Thinking Out Loud

May 19, 2017

Church Continuity, Summer Shutdowns and the Lake House Mentality

There was a time I thought this was more of Canadian thing, but apparently it happens in various types of churches: Big and small, urban and rural, independent and denominational, established and recently planted. We call it ‘Summer Shutdown.’ Simply put it means that many of the programs of the church start shutting down at the end of April and don’t resume again until after Labor Day (that’s the week after the August Bank Holiday for you Brits.)

The logic in shutting down various children’s programs has to do with competition from evening sports programs, particularly kids baseball and soccer (that’s football for you Brits.)

The logic in shutting down the Thursday morning ladies prayer time totally escapes me (that’s ‘totally escapes me’ for you Brits.)

This phenomenon seems to be more pronounced in North America, but here in Ontario it is coupled with something called ‘the cottage mentality.’ Perhaps where you live the term cabin is more prevalent than cottage. Or the lake house. It means that if it is the weekend in June, July, or August; one is officially at their summer cottage, even if they don’t actually own one. This means that the summer shutdown becomes evident even in the Sunday morning programming of the churches here.

To me, this just leaves a lot of people detached from other people; it leaves them with feelings of isolation and loneliness; it leaves them with more inactivity; and it leaves them increasingly disconnected from their local church. As I wrote recently,

Imagine the greatest institution the world has ever seen suddenly shutting shop. Imagine a movement so powerful that nothing can stop it dispersing its followers for an extended holiday. Imagine the Church of Jesus Christ simply not being there for the hungry, the thirsty, the needy.

It waves the white flag of surrender to the calendar, the school year, football games, and the arrival of hot and humid weather. It gives up because so-called “key leadership” decided to spend weekends at the lake. It broadcasts the message that summer ministry simply isn’t worth the bother. It says, “There’s a big game being televised so probably nobody is going to show up anyway.”

I remember one woman returning to church in September after an absence of at least 90 days, announcing to all nearby that she was back and ready to help “whip this place back into shape.” That did not go over well among those who had been faithful throughout the warmer months. She wanted to pick up the pieces and create a fresh start, when in fact the church had a colorful and vibrant ministry during the weeks she was at the cabin enjoying the sunshine, the barbecue and the swimming.

The loss of continuity here is gigantic. I have however noticed that among some megachurches the programs just become so overarching that it is impossible to curtail them in the summer months. This may actually be a major positive attribute for megachurches at a time when people are so quick to emphasize their negatives. But then these same megachurches will have a weekend where the simply shut down everything altogether. Everything. The doors are locked. For you mainline Protestants, think of it as the non-Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Can you imagine a Roman Catholic church not having the mass the week after Christmas? Or a long weekend? No. Neither can I. Where did this day-off-mentality come from anyway?

Two years ago I wrote on this subject with respect to a church which also shuts down the week after Christmas:

We live at a time when people are taking an extremely casual approach to church attendance. Families with children have already sacrificed weekly continuity on the altar of getting their kids into team sports: Soccer, baseball, three-pitch, t-ball, gymnastics, swim teams, etc. What hasn’t been destroyed by athletics has been decimated by dads working weekend shifts or moms working retail Sunday openings.

These days, if you can get a family out to church 26 out of 52 Sundays, you’re doing well.

So why chop that down to only 50 Sundays? Why create even the most subtle suggestion that taking time off church is perfectly acceptable?

We did attend a local church since moving to this small town where the Sunday School ministry didn’t really miss a beat in the summer. I noted their dedication. It was like they believed in a God that doesn’t take three months off each summer. Last year however, they succumbed to the influence of what other churches are doing.

So here’s to those local churches who provide spiritual nurture at full throttle during the holiday months. Good on ya. People are hungry for more of God’s word and teaching, and also opportunities for fellowship twelve months of the year. I’m willing to bet there are stories of spiritual starvation that take place when ‘spiritual providers’ take off. I’d like to start a crusade to fight on behalf of those who are simply not looking forward to the next few months of meetings suspended until the fall. Some of those are hurting and some are lonely.

The people making the decision to curtail programming or shut down a particular weekend are usually well-connected and have lots of social activity planned for the time they are away.

For many large churches, it’s all or nothing. They can’t do small church anymore. Think about it:

The modern megachurch simply cannot offer an alternative service in a smaller room in the church where Mrs. Trebleclef will play some well known choruses or hymns on the keyboard (or Mr. Coolhair on the guitar), the head of Men’s Ministry will speak, and then we’ll have a coffee time in the atrium. That would be a simple service. It would involve said pianist, the person giving the short devotional message, and the person to make the coffee, as well as someone to unlock the doors and check the restrooms before locking up. But that’s not the brand these churches want to offer. You can’t have a simple, grassroots service like that. Better to have locked doors.

So where do those KidMin, worship and parking volunteers come from on Christmas and holidays? They don’t. You change up the brand image for the sake of one Sunday and using a skeleton staff, offer something for the people who really need to be connected. Maybe not Mrs. T. on the piano. Maybe it’s a film. It might involve a guest speaker or guest musicians. Perhaps it’s a shorter service. 

Sadly however, this is not going to happen. ‘It’s not how we do things.

Wanna buck the trend? Light a candle! Use the summer to invite people over to your home for informal events. Can’t lead a Bible study? Just find a good teaching DVD and set up the machine in the living room; make some coffee and then let whatever is meant to happen next, simply happen. There are sermon DVDs from pastors you’ve heard of available as downloads online, you can purchase some from various ministry organizations, or you can buy them at Christian bookstores.

Can’t lead a Bible study? Don’t do anything fancy. Just pick a short Biblical book, invite people over; make the aforementioned coffee; and start in on chapter one. Don’t even suggest getting together the following week for chapter two; let those who are present suggest that. (Some may offer their home for the following week, especially if you don’t have air-conditioning!)

Counter the summer shutdown mentality with impromptu, informal events in your home this summer. And no, you don’t need your pastor’s permission; in fact, make it a non-church event by inviting some people from a different church. Or if the DVD has good outreach potential, invite some non-churched neighbors.


If you feel like you’ve read this before here, you have. This is a recurring, annual Thinking Out Loud rant. But this time around the rant you’re reading is a mash-up of four previous articles with additional content.

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January 28, 2017

What Americans Wanted

“These presidential orders are what many Christians voted for. This is the fruit of their political labor, but it’s not the Fruit of the Spirit.”

face-of-refugee-crisis

“For the last few years Christians have been singing worship songs that include lyrics like “keep my eyes above the waves, when oceans rise …” and yet have rejected refugees who’ve seen loved ones die beneath waves, who themselves have literally struggled to keep from drowning in oceans. Those American Christians — particularly white evangelicals — continue to sing the words: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders …” but fail to realize the shameful irony that they’re largely responsible for refusing shelter and opportunity to some of the world’s most helpless and oppressed people…”

…Continue reading Stephen Mattson’s article American Christianity Has Failed at Sojourners.


January 21, 2017

When the Cause is Worth Jail Time

january-17-2017-supreme-court-death-penalty-protest

There were 18 people arrested this week protesting the death penalty on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, but it was Christian author and social activist Shane Claiborne who got my attention. Maybe it’s because I’ve read his books or that we met once briefly. Coincidentally, I was combing through old blog posts here looking for something else, and I stumbled across something we ran by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove — who is also a friend to Shane — explaining to his kids why he was in jail after a different but equally important event. I thought I would re-run that here today, but then I found something Shane posted upon his release, so today you get both.

First, Shane’s video: (Posted January 19, 2017.)

Second, the piece from Jonathan:  (This appear on his blog on June 5, 2013; it was a different issue, but action borne from equally strong convictions.)

A Letter to My Kids: Why I Got Arrested

Dear JaiMichael and Nora,

Since we went to Moral Monday together a couple of weeks ago, I’ve wanted to sit down and write to both of you to tell you why I got arrested—why I wasn’t home that evening to read you your stories and say prayers with you. I’ve rarely felt happier than I did that evening when the bus pulled out to take us to jail. I looked up and saw the two of you standing with mom, waving good-bye even though you couldn’t see me through the wire mesh of the bus window. Thank you for being there for me.

As you both know, we live in a hospitality house and share our life with other people because God has given us this way of life as a gift. It’s not always easy to greet every knock at the door, eager to see Jesus in the stranger. But that’s what we try to do because this is where Jesus promised to meet us. Indeed, the two of you are teaching me much about how to do this as you grow up at Rutba House.

One of the things we know about God’s family is that we don’t all look the same. Even though you are brother and sister, your skin is not the same color. Uncle Matt and Uncle Vern are not the same color. This is how it is in God’s family.

You also know the story of how Grandma Ann, when she was working to integrate the schools here in Durham, became friends with a white man who had led the Ku Klux Klan. Some people say strong black women and white men in the KKK shouldn’t become friends. But Grandma Ann and Mr. Ellis realized that when poor black people are pitted against poor white people, all children suffer. They became friends because they learned a better way.

Some people say that parents should work as hard as they can to give their kids all the opportunities that are available in our society—that this is what it means to be a good parent. I know you’ve been disappointed at times when you didn’t get to have a video game or wear the coolest new clothes. But your mom and I believe that the best life for you (and for us) is a life in the beloved community that Grandma Ann and others worked for—the life that God wants to give us in relationship with others who are not like us.

The men who run our Legislature in Raleigh right now are people who love their kids like I love you. They are afraid because they believe that the inheritance they have to pass on to their children is the wealth that they’ve been able to accumulate. They do not want to see that inheritance squandered by others whom they think undeserving. They are determined to defend their way of life at any cost.

But we believe they are wrong because we know a better way of life. We have asked them to consider the pain they are causing others by pursuing their own interests. They have refused to listen. Because they have power right now, they don’t have to listen to what we say. They can have us arrested and taken away.

But what they are doing cannot last forever because it is not true. God will stop them; we don’t have to. But I chose to get arrested because I don’t want those men to miss out on God’s great party. I want them to know that there is a better way—that they do not have to listen to our worst fears and re-play the worst chapters of our past.

I want them to know that God has invited them to be part of the beloved community too.

Thank you both for being there in Raleigh with the thousands of others who want a better future for our state. And thanks for helping mom get everything done at home while I was gone. I know it is not always easy to invite everyone in—even the legislators who do not want to listen. But, like I said, I’m grateful to both of you for showing me how to extend the invitation with enthusiasm.

I love you both,

Dad

Two other arrest perspectives appeared on Jonathan’s blog around the same time; from a Political Science professor, and a School Board member

Third, back to the present, here’s the perspective of another one of the 18 people arrested which describes in detail the ordeal the protesters went through following their arrest. (There are other articles at the same website, RedLetterChristians.org) (Excerpt below.)

january-17-2017-protesters-arrested

Would you be willing to do this for something you believe in? 


Read more: Additional pictures and video of Sojourners’ Lisa Sharon Harper arrested at the protest.

December 22, 2016

Christmas Alone

cd-on-cd-editedI’ve mentioned elsewhere on the blog that each Christmas Day our family has assisted, in varying degrees, with a project started here over a decade ago, the Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day.

The December 25th noontime meal — a full turkey-and-all-the-trimmings dinner — originated in a community that my wife co-founded, the purpose of which was to serve people on the margins, people living on welfare, or working people unable to have good, nutritious, tasty food.

But as we engaged people in conversation, we realized that many people attending were people of means. There was a donation box if people cared to help out, and some of these people had no hesitation in dropping a $20 bill or even $50. The reason is simple: They just didn’t want to be alone on Christmas Day. They wanted to feel part of a community.

Many of these accomplished this by serving as volunteers. There was no shortage of people willing to help in the kitchen — where my oldest son served as lead cook — or as table hosts. If pressed however, they would confess that their need to be with other people on the 25th was equal or greater to the poor people we were serving, but it was social, not financial.

cd-on-cd-generic

Alone on Christmas Day.

That’s something I can’t imagine. In her later years, transporting my mom to our place simply got too complicated. As I stated, my wife had been a co-founder of the organization from which the Christmas Dinner was a spinoff, but we hadn’t attended the earlier iterations of it because of my mother staying with us. But when that ceased to be an option — we then visited her on the 26th — she told us how the seniors’ home pretty much cleared out on the 25th, with only a core staff and a handful of residents. I would imagine some of her fellow residents felt rather melancholy. At least my mom got a couple of phone calls and knew we’d be there the next day.

Well…all that to say this…

I came across something on social media that arrested me in my tracks earlier today. A group of people for whom the holidays means loneliness and isolation, because they can’t go home. The writer posted:

A shout-out and lots of love and good wishes to LGBTQ members who can’t go home for the holidays because of hate and misunderstanding

Wow.

So…told not to come home, or choosing a self-imposed exile?

In the former case, I can’t imagine saying to one of my kids, “We don’t want you here.” But it happens. I’ll bet it happens many times with Christian parents, too.

In the latter case, I can’t imagine one of my kids feeling so unwanted — feeling so strongly that going home is not an option — that they would prefer to stay away. Sad to say, I’ll bet some of those are Christian homes as well.

But this isn’t an issue in my family. That’s why the social media post shocked me, I guess.

Thankfully, another group in a nearby community is doing the Christmas Dinner this year. It’s actually the town where the first one started, but then the event was split into two locations. While I don’t know the serving team — and we’ve opted to stay home this year — I’m glad there is a place for people to go on the 25th.

Clearly, the above example illustrates we don’t always know why people show up for something like this, and in the case of a younger person who simply isn’t welcome with the rest of their family, they’re not likely to want to share the whole story.

But we can be thankful that people organize events like the Christmas Dinner. If there’s one in your community, contact them and ask if they’re in need of any last-minute food donations or kitchen help. Sometimes it’s just a matter of peeling potatoes the day before and you can still do your own Christmas thing on the day.

It will bless you as much as it blesses them.

 


A disclaimer: Sadly, among readers here will be those who have no sympathy for this situation at all, and others who may assume that by posting this I have strong gay sympathies. I hope instead you will reconsider the teachings of Jesus in general and in particular the Parable of the Prodigal Son and realize that our only response in a situation like this is love and acceptance. Heck, even countries at war will announce a cease-fire for Christmas Day. How can we not do the same?

July 9, 2014

Wednesday Link List

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I was looking around for pictures of the 2014 Wild Goose Festival, and found this one from 2013.  Anyone know the backstory on this?

Now that the eye burn-in from weekend fireworks has faded, it’s time to see what people have been reading over the past few days:

Not sure of the origin of the picture below. It was captioned, “What Happened to the Dinosaurs” and the picture file was labeled “Shoo!”

What Happened to the Dinosaurs

August 14, 2012

Upgraded To First Class… For Four Minutes

Filed under: ethics — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:54 am

James Thornber is a blogger with a fascinating story who we discovered because his blog has the same name as this one, Thinking Out Loud. Last week he shared this story:

Sometimes life hands you an opportunity to do something nice for people, and all you can do is stand back and watch it unfold. Barbara and I were returning home from California last week and were upgraded to first class. What a blessing! But that blessing lasted just a few moments before we saw an opportunity to do something even better. Better than first class? You bet.

As we waited to board our flight from Dallas/Ft. worth to Tulsa, we heard our name called over the speaker, requesting us to come to the check-in desk. The agent told us that they would like to move us to first class in order to keep another family together on the plane. I said to the agent, “Alexis, you are our new best friend.” She smiled, handed us our tickets and said we could board the plane. Yep, first class, folks! We’re flying First CLASS!!

I can now tell you that, after spending the previous three hours sitting in the economy section with our backs against the restrooms in the tail of the plane, the first class seats are amazing. They are wide, comfortable leather seats, big enough to accommodate both of us in one seat if we wanted, and leg room for someone and a foot and a half taller. We sat down a little dazed at our amazing luck.

Now it was us who got to feel like rich, important people as the remainder of the poor economy class folks boarded the plane, looking us over to see if we might be a celebrity or a famous sports figure. At least, that’s what I do when I walk through first class.

you’re almost half-way, continue reading

December 14, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Christmas List Lynx

Here’s this week’s list; remember to have your suggestions in by 8:00 PM on Mondays to make sure that they get considered.

  • North Point Community Church’s “Be Rich” campaign breaks all previous records for giving to local charities as reported at CBS News Atlanta.
  • For those of you who missed the last decade completely, the BBC re-traces the history of the WWJD slogan in light of its re-emergence in the Occupy Protests.
  • This week’s top music video release introduces recent Nashville resident, singer-songwriter Jesse Santoyo.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling means the end of churches meeting in schools in New York City and eventually, beyond.
  • Vital question for worship leaders — and others — at Zac Hicks’ blog: Is the Lord’s Supper a Funeral or a Feast? s
  • Churches in Santa Monica, California are almost completely shut out of the 21 spaces where they normally erect nativity scenes because of strategic planning by atheist groups.
  • If you’re into Bible translation issues, here are three academic presentations on video by NIV, ESV and HCSB representatives, and a Q&A and response video with all three, from Liberty University’s Bible Translation Symposium.
  • Lost files found: This has been bookmarked in my computer since February; it’s a short article by a Minneapolis author, Tyler Blanski who has a book with Zondervan forthcoming later in 2012.  This deals with rethinking sexuality or you could check out his blog.
  • Lost files found #2: Another February flashback, Perry Noble asks if there’s anything you’re holding on to that God wants you to let go.
  • From our Pastor True Confessions Department, Kevin Rogers gives his personal reasons for not practicing the spiritual discipline of fasting.
  • Video recently posted, but apparently dating back to 1989, here’s a cultural artifact guaranteed to make you smile. Or something.
  • A Kentucky pastor reports he has canceled a church vote banning interracial couples. But you get the impression this fight ain’t over.
  • This video is from last year, and we may have linked to it then, but I needed something seasonal, right? Enjoy The Digital Story of the Nativity.
  • Mark Galli says there’s a need right now for more chaplains and fewer leaders. Sample: “We find ourselves in an odd period of church history when many people have become so used to large, impersonal institutions that they want that in their church as well.” This discussion really swims against the current.
  • Another Christianity Today item: Anthony D. Baker surveys what’s going on in church life, particularly as it affects our children, and finds us doing all manner of things except actually teaching the gospel.
  • First there was Rachel Held Evans’ 2010 list of 13 things that make her “…A Lousy Evangelical,”  and now it’s Michael Camp’s 31 reasons why he “…Left Evangelicalism and Became a Progressive, Not a Liberal.”
  • Big Bang Theory Department: Scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider believe they have confirmed the existence of The God Particle.
  • Ever been in a group of people where someone outside the circle only asks the husbands the “What do you do for a living?” question? Michelle Garred guests at Eugene Cho‘s blog.
  • Sadly for some, this time of year is just an excuse to drink, even if they do so in the name of remembering ‘the reason for the season’ as this advent calendar found at Ironic Catholic indicates:

April 13, 2011

Wednesday Link List


  • Was going to link the above video, but decided it really needed to be here on its own.
  • Kathy Escobar gets invited to speak at a graduation by someone who wants to inspire the students by pushing the envelope; but then, when word is out that a woman pastor has been asked to speak, she gets un-invited.
  • It turns out Bethany Hamilton’s family had a tough fight with the film directors to keep the faith element visible in the movie Soul Surfer.  But the CNN article notes that removing the faith element would have killed the film entirely.
  • Rick Kirkpatrick launched a new site Worship Mythbusters which introduces an audio podcast — there are six so far — for worship leaders (and others) which runs about a half hour.  (We listened to episode three.)
  • “He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…”  Most of us know this passage in Philippians well, and have assumed it to be an early church hymn, but Gordon Fee suggests it doesn’t fit an established pattern.
  • Mark Batterson figured the next phase for D.C.’s National Community Church would involve 3 to 4 years.  Then God said, “How about 3 to 4 weeks?”  The church is purchasing an existing church building on a Capitol Hill main street.
  • XXXChurch founder Craig Gross reminds us again what we’ve been hearing for a few years now: Addiction to adult content online is increasingly a problem for women.
  • Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like reviews last Friday night’s 20/20 program at ABC Television dealing with the IFB Church, or Independent Fundamentalist Baptists.  Speaking of which…
  • A young girl was allegedly removed from a Mennonite home where parents were following the book Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl, but because this child didn’t die, it didn’t get media attention.
  • David Fitch argues for a different type of church leader, with a half dozen descriptions of what that leader is, and what he or she isn’t.
  • My goodness!  There really is a typo in the climactic final line of Rob Bell’s Love Wins. Guess it happens to the best of them, right?
  • Bob Glenn acknowledges the WWJD type of thinking is harmful as it reduces Christian living to a slogan.
  • It’s time again for Kent Shaffer’s list of the top 200 Christian blogs.  And once again, I am quite sure, this blog was # 201!!
  • Rachel Held Evans quotes her own book with a disturbing suggestion that in advancing apologetics, we created a monster.
  • If you remember the humor and satire blog, Tom in the Box, you might want to know that it has somewhat resurfaced as The Heretic Mug Collection.
  • And Jason Boyett has mellowed out a little at his new home at Beliefnet. Check out his series of interviews on different types of “conversion” experiences.
  • On February 25th, Jim Lehmer decided that social media is about to collapse, and he hasn’t blogged since.  Obviously getting ready for what he calls, “the great un-friending.’
  • Is it just me or does pastor Steven Furtick’s blog render completely differently in Firefox than it does in Chrome?
  • To wrap up this week… If you’re the parent of a tween, you already know who Rebecca Black is, and the song that what follows below is a well-done parody of… (I think they actually improved the song!)

May 4, 2009

Monday Links — Christian News Update


Shack Publisher To Launch Music Division

Christian Retailing — a bookstore trade magazine published by the same people who publish Charisma magazine — is announcing that “The publishing newcomers behind Christian fiction phenomenon The Shack are hoping for a repeat success in the music world. Windblown Records, a new division of Windblown Media–the company formed to publish William P. Young’s novel after it was turned down by more than 20 established publishers–has released My Beautiful One. The 12-track CD features instrumental arrangements of worship songs by Chris DuPré.” …Continue reading the whole story here.


Adam Gregory To Star in WWJD Movie

The website Country Standard Time is reporting that Adam Gregory will star in a movie based on the book that inspired the whole WWJD phenomenon a few years ago. “…The upcoming film “WWJD” [is] based on one of the best-selling Christian books of all-time… Gregory’s original song What Would Jesus Do from his recent Canadian release “Crazy Days” will also be featured in the film. The song was co-written by Keith Follese and Billy Yates. …Filming on the project begins this week in Los Angeles.” The book referred to is In His Steps by Charles Sheldon. …Read the entire story here.


Jesus More Popular Than Beatles

John Lennon may have once suggested that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, but at the first ever auction in the 44-year history of the Hollywood Wax Museum, the wax figures of the Beatles fetched only $13,000; compared to $15,000 for Jesus and His disciples at The Last Supper. To read the short report at the Starpulse Entertainment site, link here.


Afghan Official Calls for Bible Distribution Probe

“A former Afghan official says an investigation should be conducted into U.S. soldiers allegedly trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.” So begins a report from United Press International (UPI) in which a former Afghan Prime Minister suggests that what the soldiers are doing is outside the limits of the U.S.’ own constitution. Continue reading the UPI story here.


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