Thinking Out Loud

June 20, 2018

Wednesday Connect

A spinoff product for Brant Hansen’s Blessed Are the Misfits book, or just a coincidence?

Usually the pictures and graphic images we open and close with have an element of humor to them, but I wanted to share this because I think this pastor — who I happen to know — has touched on something that doesn’t get discussed enough.

I know this is a theme which resonates with so many. Over and over again I hear of sons and daughters who grew up in Sunday School, but are now far from the Church, with many also far from God. I like what Ewen’s church is doing here and I think more churches need to think of ways to mobilize prayer. Also, if that’s you and you know someone in a similar situation, offer to become prayer partners for this particular concern. 

Now we resume regular programming:

.► Canadian Christians are still reeling from the decision in the Trinity Western University Law School case, which we covered here extensively on the weekend. “A portion of Christian freedom of expression loses big time in this ruling, which implies that in Canada, sexual identity trumps religious identity.” 🇨🇦

► An American looks at Canada’s Supreme Court decision in the Trinity Western University law school case: “Here’s why we’ve been raising our voices for so many years and why we’ve said that those who came out the closet want to put us into the closet. It’s why we’ve said that LGBT activism was never simply about ‘tolerance’ – it was about the silencing of competing views.” 🇨🇦

► Just my opinion of course, but I think social justice advocate Danielle Strickland is the hottest news on the rack right now. Just a few weeks after her Sunday at Willow Creek, she was back there for a Wednesday night, speaking on Zephaniah. Watch the entire sermon as I did and enjoy.

► Essay of the Week: Arrested Development is “an illustration of what theologians call generational sin…Is sin passed from generation to generation, or are we each responsible for our own actions? The answer is “both and,” a painful truth illustrated by Arrested Development. We are shaped by our families. Every family, from the Cleavers to the Bluths, is dysfunctional to some degree. We all inherit sinful ways of seeing the world, relating to each other, and understanding God. This is why Jesus insists his Church is a spiritual family, one that even supersedes our biological families.” An essay in making the body of Christ a family for those whose own is stuck in Arrested Development

► Churches and Social Media: If your church is pursuing Millennials, having a Facebook account may not be helpful. But having one on YouTube, Snapchat or Instagram means you’re going to have to have the resources to maintain it and post frequently.

Winning the 2018 Generation Award at the MTV Movie and TV Awards, Chris Pratt had three faith-filled points, but also two or three which I felt took away some of the impact from those. Hear his 4-minute ‘sermon,’ in full

► Small Group 2011 Flashback: The writer of the majority of the piece wrote the words 7 years ago. The title earns our ‘provocative’ award: Why Churches Should Euthanize Small Groups. (Not new, but 2nd most popular post at Sermon Central.) 

► If you’re looking up your family tree and mailing your spit to Ancestory.com doesn’t do it for you, it’s a well-known fact that the best authority on who married or begat who in North America is the Mormon church. Now comes word that their genealogical database will begin recording same-sex marriages.

► There have been many recent discussions about the contagion associated with suicide. Roger Olson looks at the question, ‘Is Suicide Sin?’

J. D. Greear

► After being elected the 62nd President of the Southern Baptist Church, J.D. Greear writes at his personal blog that his prayer for the SBC is for greater humility and greater hope… 

► … However, did everyone at The Summit Church, where Greear is the pastor, realize they were attending a Southern Baptist church?*

► … In less stellar SBC news, an all-white church has been kicked out of the denom for incredibly strong racist attitudes toward a black church with which they were sharing facilities and partnering for the purpose of guaranteeing their long-term survival after having dwindled from 250+ members to only 20. Perhaps now we know why people weren’t attracted to that particular congregation.

► If you can’t get enough of Hobbits and Middle Earth, here’s a website dedicated to all things Tolkien: Check out Kaitlyn Facista’s Tea with Tolkien.

► Church membership covenants, a membership roll, or just showing up each week? Scot McKnight raises the point and even though this article becomes a book teaser, it’s worth considering.  

► “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” That’s the working title of an address I am giving next month, so you can imagine my reaction in seeing this article. Inevitably, when the story is told of how things went south in a person’s life, it often begins with the time they met _____________ .

► Decriminalizing blasphemy: In Ireland, “any utterance or the publication of indecent, blasphemous or indecent matter is regarded as an offense.” The country wants to remove this crime from its constitution

► Fixed Prayer Times: On a more serious note at Reddit (than the item we end today’s list with) someone asked if Muslims are the only religious group having fixed prayer times. These short answers are actually quite helpful, especially reading them altogether.

► If it’s true what people are saying, at this time you should probably read this. (Doesn’t sound very forceful, does it?) A look at three phrases which reflect weak leadership

► Don’t think we run enough Catholic items here? Last night I rediscovered Big Pulpit. (It’s like Real Clear Religion but with more items and each one having a Catholic connection.)

► The sister of gospel music singer Kirk Franklin has been sentenced to 30 years in a Texas prison.

► Worship Leading: “Have you ever had someone on your music or tech team that you hoped God would call to the mission field? Or Toledo? Or just anywhere but your church?” 5 Preventative measures to keeping what the author calls “the crazies” off your team.

► The number of LGBT employees at the BBC is four times the national average. Also, “Almost one in 50 of the corporation’s staff identifies as transgender, but in the general population, only one in every 14,000 people has legally changed sex. The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director Ciarán Kelly said the news was further evidence of the BBC’s ‘obsession with political correctness’.”  

► “Let my building go!” — It could be the only way to keep the church alive is to jettison the historic real estate that’s holding you back

► In the artist spotlight on Jon Rivers’ show is Pat Barrett, with the song, The Way (New Horizon) also available in a 7-minute version from Housefires. ♫

► Releasing June 29th, this new Hillsong Young and Free video from the album simply titled III, shows the musicians in a very digital environment. ♫

► Religion Problems – 2018 Style: When you partially identify as Pastafarian and you want to get your new drivers license picture taken with a colander on your head but (a) you can’t find one that fits, and (b) you have to first prove you’re Pastafarian. Assuming you can find one that fits for next time, how do you prove you’re part of the fringe religion?


It would be nice to think that a year from now, when people scroll by this, they will have forgotten what the panel below was all about. Others will say it’s already too late for that, what’s happened is now seared into history. Either way, I love what David Hayward, aka Naked Pastor has done with this news topic. Click here to link.


*J.D. Greear video: We take no responsibility for the speaker damage that may occur when auto-play sends you to the video which follows. (If you have a blog, don’t use whatever video embed thingy that is.) Auto-play is destroying families and lives and must be stopped. Join the campaign by sending your money to me, or calling 1-800-STOP-IT with your pledge.

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June 13, 2018

Wednesday Connect

The Week That Was: Trump at the G7 meeting in Canada. To see who is featured in the picture, click this BBC News story.


Scripture Faith Christian Shirts


Several of this week’s links are from Canadian sources. Events at the G7 weren’t connected to my decision to include them, but it’s a good place to remember that we are all brothers and sisters on both sides of the border.

We try to avoid sending you to sites with annoying pop-ups. Excluded this week was Thom Rainer, whose page allows you to do nothing until the pop-ups are finished. Anyone old enough to remember the Christian blogosphere before all this nonsense started knows how frustrating it is today.

Here’s this week’s collection of stories you may not see elsewhere.

► Faced with a dying congregation, an ailing building and poor finances, this Montreal pastor shut down the church for 9 months and then reopened it as a multi-faith community center providing a home for five different churches and addressing the fact that the 20,000 sq. ft. of urban space was only being used less than 5% of the time. “When it reopened, the masses were pared down. New people started coming. Before Singh took over St. Jax, the congregation was about 30 people. Now, there are about 80 there every week.
And groups have begun to start renting the space. There have been salsa dancing, choral and tap-dancing events. Long-overdue repairs have begun.” This revolutionary approach is worth reading.

► Coming soon to a computer near you: Crowd-funding continues for what is planned to be a summer launch of what founder Steven Andrew calls an alternative to Facebook and Twitter, USA.Life

► …And on a rather similar-looking page (featuring the swearing in of President Trump in the background) an alternative to Google, 1776Free.com  (The vision for both sites obviously ends at the U.S. border. Sigh!)

► This will be outdated by the time you see it on Wednesday, but I was still rather amazed at this article — appearing in no less than Christianity Today — calling for the election of Beth Moore for President of the Southern Baptist Convention. (Aren’t these the same guys who turned their chairs when Anne Graham Lotz spoke not so long ago?) …

► For the record, at age 45, the SBC-ers elected J. D. Greear.

► Decided this week: “Printing ‘In God We Trust’ on US currency does not force a Satanist to spread Christianity, federal judges have ruled.”  (History: The first motto challenge took place in 1970.)

► Could you pass as a Christian refugee? Swedish “officials did not believe that [Aideen] Strandsson was a true Christian because her knowledge of Christianity was apparently insufficient;” and wanted her deported back to Iran. I wonder what their test was and if the average North American Christian could satisfy them.

► So…Are there fewer weddings booked at your church this year? “Clergy are solemnizing fewer and fewer marriages. Instead, couples are turning to civil magistrates or even loved ones who obtain credentials. In 2009, 29 percent of couples had a friend or family member solemnize their wedding. That number had increased to 43 percent by 2016.” …

► …The article was based on a May article at Facts and Trends. “In 2017, 15 percent of weddings were at barns, farms, or ranches. Fourteen percent were at historic homes. Seventeen percent were at a banquet hall. Hotels (12 percent) and country clubs (12 percent) were also popular.”

► Increasingly, the term vacation is coming to mean vacation from the internet and social media. “More and more travelers seem to want to unplug. Terms like slow tourism, off-the-grid trips and unplugged travel are popping up on tourism-related sites. Travel firms have even started offering trips that require clients to leave their phones at home (or at least tucked away in their suitcases)… Ironically, resorts that once used Wi-Fi access as a selling point are now touting features that allow guests to unplug. For example, the Four Seasons Costa Rica lets guests log off by offering a 24-hour tech detox program. The luxury resort locks your device in their safe, and they provide tech-free activities such as dancing classes and boating trips.”

► When Wednesday Connect is all finished, I check Eric’s list at Phoenix Preacher to see where we doubled up (if we did) or if there’s something vital I really should include. This time around he noted that Charisma Magazine just one day apart, had two different takes on the Jesse Duplantis jet story which he heralded with this pithy one-liner with two short hyperlinks: “Charisma rag mag divided on Duplantis jet… nay, yea

► An athiest Indiegogo campaign raised 130% of its goal to place the booklet, Disproving Christianity in hotels. “I will send a petition to some of the top hotels in Los Angeles, indicating that the Bible should be accompanied be a secular equivalent. I hope the hotel owners will see that having the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, and the Bible in clients’ rooms is OK, but that we should have the opportunity to point out the discrepancies in those holy books, too.” Will the hotels be forced to give the book equal time?

► Is Junia the same person as Joanna, mentioned in Luke 8 and Luke 24? One thing’s for sure, she’s not Junius (a male name) as some would have it; in fact don’t even think of that if you ever meet this author. (For the record, she didn’t mention it either.)

► The Billy Graham era may have come and gone, but Greg Laurie is still packing in people at arenas for events such as this past weekend’s Harvest America crusade in Arlington, TX. (Link takes you to event’s Twitter feed.)  …

► …On the same day as the crusade, Greg Laurie posted his reflections on the sudden passing of CNN’s Anthony Bourdain. He compares Bourdain’s journey — raised, as he was, without religion — to his own.

► Moral failure warning signs: I’ve seen lists like this before but the five in this list contained some different indicators that are out there, such that afterwards people say, “Looking back, we see what was going on.”

► Cath Stats (Catholic Statistics): “With only 23% bothering to engage in the central tenet of that relationship, the Eucharist, it is easy to say the relationship is severely damaged. If more that 3/4 of the family doesn’t see being with the family as important, then something has gone wrong.” On the other hand, “with only 23% participation, the Catholic Church runs a vast array of schools, hospitals, and services for the poorest of the poor. We are able to do a great amount with just 23%. Imagine what could be done with 50%, or 75%, or even 100%.

► Never underestimate a young person’s desire and interest in God, the Bible and spiritual truths.The Ontario Director of the Canadian Bible Society reflects on 12 years of working with youth.

► An iconic church in Toronto has been offered the opportunity to do a land swap with a condominium developer that would also include sufficient funds to build an all new auditorium, offices and classrooms.

► Third Culture Kids (TCKs) are always discovering that Americans have an abysmal knowledge of world geography, as the opening illustration here so well illustrates.

► Poco (Good Feelin’ to Know)/Buffalo Springfield (For What It’s Worth) singer and guitarist Richie Furay pastored a Calvary Chapel in Colorado for 35 years. Retired now at 74, he’s still doing concerts.

► Parenting: “At least two new animated television shows about drag queens, one featuring children characters, are set to debut in America, drawing high concern from conservative commentators.” (Watch, if you can, a trailer for Drag Tots.)

► Christian Reggae band Christifari is back with a new music video. ♫

► Your deep theological questions answered: Seven reasons why Mennonites hold hands to pray.*

► Finally, not baking cakes for gay weddings? That’s just the start of the list this guy won’t bake cakes for, which includes just about everybody.*

*Mennonite satirical news site.

At age 91, J. I. Packer isn’t too old to cruise the J. I. Packer section in the Regent College bookstore this week, making sure his bestsellers are properly displayed. (Facebook – click to link)


Resurrected from 2013 at the Facebook page of twentyonehundred Productions, the media wing of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. (Facebook – Click to link)

June 6, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Today’s Wednesday Connect rates a 95 on the Evangometer.


This one’s from the old Theologygrams site…before the two Theologygrams books, I think.

Our goal each week is to present you with stories and opinion pieces you might not see elsewhere, but this week I had a few emails asking me not to overlook the Supreme Court decision on the (former) wedding cake baker Jack Phillips’ refusal to design a cake for a gay wedding many years ago. The two I decided to go with were actually the two which were forwarded to me, this summary of the entire case history at Baptist News, and an analysis by Skye Jethani. (The latter is a Facebook link, for which I apologize. There was a web-equivalent to Skye’s mailing list version, but the link was particular to my subscription, and Skye didn’t post to his blog.)  

Also, before you read further, we need to let you know that this was a Weekend Link List weekend. Seven items that couldn’t wait until today.

► Essay of the Week: The nature of cover-ups which protect a particular institution, and the resultant fall when the truth is exposed. “For justice to be done, the village had to be broken because the village was not a true community but was simply a made-up idea that powerful men came up with to protect their status.

► The American Bible Society “has decided to adopt such a statement [which “requires employees to embrace a host of Christian beliefs and practices”] after functioning for 202 years without one does make this development noteworthy. As the author of perhaps the only scholarly history of this storied Christian organization, I can attest that the “Affirmation of Biblical Community” represents a definitive break with the vision of its founders. It also represents the culmination of a roughly 20-year transformation of the Society from a diverse Christian organization to a ministry with strong ties to American evangelicalism.

► Technology impacting U.S. churches: After having to stop using their wireless microphones in the 700 Mhz spectrum, now the 600 Mhz band is being impacted. Yes, “…you have to do it again. In a nutshell, most of that affected wireless spectrum in the U.S. has been sold to mobile broadband and similar carriers for their exclusive use, meaning that no one else may broadcast radio signals to potentially interfere with their services. The clock began ticking last spring on the 39-month transition period to clear the spectrum, and it’s not a given that you have that entire period to react. If the purchasers start using a particular band in your area earlier, you must stop using your competing devices. Importantly, T-Mobile – a major purchaser of that 600-MHz spectrum throughout the U.S. – is already deploying and testing its new system using those frequencies in many markets. If you’re using wireless microphone systems (or in-ear monitors or intercoms) in the specific frequency bands in which they are deploying in your area, their new services legally have priority and you are obligated to stop your transmissions – with hefty fines for non-compliance.  Not to mention that the stronger signals from these 600-MHz broadband services might begin to cause interference with your Sunday service...” (Seems a bit unfair to me.)

► Canada’s national news service, the CBC, covers the story of longtime Christian blogger and pastor Jamie Arpin-Ricci who is “a father of two and married to a woman he loves deeply. He’s also bisexual and leads Little Flowers Community, an Anabaptist- and Franciscan-inspired church… In the past two years, he has opened up with his small congregation and the broader Christian community about the fact that he is bisexual.”

► What are home-schooled kids really being taught. I wish the author, himself home-schooled, had done this as a blog post, rather than a Twitter thread, but the photographed pages from a single Abeka book are very interesting, to say the least. Apparently we did a lot of good for the Africans by colonizing their homelands and bringing them here to pick cotton in nice warm climates.

► Bible Tribalism: Your current translation of choice says a lot about you, according to Scot McKnight who reminds us that, “there is a distinction between the text and a translation of the text. The authority is with the former; those who know that text are informed enough to decide about translations.” 

► Vocational ministry can be dangerous: “A Protestant pastor was killed by a crocodile during a baptism ceremony in an Ethiopian lake… Lake Abaya has lately had a shortage of fish, and the crocodiles have become aggressive toward humans, who have little chance to spot them in the lake’s murky red waters.”

► Resigning: Amid some tears on the weekend, the founder of the humanitarian organizations One Day’s Wages and the author of Overrated, Eugene Cho felt it was simply time to step down from his position of Pastor at Quest, the church he founded.

► Is he nitpicking or providing an important clarification and reminder? Stephen Altrogge says we’re not saved by faith but we’re saved by Christ. The phrase is actually somewhat lacking.

► Provocative Headline: “Why the Catholic church is ‘hemorrhaging’ priests.” The article notes that, “the pope has suggested filling the gaps in the priesthood with something markedly similar to an existing institution, the diaconate. Also known as “deacons,” these men complete a two- to four-year course and are ordained to assist priests and bishops. They can baptize, marry, preach and administer the Eucharist, but they cannot take confession. Though the concept is as old as Christianity itself – the Church traces it to the apostles – the diaconate has garnered renewed interest in recent years as priests have become scarce.”

► Ever found yourself saying, ‘Well…that’s a gray area.’ Or, ‘Scripture isn’t really clear on that.’ In this article, the author gives 6 reasons that some so-called gray areas are really quite black-and-white.

► “Christine Caine grew up revering the Bible, and even kissing the Bible, but never reading it for herself. In her family’s Greek Orthodox tradition, reading the Bible was reserved for priests. When Caine—an excited new follower of Jesus at age 22—came home with a Bible, her mother was mortified. ‘Christine, who do you think you are?’ her mother exclaimed. ‘You’re being brainwashed!'” A profile of the author’s life and ministry at Bible Study Magazine

► …from the same source, in case you wondering, the answer to the question Why the Ark of the Covenant will Never be Found.

► “Danielle Strickland is passionate about serving and loving the marginalized all over the world, at one time holding the most unusual job of acting as chaplain for brothels across Canada.” Two amazing five minute video segments

► …If that leaves you wanting to hear more of her, she recently spoke at Canada’s Peoples Church. 41 minutes, audio only.

► The Great Gay Divide: This time it’s the United Methodist Church, with the same result as others know too well. “Some conservative churches have already voted to leave, including a few of the denomination’s largest and wealthiest; their departures would mean the loss of significant financial support and raise complicated issues over how to divide up local church property, which is held in trust by the denomination.”

► (re)Defining Our Terms: A short, six-point reexamination of the idea of being “called.”

►Snopes of the Week: No, the Pope did not order white women to breed with Muslims.

► If he were alive today, C. S. Lewis would probably earn a “Farewell, C. S. Lewis” from John Piper.

► No, we haven’t forgotten you, Michael Pierce; we’re just trying to maintain a certain level of dignity now that we’re the more upscale Wednesday Connect and not a mere link list. But this one was good: The 7 People You Meet at Baptist Church Picnics. (Hardcore fans will want to read the one he posted after, though.)

► Finally (and you know this is bizarre if the Michael Pierce link isn’t the “finally”) at the Bethel Church BSSM — Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry — there is the “Drive-through fire tunnel” where “On the way into the church the 2nd year [BSSM Students] were blessing, praying for and prophesying over leaders arriving for the Leaders Advance.” See for yourself.  (This video isn’t current, but the items linked were, with the implication this is an ongoing practice.)

June 4, 2018

The Fallible Pastor

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:20 am

That books like these ever existed is proof that the challenges faced by pastors and ministry workers are nothing new.

Pastors are people, too.

It seems obvious, but it’s not always the case that people really grasp the underlying principle: The humanity and fallibility of those we “set apart” as our shepherds. They are subject to all the temptations, frustrations, emotions, and disappointments that the rest of us face, with the added challenge of living out their lives in a fishbowl.

It’s a stressful, always-on-call-24/7 lifestyle.

And now, thanks to both mainstream media and social media, every time a pastor falls, it gets reported around the world. Nobody may have ever cared about the little neighborhood church in Nowheresville, Idaho before, but when word gets out that the youth pastor was caught at the Rest-Awhile Motel with one of the high school students, it becomes a trending hashtag.

And all of that impacts your pastor.

All those stories of moral failure denigrate the job.

Ever watched one of those funerals for a policeman who dies in the line of service? Representatives from forces across North America converge. A different city; a different state; but he or she is one of their own. They show support at those times; a loud chorus resonating, “We’re all one team.”

Pastors need someone to talk to. They’re reluctant to do this with parishioners because they are supposed to be strong for them. It’s unusual for a pastor to have someone in the congregation or on the board with whom they can be completely candid about a struggle they are facing. There are organizations which come alongside in tough times, and there is usually a denomination chain of command allowing a hurting minister to turn to his superiors in moments of crisis.

Not every pastor wants to ask.

There’s something about the job which either overtly, or subconsciously trains pastors to put on a brave face, or suffer in silence. From early days they are taught that sometimes their public position may not be the same as their private position.

All of this, bottled up inside with nowhere to go, inevitably leads to a breakdown.

Meanwhile, media continues to report on another failure of another clergy person. It’s like running a marathon where all of a sudden, the runner next to you runs into the ditch, and then the one on the other side simply collapses and drops. In the next mile, it seems like runners are dropping left and right. You can see the finish line in the distance, but the intellect is busy processing, asking, “What the heck is going on here?” And, “How long before I drop to my knees?”

At the beginning, I said that pastors are people. They are fallible. If you prick them, they will bleed. But the Apostle Paul reminds us that “love believes the best.” With no reason to proceed differently, we need to hold them in high esteem and not allow the stories on the evening news or on Twitter to have any bearing on our pastor.

What’s more, we need to come alongside them with support and encouragement.

We just don’t know what challenge or crisis they are facing, and due to the intricacies of their calling, they’re not always likely to tell us.

 

May 30, 2018

Wednesday Connect

From chainsawsuit.com (click to link) by Kris Straub


In addition to bulletin announcements and signage, churches dealing with congregants who have perfume allergies can also place subtle reminders in musical selections.

Welcome to the 12th Wednesday Connect. Also my birthday, if that matters. Our focus is connecting you with stories and opinion pieces you might not see elsewhere. Let’s see what we found for you this week:

► Who will be your church’s next pastor? “Of all the issues the church needs to deal with in the next ten years, succession is near the top of the list. So many of the churches started in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s are led by (now) older leaders. A similar reality is also facing established churches who have had a leader in place for decades.” The writer also sees a surprising root problem: Existing pastors who are staying too long.

► How does it feel to be a guinea pig? “…It’s not that the Amish view technology as inherently evil. No rules prohibit them from using new inventions. But they carefully consider how each one will change their culture before embracing it. And the best clue as to what will happen comes from watching their neighbors. ‘The Amish use us as an experiment,’ says Jameson Wetmore, an engineer turned social researcher…”

► Going overseas involves more than buying a plane ticket. “…the existence of an issue in the world—be it social, political, humanitarian—does not mean a certain individual is called to engage it or help solve it… the call does not necessitate the readiness. Or put differently, even when we are we called, it doesn’t mean that we are prepared to go.” 

► She was the only schoolgirl kidnapped by Boko Haram who wouldn’t renounce Christianity to gain her freedom. She was discussed in meetings between U.S President Donald Trump and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. But why is CNN the only network following the story of 15-year-old Leah Sharibu?

► What happens to the blank fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls? “Back in the 50s, hundreds of scroll fragments were stored in cigar boxes. They were never analyzed because they did not appear to have anything printed on them. Why cigar boxes? They were the archaeologists’ Tupperware® containers of the 1950s…” But now, infrared technology is finding there’s writing on those fragments, some of which help complete existing texts.

► Coinciding with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Dallas, “At the For Such A Time As This Rally, women and men will be raising their voice to say, NO MORE. We must follow the example of Christ who valued and respected women in a way that was uncommon in his time.” ForSuchATimeAsThisRally.com and also this About page

► At the American Bible Society, “Employees are resigning in protest of the new policy, which will effectively prohibit sexually active LGBT people and couples in cohabitating relationships from working for the American Bible Society. But the organization stands by it…” Nine have quit so far with other departures pending. The code of conduct goes deep, requiring employees to “seek spiritual maturity through regular Bible engagement, participating in worship and prayer with others, and being involved in a local Christian church.”

► Catholic Corner: “Are we allowed to touch the Host when we receive it? And is it okay to chew it? A caller explains that when she was growing up in the Dominican Republic, she was taught that she could not touch or chew the Host during Communion. She is surprised to see people in the U.S. doing so, wonders if this is appropriate.” The Busted Halo Podcast answers Mass-related questions recorded on a live radio show.  (Even if you’re not Catholic, or don’t care about this, listen for a few minutes to what a Catholic talk radio show sounds like.)

► Literary Lane: The role of religion in the Sherlock Holmes stories.

► Practical for Parents: 3 Principles for leading family devotions.

► Provocative Headline of the Week: “The Age of Apologetics is Over.” The article continues, “Christian apologetics has plenty of traction left – for Christians. But just as the early 90s reruns of Billy Graham on the big screen across the country proved, it’s the already convinced who are turning up to to events and conferences in order to be further convinced.” 

► Are you Pro Choice? In this graphic, it means something a little different.

► I was able to get to Pennsylvania for a number of music festivals in the late 1970s where a frequent speaker was Larry Tomczak, a dynamic communicator who was converted from Catholicism in a storefront church. In this piece, he offers five issues he has and five things he would desire to tell Pope Francis.

► The Vote: “Ireland’s overwhelming vote to legalize abortion is viewed as the last main social taboo to fall in this Catholic-majority country, but the church’s hold on Irish life has been weak for some time, experts say… The referendum removed the Eighth Amendment, added to Ireland’s constitution in 1983 by the urging of the Catholic Church, that gave equal rights to a woman and an unborn child.”

► An Arab Evangelical, who also attended the April summit in Wheaton, Illinois, offers some words to American Evangelicals.  (Printed in both English and Arabic.)

► There’s still division over the lyrical motif in the worship song Reckless Love by Cory Asbury

► …but this response to a condemnation of the song by John Piper, just makes me want to say, Farewell, John Piper. (The Pipester — who I refuse to link to here — calls the song “defective.”)

► Called “a pop culture ghost” the primitive technology of Genesis Story Time — which featured 10% Bible stories on video but without sound — is hard to verify, but 2 minutes of it recently turned up. (If you’re reading this in the UK, you’ll probably compare it to Ceefax and Oracle.)

► “Artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological innovations must be so employed that they contribute to the service of humanity and to the protection of our common home, rather than to the contrary, as some assessments unfortunately foresee.” So who said that? A futurist? A leading scientist? No, it was Pope Francis! “Some observers are concerned Catholic theology hasn’t caught up with modern advancements to participate productively in the AI debate. ‘Pope Francis is absolutely right in raising the bar of our attention to technology;’ said Sister Ilia Delio, a Catholic nun and head of the science-and-theology focused Omega Center.” Other respondents look at faith and tech in this RNS story by Jack Jenkins.

► Regular CT columnist Karl Vaters says that it’s not a matter of churches trying new programs or innovations, but rather, getting better at what they’re already doing.

► Tongue-in-cheek: Why don’t restaurants advertise upfront the unique flavors they have to offer? (Hint: This article isn’t about restaurants.)

► New Worship Song: Majesty, by Collin Baxter, seen here performed live at Perimeter’s 40th Celebration.

► A top-selling book in Canada on basic Christian doctrine, (re)Union by Bruxy Cavey, pastor of Canada’s fastest growing church network, The Meeting House, now has a companion study guide.

► A few weeks late perhaps, but on his first Mother’s Day without his mom, the author of The Shack, Paul Young reflects on his loss, resulting in 60+ comments from those who understand.

► At 7-years-old, Gracie was the youngest transgender child the reporter had ever met.

► The band MercyMe claimed the top spot at last week’s Billboard Music Awards.

► Major TV networks followed the story of the student in Kentucky denied the opportunity to give his valedictory speech, just ten years before the ceremony. They say it was due to content and deadlines, but it seems more likely it’s because he is gay.

Tweet of the Week

► Oh, my! After 6+ years of relative silence, Phil Johnson, the man who knows all of John MacArthur’s secrets, is back blogging at Pyromaniacs. (Yeah, that same Pyromaniacs blog from a long time ago in an internet far away.)

► Another prosperity preacher, another offering being collected to buy him a $54M jet. (No, wait! Let’s call this out for what it is with all the zeroes: $54,000.000.00 .)

► Finally, the NRSV Pride Bible, shown below. Available in paperback and hardcover from luvandluv.com.

May 23, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Places with “Saint” in their name; sourced at the Brilliant Maps Twitter feed.


Never one for dull sermon series titles, the Church by the Glades in Florida doesn’t disappoint.

Welcome back! It was a week of ups and downs. First of all, in case you missed it, we had a Thursday Link List last week — yes, the very next day — featuring eight stories/articles you won’t see here.

► Our top item: CNN explores the intersection of Christianity and dealing with chronic depression.

► The Royal Wedding Sermon: “It was so post-modern that everyone could take their own meaning from it. Atheist, agnostic, or Christian – it didn’t matter. You could take that sermon ‘all you need is love’ and quote it in support of your own views… We were told that marriage is ‘a solemn, public and life-long covenant between a man and a woman, declared and celebrated in the presence of God and before witnesses’. But Bishop Curry does not believe that. Not only does he believe in same-sex marriage, but he has led the American Episcopal Church to go against the rest of the Anglican Communion (including the archbishop of Canterbury) so that it is now in the process of removing references to procreation and husband and wife so that the marriage ceremony can be non gender-specific. This was a traditional ceremony conducted by a man who seeks to undermine the theology, liturgy and practice of that ceremony.” …

► …Or for more, a review of the sermon by the Queen’s former chaplain. “[B]ishop Curry is a great preacher. And it will change nothing; because it wasn’t Christianity. It was ‘Christianity-lite’…

► …Or for a response to that response, this article at Premier Christianity which reminds us that this was a sermon watched by two billion people. (And that was just the estimate of the live audience; many have watched it since.)  

► Did the Billy Graham preaching gene actually skip a generation? Some say that grandson Will Graham is carrying on in more of a direct line from the late evangelist. In an Australian Christian news site, he talks about his grandfather and the challenge of having to preach one of his sermons in a movie. “The good thing was that I didn’t have to act – I only had to do what I was naturally doing anyway,” says Graham, “But what was hard was I had to preach a sermon that’s not my own.” He continues, “[Universal Studios] came back to me earlier this year and they said, ‘we actually want to make the gospel a little bit stronger.’ They said ‘we’ve already shot the movie, so we’re going to do some audio, so you’re going to go in and say these words and we’re going to overlay it with some scenes that we’ve already shot because we want to make sure that people hear a clear message of the gospel.’ When have you ever had anyone in Hollywood say, ‘we want it stronger?’”  

► On The Paulcast, Kurt Willems responds to those accusing Andy Stanley of Marcionism.  

► Winging it: “The central problem with evangelicals, as is illustrated with our ‘winging it’ approach to spirituality, is that we are unaware of our roots (especially our most toxic and problematic roots). We don’t know much about what came before us. The many denominations and off-shoots of denominations in Protestant Christianity should give us pause… In fact, as I read about the history of the evangelical movement, I was struck by how often groups split off from each other under the auspice of calling themselves ‘Christians.’ They thought of themselves as somehow preserving a pure version of the faith and didn’t see how they had any kind of bias or distinctives that set themselves apart.”

► I have long contended that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) acts as a surrogate religion in the lives of the participants I have spoken with. So this article piqued my interest. “While AA presents itself to the public as a mere program of recovery from alcoholism, it’s actually best thought of as a particular moral community, offering a comprehensive conception of how one ought to live one’s life… AA surreptitiously presents itself as a program to help one with their drinking, when, in actual fact, it’s offering a moralistic program that holds implications for much more than simply what one chooses to consume.”

► Reports are now saying that twenty Evangelical pastors were among the dead in last week’s plane crash in Cuba. (Other reports, over-shadowed by the Santa Fe shooting and the Royal Wedding noted that the American embargo with Cuba makes the purchasing of parts or better aircraft impossible.)   

► Watchdog/Investigative blogger Warren Throckmorton has left Patheos. “Patheos leadership informed me yesterday that my blog no longer fit their ‘strategic objectives.’ Since I don’t know what those are, I can’t say how I didn’t fit them…What a strange turn of events. Patheos was at the center of the Mars Hill Church and Gospel for Asia stories and now they host Mark Driscoll and K.P. Yohannan. All of the those Patheos links about Mars Hill and GFA are now erased. The content is here and archived elsewhere but admittedly, it will be harder to find.”

► In case you haven’t picked up on this, Christianity in Nigeria is quite different than where you’re reading this on so many fronts. Several Christian groups are demanding the release of Leah Sharibu, now 15-years-old who was kidnapped by the “Boko Haram Islamic terrorist group along with 109 other school girls in Dapchi in February. A federal government negotiation secured the release of 104 other girls but Leah was not released because she refused to [renounce] Islam during their weeks in captivity, according to her school mates. Five other girls reportedly died during the captivity.” The warning is that if she “dies in captivity, her death could result in ‘religious war’.”

► Rethinking the Invocation: At Patheos, David Rupert argues it might be a good time to retire this tradition at graduations, and the like. “With great flourish, the invokers often sound like the Pharisee, calling attention to a god of love and hope and joy, but rarely the God of the Bible. They are supposed to cause us to think about Divinity, to order our human business around his will. But too often, they are showcases for mediocrity and in today’s culture, invitations for mockery of God.” 

► Fuller Theological Seminary will relocate in 2021. “The cost of living in Pasadena is an increasing challenge for many of Fuller’s faculty, staff, and students. As we build a new campus in Pomona, we will have an opportunity to reimagine and reinvent Fuller for the 21st century, unencumbered by a campus that was designed for a previous era in theological higher education and in a location so costly that it limits our ability to reach many potential students. In addition to this, selling the campus in Pasadena resets the financial foundation of the seminary by eliminating all debt, increasing Fuller’s endowment, and generating seed funding for a new campus that is both high-tech and designed to foster student-to-student, student-to-faculty, and faculty-to-faculty collaboration.”

► Condensing the Conversation: Giving each approach just two or three paragraphs, the author looks at the four types of responses to the question, “What happens to people who have never heard about Jesus?”   

Bitterness: Five things it is, five ways to kill it.

► Many voices are saying that the new children’s movie Show Dogs is actually grooming children for sexual abuse. [UPDATE: This link now takes you to a drastically updated version of this story at CBN News.]

► Beyoncé Buys a Church: The 7,500 square foot church “is said to be over 100 years old and was listed for $850,000… The church…has not been active as a place of worship for believers due to members of the congregation reaching age and passing away. This New Orleans site is destined to become a tourist spot for those who are fans of the superstar from all over the world.” And then the report contradicts that with, “No word about whether Beyoncé will actually turn the church into her own, or flip the property into something else.”

► ‘Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and Matt Redman songs’ is a directive given in Ephesians 5; one author asks, “But why does this come after an exhortation not to be drunk? Perhaps I am making something of nothing, but it is not an intuitive sequence of discussion to my modern sensibility. As it turns out, however, it may be more intuitive to an ancient Greco-Roman sensibility.” A look at the music/drunkeness connection. (Part one of a two-part article.)  

► Polyglots and Pentecostals: Speaking in tongues as a political threat to Rome. A lot to consider here in four short paragraphs.

► Smoking is fairly taboo among Christians, but in the UK, Christians smoking cigars is a bit of an exception

► In praise of multi-generational churches: “In a world where kids spend 8 or more hours a day with children “their own age,” adults in the work force are surrounded by individuals who are largely their generational peers, and seniors often live in “senior only” housing, the Church is one of the few places where people of all generations have the opportunity to share space.
And in this, I am not raising my children in the church because they get to hang out with “their cohort” or go to age segregated Sunday School rooms. I am raising them in the church so they can be part of a multi-generational community in which they can be seen and known and loved, for who they are, as full and equal members of the Body of Christ.

► Adam Ford is no longer the force behind The Babylon Bee, a Christian satirical news site. His reasons are lengthy, but for one, he didn’t want to have to sell his soul to Facebook and Google to insure it’s continued success. Also his heart now lies with his news feed project, The Christian Daily Reporter.

► Film: The half hour documentary Godspeed invites you to follow the story of an American pastor whose desire to change the world grinds to a halt in a Scottish parish. An ode to simplicity, ordinariness and a slow paced life, with commentary by Eugene Peterson and NT Wright

► A year after Donald Trump’s appearance, former President Jimmy Carter spoke at the Liberty University graduation.

► Preston Sprinkle’s 13-year-old daughter wrote this. He described it: “One of the beautiful byproducts of encouraging your kids to not get on social media at a young age. They explore life with more creativity and depth. “

► FOBTs. Or if you prefer, Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (as pictured at right). England is reducing the maximum bet from a high of £100 to £2 “because of the impact on vulnerable people.” 

► Need a hug? If you’re in Fullerton, California, you could always go to HUG Church.

► If you’re single, looking for a life partner, and ‘hold to the Doctrines of Grace,’ then Sovereign Grace Singles, which we reported on a year ago, is still going strong. Because sometimes, dating just a normal, committed Christian isn’t good enough.

Communion on the Go


After 300 episodes, The Phil Vischer Podcast is now the Holy Post Podcast. Click image to link (hopefully by mid-morning Wednesday!)

May 17, 2018

Thursday Link List

It’s a great weather day where I live, so for some of you, these are the only links that matter.

A few things seen the day after I would like to have included yesterday. Some of the items below are perhaps of greater interest to people in vocational ministry, but I chose things that I think all of us can connect with. If you missed the bigger list yesterday, click here.

  • Canada’s John Stackhouse guests at Lorna Dueck’s website and looks at the composition of the Willow Creek church board and how the choosing of board members can influence outcomes in situations like the one the church just faced. “From what I could read … the website indicates that the Board of Elders of this large, globally influential church features eight impressive people who are long-time members of Willow Creek and who bring a range of gifts and experiences to the Elder Board. All well and good. Collectively, however, they list not a single year of theological education. Nor do any of them have experience in pastoral ministry.”
  • Egalitarian in theory, but not in practice: Canada’s Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada — the country’s direct equivalent of the Assemblies of God — has been at the forefront of ordaining women and even having women as senior pastors. But it doesn’t always translate into actual positions being granted with what the denom would like to see. So, at this year’s annual conference in Victoria, BC, they affirmed their stance: “Two decades later, we recognize that although our accepted, official position is one of equality between men and women, that position has not translated to reality. Women continue to be vastly underrepresented both as vocational pastors and in governing roles at District and National levels, despite female students consistently attending our Bible Colleges in significant numbers. There is a gap between our official position and our lived reality.”
  • Following up on a link from yesterday, we listened to the most recent John Mark Comer sermon online. If nothing else, listen to the first 5-10 minutes. We also linked yesterday to a piece about “data dumping” where pastors simply unload a great volume of information in a non-academic, church environment. With that in mind, check out how this is done in Comer’s sermon. It’s a friendly, unthreatening approach with an admitted theology “nerd” sharing what he learned and recognizing some people may temporarily tune out. I think however, it’s also the degree of sermon prep which attracts people to his church.
  • Andy Stanley has been the most recent target of the label Marcionite, because of a sermon in the “Aftermath” series wherein he spoke of the first generation church ‘unhitching’ itself from the Old Testament way of doing things. Peter Enns addressed this a few months back, noting that God’s so-called “split personality” isn’t just apparent along the OT/NT divide: “Different portrayals of the one God are self-evident, not simply between the two Testaments but within each Testament. Israel’s Scripture does not present God in one way, but various ways—depending on who is writing, when, and for what reason. Same with the New. This is what keeps theologians so busy, trying to make that diversity fit into a system of some sort.”
  • Staying with the OT for a minute, what is the last book of the Old Testament? Did you say Malachi (the Italian prophet)? “The Bible that Jesus was familiar with, what we now refer to as the Old Testament, did not end with Malachi. In fact, it wasn’t even a single volume book. Rather, it was a collection of separate scrolls that were made to be read as a unified collection, and the book designed as the concluding crown jewel was 1st and 2nd Chronicles! Your favorite book of the Bible, I’m sure.” We don’t know how the change happened but we do know the “The general picture we get from the book is that the long years of Israel’s exile did not fundamentally change the hearts of the people. They’re still in rebellion against God, the temple is corrupted, and it leaves the reader waiting for some kind of resolution.”
  • An Arminian website offers “Five Biblical Texts that Calvinists Can’t Wiggle Out Of.” The outline parallels TULIP, and at the end, they admit their strongest case is made with “L” — an argument against limited atonement.
  • Still continuing with the number ‘5’ an article by a lawyer at Christianity Today offers five things your church should purchase before adding a coffee bar, or making another such purge. (This article may be pay-walled soon.)
  • Got an hour to think about comedy? We listened to this over two nights. Christian stand-up Jon Crist was the guest on The Wally Show (WAY-FM) and they left a camera running in the studio as they recorded the segments.

May 16, 2018

Wednesday Connect



Welcome to Wednesday Connect 010. Grab your coffee and sit back and we’ll see what happened since we met last week. First, what got clicked last week? We try to keep you posted by posting the list weekly at Twitter. Also, our opening graphics today originated with our friends at The Master’s Table and their weekly feature, Happy Monday.

► First Get Religion quotes Religion News Service: “The gold standard for church leaders – the Master of Divinity – is losing some of its luster to its humbler cousin, the two-year Master of Arts… The reasons for the decline in the Cadillac degree, required by most mainline denominations as well as the Catholic Church for anyone wanting to serve as pastor or associate pastor, are many and multifaceted. One is the growth of seminaries affiliated with evangelical and Pentecostal denominations. These religious groups don’t typically require the Master of Divinity for men and women who want to be ordained.”
…Then the piece goes on to add, “Actually, a lot of Pentecostal/charismatic groups don’t require any theological degree for a lot of their pastors. Case in point: Bill Johnson, pastor of the popular Bethel Church in Redding, Calif. doesn’t have such a degree…” Excellent excerpts from the original article and analysis by Julia Duin.

► Church leaders who wouldn’t be caught dead “proof texting” a passage of scripture seem to have no problem doing the same with Andy Stanley’s sermons. Relevant Magazine gave him a platform to defend against his accusers (though nothing beats listening to the whole Aftermath series, as we did.)

► Preachers: Beware the ‘data dump.’ “The pursuit of a deep messages that are deeply edifying, can unintentionally lead to the dreaded ‘data dump.’ By now, every expositor has been warned of the ‘data dump’ sermon, and most congregants have been on the receiving end of an exegetical unloading. It is a sermon brimming with details about the context of a passage… saturated with observations about the verses… and drowning in cross-references related to the text … It is essentially a verbal commentary. The preacher has simply filled his notes with a collection of information he has gleaned throughout the week with little effort to make any connections between the text and God’s people.  

► A consequence of the #MeToo Movement: Some of you know Anne Marie Miller, formerly Anne Jackson, who wrote Permission to Speak Freely and Mad Church Disease. “One of the stories I’ve shared through my years in writing and speaking was of my sexual abuse when I was sixteen. The man who abused me was a 25-year-old youth pastor. I learned on March 20, 2018, that this man was not appropriately reported to law enforcement by the organization who investigated him internally (in 2007) and found him to have abused me. This man was also given a chance to resign instead of being terminated. Within days of me learning he was not reported, I reported him to both CPS and law enforcement. I have been working with them over the last six weeks as they conduct this man’s criminal investigation… This amount of “re-hashing” what happened has caused the trauma to resurface in my life, hitting my mental health very hard. In the last few months, I have been extremely anxious, depressed, and at times, wishing I was not alive.” Anne is asking for help on GoFundMe to raise $28,000 in treatment and counseling costs.

► A big announcement happening on Episode #300 of The Phil Vischer Podcast! But why does it say “Farewell?” And what is the Holy Post? I guess you’ll have to listen to find out.

► “A podcast about the craft of sermon preparation.” This time around, John Mark Comer share his philosophy of preaching and ministry at Sermonsmith. (57 minutes; if you don’t have that to spare this week, check out his personal study process at about 32:00 to about 37:00.)

► Important reading: “Though my husband and I have enjoyed a faithful marriage of nearly 39 years, the sexual sins of our church leaders have been like a series of boulders being catapulted into our lives at regular intervals… I’ve wondered if my husband and I were sending off some kind of beacon that drew these troubles to us like moths as though we were lamps on a summer night. I don’t wonder anymore.” While unable to provide a quick-fix, the Michele Van Loon offers her thoughts on what to do in the aftermath of improprieties and transgressions.

► An America Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop will preach at the Royal Wedding on the weekend.

The Blue Parakeet, a classic by Scot McKnight gets a second edition: “There are whole new sections, and this much-revised edition is nearly 100 pages longer than the original. New sections on reading the Bible as narrative, new material on slavery in the Bible, on science and faith, on the gospel … and more!  …Ah, yes, and the long section on women in ministry has been a highlight.”

Roger Olson reviews a 2017 book by Roger Olson in which he would argue that the Bible contains more than just theology; it contains an entire worldview.

► Catholic mothers trying to keep the kids Catholic: “Many of the good Catholic mothers I have talked to are just as bewildered. They did everything in their power to raise children in their faith only to see them adopt other religions or reject God altogether. Some say they were defeated by a culture that increasingly values the material over the spiritual, or they point to the rigidity of doctrine, failures of individual priests, sexual abuse scandals, boring services and bad music. Many blame themselves, although they struggle to say where exactly they went wrong.” As I said on Twitter on Monday, this article has implications for Evangelicals as well. I especially appreciated the part about kids seeing the male parent engaged in faith. Great in-depth writing at American Magazine.

► With all the focus on Israel and Jerusalem this week — a reminder of the prophetic significance of both — is this a bad time to mention that you missed the rapture?

► It’s been six months since a gunman killed more than two dozen people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Now, construction is beginning on a new 250-seat facility

► I love the title: Preschool Pneumatology. “We aren’t doing kids any favours by dumbing down theology to a point of meaninglessness. And, just in case you are wondering if kids need to really understand the nature of the Triune God, I would say a resounding yes, and here is why: we believe God is love. Love is communal – it is something experienced between persons. God in his very being is love, and we know God is communal his mysterious and wonderful 3-in-1 way. To take away from that reality and attempt to ‘simplify it’ is to remove something so significant to the character of God.”

► Internal link: As the song grows in popularity, here’s our own look at the song Reckless Love, posted in December.

► A different type of church planting: “Founded in 1996, Crossroads has always built on its business background. Only a small fraction of staff members have seminary training, because the church seeks diverse staff to fill roles that go beyond preaching, music, youth, and children’s ministry. While in-house graphic design and branding are nothing new for megachurches, Crossroads has a team that functions like an ad agency—stocked with designers, copywriters, project managers, public relations managers, and social media strategists…
“…At least 38 groups meet together for Crossroads Anywhere in far-flung cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, and Houston. The church spends over $100,000 a month to keep the app’s digital infrastructure running…In January, the newest Crossroads campus opened in one of the outlying Cincinnati regions where the staff had seen growing interest—and 8,000 people showed up the first weekend.”

► A comedian-turned-preacher offers pastors six things they can learn from the world of comedy.

► “The release of three Americans held prisoner in North Korea is being hailed as a sign of increased goodwill heading into next month’s U.S.-North Korea summit, but a leading group assisting persecuted Christians is imploring the Trump administration to make human rights and religious freedom an important part of the conversation as well.” World Net Daily asks, “What about Christians in North Korean labor camps?”

► Endorsed: Oprah’s website offered a Top 15 books list from the last 30 years of titles dealing with 15 life issues. #11 was from Moody Press, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

► In the UK, a voice from an unexpected source, “Transsexual people have spoken out against Government plans to make it easier to change sex. In a letter to The Guardian, seventeen transsexuals who have undergone full sex reassignment surgery said they were ‘deeply concerned’ about removing safeguards from the Gender Recognition Act.”

► …but liberal ideology is alive and well in this video for kids.

► A horror story out of Columbia. The Newsweek headline: “Nuns Tortured 60 Children by Burning Their Skin, Shoving Faces in Toilets.” The home was described as “a hell house by neighbors and local media.

► A mainstream publication reviews last month’s Lynchburg Revival organized by Shane Claiborne (and others) who noted just days before the rally when he was served with a notice of trespass from Liberty University, “I’ve been arrested plenty of times in direct actions and protests and such, I’ve been banned from places, but I’ve never been banned from a church.”

► After a brief shutdown, the Twitter account Unvirtuous Abbey is back in business.

► And then there was this text, an un-credited paraphrase of 1 Cor. 1:
“I follow John Piper.
I follow John MacArthur.
I follow R.C. Sproul.
But is Christ divided? Was Piper crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of R.C. Sproul? When we say these things are we not behaving merely in a human way?”
…It’s actually a report on potential divisions in the Young, Restless and Reformed (YRR) movement from someone who attended Together for the Gospel (T4G). 

► Friendly Atheist aka Hemant Mehta wasn’t terribly impressed by this explanation of disease by Pat Robertson. “All of this is nonsense. Some diseases come back for the simple reason that our bodies remain susceptible to them. Even certain vaccines require booster shots, right?”

► Canada’s Glass Ceiling: For the first time, a woman will become an Archbishop in the Anglican Church of Canada. Melissa Skelton will hold the highest position representing the province of British Columbia and Yukon Territory. “Skelton was raised by civil rights advocates in the Southern United States before moving to Canada and has a background in business, working in brand management for Proctor and Gamble…”

► Stephen Worthey was a senior in a freshman English class. By his own admission, not a smart person. Tormented by questions, he asked God for wisdom (James 1:5) and shares his testimony on what will become a new YouTube channel, Standardized Apologetics.  (8 minutes)

► Did a home motion-sensitive security camera capture an image of an angel in Michigan or was it a moth?

► For last weekend’s Mother’s Day in a number of countries, “Say it With a Kiss” by Amy Grant. ♫

New worship artist Anna Petrillo’s song “Joyful” releases in June. ♫

► If you like music with lyrics that repeat and repeat and repeat — inducing a trance-like state as evidenced in the video — a song from the Dallas, Texas worship and prayer ministry Upper Room, “This is How I Fight My Battles” and “Surrounded.”


pic

May 9, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Pardon my Planet’s Vic Lee often dances around religious/spiritual themes as in this example and one below.


“I got baptized in the Jordan River and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” This connects with the video about the origins of baptism, linked below.

 

Perhaps we can get this new “variant on Special K” as a sponsor for Wednesday Connect. In the meantime, click the image to learn more about this trending breakfast cereal.

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #9. Or if you prefer, Wednesday Link List #409. I don’t really care what you call it, as long as you click things, and this week there are some pieces worth both clicking and sharing.

► Probably one of the most seen items online this week was Beth Moore’s revelation concerning what she has had to put up with from male Christian ministry leaders. (And a malicious response online from one of them that I won’t dignify by naming him.) She claims to have gone out of her way to avoid criticism. This one would be hilarious if it weren’t for the fact she found it necessary: “I wore flats instead of heels when I knew I’d be serving alongside a man of shorter stature so I wouldn’t be taller than he.” No matter what you feel about Beth Moore, her version of it contains a glimpse into attitudes that were far, far less than Christian

► …Which led to this apology from a spokesperson for a large bloc of Christians.

► You saw the reports last week about rainbow-themed Mickey Mouse ears just in time for Pride Month at Disney. Now comes word of the cancellation of a Christian-themed event which goes back to 1983, Night of Joy.

► As everyone knows, women outnumber men in church, but “…the fault lies not with the men who skip church each week and instead go golfing or fishing or to a game or simply stay in bed. No, the fault lies with the churches that fail to give them the presentation of Christianity that best suits them.”

► Lutheran publisher Concordia is told it can get its advertising back on Google if they’ll just edit out the pesky religious stuff.

► Bible translation is the extreme sport of Christian academics, research and scholarship. But to pursue it, one needs to be trained in linguistics. But the best linguist can’t be without the theological education. “Asking a Bible translator to choose between linguistics or theological education is like asking him to choose between his toothpaste and toothbrush.” The writer also identifies two schools that achieve this balance

► Across the Pond: “On May 25 Ireland will decide whether to repeal or retain the Eighth Amendment of our Constitution, which recognizes the equal right to life of mother and unborn child… I was not surprised that U2 came out for Repeal. It was only a matter of time. The world’s loudest folk band has been heading in that direction for years, its early truth-telling gradually giving way to a jostling for liberal kudos… Fans were bereft. One tweeted: ‘This breaks my heart. I have loved and followed you for 20 years. I still love you but I can’t follow you down this road. My tickets to upcoming shows will go unused…’ It’s hard to say where they stand with Jesus these days. He’s still there in (some of) the lyrics, but sometimes you get to thinking that the U2 trajectory looks more and more like a belated discovery of the delights they eschewed in youth, a front-loading of the piety of age followed by an eruption into delayed adolescence.”

A pastor is found beheaded in India.

► His perspective was probably quite different than most others who attended the summit in Wheaton, because his is a global perspective. Brian Stiller of the World Evangelical Alliance offers Six Takeaways from the Future of Evangelicalism meeting last month.

► Theology Nerd: In a special Q&A podcast, Dr. Tripp Fuller looks at the option of reopening the canon of scripture versus reasons for keeping it closed.

► Church attendance: Up or Down? “We tend to believe, thanks to research like Pew’s, that church attendance has waned. (From 2007 to 2014, the percentage of Americans who reported attending services at least monthly dropped from 54 to 50.) The map [in the Washington Post article] shows many places where there was an increase. In fact, the number of counties where church attendance increased since 1952 as a function of population is distributed fairly evenly, with slightly more counties seeing increased density in church attendance than decreases.”

► I debated about this one last week, and didn’t include it. Today, I’m just tossing it out there and you can decide the relevance. The story in a sentence is that author Mallory Ortberg has transitioned and is now Daniel Mallory Ortberg. (Related to the now-Presbyterian, former-Willow pastor? Yes.)

► Rethinking a respected Standard: “The “Billy Graham Rule” is rooted in an idea that men and women are inherently, uncontrollably (hetero-)sexual beings, and it is designed to discourage any situations in which extramarital temptations could arise. But I think this whole narrative is a) unbiblical, b) anti-women, and c) factually incorrect. I also think it does men a huge disservice.”

► Must-Read Essay of the Week: The real reason Millennials aren’t at church. One writes, “I don’t need your life to look like mine. I don’t mind your messy, kid-filled busy life. I would actually love to be a part of it. I can come over and help you fold laundry. I can laugh with you about the crazy comment your kid said over dinner. I can tag along at the grocery store or in the car during school pick-up. As a part of Christ’s family, I want to share my life with you too. The good, the bad and the ugly. The successes at work. The fears of not measuring up. The failures I need to say out loud to know someone will still love me despite them. As a millennial, I want to be a part of your life and am hoping you want to be a part of mine as well.”

► From the academic, nonsectarian video channel Religion for Breakfast, a look at the Pre-Christian origins of the practice of baptism. (5 minutes)

► Supermom! Is it unrealistic for a woman to try to live up to The Proverbs 31 Woman?

► “There’s one clear way the world can help the Syrian people. The Trump administration is doing the opposite… The Trump administration cut the targeted number of yearly refugee admissions in half, from 95,000 in previous years to 45,000 in 2018. And at the current pace, refugee experts say, the final tally for this year is likely to be half that figure. As a case in point: in the first three and a half months of this year, the U.S. admitted only 44 refugees from Syria—about one-twentieth of the number accepted in the corresponding period in 2016… The ostensible reason for the U.S. clampdown on refugees is national security… Yet the actual security risk posed by refugees is negligible. “

► Things the kids need to know if their Missionary Kids (MKs) or Third Culture Kids (TCKs): A writer who knows what it’s like has summarized some of past articles into an all-time Top Ten mindsets these kids need to have.

► Job Description: What does a church “Communications Director” actually do, and what type of person are you looking for if you feel your church needs one? 

► From Pew Research: Black Americans are more likely than others to read their Bibles regularly and revere it as God’s Word. Also, “Another sign of the importance of the Bible to African Americans is their participation in prayer and scripture study groups.”

► The Complete Apologetic Answers: “A group of vocal atheist YouTubers posted a video on the Non Sequitur Show YouTube channel entitled ‘Questions no Christians Can Answer! An Atheist Creators’ Collaboration.’ In the video, fifteen atheists who are popular on YouTube and/or social media each presented what they considered to be their most compelling questions for Christians.” Read the responses “from various sects of Christianity representing Catholicism, Southern Baptists, Anglicans, Calvinists, Mormons, Eastern Orthodox and Messianic Jews with both liberal and conservative viewpoints.”

► Karl Vaters and Drew Dyck are among the speakers at a conference for small(er) churches happening in 11 days in the northeast. Check out the 2-minute intro video at BigLittleChurch.com.

► No good news for American Pastor Andrew Brunson who is “is one of many Americans currently imprisoned in Turkey, including a NASA scientist and consulate workers.” He remains in prison until his next hearing mid-July.

► Modern Worship touring events: “Is it really worship if they charge you to get in?” “VIP seating at something that’s supposed to be worship?” “Brother Tomlin is not the only one to bait people in with the promise of worship, but it’s apparently a successful venture for him… you can reserve your own spot before Tomlin’s throne.”

► Podcast Preferences: Honestly, I wish I had the time. Podcasts involve a much greater commitment than simply reading a blog post, and don’t always offer the portability of reading a book. A year ago we told you about Seminary Dropout with Shane Blackshear, and if I had the time to follow one more, this would be top of list.

► A near-death experience, this one well documented. “From no brain waves to now walking and talking and reading, doing math. A miracle,” [his mother] said. Trenton [McKinley, 13] said he believes he was in heaven while he was unconscious. “I was in an open field walking straight,” he told WALA-TV. “There’s no other explanation but God. There’s no other way. Even doctors said it.”

► Add the greater Toronto church C4 to the list of churches producing original worship music. Their album, What is a Mountain? released on a Sunday…just in time for church. Listen to a one-minute sample. (Available on Apple and Spotify.)

Zack Hunt is now blogging at Patheos.

► Hitting the Road: Your annual index to major Christian Music Festivals in the United States and Canada. (And for my UK readers, this list.)

► The Slippery Slope Begins: Ken Ham can’t find enough potential Creation Museum and Ark Encounter employees who meet his doctrinal standards so he’s relaxing the rules a little. (If you click through to the Facebook announcement, jump to the 5:45 mark.) 

► From our Fashion Department: This year’s Met Gala 2018 was entitled, “Heavenly Bodies – Fashion and the Catholic Imagination;” the purpose of which is “to examine fashion’s ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism.” Some say the fashions “went too far.” Preview and backstory; images (of which, if it weren’t for copyright, if I could have posted any here it would have been #22 and #24.)

► Finally, a new blog: Stephen Altrogge has launched ChurchIsWeird.com including a look at Youth Group culture: “From what I can tell, lock-ins occur in two places: maximum security prisons and youth groups.” From his experience, such events are incredibly dangerous.

 

May 2, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Baylor University Homiletics Heavyweights: How many can you name? To see who these “A dozen pastors known for their consistently stellar performances in the pulpit” are, click the image. Your assessment of who’s in and who’s missing from this list may vary.

So I wrapped this up last night, and then this morning, as I was turning on my computer I realized I hadn’t written the introduction. There was just a placeholder that said ‘int.’ That’s a first. Again, welcome to Wednesday Connect and I hope you benefit from some articles and news items you might not see otherwise. Also, let me know if you want me to bring back the music videos; we weren’t getting a lot of clicks on those…

► Article of the Week: While speaking at a fairly conservative church, a suit-wearing Philip Yancey has an unexpected interruption from an unexpected guest

► Must Reading: Kristen Welch, author of Raising World Changers in a Changing World offers you, right here in this article, 100 Ways Your Family Can Change the World. Or, if you prefer, read a free chapter excerpt from her book. (22 pg .pdf)

► Clarification Needed: Rumors are widely circulating that a California bill would ban sales of Bibles

► My University is Bigger Than Your University: Apparently size matters, at least to Jerry Falwell, Jr. who when confronted with the news that Grand Canyon University (GCU) was bigger, said, “Our definition of a Christian university only includes universities who hire faculty who adhere to fundamental Christian doctrine. GCU does not. Liberty does.” (Expect this to go on for awhile.)

► Lastest Pew Research findings on belief: “About half (48%) of U.S. adults believe God determines what happens to them most or all of the time. Nearly eight-in-ten U.S. adults think God or a higher power has protected them, and two-thirds of Americans say they have been rewarded by the Almighty. At the same time, fewer see God as judgmental and punitive, with just four-in-ten saying they have been punished by the deity in which they believe.”

► On Benny Hinn: “Growing up in the Hinn family dynasty is a hybrid of the Royal Family and the Mafia.” Six weeks ago, nephew Costi Hinn sat down with HLN. (6½ min.)

► Meet Kristan Hawkins. I don’t know about her faith, but Kristan is the president of Students for Life of America, the largest pro-life youth organization in the nation. Since 2006, she has grown SFLA from a few dozen pro-life student groups to over 1,200 high school and college clubs throughout all 50 states…Kristan has been speaking on college campuses for her ‘Lies Feminists Tell’ tour, exposing how the abortion industry manipulates women into killing their children.”

► Listened to this Week: All 2 hours and 20 minutes of Greg Boyd taking questions from his parishioners on a variety of topics in 3 different services.

► Most under-reported story of last week: The firing of House of Representatives Chaplain, Father Patrick Conroy. Why the silence, even from Catholic media?

► After reading Brian Stiller’s book, From Jerusalem to Timbuktu, I gravitated toward this article, which also looks at what is called, the serial growth of Christianity.

► Is the conservative Evangelical response to the #MeToo crisis the correct one? This abuse survivor blogger says no.

► I have mixed feelings about sharing this, but for some of you who aren’t easily offended, it needs to be seen. In a few days a classic Christian blogger, Jamie Wright is releasing the book The Very Worst Missionary (Waterbrook Press) which is liberally peppered with expletives. It’s unfortunate in some ways, because over the years she was a powerful voice on such things as the foolishness involved in some short-term missions trips as seen from the perspective of full-time career missionaries. But rather than apologizing for the earthly language, she flaunts it in this post, telling people if they don’t like it, they can redact the words on the pages they occur, providing an index of each instance of crude language.

► The Psychology of Guilt: “In 21st Century America, guilt ain’t what it used to be — on the surface. It is often portrayed as a needless, even damaging, burden…Is guilt disappearing as religion is moved from the center of cultural influence in the West? Quite the opposite…Secularization makes matters worse because so many can no longer rely on Jewish and Christian forms of absolution that make guilt bearable.”

► All things to all men: “Today’s missionary theorists talk about ‘inculturation’ by which foreign workers learn about another culture, assimilate, and reshape methods to attract adherents. The same applies to outreach within a culture that is secularizing or post-Christian. But how to do this yet uphold the essentials of Christian belief

► I grew up in a church which did things like this. Still, it takes courage to invite someone of another faith to share in your sermon, as Bruxy Cavey did inviting a Zen Buddhist to speak last week.  

► For Roger Olson, the journey of Carlton Pearson — both as seen on NetFlix and in real life — is rather personal. But Come Sunday is also a film about Oral Roberts: “Oral did not permit any formal, written statement of faith at his university. Doctrine was whatever he said it was. And that fluctuated greatly. In the departments of theology we faculty took turns taking phone calls from people asking about Oral’s theology. I simply explained to callers that Oral was not a theologian and they should not expect him to be perfectly consistent or deep in his thinking or presentations of doctrines.”

► As someone who has stuck with a basic, free WordPress blog for more than ten years — not even changing the theme — this article really resonated.

► At the Movies: Alien Intrusion has been playing single night performances since February 28th and aims to show a connection between UFO sightings and evolution. It’s based on a bestselling book of the same name by Gary Bates. If anyone has seen this film, I’d love to learn more.

► One host site, not far from the main venue, is passing on the Global Leadership Summit this year in light of allegations against its founder Bill Hybels: “In light of the allegations now swirling around the former senior pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church AND the larger national movement drawing needed attention to the stories of women treated in harmful ways, this message comes to inform you that Christ Church will not serve as a host site for the Global Leadership Summit (GLS) this coming August…We’d like to see the largely constructive witness of Bill Hybels, the Willow Creek Church, and its Association continue. But, given the high identification between Bill and the GLS conference, this year we are taking a purposeful pause.”

► Disney. Again. This time it’s rainbow-themed Mickey Mouse ears; gearing up for its annual LGBT-Pride Month in June. (Updated link 6:25 PM)

► A wonderful side-benefit of becoming a Christian is that you now have 17 different ways to say ‘no.’

► Finally, The Jimmy Kimmel Show has a staffer who is assigned (hopefully among other things) to troll Pat Robertson. He finally got a made-up question read to Pat on the air.


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