Thinking Out Loud

October 18, 2017

Wednesday Link List

Pictured is the Himmerod Abbey in Rhineland, Germany which is set to close after a millennium, a necessity given that the huge facility currently houses only six resident monks. The closure is seen as symptomatic of the decline of religion in Europe. Click image to link to full story.

Not a major news week, but that left us room to probe deeper online for some unique material for your perusal.

Christian Book Distributors is a lean, mean, book-shipping machine, but when things go wrong in their search engine, they go really wrong. Entering their Audio Book listings you’re told there are nearly a quarter of a million, but when you refine by media type, you’re told there’s only 120 CDs.

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October 16, 2017

Skye Jethani’s State of the Modern Church Address

Those of have heard Skye Jethani speak, be it a sermon, conference message, or podcast conversation, know him to both extremely forthright and wonderfully articulate on matters related to church and culture. He brings this gift to a new book, Immeasurable: Reflections on the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc. released last week by Moody Press.

The book is a series of 24 short essays on various aspects of church and ministry leadership; interconnected, but presented such they can be studied in any order. While I have heard him touch on many of these before, as assembled here, much of this material was new to me.

Skye Jethani’s forté is analysis, and a major part of his analytical toolkit is a knowledge of the broader sweep of modern church history, some of this no doubt afforded by his years serving in various departments of Christianity Today, Inc. and as a local church pastor. While much ink has been spilled over the last 20 years lamenting the state of the modern church in North America, Australia/New Zealand and Western Europe, the words here are more prescriptive; a look at where the church may have lost its way presented alongside healthy doses of routes we might take to get back on track. Each essay ends with two or three “next step” questions or applications.

Some standout chapters for me — many of which were brought to life through some clever analogies — included:

1. Ambition (and motivation; always a good place to start)
3. Wastefulness (versus efficiency which can enslave us)
6. Dramas (there are three playing out in church leadership)
8. Simplicity (versus the complexity we see everywhere else, discussed in chapter 9)
9. Complexity (the longest chapter in the book; Jethani at his best)
10. Redundancy (an interesting approach to the matter of pastoral succession)
12. Illumination (another longer chapter; on sermon expectation and who might preach)
15. Platform (this chapter is gold; a look at how we confer authority in the local church)
16. Celebrity (analysis of the rise of the “Evangelical Industrial Complex”)
18. Consumers (again, I preferred the longer chapters; this one is about church choices; some of the other chapters not listed I would like to have seen fleshed out in greater detail.)

And then there was chapter 24, an even more autobiographical essay which strikes at the heart of ministry from the author’s early experiences as a hospital chaplain. A fitting ending in so many respects.

On a personal level, if I’ve learned nothing else in the last 20 years, I’ve learned that while ecclesiology is by definition the domain of pastors, books about ecclesiology are widely read by a variety of lay-people who who feel a sense of ownership in the local churches in their community. With so much reconstruction taking place in the look, feel and purpose of weekend gatherings; many want to champion these changes while others are fearful of going too far and thereby losing the plot. So while the book is being marketed more as an academic title for Bible college or classroom discussion, I think the finished product is something I would encourage many of my friends to read.

 


Read a short sample from Immeasurable at this link

Related: Skye Jethani on news and media

Related: A review of the 2012 title, With.


Photo: Skye Jethani on the weekly Phil Vischer podcast.


Thanks to Martin Smith at Parasource Distribution & Marketing for a review copy of Immeasurable.

October 11, 2017

Wednesday Link List

It’s not a spoof movie poster, it’s a book, a real one, releasing in January from Harvest House Publishers.

Well, you knew this was just a matter of time, right? Christian Fidget Spinners — or as they prefer, Faith Spinners — from Swanson.

Because nothing better introduces the kids to the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation better than a 3-inch plastic mini Martin.

The original introduction here was an apology for a shorter list this week, but that soon changed. Remember, every time you click a link an angel gets its wings. For an even better deal on today’s links, use Promo Code WLL#379.

  • If the Resurrection were a lie, how long would it take for the disciples to crack? Watergate conspirator Chuck Colson knows better than most: “Do you know how long it took for each of us to break? Under threat of prison, we started pointing fingers at each other in less than a week. Are you going to try to convince me that a bunch of untrained fishermen maintained their story, unbroken, to the end, as each was tortured and executed? Not a chance.” J.D. Greear quotes Colson writing about how Christianity got started.
  • Essay of the Week: Artificial Intelligence (AI) “machines could become objects of worship in and of themselves… The machines could…develop their own sects or entirely new religions… [S]ome branches of Christianity will try to convert machines with strong artificial intelligence to follow their God. ” 
  • Provocative Headline of the Week: Survey Finds Most American Christians Are Actually Heretics. It begins: “Evangelical writer Eric Metaxas remarked on BreakPoint last week that if Americans took a theology exam, their only hope of passing would be if God graded on a curve. He’s right. In knowing both the content of the Bible and the doctrinal foundations of Christianity, we Americans aren’t just at the bottom of our class. We are…a nation of heretics.”
  • Happy Ending: After 92 days in captivity in Egypt, a 16-year old Christian girl is released back to her family. A former kidnapper says she is just one of many
  • Churches in Santa Rose, California are stepping up to help victims of a tragic fire that has destroyed 1,500 structures and left an entire community homeless.
  • Breaking Religious News: CBS tracks down the guy who designed the Papyrus font.
  • Joining the list of one-man Bible translation project writers is David Bentley Hart. Scot McKnight writes “Hart has a desire to make the reader as uncomfortable as he can and that is because he thinks the NT itself — those early Christians and their view of wealth — were extremists, which aligns rather well with Hart’s extremist approach to translation. On this Hart is himself just lopsided, delightfully so at times, but lopsided nonetheless.” Read all about The New Testament: A Translation.
  • Driscoll and Plagiarism: Maybe he just can’t not do it
  • Wider World: In a country [Kenya] where 83 percent is Christian with Evangelicals in a majority, this coming re-election matters.
  • ♫ Possibly the best thing you’ll hear and this week: Some of Christian music’s best get together to honor a song; The Joy of Jesus featuring the late Rich Mullins
  • ♫ …The female vocalist on the above song has just released one of her own. Ellie Holcomb sings He Will.
  • ♫ The worship team at Willow Creek South Barrington has released a collection of new songs. This one will make you smile, especially if you grew up singing “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy” in Sunday School. This one is a little different. (Song begins after introduction, link contains full worship set.)
  • Princeton’s Evangelical Christian student fellowship is dropping the word Evangelical from its name. Are other organizations likely to follow?
  • Devotional Moment: Popular women’s author Karen Ehman wrote this as “Go Find Your Old Self” but in a way it’s just a fresh take on “Return to your first love.”
  • Pastor Place: Sermon sharpening and sermon shortening. (But not the type of shortening you add to Christmas baking.)
  • Someone else is working on a Bible edition without verse numbers, starting with the gospels. 
  • Best Headline: How Did Luther Become a Lutheran? “In the months after posting his Theses, he was lecturing on the Letter to the Hebrews. He came to see the nature and significance of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice on the cross.”
  • “He causes his sun to rise…and sends rain.”
    “Look at the birds of the air.”
    “See how the flowers of the field grow.”
    “Every good tree bears good fruit.”
    The words of Jesus frequently contained allusions to nature.
  • Technology Time: “We may be the last generation that can remember life before;” says the engineer who developed the ‘Like’ button.
  • Resource Room: A interview with the creators of various resources available free at Harmony.Bible
  • Worship Workshop: Sure, it’s advertising, but the ten reasons for switching to Church Presentation Software are compelling.
  • Missions Moment: We’ve linked before to articles like this about “Third Culture Kids” (formerly Missionary Kids) but it’s something on which we need to be reminded. “When you first meet Third Culture Kids, be aware that answering ‘Where are you from?’ can be difficult because ‘home’ is a relative word for us.” 
  • Another One: This time it’s the pastor of a satellite church who also happens to be the son of the pastor of a prominent Alabama megachurch, though the nature of the transgression is unknown.
  • Canada Corner: Answers in Genesis is setting up shop in Canada; not just a Canadian web-store, but they’re presumably incorporating a Canadian charity here and have hired a General Manager.
  • Catholic Corner: On Saturday (14th) “In 21,570 public places from coast to coast, lay Catholics associated with America Needs Fatima will hold Public Square Rosary Rallies.” 
  • ♫ New Music: Deliverer by Audrey Assad, as she gets ready to release her first original album in 4 years.
  • Thoughts and Prayers, the video game: “Visitors to the game’s microsite are greeted with what appears to be 1980s-style arcade game, which begins with the somewhat sarcastic message: ‘America faces an epidemic of mass shootings. It’s up to you to stop them… with the power of your thoughts and prayers.'”  An article at Christian Today goes on to say, “The point of Thoughts & Prayers is that this is a game that nobody wins – not even the satirists.”
  • Bono Boo-Boo? “Under Canon Law, non-Catholics are forbidden from receiving communion except in exceptional circumstances as the ritual is considered a sacred statement of faith. U2’s frontman caught by the camera in Bogata, Columbia.
  • Bee of the Week: Many a truth is spoken in jest. How many churches do you drive by each weekend to get to yours?

After 24 hours in Cornwall, Ontario we realized upon leaving that we could have chosen to stay at the Elect Inn. Total depravity on our part, I guess.

 

October 4, 2017

Wednesday Link List


 

“Church” in various languages. If anyone knows the source for this I’ll add it.

Wednesday List Lynx

Several of this week’s feature stories have multiple links. When compiling the list for Twitter, we’ll simply list the story and combine your click total.


*This is the quotation from Tullian’s blog noted above:

September 27, 2017

Wednesday Link List

From the website of The Met (The Metropolitan Museum of Art ) in New York, “Jonah and the Whale”, Folio from a Jami al-Tavarikh (Compendium of Chronicles) dated around 1400. Click image to link.

So this had to happen: Regular readers here know we usually end with a few quirky or humorous or satirical links, many of which are to the Christian parody news site The Babylon Bee. Well, the Beekeepers signed a book deal with Multnomah but even though it’s not releasing until May 1st next year, they know it’s going to be 208 pages; not 207 or 209. And it’s all original material. $19.99 hardcover; ouch! That bee just stung me. Which reminds me: How many bees could a beekeeper keep if a beekeeper could keep bees?

 

Evangelists prepare their ‘gospel caravan’ for a meeting in Chesham. Early 20th century. From a collection of “Gospel Vehicles” images at Brethren Archive. Click picture to see them all.

September 20, 2017

Wednesday Link List

This picture of Czemna Chapel in Poland is featured in an article at a Gothic website titled “Bone Churches of the World” where we’re instructed that “Pelvic bones become a chandelier.”

This is theme to Wednesday’s list, the opening theme to Wednesday’s list. Paul called me up and asked me, ‘Would you write a theme song?’ This is the theme to Wednesday’s list. (I think we’re past the part now that shows up as a preview on Twitter…Did anyone get the reference?)

  • She was a victim once, and then the Christian college where she was a student made her a victim again, several times over. “To me it feels like a David and Goliath situation, only this time Goliath wins. I just want to forget all this and go back to…when I was happy and safe and optimistic.” Furthermore, she had been studying to be a rape counselor.
  • Podcast of the Week (1): You’ll never hear scripture quoted more frequently or as helpfully on a difficult issue than in this podcast, “The Bible and Intersex Believers”  with Megan DeFranza, researcher and lecturer. (49 minutes)
  • Podcast of the Week (2): John Mark Comer sits down with Gerry Breshears to look at situations involving self defense, home invasion, Christians as police officers, and even pepper spray from an Anabaptist mindset of non-violence. (43 minutes)
  • Hazing happens at Christian colleges, too. Chicago Tribune: “Five Wheaton College football players face felony charges after being accused of a 2016 hazing incident in which a freshman teammate was restrained with duct tape, beaten and left half-naked with two torn shoulders on a baseball field.DuPage County Judge Joseph Bugos signed arrest warrants and set $50,000 bonds against the players…They are expected to turn themselves in to authorities this week.” 
  • More tributes and articles remembering Nabeel Qureshi:
    • Sadness – Nick Peters: “There is a picture going around Facebook of Nabeel after his baptism. He has his arms raised in his air in victory. In the past, it brought joy, but today it brings me sadness. I know it should bring me joy, but it doesn’t because I want to see the happy and healthy Nabeel again, and I don’t.”
    • Apologetics Associate – Justin Brierley: “Firstly with his friend David Wood, and then latterly as a speaker with RZIM he went on to speak to thousands of Christians, Muslims and skeptics and saw many come to faith as a result. His books, which married his intellectual pursuit with his own testimony, were widely read. In person he was robust in his exchanges but gracious in his demeanor. He was endlessly patient with his critics, who were vociferous especially within parts of the Muslim community.
    • The Question – Frank Turek: “Nevertheless, while it seems insensitive to ask this while we grieve, people are wondering why didn’t God heal Nabeel. After all, he was a brilliant and charismatic young man taken away from his wife Michelle and daughter Ayah, and the rest of us, far too early. Nabeel had so much more to give to his family and the Kingdom of God that his death seems senseless. So why didn’t God heal Nabeel?
  • Attending a Christian University & College Fair can be the first step for many students when searching for the right college or university. There are over 120 fairs throughout the U.S. and Canada each year…
  • …Related: A critical (at first) and then positive (the larger balance) look at the value of Christian higher education
  • I’ll let Ann Brock explain this one: “Christianity still exerts a powerful force in many black communities, but some young women are turning their back on the faith and returning to the older, traditional religions of their ancestors. The use of social media is letting the younger generations learn of our history and how the religion of our oppressor was more a tool to control and oppress than benevolent religion.” Check out Jesus Hasn’t Saved Us at the website Broadly.
  • Times of Transition: “We’ve all heard the stories of churches losing members, losing funding, losing their ministries in the wake of a pastor leaving…Perhaps the greatest reason for so much hardship during the point of pastoral transitions is because most pastors fail to plan for their departure. Unless you kill the church, you won’t be their last pastor. You’re just a temporary leader. There’s a guy coming up behind you…” This and four other causes for the pastoral leadership void.
  • Horrific Headline Department: Christian Refugee Children Denied Food Unless They Recite Islamic Prayers in Sudan.
  • Religious Journalism: Is rooting around a spiritual community’s founder’s past relevant? An analysis of a New York Times profile of Zarephath Christian Church in New Jersey‘s rural Somerset County.
  • “‘Praise God, I have NEVER changed my beliefs. I am seventy years old and I still have the exact same beliefs I had at age twenty — fifty years ago.'” That’s a common sentiment, but “In most spheres of life, learning new things and discarding old beliefs, practices, and ideas is desired and expected. Not in Evangelicalism. Evangelicals cherish certainty.”  (Be sure to read the full article, past the video.)
  • 🎬 Video of the Week (1): In a 4½ minute confessional, Crosspoint Church (Nashville) pastor Kevin Queen shares the discovery that his random act of kindness could have been a whole lot kinder.
  • 🎬 Video of the Week (2): This 2½ minute commercial aired in Canada during the last SuperbOwl game and celebrates the value of a shared meal.
  • 🎬 Video of the Week (3): David Platt says inviting people to “accept Jesus into your heart” is dangerous, damning, unbiblical and superstitious. (Just not sure why Charisma News has this as “news” since the clip was first posted in 2012.)
  • Buried in the Last Paragraph: It’s a short article by a pastor who empathizes with survivors of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but he notes that PTSD may set in months down the road.
  • I don’t have a link for this but North Point Community Church has kicked the bucket; the offering bucket that is. With so many people automating their giving online, they announced this week that they have decided to end taking up the collection at weekend services… 
  • …On the other extreme is the church that decided to recognize it’s Top Three Tithers. [insert fanfare music here] Before you say, ‘Well that was in Nigeria,’ not every Nigerian thinks this is a good idea, including the guy who dumped his church over this action.
  • Quotation of the Week: “For most of humanity’s past the Bible was not a book. For most of humanity’s future the Bible will probably not be a book. Many of our fears about the future of the Bible are based on careless thought about its history. We assume that since we first encountered the Bible as a book, this is how it has always been and how it must always be. Now, as the printed book begins to fade, many are worried that the Bible will fade with it. But it won’t because the Bible is not essentially a book. It is essentially God’s recorded words to humanity, and those words transcend any single medium.”
  • John Stackhouse isn’t sure he can trust an auto mechanic who drinks Pepsi. A look at the present culture of unfriending.
  • Coming this Saturday, September 23rd to a Planet Earth near you:  “‘Researcher’ David Meade says a hidden planet called Nibiru will crash into Earth that day.” End-times date-setting hinders the cause of Christ.
  • ♫ Music: This song has a weird title if you don’t listen. Mandisa with guests TobyMac and Kirk Franklin on Bleed the Same
  • ♫ Music: New artist Heather Schnoor’s just released video for All In.
  • Not enough links for ya? Check out Links to Go at Timothy Archer’s Kitchen of Half-Baked Thoughts. (There’s been several installments lately!)
  • Penultimate Finally, A liturgical dancer has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.
  • Finally, during 2017 I’ve often ended these lists with something from Matthew Pierce simply because you all read The Babylon Bee anyway, right? So this time around M.P. has something he calls Worship Leader Power Rankings, where I learned that, “According to LifeWay research, by the year 2031, all of the old people will be dead and we won’t have to keep shoehorning that one hymn into the worship set list because we’re afraid they’re going to get mad and stop tithing.”

We missed Parenting Place, Missions Moment, Leadership Lessons and Canada Corner two weeks in a row. There’s always next week. OR…you could email your suggestions. [Hint!]

September 13, 2017

Wednesday Link List

LongBay Adventist Church in Anguilla after the roof blew off and walls were destroyed from Hurricane Irma on Sep. 6. Click image to link to story.

Welcome to Link List #375, and it’s a good one! I promised a tighter number of links, but this post actually runs longer because of the excerpts.

  • Op-Ed Essay of the Week: This is both hard to read and must reading at the same time. How I Became a Heretic (or How the Evangelical, Conservative Church Lost Me).
  • The Justice Department on the gay wedding cake case: “This case happens to arise in the context of expression regarding same-sex marriage. But the First Amendment principles that control here transcend, and will long outlast, the nation’s current dialogue about same-sex marriage.” The case reaches the Supreme Court later this Fall.
  • A Houstonian on what happens when Hurricane Harvey hits:
    ► “When your husband sends you and your kids away from Houston, you will not see him again for two weeks. You will have brought enough clothing for two days…”
    ► “On your unexpected cross-country “Hurrication” (patent pending), you will cry in a Target and a McDonald’s. All in the same day. You will yell-weep at the elderly man ‘in charge’ of the safety mask section at Lowe’s because he doesn’t know if they are mold-proof or not…”
    ► “You will not care what Joel Osteen did or did not do. You will be too tired for that.”
  • Nabeel Qureshi enters the final stages of life.
  • This article on Gateway Church contains many revelations, including that “…[Pastor Robert] Morris has always been clear about his target audience: businessmen and entrepreneurs.” And that, “Gateway Church has been accused of erasing the line between church and state, and there is merit to the charge.”
  • Missional church planting advocate and prolific author Michael Frost:
    • “You don’t seem to read or hear many ministers quoting Jesus’ words about family while trying to defend traditional marriage.”
    • “Jesus completely redefines family. His is a radically new social order, a welcoming, open community not forged by bloodlines or betrothals, but by repentance and discipleship.”
    • “And when he says that, he means it. Not like all those churches you’ve visited that said they were a family but no one talked to you.”
    • “And in a cold and brutish Roman empire where all men had three women at their disposal…where orphans and childless widows were as good as dead, where sojourners and strangers weren’t welcome, the new social order embodied by the Christian community was gold!”
    • Check out “Jesus wasn’t real big on the biological family.”
  • Regular readers here know I’m not a fan of Operation Christmas Child, the “shoebox ministry” of Samaritan’s Purse. (If not see this plus its comments section.) But it’s concern over the politics of Franklin Graham that are leaving some looking elsewhere this Christmas. Baptist News offers, looking a little closer to home this year, Ten Alternatives to Operation Christmas Child.
  • Overcompensating: Citing an Ohio University study, the website Science Alert reports that atheists are nicer than Christians, but for a reason.
  • Retro-Link: Going all the way back to May, Timothy Archer posted this link last week, and I decided it was worth sharing: 3 Quick Ways to Improve Short Term Missions Trips:
    1. Stop calling it a “Short Term Mission Trip”
    2. Put away your wallet.
    3. Think beyond the short term hit and run.
  • Another study reported that while acceptance of evolution is widespread, when you look only at stats from atheists and the non-religious showed that one in five have problems with that science in the UK and that jumps to one in three in Canada.
  • Church History Department: Meet Benjamin Lay, the 18th Century Quaker dwarf abolitionist: “…only four foot seven in height; his head was large in proportion to his body, the features of his face were remarkable … He was hunch-backed, with a projecting chest, below which his body become much contracted. His legs were so slender, as to appear almost unequal to the purpose of supporting him…” He opposed slavery and racism.
  • The times we feel we lost faith: “This can happen at any age in life and when not given enough attention, the phase can last multiple seasons, even several years for many individuals. These periods of time can produce drastic effects on our attitudes and behaviors. They have the ability to change the way we act and respond to both situations and circumstances. A loss of faith can be powerful enough to tear families apart and end life-long friendships. Even worse, they create separation with God.”
  • When Henri Nouwen left his academic job to work for L’Arche, he joined an organization headed by Jean Vanier. Meet the Templeton Prize winning advocate for the value of each person. (Links to a series of seven videos.)…
  • …also at Englewood Review of Books, some cartoons with a difference. Sabbath Wanderings by John Dease.
  • Latest Barna Research: 71% of respondents say sex education should include practical skills reinforcing abstinence.
  • Are some kids too young to make life-altering decisions? “At just 12-years-old, Patrick Mitchell, begged with his mother to begin taking estrogen hormones after doctors diagnosed him with gender dysphoria – a condition where a person experiences distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.” Now, he’s reconsidered and is changing back.
  • Provocative Title of the Week: “Heroin in the Hymnals” a review of the Netflix series, Ozark.
  • ♫ Welcome another church promoting its worship resources a la Hillsong, Bethel, Gateway, etc. The Belonging Co. is a church in Nashville with lead pastors Henry & Alex Seeley. From their debut worship album, All The Earth, this video is titled Peace Be Still featuring Lauren Daigle.
  • Stuck at cocktail parties to describe what you do for a living? Peter Enns doesn’t have that problem, he now tells people he’s a Bibliogian©.
  • A fire at an Assemblies of God church in southwest Arkansas is believed to be arson; an attempt to cover up a burglary.
  • One more about Nashville, asking the musical question, “Can We Stop Making Statements on Sexual Ethics?” 
  • Video of the Week: A full interview with Pastor Lim, held in prison in North Korea for over two years.
  • In Italy, a ten-year old girl is washed out to sea by a rip tide and is rescued by a 17-year old with Down Syndrome.
  • Not Lost in Translation: First year students in theological colleges across the UK will get a glossary to help translate the Book of Common Prayer.
  • ♫ New Music: Real Love by Blanca.
  • ♫ Vintage CCM (from 1974): I’ve Been Wanting To by Pat Terry.
  • They are 104 and 92 respectively. They’ve been married for 75 years. Their names will sound familiar this week: Harvey and Irma
  • I have a friend who regularly frequents the religion and Christianity pages of Reddit. In one forum, the question, “Protestants, if the Catholic and Orthodox Churches were to join back together, would you join the Cathodox church?
  • Finally, rather than link you to this video, we’re embedding it here. Can a robot be a priest? Meet Pepper, the Robo Priest.

Parenting Place, Catholic Corner, Canada Corner, Leadership Lessons, et al will return.

August 30, 2017

Wednesday Link List

Just because it’s not mentioned in the links below doesn’t mean we’re not fully following the events in Houston, TX and the surrounding area. We stare at the screen in horror as the stories are told. It’s tempting to say, ‘Thank goodness it’s not else,’ but at that level of water saturation, no one is immune if a weather system parks itself over an area for several days. Lord, have mercy upon us.

  • True Confessions: In an interview about a new book, a former producer for The 700 Club shares his admiration for and his concerns about Pat Robertson. “As smart as Pat Robertson is, and as good as he is at marketing, he is also highly susceptible to his own hype. In that way, [Donald] Trump plays him like a piano. If you watch his most recent interview, some of the things that Trump says to Pat are really way out there in terms of manipulating Pat. He builds him up like a salesman would, and Pat is susceptible to that…
  • …which brings us to our…
    Quotation of the Week: “This bastard love child of the Church and the State currently calling itself Conservative American Evangelicalism, would have been unthinkable and abhorrent to Jesus. It it the full antithesis of his life and ministry, and of the grassroots, counterintuitive community he curated in the rural roads, rugged hillsides, rough neighborhoods, and dusty temples where he spent his days.” The writer proposes we seek to “rid the American Evangelical Church of toxic Christianity.”
  • To the Third and Fourth Generation Department: Meet Jerry Falwell III, better known as Trey Falwell. With a $4.65 Million loan from Dad, he bought a shady hostel in Miami Beach; what the writer calls “Falwell’s gay-friendly flophouse with an on-site liquor store.” Yes, you’re reading correctly. “The Falwell-owned hostel encourages behavior that would get Liberty students expelled—the drinking, the smoking, the advertising for strip clubs, the free shuttles to local bars, the possibility of co-ed sleeping arrangements, and so on. And they certainly wouldn’t be allowed to buy anything from the adjoining liquor store on Falwell’s property—an amenity the hostel touts in the self-description it provides to travel sites like TripAdvisor: ‘There is a liquor store connected to the hostel with almost anything you need for partying!'”
  • Zondervan author Nish Weiseth called it “a gross example of pastoral & leadership malpractice.” Jen Hatmaker said, “The timing is callous beyond words.” Nadia Bolz-Weber called it a “Perfect example of ignoring the hearts and lives of real people so you can adhere to an idea or doctrine.” Read about the anti-LGBTQ message contained in The Nashville Statement on Human Sexuality, released by Evangelical leaders. (Link to the actual document contained in the story.) …
  • …Nadia releases a statement of her own. Read The Denver Statement.
  • Choosing My Translation: For pastors, the translation used personally, or the one they preach from, or the one used where they’re doing graduate work, or the one the church has in the pews; these three may all be different at any point in time. Things about when choosing which translation the congregation hears in weekend teaching.
  • The man’s story reached the ears of the Dallas Morning News and they carried his story. Concerning that, this writer says, “I just find it astonishing that gay activists and other radicals on the left think that they can try to bring in the mainstream media and the law to punish the church for holding to orthodox Christian moral values. But this is why we call sin “sin”.  Read the fuller story of what happened.
  • The Apostle Paul, the original networker. “Paul did not create much in terms of infrastructure–church buildings, cultural centers, and the like. Instead, he discerned what was already available and used them to their fullest potential.” (The graphic image alone on this is worth the look.)  
  • Names to Watch: Denver Snuffer (real name, as far as we know) who is leading a splinter movement of between 5,000 and 10,000 Mormons from the LDS to something new called The Remnant. (Everything the LDS teaches is on the table this coming weekend in Boise.)
  • 60-Second Devotional: The sin of self-deceit.
  • ♫ Don’t know the name Cody Carnes? You probably know his wife, Kari Jobe-Carnes, who also sings on Til The End of Time. (Really like this song! So much so that…)
  • ♫ …Liked it so much that…same artist! Cody Carnes’ song Full of Faith posted just 5 days ago
  • Parenting Place Podcast on Presence: How to Be More Present With Your Kids with Kara Powell. 32 minutes audio. 
  • Non-Music Video of the Week: Check out this look at “real people who have wrestled with their faith, sexuality or gender, and you’ll see that these issues aren’t just about issues. They’re about people.” Dear Church, I’m Gay. 21 minutes.
  • Leadership Lessons: Thom Rainer called his article, “Six Traits of a Church Disrupter.” (I can think of a better two-word term and the last word is similar, Dis—-er.) #5: “He often assures the pastor and other church leaders how much he loves them and supports them. And then he goes and stabs them in the back.”
  • This Fall, a number of churches are embarking on The Immerse Bible Reading Experience.
  • Don’t ask me how, but I scored 100% on this 15-question test of Lutheran knowledge.
  • Canada Corner: The link is to the New York Times, but the story is that Canadian passports can now contain a “M” an “F” or an “X” in the space for indicating gender.
  • If you’re going to seek asylum in Britain as someone who has converted to Christianity, it might be helpful to know what Easter is or recognize the names of the Gospel writers.
  • Finally, you may have seen this item about Iceland banning American televangelists.

(Yes, it’s longer than I said WLLs were going to be moving forward, but it was a busy week. And I didn’t even get to Twitter today!)

August 25, 2017

Parts and Pieces of Praise Production

Yesterday we looked at some very superficial reasons which draw people into the larger music business with a hope that church musicians can understand their own music-personality type. Today we want to stay somewhat shallow (!) in looking at the raw practicalities of drafting the music for Sunday morning.

When it first appeared, yesterday’s piece‘s title was about motivation with this one being about methodology. Both are important and it’s something I first taught at a musicans’ seminar back in the — let’s just say a long time ago. You need the right people with the right building blocks.

treble clefFinding the recipe

If you look at a recipe, it’s always divided into two sections. First you have a list of ingredients, and then you have the instructions as to how you wish to use them. Worship planning is very similar. There’s a list of songs you want to use, but how do you blend and mix them? Perhaps there’s a song that is going to occur at the beginning and the end of the service. Possibly two songs might play off each other (i.e. How Great Thou Art and How Great is Our God). Some might stand alone, while others might combine into medleys.

Ingredients are key

You want to choose your ingredients carefully. Just as in baking, some elements might conflict. Some choices might be too spicy. Others might be too bland. In a salad, you go for color and music is no different. A seasoned worship leader will have about 5,000 songs in their head at any one time. Unless you get to plan a worship night, you’re probably only going to do about five songs. You have 4,995 songs to leave out.

What people are hungry for

Your job is to give people the means by which they can respond to God for his greatness and goodness, his holiness and majesty, his love and compassion; just to name a few. The songs should resonate with young and old, and therein lies a challenge. With different strains of ingredients (classic hymns, 20th century gospel hymns, Maranatha! Music, Vineyard, modern worship leaders, modern hymns, soaking music, Hillsong, UK-based songs, etc.) you can appeal to different demographics, or you can choose to present a more musically-unified selection. If you want to see a younger demographic, you also have to skew your choices to people who perhaps aren’t there yet. That’s risky, but some churches do this.

Appetizer or main course?

Some Evangelicals see the worship time as preparing the hearts of people for the teaching of the word. Some Evangelicals see the praise time more liturgically valid on its own. I personally lean more to the second position. Still you want to know what the sermon topic is so your two selections don’t conflict.

Toppings

A worship time will be rather uneventful if it is just straight singing. You want to intersperse related quotations, read one of the verses before or after singing it, include quotations, or even do a “story behind the song” type of introduction. Many leaders default to Psalms, but some congregants tune them out. But there are exceptions; last week in our church the readings were all from the same Psalm and the songs chosen around that.

A shared meal

One of the values of corporate worship is that there are things we can do together that we can’t do alone (i.e. just listening or singing along with an album or Christian radio station at home.) The music should somewhat exploit the congregational dynamics. There should be some lively songs (by whatever parameter you measure that in your style of church) and there should be some songs where the beauty of blended voices can be both heard and felt. There’s also a value to silence.

When people like the recipe, don’t take credit

It’s very humble to say, “God gave me these songs this week;” but better to deflect the credit to the creators of the songs, or best, God Himself. “This is a new song, written by a musician who God is really using to stir us to deeper worship.” Or, “This song really focuses on God’s knowledge and wisdom and helps us consider how the ways of the Lord are so much beyond anything we could understand.” With opening statements like that it takes the focus away from you; you’re seen rather as a hunter and gatherer of worship that’s already out there.

We’re part of a much larger banquet

Occasionally, I would remind our congregation of the vast number of churches that were joining us in worship across our city, across our denomination, and in our nation; and then I would remind them that in North America, we occupy a place at the end of the timezones, joining a worship service that has been taking place around the world that weekend. Just thinking about that now, I am reminded of its potential to reshape how we approach worship.

So those are the superficial factors. But there are also some very spiritual considerations. That would make a great third part to this weekend series, but Laura covered that for us so well I’m going to invite you to simply click here.

August 24, 2017

The Personality of the Platform People

So what attracts people to work in the music industry? A few years ago, writing under the title “Motivation for Music Ministry” (which is equally alliterative to the one chosen today) I looked at the traits of people in the music sector of the entertainment business listed below and extrapolated from that to make application to the church context. I also added one, at the end of the list, that I believe is more common only within Christian experience, though that’s not say that many musicians don’t have a cause.

Worship leaders: Perhaps finding what attracts you to music in the first place will help you understand your personality type as a musician.

treble clefPerformance

Some people just want to play. They live to gig. If you’re a drummer and you can’t sing, you’re never going to be center stage, and people might not even know your name, but that’s okay, right? The idea is to simply make music, either in a live context or in a studio. The busier the schedule, the better.

Profile

For others, being center stage is really important. They are attracted by the idea of being a name you would know. They might already have their own web domain. Or an agent.

Product

The goal for some people is just to make an album. They aren’t looking for bookings and they aren’t looking for fame. They just want to have that physical CD in a plastic case that they can give to their friends, and show to their kids some day. (“That’s neat, Mom. Too bad we can’t play it on anything.”) Sales in retail stores would be an added bonus.

Publishing

The nice thing about this as a goal is you don’t have to give a single concert or even be able to carry a tune. But if you can compose meaningful songs and get others to perform them your music can travel to places you can’t. For people who are happy behind the scenes, this is an achievable goal, though usually the singer/songwriter usually has their own material. For people who do perform, the goal here is getting their songs covered by other groups or solo artists.

Production

Just as there are frequencies that only dogs can hear, there is a smell in recording studios that only some people detect. To most of us, a 48-channel recording console looks intimidating, like the cockpit of a jet plane, but to them, the lights and dials create an adrenaline rush, or at the very least are all part of a day’s work. Their job demands that they live to serve the needs of others, but we know the names of many producers who have never recorded a single note themselves.

Profit

Although this can apply to any of the areas listed above, if we’re dealing with the area of motivation, then money can be a driving force. If you’re competent at publishing, performance, production, etc. and you need to pay the bills, you do what you’re good at.

Proclamation

This is the one I feel is more common to Christian musicians, though it’s not entirely unique since it applies to anyone who feels they have a message to communicate, whether it’s 60s hippies protesting the Vietnam War, or 80s rockers crusading for environmentalism. Today the message might still be anti-war, or racial equality, or perhaps gay rights. It is in this milieu that Christian artists raise their voices to express their faith or tell their story, though in the last dozen years, Christian music has been dominated by vertical worship which lessens the number of testimony or teaching songs being heard. We have, as Randy Stonehill put it many, many years ago, “the hottest news on the rack,” and so that motivates Christian musicians to make music which reflects their core faith beliefs.

…Of course, playing because you want to have a message to share is a noble ideal, but many musicians also fall into one of the other categories as well. They want to make an album, or achieve popularity, or be able to make a living from their art. That’s okay, right?

In Part Two we’ll look at some of the practical ingredients of worship, comparing it to a recipe that worship leaders bake each week!

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