned megachurches?)

So you have to ask: Did God ever intended for church to look like today’s megachurch that now sets the agenda in even medium sized churches as well? Would members of the early church even recognize the form our weekend worship takes?2 And, Dude! Where’s my casserole?


For some strange reason, every time we discussed doing this article — and whether my wife or I would write it — I kept thinking of that other poignant question: It’s the ’80s, Where’s my Rocket Pack?3


1 It occurred to us later that there may be younger readers here unfamiliar with the tradition of church people bringing a casserole over to the house when there has been a bereavement or serious illness. (For the record, my wife’s friend brought us a half-gallon of pumpkin spice ice cream.)
2 One book I read recently suggested something along the lines that a First Century Christian would find a service at the megachurch similar to the shows the Romans staged in the arena. Hard to argue that one.
3 ADD does that to you.

January 19, 2013

Weekend Link List

Weekend List Lynx

Weekend List Lynx

Lots of stuff that can’t wait until Wednesday!

  • This one is must reading. Matthew Paul Turner asks former Mars Hill Bible Church pastor Shane Hipps all the questions I would have asked about the church, hell, Love Wins and the man he succeeded at MHBC, Rob Bell.

    “This is one of the biggest misunderstandings.  Rob doesn’t have a position or a concept of hell, he is an artist exploring possibilities and making unexpected connections, not a theologian plotting out a system.  In other words there is nothing to agree or disagree with.  It’s like saying I disagree with that song or that painting.”

    Read more at MPT’s blog.

  • CT’s story of the week concerns gay students at Christian colleges. That’s not a typo.

    “Leaders at Christian colleges and universities around the country told Christianity Today their schools are rethinking the way they address the needs of [same sex attracted] students on campus.”

    Read more at Christianity Today.

  • If you’ve been around the church for any length of time, you might remember “visitation” by pastors and church elders. These days, you’re more likely to get a house call from your doctor.  David Fitch’s guest author Ty Grigg thinks you might not have anybody drop in these days:

    “It is not a cultural norm to have neighbors or even friends over to our homes for dinner.  If we want to be with people, we go out.  The restaurant has replaced the space that home once occupied in society.  Typically, for younger generations (40’s and under), a visit will be at a coffee shop or to grab lunch.  In our suburban isolation, the home is too much of an intimate, sacred space for most non-family members to enter.”

    Read more at Reclaiming the Mission.

Other links:

  • Canadian readers will remember a national pre-Christmas story involving the theft of $2M worth of toys from a Salvation Army warehouse in Toronto. Here’s a follow-up on how the organization is working to protect itself by having a solid ‘whistle-blower’ policy
  • Want a taste of that theological educational experience you missed? RegentRadio.com, the internet broadcasting arm of Regent College, frequently offers free lectures by its professors. Currently it’s wrapping up a twelve-part series with Gordon Fee on the Holy Spirit in Pauline Theology with a new lecture available each day.
  • We linked to this about six months ago, but it’s worth a revisit. Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed links to a 9-minute video where an orthodox priest explains various theories of atonement.
  • Sarnia is a Canadian city across the river from Port Huron, MI.  Pastor Kevin Rodgers blogs at Orphan Age and reminds us how a shared meal is a great way to build community.
  • USA Today religion editor Cathy Lynn Grossman looks at the larger religious issues in Monday’s Presidential inauguration ceremony.
  • A New Jersey substitute teacher is fired for giving a student his personal Bible as a gift after the student kept asking where the saying, “the last shall be first” came from.
  • New blogs we’re watching this week — okay new to us:
  • Talk about California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day: Our closing shot this week is from a Facebook page dedicated to books. The picture combines two of my favorite passions: a day at the beach and reading.

Beach Library

August 22, 2012

Wednesday Link List

  • He didn’t originate it, but the above graphic was found at Tony Jones’ blog who discusses the topic-we-haven’t-done-here involving a fast food restaurant we-haven’t-named-here.  Tony has another link here, too. 
  • Our top link today is to one of the blogs by Camille who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and writes on how to be a blessing to friends with chronic illnesses.
  • No link on this one, but there’s a guy who comments on several blogs I read under the name Eagle, who came down with a mystery illness a few weeks back. It was so good to see how the blog community came together to encourage him and pray for him and keep one another updated.
  • We took a week off from the link list last week only to have Clark Bunch encourage his readers to visit the link list that wasn’t here. So from our Returning-The-Favor Department, here’s a link to The Read and Share file at The Master’s Table.
  • My wife and I find so many church-based ‘friendships’ are really task-based and disappear when the project ends or people change churches. So I liked this quote: “People frequently think they have friends at work—or church or the tennis club or any location where like-minded people gather—when in fact what they have are ‘work neighbors.’” The rest of the article is more for women and those middle-aged, but I liked that ‘work neighbors’ concept.
  • Worship leaders not only articulate theology but in a real way they also shape theology. So they really need to know of what they sing. Zac Hicks explores this with advice for both musicians and pastors.
  • Jim Henderson talks about the thesis of his book The Resignation of Eve in the light of a new report from Barna Research about the role of women in ministry.
  • Bring your church bulletin to a restaurant on Sunday and get a discount. Seems like a fairly typical promotion, right? Well, a complaint has been filed with the Pennyslvania Human Rights Commission for just that special offer.
  • In other protest news, the man who symbolically burned a box of cereal on the front lawn of General Foods died a few days later.
  • The replacement for the “Touchdown Jesus” statue on Interstate 75 is just about ready to be put into place; and this time it’s fireproof.
  • Did I mention Phil Vischer’s podcast lately? Seriously, you need to listen to one of these; you’ll be hooked on the series. Here’s the one where his guest was his brother Rob Vischer though honestly, Episode 13 is much funnier. So you have a choice: serious or silly.
  • Cross Point’s Jenni Catron guests at Outreach Magazine suggesting that in church leadership, red tape was made to be cut.
  • How small is our God? Richard Beck counterpoints the ‘Your God is Too Small’ rhetoric with a piece about finding the small-ness of God.
  • There are definitely more than five things belonging to the realm of mystery in theology, but for C. Michael Patton, these are the major ones. (We might use this at C201 today, too!) 
  • Twenty years after his death, Christianity Today provides a lengthy tribute to the influence of Christian musician Mark Heard.
  • Meanwhile, at a venue quite familiar to Mark Heard, The Choir performs a final song on the final night of the Cornerstone Festival.
  • And here’s a 5-minute recap of the whole event
  • If you find yourself in remote parts of Africa, James Brett wants you to know how to build a rocket stove.
  • Oops!-I-Said-It-Again Department: Pat Robertson stands by guys who won’t date a woman with three adopted international children because in Pat’s view they might grow up weird or have brain damage. Russell D. Moore goes appropriately ballistic in response. “This is not just a statement we ought to disagree with. This is of the devil.” (I think his co-host would be wise to quit after this incident.)(Pat’s not Russell’s; Russel doesn’t have a co-host.)
  • The oft-cynical Naked Pastor, aka David Hayward pledges his new blog will be the up-side to his popular blog’s rants.  And the blog Pastor Jeff’s Ramblings announces that he is shutting down the blog, and then, a day later announces the start of Pastor Jeff’s Reviews.
  • Below, one of several new panels at Sacred Sandwich:

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