Thinking Out Loud

January 17, 2018

Wednesday Link List

Panama Clerical Shirt: What pastors wear on vacation.

These lists are different each week, and this time around, the first few offer some brain-stretching opportunities to think about doctrine and theology. Plus as an extra exercise in equal time, many of these are from Reformed/Calvinists sources. See…we can play nice, sometimes.

Comics: Mary Worth, 2016 (upper), Bizarro, 2018 (lower)

Digging a Little Deeper

From the creator of Thinking Out Loud, check out Christianity 201. Guaranteed distraction-free faith blogging with fresh posts every day. www.Christianity201.wordpress.com

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January 15, 2018

Another Reason the Kids Aren’t at Church

Looks like nearly half of the 15 kids in this class are on their way to a ‘perfect attendance’ award; leading some Children’s Ministry directors to suspect this image is more fantasy than reality in many of our churches.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Sunday School classrooms were adorned with attendance charts with stickers applied for each Sunday kids were present. Today, those charts would be rather spotty as church attendance has suffered greatly over the past 20 years.

Back then we also were graded on a weekly point system with points applied for:

  • being present
  • being on time
  • bringing your Bible
  • bringing some money for offering
  • knowing the memory verse
  • completing the lesson in the “quarterly” (often done in the car en route to church)1
  • staying for “big church” afterwards

The Christian Education (CE) curricula of those days weren’t perfect, perhaps; but over a 3-4 year cycle we were exposed to the major body of Christian literature. Today I’m grateful to be Biblically literate2 and especially for the verses committed to memory, something harder to accomplish as you get older.

So why aren’t the kids showing up more consistently these days? In past writing and discussion I’ve always isolated two reasons:

  • Sports: Sunday morning and midweek programs for kids and teens is taking a major hit because of scheduling of competitions and practices involving soccer, baseball, swimming, gymnastics and for those of us in Canada, hockey.
  • Shift Work: Families with a single vehicle find it impossible3 to get to church if someone has to work a Sunday morning shift (or is coming off a midnight shift).

However, in a discussion last week with a CE specialist — today sometimes referred to as a KidMin specialist — I realized I was completely overlooking a significant factor.

  • Custody Arrangements: When spending the weekend with one parent, church is part of the package, but the other parent doesn’t attend, so on those weeks the kids don’t get to connect.

I asked this person how many children in her program would be affected by this, and she said, “20 percent; adding, “I have kids for whom I’ll put some extra weeks of material together for them to take home, knowing I may not see them for a few weeks.”

(Related: If you missed our 3-part series on divorce, guest-written by a youth ministry specialist, click this link.)

We don’t have room to get into this here, but statistically, if the male parent takes the kids, there is greater likelihood of the children continuing to attend church as adults.4

Either way, not only do the kids miss the benefits of the lessons presented, but they also miss the more consistent contact with their church friends, often the only Christian friends they have. By the end of my junior year in high school (Grade 11 for my Canadian readers5) my friends were largely church friends, not school or part-time-job friends. If weekend services are missed, but they get to a solid midweek program at the church, much is redeemed, but the same factors (shift work, custody, and especially, sports) play havoc with those as well.

Then there is the issue of blended families. One parent may wish to take his children or her kids to church on Sunday morning, but the other kids weren’t raised with it. Just as water seeks its lowest level, I think you know that this might easily end up with the church-raised kids wanting to opt out for whatever reason.6

With the divorce rate showing no sign of changing, this is going to continue to be a challenge facing the church at large.7 You can’t have teens leaving church who were rarely there to begin with. 

If yours is a traditional family, encourage your kids to build friendships with those whose attendance is sporadic because of any of the three issues mentioned at the top of the article and then offer to pick up these kids and drive them to church yourselves.

 


1 If the church could afford the lesson books for each kid. Our church did for awhile, but we used a 6-point evaluation system, and I’m not sure which one in the list wasn’t included. Today, the cash cow for curriculum developers is VBS, and I suspect that many churches pour a lot of their CE budget there, instead of on weekly lesson workbooks.

2 Somewhat Biblically literate, that is; please don’t challenge me to a Bible trivia contest. For some reason I do not fare well at those.

3 Even if the parents weren’t attending, getting the kids to Sunday School was easier when there was a church bus available. Today, the phrase ‘church bus’ is a bit of an anachronism.

4 Focus on the Family did this research in the 1990s, I think. Extrapoloating from this, I’ve developed a theory that it’s equally important for kids to have memories of the male parent reading. (Related, see this item re. Bill Hybels’ ‘Chair Time’ concept.)

5 The American system of ‘freshman, sophomore, junior, senior’ is now under attack because of the men in freshman. To non-Americans, junior would tend to imply the first year of high school or college.

6 In some middle school and high school communities, it isn’t cool to go to church. But churches such as North Point have created curricula that the kids and teens find to be the highlight of their week. They can’t wait to get there each weekend.

7 For more about the impact of kids being shuttled back and forth between custodial parents, check out the 2008 Abingdon title, The Switching Hour.

 

January 10, 2018

Wednesday Link List

Not exactly Willow Tree, is it? A poster at Reddit described these three as his Grandma’s badass angel statues. (Left to right: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.)

This week’s list begins below, but we wanted to take a minute to provide you with some particular links — out of many that we looked at — for what was undoubtedly the Christian newsmaker of the week, Andy Savage.

The Iberian Lynx filling in for the semi-regular Wednesday List Lynx.

Now on to the balance of this week’s stories and opinion pieces.

That’s it for this week. Keep those cards and letters coming in folks; preferably by 6:00 PM on Monday. Speaking of the first day of the work week, the closing graphic is from Happy Monday at Clark Bunch’s blog.

 

January 3, 2018

Wednesday Link List

English to English translation of KJV text proves too difficult for current computer technology.

This is list #391. Nine more to go!

Wittenburg Door classic

December 27, 2017

Wednesday Link List

This is the original; we actually ran the second one a few years back. From InterVarsity’s media production ministry, TwentyOneHundred Productions.

Warning: We have a lot of material this week from some really different sources concerning a variety of topics. Remember that being included in the link list does not in any way imply endorsement of the authors, their perspective or the website.

  • Essay of the Week: “We have replaced rich, robust theology in the church with emotional music and constant reminders that “God is love and loves you and He’s your personal Savior and loves your soul…” These words are great at bringing outsiders through the doors (because they’re true by and large) but poor at growing believers into mature witnesses with rich understanding of the deep things of God.” The Dumbing Down of Christianity.
  • “Find the Perfect Gift.” So it’s hard to believe this, but the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) deemed this gentle and minimalist communiqué to be ‘issue-oriented advertising,’ forbidden under a 2015 WMATA policy directive. So did U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who on December 9 rejected the archdiocese’s claim that WMATA’s refusal to post the ad violated its First Amendment right of free speech. WMATA had defined ‘issue-oriented’ to include ads that ‘promote or oppose religion.'” (Nice way of rewriting the U.S. Constitution, don’t you think?) 
  • Catholic Corner: This story was everywhere yesterday. “A Catholic Bishop and Cardinal are protecting a Catholic Governor in New York that is enabling countless sexual predators and pedophiles to escape prosecution.” Why Pope Francis needs to intervene.  
  • After the Pastor Dies: Not knowing the significance the day would have, the writer of this piece had long planned a visit to St. Andrews Chapel in Orlando. It would be the church’s first Sunday without their Copastor, R. C. Sproul
  • Is this the Right Solution? After a gunman killed 26 worshippers during a Sunday service last month, licensed handgun owners in Texas can now legally carry firearms into some churches.  
  • Bible and Science: Here’s the bumper someone posted on Reddit to introduce this article. “Both science and religion seek wisdom and clarity. We need religious interpretations of the facts modern science produces, so that our belief system can once again be adapted to our time.” Some interesting thoughts on three videos.  (Again, please read the warning in the introduction above.)
  • ♫ Praise Charts has released their annual list. You might want to guess before you click. The one I chose for #1 was actually #2, so at least I was close. This list covers all material available, not just titles new this year. Check out the Top 100 Worship Songs for 2017.
  • Quotation of the Week: He thought he’d switch things up by reading the Matthew account on Christmas Eve instead of Luke. Then he got to the part where Herod starts the killing.

    I recall one family member making the lighthearted interjection, “I’d forgotten about this part.” Another questioned innocently, “Do we really need to hear this tonight?”
    …I even remember thinking in that moment about how many nativity scenes I have witnessed over the years that portray the visitation of the Magi in Matthew 2:10. The serene images of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus surrounded by the wise men humbly kneeling, offering gifts, and worshiping. There is no hint of what is about to happen. Certainly sin and death are not to be celebrated at Christmas, but Matthew reminds us that they are not to be brushed aside either. The truth is that the account of Herod’s acts convey the very reason Christ came in the first place. He became incarnate to overcome sin and death.

  • Provocative Podcast Title of the Week: Will There Be Sex in Heaven? (Greg Boyd; 4½ minutes) 
  • Provocative Article Title of the Week: The Church Father Who Cut Off His Junk. (Professional theologian; do not attempt at home.) (Some of you may already know the Origen of this story.)
  • Parenting Place: As part of its broader sex education mandate, the British government is inviting submissions concerning its plan to launch what it calls Relationships Education.
  • 📖 I wish I was on the review list for IVP, because I would definitely, after viewing the trailer, want to review a new apologetics title, God is Stranger by Krish Kandiah
  • …or even though it’s nearly a year old, also from IVP, Evangelical, Sacramental, and Pentecostal by Gordon T. Smith. (IVP titles are usually fairly time transcendent!)
  • Here’s an article from outside our usual link list sphere. The author pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. He is now a humanist and an atheist. His grandfather was a sexual predator who molested his mother and three generations of women. At his funeral in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church, mourners were told, “God saved Bob and he is, thanks to Jesus, in Heaven today.” The author is not so convinced
  • …Related: Following the popularity of the #MeToo hashtag, those abused in or by churches are Tweeting on #ChurchToo.
  • Salt and Light: Indy Star and Creators Syndiate artist Gary Varvel explains his Christmas cartoon.
  • 🎬 Boundless, a Focus-on-the-Family website says 2017 was a good year for Christian films.
  • Politically one-sided: “…in recent debates in Congress over the public funding for Planned Parenthood, many pro-choice politicians and media outlets touted Planned Parenthood as a women’s health organization with abortion comprising only three percent of its business. It wasn’t surprising then that people were shocked when they heard Live Action refer to Planned Parenthood as the biggest abortion chain in America.” The role Twitter plays in hiding such truths
  • 🇨🇦 Canada Corner: Canadian churches that relied on a government grant to create student summer jobs may find that impossible in 2018.
  • Leadership Lessons: Pastors need to stop trying to be pleasers; stop trying to be popular.
  • Word of the Year: At Oxford Dictionaries the 2017 word was youthquake.  At dictionary.com, not exactly a new word, complicit. At Collins Dictionary, the choice was fake news. At Miriam-Webster, again a not-so-new word, feminism. (We liked their #5, dotard.)  Now use all four winning words in a single sentence.
  • 🇬🇧 The Queen again mentions Jesus in her annual — in this case 60th — Christmas message:

    We remember the birth of Jesus Christ whose only sanctuary was a stable in Bethlehem. He knew rejection, hardship and persecution; and yet it is Jesus Christ’s generous love and example which has inspired me through good times and bad.  

  • ♫ New Music: Remedy Drive is back with a new album, The North Star releasing on 1/18. The song is “Polaris.”   (Bonus: Watch the story behind the album.)
  • ♫ Old Music: The music group Lamb was part of the Messianic Jewish movement back in the ’70s. Joel Chernoff has been busy posting some of those songs to a YouTube channel, check out “I Will Talk to My Brothers” and “In the Morning.”
  • “If Jesus had a gun, he’d still be alive today.” Russell Moore comments on a bumper sticker
  • Finally, They were the nuns before there was the nones. I’m off to the store to see if I can score a copy of the Guns N’ Rosaries album. (The comments make it all the more interesting.)

December 24, 2017

Noisy Night. Chaotic Night. All is Alarm. All is Fright.

Rob Lacey was an actor and street performer in England who performed in inner-city London and Manchester, and wrote a book called The Street Bible which was a kind of “highlights reel” of all 66 Biblical books and later became published in America as The Word on The Street. Before passing away all too soon he also wrote a more complete free-style paraphrase of a harmonization of the synoptic gospels that was published in both countries as The Liberator.

Because my wife had taken the time to type out the text for a Christmas Eve service we did, I wanted to include them here for all to read. She made some minor edits to it, and the poem is of other origin, which I can’t trace right now. Remember, this was written for inner-city youth in urban centers in the UK and makes no pretense to be an actual translation.


So how’d it happen? Baby Jesus. The Liberator? You ready for this?

I’ll tell you: his mum, Mary, is engaged to Joe. They’d not had sex yet, but – weird! She’s pregnant! Courtesy of the Holy Spirit.

Focus on Joe. A good guy, trying to do the right thing and he’s desperate to keep this news quiet. The locals would come down so hard on her. He’s working out how best to deliver the “sorry, but it’s off” speech – without the gossip grapevine crashing from overload.

He’s smashing the billiard balls of his best options around his brain, well into the early hours. Finally he drops off and God downloads a dream: An angel saying:

“Joe Davidson, don’t you chicken out of making Mary your wife. I’ll tell you why. ‘Cause it’s the Holy Spirit’s baby. She’ll have a boy, and you’ll put the name Jesus down on the birth certificate. Why “Jesus”? ‘Cause it means Liberator and that’s what he’s going to do for all his people…. liberate them from all the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.”

Joe wakes up and, yes, realizes it was all a dream. But he follows his Angel Orders to the letter and the wedding’s back on as soon as the baby’s born. Joe makes sure the birth certificate reads, “First name: Jesus.”

Meanwhile, in the depths of the Roman Empire, he-who-must-be-obeyed, Augustus Caesar, announces the Big Count. Caesar, the Big Cheeser, wants accurate population stats across the empire. Everyone is expected to trek back to their hometown for the registration.

So Joe Davidson sets off on the 130 km trip down the map, crosses the border and arrives in Bethlehem, Davidstown, in the south. He takes his fiancee Mary, who’s pregnant and showing. Three, four, maybe five days later they arrive and realize someone else is about to cross a border and arrive in Bethlehem.

Crisis! Her waters break! “No vacancy” signs in every B&B window. Decision. Mary has a ‘home birth’ in a livestock shed. She wraps strips of cloth round the baby and uses an animal feeding trough as a cot.

Noisy night, chaotic night
All is alarm, all is fright
Rounded virgin, now mother to child
Wholly infant, so other, so wild
Awake at an unearthly hour
Awake at an unearthly hour

Pull back to the fields outside the overpacked town, focus in on a local Sheep Security Team sitting through their night shift.

One of God’s angels turns up, with brilliant supernatural special FX packing the fields with God’s radiance. The guys are scared stupid.

The angel delivers his standard, “Don’t panic” line then hits them with, “I’ve got great news, great news to bring a smile to every shape of face on the planet. Mark the date in your diaries. Today over in Davidstown there’s a new baby born. Not just any baby – The Baby! The Boss, Liberator God himself, turning up for you in baby shape. You’ll know which baby – he’ll be wrapped up snug and lying in a feeding trough that’s caked with old animal grub.”

Cued to make their entrance on the last line of the breaking news, the whole angel choir turn up and blast out the song:

“Celebrate! Elevate! And on planet Earth, serenity. In your earthly home, shalom for all who have known God’s smile.”

Once the angel choir scoots back up the Heavenly HQ, the Sheep Security Team come out with, “Let’s check it out”. “Yeah, let’s hit the town.” “Search the whole of Bethlehem for this baby.” “God’s put us in the picture – let’s go!”

They leg it and, sure enough, they track down Mary and Joe, then find the baby in his makeshift cot. The next days they fill the pubs with echoes of what they’d been told about this baby. The public pulse is breakneck pace as “Liberator Talk” bounces round the walls of the town. The reactions range from amazed to – well, amazed.

The Sheep Security Team go back to work, talking up God for letting them in on the whole adventure.

And Mary’s reaction? She’s quietly storing away all of this in a safe place in her heart, bringing memories out when ever she has some space to wonder.

December 20, 2017

Wednesday Link List

Our pre-Christmas list is less seasonal than you might imagine. Some great things here worth investigating, many of which came together in the hour just before midnight last night.   UPDATE 8:50 EST — Since the list was published everyone on Twitter has been busy recommending Tim Keller’s article in the New Yorker on Evangelicalism so we’re adding it here.

December 13, 2017

Wednesday Link List

This Christmas, Pray for World Peas.

Wednesday List Lynx decked out for Christmas.

Yes, it’s true. In Colorado and some other states this is known as the Weednesday Link List.

We have a great list this week. I might just run it again next week. Seriously, these are all great links. No fillers this Wednesday.

You can see that one plus 9 other hideous Christmas sweaters by clicking the image above.

And then, for those of you who prefer something less seasonal, there’s OppoSuits, below. I’m just waiting for someone to bring out the Christian version of this…


…perhaps spreading Christian love…

 

December 6, 2017

Wednesday Link List

If your Christmas cards need to be truly different, then these boxes of 12 cards (3 each of 4 images) from David Hayward aka Naked Pastor might be for you. Click image for info.

This turned out not badly, considering I didn’t get started until 5:00 PM Tuesday. Article suggestions are always welcomed.

 

November 29, 2017

Wednesday Link List

“Mary Did Uno” as posted at Church Curmudgeon.


Personally, I think our friends at the Family Christian Bookstore in Burlington, Ontario, Canada have way too much time on their hands! (Not related to the U.S. chain of the same name.)


Seeing past the labels: Shocking x-rays reveal that under the skin, groups seen as poles apart are basically the same. From the blog Done With Religion.


As a matter of general principle, I wouldn’t recommend reading a book by a guy who takes his accordion on a book tour. But I’ve read Blessed Are The Misfits by @branthansen and I enjoyed it and think you will also. If you missed my review, click here.

Lots of book-related stuff this week; it just worked out that way. Sit back and start clicking!


 

 

 

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