Thinking Out Loud

February 8, 2018

Times of Contraction

I checked through the archives here, and thought I had shared this before, but right now it’s eluding me.

I have a friend whose career resumé consists of working in these industries:

  • the post office
  • greeting cards
  • Christian publishing

The first was impacted greatly by the introduction of email. The second one equally so, along with generational attitudes toward sending cards, and increasing postal costs. The third — and reading in general — has been under attack from various factors which we’ve listed here before.

When I first met him, over a dozen years ago, he shared the challenge of working in industries going through periods of contraction. It’s counter-intuitive — I would argue especially for males — to not have the thing you’re giving your energies to be growing.

Yesterday morning, while shoveling snow, it occurred to me that this is true for the Church at large, as well as for local churches. The lament of many local church pastors is that attendance simply isn’t what it once was; that the church’s days of glory seem to be in the distant past; its best days are not ahead of it.

Contraction. It’s no fun.

For the Jewish people, it wasn’t about numbers; it was about exile. (Read more in this book review.) The minority status they experienced was partly numeric (though their numbers continued to grow, see Exodus 1:9) but partly due to living in a land that was not their own.

We are experiencing both situations.

Christianity in Western Europe has lost great numbers and influence. England followed suit. Then Canada. The United States is next, the trend continuing. One projection I saw had Islam as the largest religion in the U.S. in the year 2040. Really? In addition to being somewhat unbelievable when we currently see Evangelical megachurches everywhere there’s a convergence of major freeways, that’s only 22 years from now. One generation!

Are individual Christians strong enough to hang on to their faith in the middle of that?

Am I?

Are you? 

My friend who works in publishing soldiers on in the middle of many frustrating developments. His resilience — I would say his courage — in this is remarkable and encouraging. I look to him as an example of fighting on in the face of contracting numbers and influence. 

It was never about that in the first place.


September 3, 2014

Wednesday Link List

The cartoon is from ASBO Jesus, which sadly isn’t being updated. The lower one appeared here about five years ago, and was from Pundit Kitchen.

They call it Labor Day because on Tuesday we all had to work twice as hard to catch up. Take a few minutes to pause and do some clicking:

Link sleuth Paul Wilkinson is also available for private investigations if there’s a link in your life that’s gone missing.  Or, for free, you can read his blog, Thinking Out Loud.

church and state from pundit kitchen

October 24, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Insert your own introduction here.

  • Another Christian leader is brought down by a sex scandal. Not to be flippant, but we could probably do a weekly link list just on stories like this one.
  • Or this one.
  • Rob Bell is doing a January conference in LA for 50 pastors to spend two 12-hour days learning to improve their writing craft. (With a break for surfing.) (No, not internet surfing.) If that’s you, find out more about CraftLab.
  • I like this piece about making a faith-identification with people in the broader community, and then deciding if you and they want to get into a faith discussion.
  • In England they count as deaths, and more than a quarter of all deaths there are due to abortions.
  • In another link to The Christian post, a megachurch pastor questions the hype when his fellow megachurch pastors describe every Sunday as “super” or “biggest” or “best.”  Actually the one he used was “megamonster.” He thinks the hype is unsustainable.
  • The New Zealand Herald thinks Christianity is losing its world dominance, but one blogger doesn’t think we should accept that conclusion.
  • A reporter for the LA Times — who is looking to gauge success solely from the Billboard charts —  seems to think that Christian rock music is making a comeback.
  • An American currently living in Canada finds her present location gives here a fresh perspective on U.S. election issues.
  • So author Janette Oke wrote eight “Love Comes Softly” books, but when they got made into DVDs they added two prequels. 8 + 2 = 10, right? So when you buy the 10-disc box set why is there an 11th empty slot in the packaging? Answer: It’s for this one.
  • Here’s a new church video clip on the subject of insecurity. (Reminder, you have to buy these; they aren’t expensive; don’t stream them live during your service.)
  • Earlier in the summer,  James MacDonald & Co. boarded a bus for the 40-city Vertical Church tour. Here’s a video recap.
  • Memorized any Bible verses lately? A Canadian author once put this list together of 50 verses you should know by heart.
  • Drew Marshall had Bob Smietana as a guest this week. The Tennessee writer is an expert on snake-handling churches, but because newspapers are now denying access to their files, we can’t read his landmark article. Here’s a summary. as well as a version written originally for USAToday.
  • You’re trying to participate in an outdoor mass in Poland, but it’s so crowded the only place to stand is at the door of a sex shop.  Personally, I hate when that happens.
  • And while we’re on that subject, a hotel in Europe has replaced the Gideon Bibles with copies of 50 Shades of Gray. Author Shannon Ethridge takes a look at sexual fantasies in The Fantasy Fallacy. reviewed here.

September 25, 2012

A Response to the COEXIST Poster

source: Stand to Reason (STR) Blog

UPDATE (Dec. 4, 2012) As noted in a comment below, if you want to know more about the origin of this graphic visit

August 8, 2012

Wednesday Link List

…witty introduction…okay we don’t have one…

  • Okay, I don’t get paid to do this and I don’t have endless hours to do the research, but according to one source, The Jesus Deck is a harmless Christian educational product from the ’70s, while according to another it’s tantamount to ‘Christian Tarot cards.’  Since you guys always correct/update me, I’ll leave it to you to comment on this.
  • Are we actually allowed to disagree with John Piper online? I thought there was a law about that. Anyway, Peter Enns did a few weeks back, the full title of his article is: John Piper on Why “It’s Right for God to Slaughter Women and Children Anytime He Pleases” and Why I Have Some Major Problems with That. That’s a long post title. Are we actually allowed to do that, too?
  • CNN reported Thursday that a bill restricting protests and pickets at military funerals is a just steps away from being signed into law by President Obama. This means a certain fringe group and its wacko leader would be in direct contravention of a law should they decide to continue their media-attention-getting ways. Since most of the group is family members, and many of those family members are trained as lawyers, they should understand the consequences of transgression. Or will they?
  • For those of you willing to step outside the comfort zone of the Christian blogosphere, here is a guide to reading the blogs of atheists, agnostics and just plain skeptics.
  • Sikh and ye shall find: If the weekend shooting at a Sikh temple left you wondering where this religion fits in, here’s a link to the Wikipedia page on Sikhism.
  • “So if you’re a wife reading this, ask your husband, point blank, this simple question: ‘When was the last time you viewed pornography?’ If communication is good in your marriage, as it should be, he’ll answer your question directly and honestly. If your marriage needs help, he may hem, haw, stall, look away, get defensive, or act offended.” More by Eric Guel at Thinklings
  • I’ve gotten behind with the Phil Vischer Show podcast; they’re up to episode #11. Phil, Skye and Christian talk about Chick-Fil-A and how our society has come to associate brands with personal identity. They talk about the Olympics and then Skye and Phil answer the twitter question, “If you could add any pavilion to the future world at Epcot, what would it’s theme be?” Guest Scott Olsen, CEO of International Teams, talks about the changing face of world missions and social justice. 
  • Website of the Week: Life After Ministry: Leading Mormons to the Real Jesus Christ. Michelle, Kirk, Kent and Melissa have chronicled over 300 ‘dilemmas’ with LDS theology and teaching.
  • On July 23, 2011, nine-year-old Rachel Beckwith was killed in a tragic car accident on highway I-90 near Seattle, Washington. After her death, thousands of people all around the world started donating to her mycharity: water fundraising page, and over the course of a month, raised over $1.2 million in Rachel’s honor. That money is now helping 60,000 people get access to clean water. It’s been a year since the accident. In honor of the anniversary, Rachel’s mom and her grandparents visit Ethiopia with charity: water and meet some of the people Rachel helped. 
  • Really into Christian book authors? CrossTweet at Christian Book Videos is an index of the Twitter feeds of authors both established and fairly new; fiction and non-fiction.
  • Dan Gouge wrote a short interesting post about similarities between sports institutions and religious institutions, and then, a few days later, came across this 8-minute video about the sports element in custom funerals.
  • The cartoon turned up in a cleanup I’ve been doing; it’s the comic Simple Beasts circa 1989… Have a great week and remember to get link suggestions in by Monday evening.

January 8, 2011

Should Churches Rent Space to Other Faith Groups?

Martin left a comment at the end of Wednesday’s Link List this week that I promised myself I would spin off into a separate discussion, so that any of you who wished could join the thread. First, here’s what I wrote; it’s the first of the two links that matter, but for those of you who read this from Canada and will get the context, I’ve left the second link in as well:

  • While some “Christian” pastors — one anyway — want to burn the Qu’ran, Heartsong Church in Cordova, Tennessee has “a more welcoming approach.” ” Steve Stone and his congregants put out a sign welcoming incoming neighbors at the Memphis Islamic Center. The church then allowed these Muslim neighbors to use their sanctuary as a makeshift mosque throughout Ramadan while the Islamic Center was under construction.”  Read more at Christianity Today.
  • As strange as that story may be, it’s also the basis for a Canadian situation comedy now in its 5th season.  The new season of Little Mosque on the Prairie kicked off on Monday night with an episode that makes the Imam look a lot more appealing — i.e. “nicer” — than the Anglican minister who is renting the Islamic congregation its space.   Watch past episodes at CBC-TV.

A day later, this was Martin’s comment:

Brilliant…a pastor turns a Christian church into a place that allows a 1400 year old cult to practice their blasphemous faith. What would Jesus do? Would that same church lovingly open its arms to a Wiccan ritual service in their basement? Think not!

It doesn’t matter how many practice this cult or how accepted it is (by forced ‘tolerance’ imposed by daftly ignorant political proponents), the Muslim faith is anti-semetic, anti-christian and encourages shari’a law that oppresses its women.

Why not open your church to the needy, the unfortunate, the mother and child with no place to stay…a few cots and a shower stall. But open doors to a cult that believes Christianity’s Christ was too good to die for our sins? … That believes that it’s okay to ‘Slay them (Christians, Jews) where you find them’ (or tax the living crap out of them if they don’t convert)… That believes the only way to know the Q’uran’s truth is to learn Arabic – ancient Arabic?

Yeah, sure…c’mon in…it’s stupid in here.

Waiter, I’ll take my reality-cheque now.

The first thing I need to do here obviously is insert a disclaimer.  The views expressed in the comment above and those that follow are those of the writers. There are variances among followers of the Islamic faith just as there are variances among the practices of various Christian denominations. I’m not looking for comments here as to the essence of Muslim doctrine and ethics.

I am simply looking for further responses to Martin’s comment.

The CT article seemed to put a positive spin on this — certainly justified in light of the other option I mention in the link list — but the CT comments are not as kind:

  • Muslims believe Jesus was just a prophet and that he married and moved to Asia where he died. He was not resurrected, he definitely is not the Son of God. So, when they enter a sanctuary and worship there it means to other Muslims that they have conquered for Islam the territory they have moved into and which is owed to Muslims by God. Burning a Koran or a Bible doesn’t match burning to death non Muslims in their worship space and their homes in Muslim minds… (Anna)
  • Evangelize them, debates them, pray for them, love them, and demonstrate the Fruit of the Spirit, but please do not allow them to worship in your Sanctuary or use any of your grounds. I suggest to those who think this is okay to research how Islamic Law implements property rights… (former Muslim student)
  • …That besides however, I must say that lending them facilities, buildings or whatever else have you that were built by the sometimes hard earned money and resources of Christians now gone. It’s an absolute NO NO! It will create confusion among new and young believers and among our children. I believe 1st Cor. 10:21; Eph. 5:6,7; 1st Pet. 4:4; 2nd Jn. 1:10,11 correctly applies here among others… (Salero)
  • I’ve been involved with reaching out to Muslims the last 20 years. Offering a church facility to be used for the purposes of a Mosque is not a good idea. There is an entire spiritual element that is present and proclaimed that is unbiblical. Just read Galatians 1:6-9 to begin to pick up on the spiritual implications. It is far better to be Biblical than try to demonstrate some form of religious correctness… (Mark)
  • …I see no reason why a church should not use its building as a means to help a group of Muslims, especially if part of their purpose is to demonstrate Christ’s love with a view to possible evangelism.  [and then, just 20 minutes later] …We certainly don’t wish to further the cause of a false religion, and allowing them to worship in our facility may do just that. On the other hand, a building is just a building, and those who compare it to a temple or a sacred site seem to be confusing Old and New Testament places of worship… (Galen)
  • While I could understand the good neighborliness of offering space for non-worship activities, I think the author has missed the point of view of many strict Muslims. Once worship of Allah has taken place in a venue, it has been “sanctified” by that, and reverting to Christian worship (which Muslims see as heretical, since Christians are seen by them as among those who have “gone astray”) would be problematic for Muslims… (Phyllis)
  • 2 Corinthians 6:16 states “… what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” Yes, personally we are to show love to all, no matter what their beliefs. But to facilitate the false worship of Islam in a Christian church is totally different and has nothing to do with Christian love… (John)
  • Christ drove the money changers from the temple for misusing that sacred space. An Islamic worship service is a similar misuse of a sacred space. Our attempts to be Christ-like should be rooted in scripture and truth, not vague impressions about what we think Christ would do.  (D.S.)
  • So, Pastor Stone, you’re saying that in your mind Jesus would find it acceptable for the Golden Calf that the Israelites were worshiping to be bought into your church and worshiped again? I agree with the struggle to figure out how to best love the Muslims of the world. But sanctioning false worship and idolatry is not the way to go about it. In our rush to love we go to extremes. It does not have to be Stone’s method or the Burn the Koran method. We should find the balance in between where we can love but still hold fast to Truth.  (Michael)

Looks like Martin held the majority view.  These are just a few of the comments left at CT and it may well be you choose to add yours using the link at the very top of this post.

And what about other faith groups?  Are there some groups whose presence you would consider acceptable?

January 14, 2009

Barna Group Finds Christianity Losing Dominance as America’s Default Faith

Filed under: Christianity, Faith, Religion — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:13 pm

“You’re from the States? Then you must be a Christian”

(Ventura, California) – For much of America’s history, the assumption was that if you were born in America, you would affiliate with the Christian faith. A new nationwide survey by The Barna Group, however, indicates that people’s views have changed. The study discovered that half of all adults now contend that Christianity is just one of many options that Americans choose from and that a huge majority of adults pick and choose what they believe rather than adopt a church or denomination’s slate of beliefs. Still, most people say their faith is becoming increasingly important as a source of personal moral guidance.

Continue reading the Barna Group press release here.

September 9, 2008

5,000 Years of Religion in 90 Seconds

Filed under: Christianity, Religion — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:27 pm

How has the geography of religion evolved over the centuries, and where has it sparked wars? Our map gives us a brief history of the world’s most well-known religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. Selected periods of inter-religious bloodshed are also highlighted. Want to see 5,000 years of religion in 90 seconds? Ready, Set, Go!

~from the preamble to “5,000 Years of Religion in 90 Seconds”

We tried, many, many times to embed this here like bloggers Frank Turk and Jim Upchurch did last week, but without success.   So we’ll simply tell you to link here.   It’s certainly worth it.

When you get there, you’ll see a 90-second flash presentation from Maps of War which shows the spread of the major religions of the world geographically.   It might take about a minute to load.

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