Thinking Out Loud

October 19, 2018

When Words Fail

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:56 am

Very suddenly this week, our community lost someone who was known by people in many churches here. A few years earlier Alison had left her Pentecostal church to return to her Salvation Army roots. Two of her and her husband’s three children had elected to pursue a vocational ministry career in the Salvation Army.

And then this summer, a must unusual thing happened. Alison herself — never having taken the Officer Training Program — was tapped by district officials to jump in to, by herself, lead an army ‘corps’ in a city three hours away from us near the Quebec border. And she said ‘yes’.

Alison died on Tuesday at age 53. Those who knew her are in shock. While I didn’t know her as well as others, we spent nearly an hour in conversation the week before she moved, as she described the uniqueness of this particular ‘call’ to vocational ministry. I’ll simply never forget her story. Although she we will undoubtedly be remembered by closer friends or family for other things, this willingness to serve on such short notice is a tremendous legacy to leave.

She will be missed.

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October 17, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Two major authors guilty of plagiarism. I’ve included them here as items on this week’s Connect feed, but I might return to this, as its importance cannot be overlooked. Attribution is so easy to do, so why the reluctance? And why did one author remove an apology?

Also, remember that the blogroll (3 of them, actually) in the right margin (or at the bottom of the page on your phone) is always being updated. Check out the recommended writers, and if you find anything that’s been dormant for more than 30 days, let us know.

♦ “This year, for the first time, more Americans agree that the Bible’s teaching on same-sex relationships is outdated than disagree.” Also, “A majority of US adults (58%) said that worshiping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church. Only 30 percent disagree.” More at the Ligonier Ministries/Lifeway 2018 findings on “the state of theology” in the U.S.

♦ While the release of American Pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkey after two years was certainly newsworthy, it was the scene were he knelt to pray for the President that captured my attention…

♦ …But while Brunson is free after two years, it’s now been 1,000 days for an 84 year old Australian doctor kidnapped in Burkina Faso. “Dubbed ‘the Doctor of the Poor’, Dr. [Ken] Elliott was providing free treatment, saving patients significant amounts of money. Since the closure of his clinic, people travel via poor transport links hundreds of miles to the capital, Ouagadougou, for medical care. His wife noted,

“My husband did not have an easy and comfortable life: 46 years ago, he chose to raise his family among you, our friends and our neighbours. With God’s help, he performed thousands of operations and saved many lives. Those who asked for help often came from afar, they came to us at any time of day or night.”

♦Parenting Place: Think you’re doing well at the child-raising thing? Here are 12 things that family counselors look for.

♦ Watching The Shack in prison:

But more and more, as I spend more time living on the margins and less in my head, reading the Bible with the damned to use Bob Ekblad’s phrase, I’ve come to see how much of theology boils down to social location. I might not get The Shack, but these incarcerated men sure do. Many were in tears at the end. So I check my critiques. The critiques may be valid and important, and there’s a time to bring them up, but I don’t center or privilege them. I don’t allow my academically sophisticated theology to win every argument or be The Answer to every question

♦ Quotation of the Week: “Just like you, the student in the northern Ghanaian village is monitoring the number of likes her Instagram selfies are getting.” A look at the pictures missionaries take, the ones they publish, our culture of photo images, and the danger of exploiting people from other cultures

♦ By now many of you are aware of an announcement on the weekend concerning the decline in health of esteemed author Eugene Peterson. If not, here is a link to a Facebook page containing a note from his son Eric.

♦ From a book review on the history of atheism in the Soviet Union:

In Russia, there is a religious revival happening. Orthodox Christianity is thriving after enduring a 70-year period of atheistic Soviet rule. In 1991, just after the collapse of the USSR, about two-thirds of Russians claimed no religious affiliation. Today, 71 percent of Russians identify as Orthodox. One can now see priests giving sermons on television, encounter religious processions in St. Petersburg, and watch citizens lining up for holy water in Moscow. Even Moscow’s Darwin museum features a Christmas tree during the holidays.

♦ A Georgia physician, Dr. Wayne Bloodworth has opened a clinic established to reverse Female Genital Mutilation as practiced 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa as well as in Asia and the Middle East. “Dr. Bloodworth up until now has totally financed the operation and equipping of the clinic. Since there is no fee for the services, they depend on donations and grants.”

♦ Ask N.T. Wright anything: A new podcast is launching in the UK from the same people who bring us the Unbelievable! podcast each week. (You can send your questions now online.) 

♦ Another plagiarism case: Zondervan has reached a settlement with Carey Scott, the author of Untangled: Let God Loosen the Knots of Insecurity in Your Life (Revell, 2015) whose work was borrowed by popular author Christine Caine in Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny (Zondervan, May 2016), which has sold over 150,000 copies to date. 

“About two weeks before Caine’s book Unashamed was set to launch, I received a promotional email that contained a two-minute book trailer video. Some of the wording at the beginning of the video sounded very familiar, and after some digging I discovered that the first 30 seconds of her personal narration on the promo video came directly from a paragraph on page 55 of my book,” Scott told Publisher’s Weekly. “There are several examples of direct copying and substantial similarities.”   …

♦ … But sadly, not the only plagiarism case involving Zondervan: A quotation in Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way was attributed to her father but, “matched almost word for word the writing of author Cynthia Occelli on her social media pages.” In another case, she apologized for when she “lyrically paraphrased” a nine-point list by another writer. But that post was later deleted. Why? In this Occelli case, World Magazine notes:

The problem: Some readers probably missed Voskamp’s apology, submerged as it was in a long scroll of a post concerning a family trip to Israel, a Tim Keller talk, a Mister Rogers quote, Instagram photos from fans raving about her books, and more. The item’s burial was too bad, because this was a teachable moment about likely dangers at a time when internet files can be copied and mislabeled so readily, with unclear attribution.

♦ In other Christian publishing stupidity, author Thom Rainer has published what looks to be potentially an extremely helpful and hopeful resource for struggling, small churches, but you can’t buy it here in Canada, where the percentage of such churches is double what it is in the U.S., and Americans can only buy it at LifeWay stores. What a non-Jesus thing to do! (Freely you have received, now freely hoard it or make it exclusive to certain people.) For that reason, I’m not even mentioning its title.

♦ Canada Corner: The crucifix will continue to hang in the Quebec legislature, because — wait for the logic of this — although it represents Christian values it isn’t a religious symbol

♦ Across-the-Pond Corner: ICYMI, the UK Supreme Court vindicated Ashers Baking Company and its general manager Daniel McArthur in the world’s most celebrated “Gay Wedding Cake” case which “demonstrated the need for the law to reasonably accommodate family-run businesses with firmly-held beliefs…” 

♦ …also at the website The Christian Institute this disturbing news: “More than 125,000 people have been hospitalised after taking cannabis in the last five years, it has been revealed…The Mail on Sunday reported that around 15,000 teenagers and even some children under the age of ten were admitted after taking the potent drug.”

♦ The teaser for this article at The Federalist is: “The loss of confidence in Pope Francis reflects that his mismanagement of the crisis has been a scandal in itself. It may also reveal a growing public awareness of Francis’ own poor record.” Where does the problem lie? “From the start of his papacy, Francis has surrounded himself with a hand-picked inner circle of cardinal advisers—a kind of papal ‘kitchen cabinet’…This inner circle of nine cardinals close to Francis has become known as the ‘C9.’ The article proposes that group may be tainted. (One writer has used the term ‘mafia club.’)

♦ Christian singer Lauren Daigle is rockin’ the pop charts right now, so some readers might want to see her and get to know her better. After ten minutes without discussing anything of substance, she explains the song “Losin’ My Religion.’ (Budding journalists: When you get to spend time with a current news-maker, this is a good example of what not to do.) …

♦ …On the other hand, if you want to see her something more substantive, there’s nothing quite like her visit to lead worship in a maximum security prison.

♦ You can’t be cessationist and also claim that God ‘led’ you to do something. But just in case He does, here’s the necessary workarounds to explain why it happened and didn’t happen at the same time.

♦ Quotation of the Week: “My ego always struggles with acknowledgment. I not only want my left hand to know what my right hand is doing (Matt. 6:3) I want them to get together and start an avalanche of applause because I’ve done it.” ~Jim Thornber at (the other) Thinking Out Loud.

♦ How not to write a movie review: I wanted to know more about God Bless the Broken Road but after hitting a few spoilers I realized this was just giving away the entire script from beginning to end.

♦ From that website with the weird name: 

♦ I wanted to include this item — about Ray Comfort and Penn Jillette — but had trouble finding the lede.

♦ Actual things said to women pastors by parishioners and male pastors in the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. A six minute video.

♦ Another Christmas season; another school board excises any mention of Jesus from their Christmas concert. 

♦ Finally…what? We don’t have a ‘finally’ today?

This Anglican Halloween alternative has us curious. “Trick or treat at 15 doors with the saints.”

 

October 3, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Last week’s Connect collection was a very busy place. This week, the algorithms brought us a much tighter list. I’m experimenting with embedding the videos again this week. Our opening graphic (above) is courtesy of Happy Monday.

♦ She was teaching Sunday School in my own church. And she believed in reincarnation. Fortunately one of the Grade Five boys told his mom and she was relieved of her duties. Monday, Pew Research reported “Most American adults self-identify as Christians. But many [American] Christians also hold what are sometimes characterized as “New Age” beliefs – including belief in reincarnation, astrology, psychics and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects like mountains or trees.”

♦ The heart of The Wartburg Watch website: “Folks, hear me. The information on our blog is not only a critique of abuse in the church. It also exists to document the relationships and affiliations of certain groups that we have identified as worthy of watching. There is serious money involved in these enterprises and we intended to keep an eye on it.” A look at backscratching at Challies.com.

♦ Reconsidering one of Ireland’s unique laws:

The Constitution defines blasphemy as offensive comments or matter designed to offend any religious community: anything said or done deemed “gross abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage against a substantial number of the adherents of that religion”. Under the 1961 Defamation Act, a person could be fined and/or jailed for up to seven years for the crime of blasphemous libel, making blasphemy punishable by law.

That law’s continuance is now part of an end-of-the-month referendum

♦ Video of the Week (Teaching): The Meeting House in Canada produced this excellent 4-minute piece on giving. (Try to watch this full-screen.)

♦ How a graphic novel helped a Bible scholar better understand physical locations and perspective in the Gospel of Mark.

♦ Handicaps:

♦ Fighting the battle of losing: Catholic churches see declining numbers; “The prescription for combating the decline lies in large part not with Rome, but with local Catholic leaders inspiring young people individually.”

♦ In many ways, the sermon preached this weekend is an encapsulation of the past decade of his preaching, and a response to those who don’t understand the purpose behind the new book, Irresistible. (Message starts at 18:30) He didn’t directly address the “unhitching” controversy, but comes directly at “the Bible says” discussion with great passion

♦ …Related headline: Has Irresistible Cracked the Code to Reach the Nones? Review sample: “For Christians that don’t see the big deal, it’s because we grew up on the inside. But think about the confusion that it would create if Americans put the Articles of Confederation (the binding document that preceded the Constitution) together with the Constitution and said they are both authoritative, even though we only live under the Constitution. It could get confusing to those on the outside. Or it would be like being married to your current spouse but still maintaining an intimate relationship with your ex-spouse or your ex-girlfriend or boyfriend. Things probably wouldn’t work out so well.”…

♦ …and then this article, which also looks at “Stanleyism” at its conclusion foreshadows another look at the issue forthcoming in February, The Lost World of the Torah.

…This book is written by the certifiably evangelical John H. Walton, Old Testament professor at Wheaton College in Illinois and formerly at the Moody Bible Institute, and his son J. Harvey Walton, a graduate student at St. Andrews University. The publisher is the certifiably evangelical InterVarsity Press…We can anticipate more lively Christian debate ahead regarding the Old Testament.

♦ Video of the Week (Music): Is this song, “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” by Mack Brock at tribute to the Jim Cymbala book of the same name?

♦ Calling Good Evil and Calling Evil Good: Though written last Friday in a rapidly shifting news cycle, this is a devotional for such a time as this

♦ A new (or should that be old?) translation of Psalm 23 in Middle English

♦ Quotation of the Week: “The New Testament writers and apostles were far from naïve or prudish. They lived with TMI – too much information about the violence, excessive behaviour and destructive tendencies of the human heart.”

♦ Children’s Bible-related books tend to focus on the First Testament stories or the Gospels, but rarely on anything in the Epistles. So this book (pictured at right on desktop, or above on mobile) Paul Writes (a Letter) by Chris Raschka is a refreshing change.

♦ Counting the Costco: A study shows the more religious you are, the more you will value frugality, which means the less likely you are to make impulse purchases.

♦ I’m not sure how necessary this would be in groups I’ve belonged to, but this short piece did get me thinking about other similar things. The author thinks that just as there is a greeter or two at church services, there should be a greeter at small group meetings. (However, if your small group still needs name tags, either it’s a large group, or you’re failing at community.) …

♦ …on the other hand, here’s an article from the same site about the importance of confidentiality in small groups. Five ways to ensure confidentiality in your meetings.

♦ Lauren Daigle’s album Look Up Child is rockin’ the mainstream pop charts with the song You Say.

♦ The Latter Day Saints (Mormons) have launched an updated website to help people struggling with pornography. It makes four significant changes to the earlier site.

♦ Losing Her Religion: A review of Lisa Gungor’s new book, The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen (Zondervan). 

Describing faith like a sweater, she says: “…over the years, a thread comes loose and you try to just tuck it in” but eventually you decide you don’t need it anymore – the thread comes out easily and the sweater stays together. But over time “you pull another, and another, and soon you find all the yarn is gone. You have deconstructed the entire thing.” This is what Lisa says happened to her.

♦ Reddit of the Week: “Can I be Christian and transgender?” If you’re not familiar with the internet genre known as ‘forums,’ this is as good a place as any to begin

♦ If you saw my piece on Monday about the CBS-TV show God Friended Me, here’s more about the lead actor, who really is the son of a minister.

♦ Finally, this lesson in how not to engage in inter-faith dialog is also a good lesson in how a certain name for God came to be:

 


Tweet of the Week:

September 26, 2018

Wednesday Connect

It’s now possible to buy a globe that provides a very accurate representation of what things were like when “the earth was without form and void.”

When we changed the name, 28 weeks ago, from Wednesday Link List to Wednesday Connect, one goal was to center more on news stories and opinion pieces which you might not see in other similar lists, but which I still think are vitally important. Today’s list is no exception.

That said however, in case you missed it, yes, it’s finally happened, Hillsong is about to become its own denomination. (I guess I just considered that significant enough to include.) 

Now on to the list:

♦ A Pennsylvania couple is fighting their borough over being told they cannot hold Bible studies or church meetings of any type on their farm property.

♦ It’s Trinity Western all over again; this time at Azuza Pacific University which has made changes to its student code of conduct

🇨🇦 Part three of three in the Reformed-Anabaptist interview between The Gospel Coalition Canada, and The Meeting House pastor Bruxy Cavey. [Where Bruxy lists many topics not covered, which might have been if the interview had been hosted the other way around.]

♦ Essay of the Week: “Before you reject the Christian life, make sure you know what it is. Here’s a question that seized the mind of a generation—’Do you like Green Eggs and Ham?’ Half the entertainment value in this classic children’s book lies in the main character’s colorful determination not to receive that meal… People today share this experience in that they’re sure they don’t want Jesus: ‘I do not want him in a house, I do not want him with a mouse. I do not want him in a tree, I do not want him, let me be.'” The author shares that at a pivotal moment, the faith he had lost “blazed to life.”

🎬 The writers of God’s Not Dead have just wrapped a $6M film which “focuses on anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson, who spent years working for Planned Parenthood before switching sides.” (For those having a déja vu, a decidedly lower-budget version of this story released in 2011 under the same title.

♦ After being adrift for 49 days, this Indonesian teenager found strength in prayer and reading his Bible.

♦ Losing Her Religion: “With the release of her new book, The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen Grammy nominated artist Lisa Gungor goes deep on family, church, and being pushed out of the world she knew so well.” The 7-minute video title begins, “I Stopped Believing in God.”

♦ Oh my! The Trump Prophecy film is complete and tickets are being sold. (I have no words.)

♦ One of the first people to ever hear the original Living Bible read aloud (long before any print edition), Mark Taylor reflects on it and its successor, the New Living Translation.

♦ The aftermath of Hurricane Florence: “God is good even when we may not have all the answers to the problem of natural evil.” The author links to four detailed articles written after Hurricane Katrina.

📖 While standing in the Jordan River, Francis Chan talks about his new book, Letters to the Church. 3 minute video. 

📖 Audio Book Excerpt: 16 minutes of Andy Stanley’s newest — and most controversial — Irresistible: Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed for the World.

📖 Provocative Book Title of the Week (1): R. T. Kendall explains the background behind his newest book, Popular in Heaven, Famous in Hell.

📖 Provocative Book Title of the Week (2) ‘Outside the Lines: How Embracing Queerness Will Transform Your Faith (Fortress Press; pictured at right.) Click to read an excerpt.

Sermon of the Week: No, actually this really is about VitalSermons.com which posts, along with other things, what they consider the sermon of the week. [Background  story at Religion News Service .]

♦ Disturbing headline of the week: “Two Christian Bus Passengers Executed After They Refuse to Recite Islamic Statement of Faith.” The story: “Some horrific news is emerging out of Kenya after two Christians were murdered in cold blood by militants belonging to Islamic terror group Al-Shabaab.” 

♦ Dialing for Doctrine: A short video refutes the idea that Wesleyan Arminianism is human centered, or that the individual is the author or originator of salvation.

♦ We’re told to sing: “Scripture is full of references to people singing joyfully to the Lord. At every feast and celebration, in public and private worship, singing filled the air.” Randy Alcorn shares a personal story, a teaching, and a popular worship song video.

♦ Translation Topics: One of the best articles I’ve seen on the issue of committee or single person translations.  

Some may chide the single-translator editions for being the product of only one person. The negative comments I’ve heard against them have been that with a committee translated Bible, two heads are better than one and three heads are better than two, and so on. I don’t disagree with this, but a committee ultimately has to reach a consensus which may not allow for the best or better translation of a phrase. Sometimes the single translator has greater liberty to do what may be best—as in the case of commentaries—whereas a committee’s hands can be tied…

…There are certainly drawbacks to single-translator editions, but there are also strengths. Furthermore, if you want to revive your Bible reading habit, or make it richer, pick up a single-translator edition. There are often nuances in the text, especially for those who don’t read original languages, that committees aren’t able to represent.

♦ Fashion Section: [by the same author]

What if we truly looked to the Bible to see how people dressed for assembly in the first century? It isn’t a novel idea because most of us do that for other things already, so I point us, first, to the earliest New Testament writing, the book of James—written somewhere in the 40s… From the passages we have in the New Testament, could our best ever be considered by God to be overdressed?

♦ In the middle of #MeToo, is it possible that more boys are affected by dating violence than girls?

♦ Pastor Place: 10 Reasons why how you exit the church is more crucial than how you arrived all those years ago.

⛪ Church Life: 7 Things a worship leader won’t tell you. “…there are many misconceptions about a worship leader’s job, and a number of difficult elements that go unnoticed.” [Sample: #2 This job can get pretty weird.]

♦ Gender Study: “After a U.K. survey found that only 1 percent of British Christians consider God to be female, some Church of England leaders are urging clergy to consider their word usage. According to research conducted by YouGov, younger Christians are now more likely than older Christians to view God as male.”

♦ Parenting Place: When a kid throws sand at her own child, a mom writes a short but focused letter to the other child’s mom.

♦ The student unions of three well-known British universities has banned a pro-life group from displaying at school events.

♦ Many articles this week reposted a USAToday story about placing microchips in humans for identification purposes. But the story offered this sidebar:

Some people are already willingly microchipping themselves. For example, a self-declared “cyborg” in Canada named Russ Foxx has embedded multiple microchips into various areas of his body… Foxx, 36, has had over 100 body alterations ranging from ultraviolet tattoos to silicon horns implanted into his forehead.

♦ A classic liturgical resource has provided the lyrical inspiration for the album Songs of Common Prayer. Read an interview with the creator Greg LaFollette at Relevant; watch the one minute video trailer.

♦ A Chicago priest has been put on leave following an incident involving the burning of a rainbow banner.

🎬 The latest film from Pure Flix has grossed $4.5M at the box office, and a high profile actress is giving visibility to a sequel where the original left out the faith component. Read about Unbroken: Path to Redemption

🎬 Also from Pure Flix, though absent anything particularly faith-focused in the trailer I watched, is Little Women, opening this weekend. Watch the trailer for yourself.

♦ And the next state to legalize marijuana is… …Utah?  

🎹 New Music (1): Well Done, a new song by The Afters. (I really like this one!) 

🎹 New Music (2) / Kids’ Korner: I Give you My Heart by Hillsong Kids from the new album, Can You Believe It.  [Thanks to NewReleaseToday.com for the leads on new songs we use here from time to time.]

♫ Worship Workshop: In Episode #27 of NoPro Worship, David Wesley looks at different ways in which classic hymns are “wrought to” creating a contemporary feel.

♦ Well… Jesus used hyperbole, too; didn’t he? Pope Francis’ famous “I am the devil” statement (which I’ve just pulled out of context!)

📺 Atticus Shaffer, the youngest cast member of the 9-year-long sitcom The Middle talks about his Christian faith. (Also his reasons for liking Galatians er, make that 1 Corinthians or perhaps he really means the Gospel of John.)

♦ The truth is, the reason I don’t end these lists with links to Matthew Pierce anymore is because I’m convinced he’s totally nuts

♦ Finally, we have this Associated Press story: “SAVANNAH, Ga. (WJBF)/(AP) – Police say a woman was openly selling marijuana products during an event at a Georgia church.” …But then, once you’ve got the gist of the story, you really need to read how this website reported it.


I know some American readers will disagree with the perspective — the conclusion in particular — on this one-minute video, but for all my readers outside the United States, I thought you should see this firsthand.

 

September 25, 2018

When It’s Time To Shut Down a Ministry Venture

One of the most difficult things anyone in ministry can face is the realization that a particular ministry project simply isn’t working, or has become no longer sustainable. I’ve had to do this many times including two Christian bookstores (after 5 years and 14 years) and a church plant (after 18 months); and my wife faced this with a monthly series of worship events (after nearly 5 years) she started.

Here are three particular challenges:

We don’t have good modeling for shutting things down.

If anything, some Christian organizations have overstayed their welcome. They were intended for a season, but became an institution that grew so large and inflexible; and so many people depended on it for their livelihood that shutting down has never been an option. This could also be said for some churches.

We haven’t learned from the world’s model of mergers and acquisitions.

Many times shutting down seems the only route because we haven’t fully exhausted the possibilities of partnering with other organizations who share a similar ministry focus. Which means relinquishing both the hard and soft assets of the ministry. That in turn would mean a loss of control. It could also lead to something which looks quite different than what we original envisioned.

We fear regret for giving up.

I can honestly say this is my biggest challenge even now, years later. “What if we’d stuck it out for another year?” Or, “What were we just on the cusp of seeing happen that didn’t happen because of our lack of faith, or faithfulness?”

The writer of Ecclesiastes said that there is “a time to plant and a time to uproot.”

Sometimes the challenge is knowing what time it is right now.

September 19, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Hard to believe we’ve completed six months under the new Wednesday Connect banner. While it may seem similar to the old Wednesday Link List, there have been more behind the scenes changes than you might notice, particularly in how the links are gathered. I think each week’s list offers the best of things that you might not see in other places, and I hope you agree. – Paul.


♦ Before we begin, Remembering Nabeel Qureshi. If you haven’t seen it, there is now a third edition* available of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Abdu Murray, North American director for RZIM, posted this picture below. He is also a converted Muslim.


♦ The “petite bottle blonde from Arkadelphia.” The Atlantic profiles Beth Moore.

For decades, Moore never broke stride. In the past few years, however, she has felt out of step with the evangelical community. During the 2016 campaign, many of its leaders not only excused Donald Trump’s boorish behavior but painted him as a great defender of Christianity—evangelicals’ “dream president,” in the words of Jerry Falwell Jr. More recently, a series of high-profile pastors have been toppled by accusations of sexual misconduct. The deferential reserve that defined Moore’s career has become harder for her to maintain… This may seem like an uncontroversial stance. But in the wake of her tweets, the staff at Living Proof Ministries, Moore’s tight-knit organization, “could not hang up the phone for picking it up.” She got messages from women who had read her Bible studies for years but said they’d never read another.

♦ Continued developments in the imprisonment of American pastor Andrew Bronson as Turkey names a new prosecutor in a case hampering relations with the United States.

♦ Essay of the Week: A proposal for a new type of short term missions trip. Excerpts:

Just between you and me, nothing we do is particularly reliant on outsiders and we don’t need people to come in and play with local children or teach them – we have trained up local people to do that. And they do it really well…

…When there is a constant parade of outside trainers who aren’t willing to learn, we send the message that local people have nothing to offer. We reinforce their sense of inferiority, while patting ourselves on the back — emotionally boosted by the high status role of expert.

♦ Saying “Farewell” to the traditional sermon. This article really, really resonated with me. I’ve been saying this type of thing for at least two decades now. “…the intriguing thing about Apple Events is that no video or speaker ever takes more than 10 minutes at a time… According to University of Washington Medical School molecular biologist John Medina, our brains have a built-in stopwatch that ends at around 10 minutes. And he cites peer-reviewed studies to prove it… This will be heartbreaking to preachers who are currently preparing their 30-minute sermon for this Sunday. Michael Frost calls this piece, Learning How to Preach in the Church of Apple.

Who is paying Bill Hybels’ legal bills? Which leads to…

♦ …the above item links to detailed, multi-topic Q&A page posted this weekend at Willow… which brings us to this addition to the list:

♦ …Breaking: Former Willow teaching pastor Steve Carter breaks his silence. (Updated 9:00 AM EST)

♦ Hurricane Help: With a congregation dispersed over many states, a pastor’s Facebook posts are a link to conditions back home.

♦ When the network news changes its focus to new stories, the only way to keep focused is through prayer.

God does not stop hearing the cries of the afflicted when our news feed changes topic. Black lives matter today as much as they did five years ago and five hundred years ago. Refugees will always be close to God’s heart, whether the government embraces them or not. God’s command to “administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another” and to “not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor” (Zechariah 7:9-10 NIV) does not budge when we we max out our capacity to hear more stories of suffering.

♦ Praying for healing for Anne Graham Lotz as she faces a health challenge. Anne was scheduled for surgery yesterday, and we’ll update this if anyone has new information.

♦ Penal Substituationary Atonment (PSA) or just Substituionary Atonement (SA)? That is the question. “When U look to the cross in your mind’s eye, where do you spatially locate the Father? Do you see him hovering over Jesus, pouring out his wrath upon his Son? I don’t think that is a biblical image, not the image God the Father wants us to imagine.” Part two of a Gospel Coalition Canada interview with Bruxy Cavey.

♦ Quotation of the Week:

[Google’s] stated company mission is to store all the world’s knowledge, which starts to sound like omniscience. And if we consider that in today’s personal-information economy, knowledge is power, we could add omnipotence to our list. Such words are usually reserved for the other Big G.

A look at Search, Artificial Intelligence and the company that controls 75% of our online quests for information.

♦ Shoe Box Compassion: I posted this around the same time last year, but here we go again: Ten alternatives to Operation Christmas Child. [If you’re new to Thinking Out Loud, this is a recurring theme here. Start with this short post, then move on this concise, 14-point discussion.]

♦ Yet another look at Willow. This ice climbing analogy isn’t perfect, but it did get me thinking about two things. First, how your ‘fall’ can end up hurting others. Second, about how you might not want to ask God to ‘enlarge your territory’ to the point you can’t handle what’s put in front of you. “Lord, please don’t grant me more power than my character can handle.”

♦ Liberal churches keep losing numbers:

“Across cultures, religious communities that expect more from their members thrive (or religious communities in which members face greater consequences for leaving). Meanwhile, lenient religious groups struggle to maintain membership. Why is this? Wouldn’t you assume most people would want to join the easiest religion? Recent research suggests that strict religions are sociologically and psychologically predisposed to succeed.” A 7-minute video on why the strict churches succeed.

♦ Movie Trailer of the Week: [Don’t watch if kids are in the room.] A look at The Road To Edmond with Tripp Fuller and Nathanael Welch

♦ Testimony of the Week: She lives with OCD and Tourette’s Syndrome. Here are eight things she wants you to know.

♦ Provocative Title of the Week: Is the Christian Faith, Strictly Speaking, Biblical? “…this Jesus movement, which, once again, has its roots in Judaism, also make certain moves that don’t really follow that ancient tradition.” Peter Enns on an issue that’s top of mind right now (partly due to the book we reviewed on Monday.)

♦ “The Black Church has historically been a source of hope and strength for the African American community.” With that opening tag line, blogger Ann Brock provides an excellent summary of relevant stories on The Old Black Church. (We often steal story ideas from there, and thought you’d like to see our source firsthand!)

♦ Parenting Place: Another school year, another round of bullying, right? But this mom nailed it in a heart-to-heart with her sixth grade son. Read and learn.

♦ When the people who write the stories are the story. Sexual harassment at Christian writers conference.

♦ Challenging: Why climbing mountains should be part of teacher training.

♦ Canada Corner: Congratulations to Canada Christian College on the occasion of their move from Toronto to a beautiful location on the waterfront in Whitby, a town east of the city. (Ruth and I attended an opening barbecue last night; a formal grand opening will follow.)

♦ In Christian publishing news, Hachette Book Group (home to FaithWords, which in turn is home to Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer) has purchased Worthy Publishing, including all the Museum of the Bible titles.

♦ For two years she said nothing. But a former FBI agent says she saw angels at the 9/11 crash site.

♦ I often find I can’t read anything unless it’s in short paragraphs and peppered with bold face, italics, bullet points, numbered lists, etc. Believing others feel the same, I did a reworking on a classic commentary by Alexander MacLaren on an interesting scripture passage, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

♦ Science confirms it: Church is for the birds! Actually the piece is about the biodiversity found near churches, and not just about the tall spires and steeples that you thought were just there to mask cell phone towers.

♦ After TIFF there was CIFF. Not long after the Toronto International Film Festival, the city hosted the Canadian International Faith and Family Film Festival. (Wouldn’t that be CIFFFF?) Featured films are shown in the event poster below:


*This is the edition of the book now shipping, but it’s absent from the Zondervan website when you do a search.


What would you like to see more of? What would you like to see less of? Let us know how we can improve this list. Also, would you like the music videos returned to the list? Let us know in the comments or via the contact page.

September 18, 2018

When Everything is Working; While Together, Nothing Works

You have to feel sorry for this tourist.

After taking a funicular to see a hillside neighborhood up close and also be able to overlook the city, we discovered, like the man in the picture, that the latter was impossible.

The park benches were placed so that people could sit and enjoy the view.

The shrubs were planted probably to add some greenery, or stop erosion.

The tall trees probably had a mind of their own. It’s too bad nobody noticed them in their younger years and projected what might happen. Still, if they were the only problem, you would still get a good look at the city below.

The benches, as you can see are working perfectly.

The shrubs have grown in nicely.

Together, they have created a place from which to have a view of nothing.

…I’m always looking for analogies, so let me attempt one here. Thinking Out Loud is all about church life and church and culture, so let’s imagine for a minute that the bench and the shrubs represent different ministry departments in our churches.

Now I recognize that Christ is the head of the capital ‘C’ Church and that He also ought to be the head of our small ‘c’ local churches. Under God’s authority, local pastors are appointed, and I would think that about now you’re saying, “Whoever is in charge simply needs to point out that the view from the benches has been completely obscured by the shrubs.” That will solve everything. (Maybe there’s a blogger in the church who can find a pithy way of pointing out the current dilemma.) Perhaps nobody has noticed so far.

It’s like you can’t see the trees for the forest.

Or something like that.

I never said I was good at this, did I?

But many times in our small ‘c’ local churches different departments are allowed to flourish without anyone noticing they are actually running in opposite directions.

For example: The church has an amazing choral program, with junior and senior choirs, beautiful robes and a recently released album. You have to audition three times to get in.

But the youth minister is having great results with a very engaging program, and many teens are becoming part of a church family for the first time, and that leaves said youth minister wishing that the Sunday morning service was just a little less choir-y.

What’s the solution?

Back to the illustration.

You could cut the shrubs.

Or you could move the benches. (There’s a nice view just 50 feet to the left.)

Or you could decide that shrubs are also something worth looking at. (The guy in the picture seems a bit bewildered, though, doesn’t he?)

Back to the application.

Actually, I won’t. I’m already annoyed with myself for choosing a music-based example.

I’m all for empowering both laity and staff members to grow their departments. But in a decentralized structure (or even a top-down centralized one) there are going to be times when ministry objectives are in conflict.

Then again, we’re not just an organization; we’re also a family.

We can make this work.

September 12, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Years later, the Church Stage Design website is still going, sharing ideas for creative teams in large churches. Click either picture to link to the site.

So that’s what ASAP stands for! This design is available at TeePublic as a t-shirt, mug, pillow, tote bag, etc. Click to link.

We’re back! Don’t forget the top clicks from Wednesday are published on Twitter a day or two later. This is the paragraph which appears on Twitter, so we just need to make it a little longer. There. That should do it. @PaulW1lk1nson on Twitter

♦ IVP released Faith in the Shadows: Finding Christ in the Midst of Doubt by Austin Fisher yesterday. Brian Zahnd shares the introduction he wrote for the book: “I’ve seen fear-based Christian parents place their children in fundamentalist Christian schools for the sole purpose of shielding little Johnny from the “lies of secular science,” only to see Johnny become an atheist before he’s out of high school. When you force Johnny to choose between fundamentalist certitude and peer-reviewed science, Johnny may not always be persuaded by pseudo-apologetics from fundamentalist answer-men like Ken Ham… I’ve seen too many Christians lose battles they never needed to fight. Like Don Quixote they imagine harmless windmills as threatening giants, fight a needless battle, only to have the windmill-imagined-as-giant win.”

♦ Yesterday was the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy in the United States. Apologist Nick Peters wrote, “Today, we don’t have any promises. My wife and I will be out driving to places today. Do we have a promise that nothing will happen to us on the way? Nope. We are not promised anything like that…Our world is normally at peace, but we should never take it for granted. Odds are our loved ones will be with us for awhile, but we shouldn’t take that for granted.”

♦ She’s a pastor. That very sentence is enough to drive some complementarians to distraction, but evidence of a female pastor is as close as your copy of the Bible; but not in Paul’s writing but one of John’s epistles.

♦ Provocative Title of the Week: How Willow Creek Exposed our Sins

♦ …Related: This story of same-sex abuse 20 years also contains the same-old denials so common in these situations

♦…Also related: Michael Frost quotes New Testament scholar David Starling: “When you go looking in the Bible, you realise pretty quickly that leadership can hardly be found there at all. The Bible certainly contains a host of concrete instances of individuals, tasks, offices, and images that you might want to connect in some way with the category of leaders and leadership: mothers, fathers, shepherds, sages, prophets, judges, priests, kings, messiahs, apostles, pastors, elders, overseers … the instances are everywhere. But the abstraction, the umbrella term leadership, hardly rates a mention.” He calls the article, Pastoring in a post-Hybels World.

♦ For those focused on Israel, the birth a perfectly red heifer may be the most important news story of the week.  (Or this 1-minute video version.)

♦ After years of doing it so frequently, in the last 16-weeks we have ceased to link to the Phil Vischer Podcast nka The Holy Post Podcast. (Reasons on request.) But I don’t want you to miss Skye’s interview with Aaron Niequist on “practices.” He felt that the worship sets served in most modern churches simply don’t constitute a ‘well-balanced meal.‘  Fast forward to 33:22 for the interview.

♦ While not a faith-focused piece, this clearly describes the times we live in. I found this on the editorial page of Saturday’s Toronto Star. The writer is most concerned with broadcasting, but has a number of tech giants in his sights. It’s obvious who he is referring to, but note how concisely the players are mentioned:

♦ When people are moved to give: The President of the Canadian branch of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination shares three examples of people removing bracelets, rings, a belt and an Apple Watch and placing them in the offering plate because they felt they needed to do something; they felt they needed to respond.

♦ An updated edition of The Mirror Bible by Francois Du Toit, first released in 2013, has been published including the Book of Revelation.

♦ North Korea and the U.S.? How about a summit almost as delicate between a Calvinist and Canadian pastor Bruxy Cavey on inerrancy, the authority of scripture, pacifism and much more.

♦ Turning visitors into regulars: “As any good manager of a hotel, store, restaurant, or attraction knows, the key to getting guests to come back is how they feel when they’re there. It’s about hospitality. No matter how much effort and time we spend on excellence–a stirring worship time, inspiring sermons, a good coffee blend in the foyer–what guests at our churches really want is to feel welcome, comfortable, and understood.” Part of the publicity for The Come Back Effect: How Hospitality Can Compel Your Guests to Return by Jason Young and Jonathan Malm, published by Baker Books. (Foreword by Andy Stanley) (Jonathan produces the Church Stage Design website, where today’s upper pictures originated.)

♦ Some good news about a high profile Christian author and a marriage reconciliation that you may have missed.

♦ You might not have to punch a time clock in heaven — it’s eternity after all — but you might hold a job. Randy Alcorn writes, “Because there will be continuity from the old Earth to the new, it’s possible we’ll continue some of the work we started on the old Earth. We’ll pursue some of the same things we were doing, or dreamed of doing, before our deaths. Of course, some people’s jobs won’t exist on the New Earth, among them dentists, police officers, funeral directors, and insurance salespeople. What are now their interests or hobbies may become their main vocations.” 

♦ Famous last words: No, seriously; a web page devoted to the dying words of famous Christians from past centuries.

♦ Animals, yes; but people? A look at the idea of one person’s death atoning for the sins of others. “In 4 Maccabees 17 (one of the books of the Apocrypha), we read that the Jewish martyrs who died under Antiochus in the early 2nd century BCE were a “. . . ransom for the sin of our nation,” and “the blood of those devout ones and their death [was] as an atoning sacrifice” (verses 21-22).”

♦ Theological Concepts Department: A look at the phrase “ordinary means of grace” and its meaning for non-Catholics.

♦ This is so well done.

♦ Author/speaker Christine Caine on studying at Wheaton College: “I remember reading a Billy Graham quote maybe a decade ago. In that quote, Dr. Graham said that there were four or five things he had wished he had done differently, and one of them was that he wished he had studied more… If I want to continue to speak effectively into our culture, I must keep studying and learning and humbling myself. I must continual take in… I don’t feel like I have to dumb myself down here or pretend that I’m not a speaker. I can be fully who I am and be learning incredibly from professors and from fellow students in their 20s.”

♦ Parent of a high school student already thinking about September, 2019? The Christian University College Fair tour has kicked off for another year. (I mention this each year because one of these events was extremely helpful to us.)

♦ Charismatic evangelist and author Juanita Bynam announces the move of her ministry headquarters to Ghana.

♦ If you plan to set your Nike shoes on fire, at least have the good sense to take them off first. 🔥

♦ With so much controversy in the Roman Catholic Church right now, one family is withholding the $1 they usually give weekly.

♦ Finally, to understand the Apocrypha, you have to understand Star War Fan Fiction.


 

September 5, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Opening and closing images this week are from Clark Bunch at The Master’s Table.

♦ Allegedly under pressure from large financial donors, Fresno Pacific’s University’s graduate program in Anabaptist Theology has removed the visiting lecturer status of Bruxy Cavey, Greg Boyd and Brian Zahnd, and has also demoted its president to professor status after he takes a sabbatical. Yikes! In one cohort, 21 out of 23 students have signed a letter of protest, while meanwhile 11 out of the 18 students who were registered for this year — many on the premise of getting to interact with these very lecturers — have withdrawn. Greg Boyd said he had, “letters of support from [Mennonite Brethren] pastors apologizing and worrying about their denomination losing Anabaptist distinctives and acclimating to American fundamentalism.”

♦ An Evangelical Who’s Who: A list of all the big shots in Evangelicalism who got invited to that White House dinner we reported last week. Who would you have added?

♦ Speaking of which, students in the film program at Liberty University got a rather rude awakening when instead of the productions they thought they would be doing, ended up filming something called The Trump Prophecy. “In December [2017], before we left for Christmas break, we were slated to shoot two short films that had nothing to do with Trump,” one student recalled. “The first day we were back in January for spring semester, that had changed. Needless to say, we all thought it was a joke at first, but as you know … it’s not.” They are concerned that this film will damage the reputation of film students and discredit the film program

♦ California’s ‘anti-conversion’ Bill AB 2943, “which was designed to ban the sale of anything opposing the homosexual agenda – has been withdrawn after not receiving enough votes to reach Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.” “One of the most influential organizations leading opposition to the legislation was [James] Dobson’s Policy Center…”

♦ Funding for Churches: England will spend £1.8 million “to repair and maintain historic places of worship.” “The scheme will help listed churches and other eligible places of worship remain fit to serve their communities for generations to come. This will include managing a network of local volunteers in maintaining the listed buildings and exploring options for wider use of the buildings by the community.”

♦ No, it’s not about conflating patriotism with Evangelicalism. It’s actually a reason for removing the U.S. flag from the auditorium or sanctuary of Christians written from the perspective someone who knows a thing or two about flags

🎥 Beyond Patreon: “Giving Films releases its third project, An Interview with God, to theaters this week. The new movie follows last March’s Paul, Apostle of Christ and 2015’s 90 Minutes in Heaven. Whether you enjoy any of these titles, there’s no doubt the look and feel of these movies is worlds apart from the crowdfunded fare.

♦ Social concerns from the wider world: Chronic State, a 58-minute documentary looks at the impact of legalized pot on the state of Colorado. (Sample: “This is realistically a new drug. Yes, we call it marijuana and it comes from the same plant, but this is not the plant you’re thinking of when you’re thinking about marijuana.”)

♦ For the month of September, Mark Clark, pastor of Village Church in Vancouver and author of The Problem of God is creating a series of short videos teaching through the Gospel of Matthew for a Canadian television show. Start with this one — and learn a bit about Mark — and then click the channel to continue watching as new episodes are added.

♦ The object of our prayers: “We asked our nine year old, Lily Faith, to pray for our meal, and that’s when it happened: ‘Dear Alexa, please bless our meal today, and Daddy …’ Our entire family exploded with laughter (including some nice folks next to us). Lily, on the other hand, didn’t think it was funny at all. She began crying and couldn’t eat.” A look at the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on our work and family.

♦ Parenting: Robert has a 5-hour-per-day addiction to the game Fortnite. But now school has started and it’s turning into a Fortnitemare. (Link is to 3-min clip from The Today Show, NBC) 

♦ Parenting: Even if you don’t have kids this is good reading: 7 Parenting Errors Which Will Can Influence Adult Children to Leave the Faith.

♦ I hope you don’t need this article, but… How to be a Caregiver When it Feels You Can’t Go On.

♦ Skye Jethani revisits C.S. Lewis’ classic “liar, lunatic or Lord” argument with a visual flow-chart-like representation. (Click image to source.)

♦ This link is actually a year old, and we’ve carried it here before, but I found it interesting to see what John MacArthur’s Master’s Seminary was dealing with a year ago. The point is to say that the school is no stranger to controversy.

♦ Another one: “One worshipper has been killed and dozens of others injured after a church collapsed in southern Nigeria… Church collapses are relatively common in Nigeria. In December 2016 dozens of worshippers were killed when a church collapsed in Akwa Ibom state. The Nigeria Society of Engineers has blamed the problem mainly on the use of substandard materials and violations of building regulations.

♦ Musings when a pastor commits suicide: Navigating a pressure-packed vocation.

♦ Ed Young — who pops up elsewhere on this list — goes fishing with Steven Furtick. Supposedly Episode 1 of a series. 15 minute video.

♦ Most provocative headline we saw this week: Don’t Ruin Your Life for an Orgasm.

♦ This weekend, Mark Batterson of National Community Church in Washington, DC presented his church with the vision for their eighth location, which he describes on Twitter: “The old Navy Yard Car Barn was the turnaround where streetcars were repaired and rerouted. We’ll turn it into a prototype campus with child development center, mixed-use marketplace and co-work space.”

♦ A critical look at a #1 bestselling book, Rachel Hollis’ Girl Wash Your Face. “Make no mistake, sisters. This book is all about YOU.”

♦ Guest writer at Internet Monk: “It looks like the beginning of the end at Willow Creek. They aren’t saying that, but I feel like that’s what’s happening. If so, good riddance. And you can take the megachurch movement you spawned with you.”   [Ouch!]

♦ Charismatic Conglomerate: The parent company of Destiny Image Publishing has acquired Harrison House, home to many prosperity gospel and name-it-and-claim-it titles.

♦ CBN News: “When Influence Church Worship Pastor Michael Ketterer hit the stage Tuesday night for the live quarterfinal competition on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, he left the judges and the audience in tears – literally.” 

♫ The band I Am They: Official video for My Feet are on the Rock.

♦ Dumbest. Sermon. Series. Ever. Ed Young’s church presents Wrastlin’ featured in this 60-second preview. (Though he didn’t use these words, in this article, Tim Challies suggests this is the moment the attractional church model “jumped the shark.”)

♦ Finally, when The Onion isn’t funny: If anything, people were complaining that this story was too true-to-life.

September 2, 2018

A “Charmed Life” in Ministry

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:34 pm

For us, many elements of our married life have involved struggle or challenge. While my basic thesis on this is that “everyone has something they’re dealing with;” every once in a while I run into people who seem to be enjoying “a charmed life” when it comes to their vocational ministry career or life in general.

The Free Dictionary notes:

To lead a life characterized or seemingly protected by marked good fortune or luck, without (or rarely) encountering trouble, danger, or misfortune. Celebrities seem to live a rather charmed life, with everything handed to them on a silver platter.

Merriam-Webster offers this definition:

life protected as if by magic charms : a life unusually unaffected by dangers and difficulties.

I write this because I encountered two of them so far this weekend. They weren’t totally flaunting it, but for them, life is good right now.

Perhaps for you it’s not ministry per se, but simply people in your sphere of influence — friends, neighbors, extended family, work colleagues, fellow students, etc. — for whom everything is going g-r-e-a-t.

Here are five things to remember:

▬ Some people have an advantage because of the struggle. The refinement they are experiencing and the learning they are gaining through the challenges makes them better people.

▬ Some people are just good at covering up. They’re the ones whose life on Facebook seems so ideal, and yet the truth of their situation is vastly different from the pictures and picture captions they post.

▬ The key in these moments is to not to succumb to envy or covetousness. It’s not about your life versus theirs but about how you respond to the perceived inequities. In fact, why are you comparing at all?

▬ Life is made up of seasons. Two-to-five years now could find that them and yourselves have actually trade places. Maybe longer. Maybe shorter.

▬ When it’s your turn to experience an outpouring of blessing, don’t allow it to let you become proud or arrogant. Approach the positive seasons of life with humility and thanksgiving.

 

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