Tag Archives: Church

My Picks for Wednesday 12-16-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Still Proceeding -John Fischerth
“Christmas carols have always been a mysterious phenomenon to me. They contain clear, sometimes deep and complicated expressions of the Christian faith that are nonetheless a part of secular society because they are … well … Christmas carols. They are a part of the Christmas tradition everyone seems to accept. There’s more theology crammed into just one of these carols than in most sermons, and yet you can hear them in supermarkets, restaurants, Christmas shows, and from carolers on your front lawn…

And as this song plays on in shopping malls and supermarkets, listen for it. Find it out in the world, just where we find Christ, today. Worship in the world where many are still seeking Him — still proceeding.”

You Don’t Need a Date NightTim Challies
You Do Not Need a Date Night“Marriage is made up of date nights and romantic weekends. But far more it is made up of those million mundane little moments. More than it is dancing and candlelight and bed and breakfasts, it is doing chores together, driving to church together, watching a miniseries together, eating meals together. It has been my experience that the more we enjoy those ordinary moments and the more we find satisfaction and significance in them, the less we need or even desire those extraordinary occasions.”

“The View” On “Being Good” vs. The GospelTrevin Wax
Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 2.19.50 PM“A remarkable conversation took place on ABC’s The View last week.

It began with an American Atheists billboard featuring a picture of Santa Claus that says, “Go ahead and skip church. Be good for goodness’ sake.” One of the hosts, Joy Behar, wondered if religious people would take offense at such a statement.

In the conversation that followed, we catch a glimpse of how people view the role and place of religion in society, as well as the counter-intuitive nature of the gospel of God’s grace.”

I think Thom Rainer is right on most of these trends,
and on his conclusion…

16 Trends in American Churches in 2016Thom Rainer
Trends 1 to 8                 Trends 9-16
16-Trends-in-American-Churches-in-2016“I have been writing on trends in churches for two decades. I certainly don’t have a perfect record with my predictions, but my overall record is pretty good.

My methodology is simple: I observe emerging issues in some churches and extrapolate them into major trends.

In many ways, I see 2016 as a pivotal year for thousands of congregations. Unfortunately, many church leaders and church members will elect not to change anything. Those congregations will be among the 100,000 rapidly declining churches.

But for other churches, new opportunities abound. For decades, churches could choose a path of modest to no change and do okay. That is not the case today. For those congregations that are eager and willing to face the culture in God’s power and strength, they will likely see incredible opportunities for ministry and growth.

It is becoming that simple.

Change or die.”

Source: Bizarro

Church & Government: Don’t Get Them Confused

I am dismayed that this whole immigration/refugee issue has become another in a long line of divisive issues among people of faith. Opinions range from one extreme to the other. I am not naive enough to think that another blog post on the subject will bring us all together, but I am hopeful that some who read will consider what I say and find it helpful.

Maybe I’m slow, and everyone else already realized this, but it finally dawned on me that many of us have been blurring the lines between the responsibilities of our government and those of the church. Now, just so we’re clear, when I say “church” I’m not referring to some hierarchical institution. I’m referring to individual people who claim Jesus as their Lord.

Among the main responsibilities of our elected government officials here in the United States, is to do what they can to keep our borders secure and our citizens safe. We citizens have a wide variety of opinions on how best to do that. We’re amazingly blessed to live in a nation where we have the right, and even the obligation, to debate the different approaches and to make sure that our elected representatives hear and understand our thoughts.


But Jesus laid out a whole different area of responsibility for his church, and it is pretty clear and unambiguous. It’s not really up for debate or discussion. It involves loving our enemies. It involves walking the second mile with an oppressor. It involves building bridges of compassion to the hurting, grieving and exiled. It involves reaching out to those who don’t know the grace of God and extending that grace on behalf of our Lord. In short, it involves going into all the world and making disciples. He says nothing about protecting our personal safety. In fact, what he says is exactly the opposite of that.

Jesus wasn’t talking to the government.

Church, he was talking to you and me.

So the real question that we, the church, should consider is this: How will we treat the immigrants and refugees who are coming and who are already among us?

Have you considered how the gospel spread throughout the world in the book of Acts? It spread because of persecution. I sometimes wish God would find an easier way, but that seems to be his standard operating procedure. When the church becomes too focused on itself and begins to stray from its mission, it’s not unusual for God to shake things up. I think maybe He’s doing that again.

Also, consider this: There are many countries in the world which have historically been closed to Christian missionaries. Jesus told us to go into all the world, but how are we to carry out our mission when we can’t get where we need to go? Well, now many of the very countries that are closed to the gospel are the ones from which so many refugees are fleeing. We couldn’t go to them, but now they are coming to us! What an opportunity!

The church has nothing to fear!

God is on the move!

It grieves me to see how much suspicion, fear and hatred I see being expressed by so many of my fellow Christ-followers.

Dear brothers and sisters, this ought not be.

Instead, let’s embrace our role as a beacon of hope.


PS – I have posted a “Special Edition” of My Picks containing links to 3 articles which I have found extremely helpful and enlightening. Please consider taking the time to read through them.


Special Edition: My Picks for Tuesday 12-15-2015

Today’s Picks all center around one theme…

The combined issues of immigration, refugees, and terrorism seem to be on everyone’s mind to one degree or another. There seems to be a deep divide among us between the “open up our borders to all” people and the “ban all Muslims” people. I suppose this is another manifestation of the deep divide we already have on so many issues, and as usual, the extremes on either side don’t really listen, or even consider, the thinking of the other, preferring instead to simply shout slogans and demean the character of those who disagree.

I suggest we all take a moment to stop talking and try to understand.

In my own effort to do this I’ve come across several articles that I have found very helpful in my understanding of some things that, honestly, I’d never spent any time really thinking about.

I’m sharing these articles below in the hope that you find them as enlightening as I did. They will require some thought, and a willingness to understand another’s perspective.

Please understand that my focus here is not political. I have my thoughts on this, but on this blog I am not crusading for any particular governmental approach to these things. As I have said in my previous post on the subject, my main concern here is how we Christians respond and behave.

The first is an article I shared on Facebook a while back. I still think it’s one of the best things I’ve read on the subject.

What ISIS Really WantsGraeme Wood
http://cdn.theatlantic.com/assets/media/img/2015/02/17/ISIS_Web_feature2/1920.jpg?1440086852“The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.”

This next is an excellent article by someone in a position to understand how the radical Islamist thinks. He draws the distinction between “Islamism” and Islam. As a Christian I understand that all Christians are not the same. In fact, there are some who are so far removed from the actual teaching of Jesus and the New Testament that I would like not even use the term “Christian” to refer to them.

It seems we have trouble understanding that Islam is just as fragmented as Christianity, and that what is true of the most extreme sects is not in any way true for all Muslims.

How to Beat Islamic StateMaajid Nawaz

“As a young Muslim growing up in the U.K., I spent more than a decade as one of the leaders of a global Islamist group that advocated the return of a caliphate, though not through terrorism. My activities eventually led me to Egypt, where at 24 I was jailed as a political prisoner and sentenced to five years in Mazra Tora prison.

Only in jail, after Amnesty International adopted my case, did I dedicate myself to rereading, reviewing and reappraising my every thought. As I deradicalized myself over the next five years, I eventually concluded that Islam, my faith, was being exploited for a totalitarian political project and must be reclaimed from the theocrats. I have spent the past eight years doing just that through a counterextremism organization that I co-founded.”

Finally, I offer this very personal piece from the perspective of a Christian pastor who is the son of a Muslim immigrant to the United States.

My Muslim ProblemOmar Rikabi
Mosque of Omar“I get the fear of terrorism. Part of my family’s story includes those living as refugees in foreign countries, mourning the memory of a loved one shot to death because of religious and ethnic extremism.

And I have fears, too. I fear what the rhetoric of “track and ban” could lead to, because history’s darkest ethnic atrocities started with this kind of talk. And I’m afraid, because of our current climate, that someone will hurt my wife or my girls because our name sounds like those terrorist names.

Yes, there are Muslims who commit horrible acts of violence. But violence is not unique to Islam. It is common to all humanity. In our fallen depravity, all of us are radicalized by sin.

This is not a Muslim problem.

This is a human problem.”

My Picks for Thursday 12-10-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Certainty, Openness and Theological Wisdom -Ray Ortlund
2012-MAY-Source-Liaohe-River-Delta-Marshland-300x214“Some Christians seem “all certainty.”  Maybe it makes them feel heroic.  But they see too few gray areas.  Everything is a federal case.  They have a fundamentalist mindset.

Other Christians seem “all openness.”  Maybe it makes them feel humble.  But they see too few black-and-white areas.  They have a liberal mindset — though they may demonstrate a surprising certainty against certainty…

…May we become more certain where we’ve been too open, and more open where we’ve been too certain, according to Scripture.”

The famous sixth-century Sinai Pantocrator (Christ Almighty) icon depicts one-half of Christ’s face as suffering servant and the other half as serene risen Lord.

Art in the Worship of the Church
-Paul Blowers
“Contrary to the old adage, beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder. True beauty lies in the richness and breadth of God’s revelation, which lays claim to all our senses—even some that we may not know we have! “Taste and See” is more than a lovely worship tune composed by James E. Moore in 1983. It should be a summons to all our senses to experience the boundless glory of God and to respond in kind, creatively and resourcefully.

Churches should be encouraged to use their imaginations and a wide array of arts (not just music but drama, ritual dance, photography, and iconography, etc.) to enhance their praise and worship.”

7 Situations Where Your Church Should Not Have Greeters
-Thom Rainer
“…there are a few occasions where I think it’s best for the church to have no greeters at all. Indeed, if one or a few of these situations exist, greeters in the worship services can do more harm than good... Here are seven such occasions…”

If Donald Trump Becomes President, It’s on You
-Melissa Schwartz
DONALD TRUMP“It’s not just his hate speech that should alarm you. We have had candidates for decades that have based their campaigns on arousing hate and fear. But they have not been frontrunners.

If elected President, Donald Trump has the power to enact policies by executive action to round up people of a specific race and take unilateral action against them. If elected President, Donald Trump really can spend your taxpayer dollars to build walls, tear families apart, and deny federal benefits and protections to people of a specific race.

For those who believe President Obama has overreached during his presidency, imagine those same powers in the hands of Donald Trump.”

You’d better watch out…




My Picks for Wednesday 12-9-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

I hadn’t thought about it this way before, but his suggestions make a lot of sense…

Why White Men Should Preach Noteless Sermons
-Nicholas McDonald
http://scribblepreach.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Contextualization-770x200.jpg“…if you can’t remember your sermon, it’s too dense. It’s too complicated. It’s too geared toward written communication. Memory goes hand-in-hand with simplicity and focus – two essential qualities for oral communication.”

Stephen Colbert shows us how it’s done…

Why Humility Always Trumps Inflammatory Rhetoric
-Jesse Carey
“The need to have an opinion about every political or social issue, or a comeback to every hot-take, requires us to claim to know things we might not actually know. It elevates pride in our personally held position, over the humility to actually think and pray about what God wants.

Some situations require us to take action and seek meaningful change. But that might mean putting aside our own ideas by acknowledging we don’t know all of the answers, but we know who does.

It means sharing our opinion about an issue, but at least being humble enough to admit, “I should have mentioned this before: I don’t know what I’m talking about,” when we don’t actually have all of the answers.”

This is not really all that hard to do, but it does require you and your volunteers to be intentional…

What Are They Remembering?-Danny Franks
“Your guests walked away from your service this weekend with a collection of stories. They are stories they’ll tell once they return to their cubicle, their neighborhood, their dinner table. They are stories of delight and stories of disappointment. They are stories that will cement a positive experience or further erode a negative one.”

I like this concept a lot. It can be really helpful in thinking through how we use technology in worship…

Lightsabers in WorshipJeremy Armstrong
“Here at worship leader we have long highlighted the distinction between “idol” and “icon” as a valuable one. An icon, such as a stained-glass window or a beautiful refrain of a worship song, points attention to God. It is masterfully crafted and intricately designed, but it has a purpose: direct attention and glory to God.

An idol, on the other hand, has no such intentions. The purpose of an idol is to point to anything other than God. Idols usually point to themselves, but sometimes they can be sneaky in sending our attention in a hundred different directions.

So again, ‘How are you going to use a lightsaber in your worship service?’ Will it be an idol or an icon?”

Moving from Star Wars to Star Trek, here’s a great Christmas gift idea. “Energize” your drinks with these transporter coasters…
Star Trek Transporter Pad LED Coasters Additional Image

My Picks for Tuesday 12-8-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Is Donald Trump Right About Closing the Border to Muslims?
-Russell Moore
rsz_1donald_trump_8567813820_2“Donald Trump…suggests that the United States should close the border to all Muslims—including Muslim-Americans traveling abroad. Anyone who cares an iota about religious liberty should denounce this reckless, demagogic rhetoric…

Make no mistake. A government that can shut down mosques simply because they are mosques can shut down Bible studies because they are Bible studies. A government that can close the borders to all Muslims simply on the basis of their religious belief can do the same thing for evangelical Christians. A government that issues ID badges for Muslims simply because they are Muslims can, in the fullness of time, demand the same for Christians because we are Christians.”

The Difference Between An Artist And A Worship Leader
-David Santistevan
the difference between“That’s the difference between an artist building a fanbase and a worship leader serving a community. It’s a different skill set. It’s a different goal.

An artist grows a fanbase. A worship leader grows worshipers.

An artist obsesses over their art. A worship leaders obsesses over the Kingdom.

An artist sings songs. A worship leader groans with desperation for Jesus.

An artist performs. A worship leader invites.”

What True Love Does-Christa Threlfall
thoughts on love + service via BrownSugarToast.com“Sometimes it’s easiest to serve those far from us. Sometimes we can be so concerned about another’s problem while neglecting the problems God has put right under our noses. Sometimes it’s more fulfilling to make a meal for someone else than to bless your husband with a sweet note. To speak a kind word to a stranger rather than breathing life into our children. To advocate for those in another part of the world while ignoring the hurting surrounding us. In our country, state, city, home.

It’s not that you should only serve those who are in your home and then stop. But you should start there.

Having spent 35 years in ministry I can tell you that there are a LOT of misconceptions about pastors. I always sort of took pride in the times that people were surprised to find out that I was minister because I didn’t fit into many of those stereotypes. I suppose it’s for those reasons that I appreciated this article…

10 Random Things to Know about Pastors
-Ron Edmondson
“Here are 10 random things to know about pastors. These are true for me, but I suspect they may be for your pastor too.”

Sorry Ben, this is pretty funny…
Source: Bizarro

My Picks for Tuesday 12-1-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

This simple post resonated pretty deeply in me for some reason…

A Simple Rule That Can Make Life More Fun
John Richmond
Photo Credit: Loren Kerns, Creative Commons“Kids generally do not get in trouble for being silly—they get in trouble for being silly after an adult asked them to stop. It is often that last kid to stop that bears that brunt of the punishment.

This rule applies at every phase of life.

Knowing how to stop makes eating, drinking, investing, exercising, spending, skydiving, hang gliding, and everything else more enjoyable.

Interestingly, knowing how to stop is sometimes the best way to start.”

Following Rob Bell: The Edges of Faith and the Center of the Zeitgeist -Dustin Messer

“In a world where pastors wait with bended knees and clenched eyes for their heads to roll down the sandy slopes of a Libyan beach, the complacent, comfortable, Western church must reset her vision of bravery as it relates to the pastorate. There was a time—even in the West—where cultural capital was gained by being a Christian…

These days, the real adventurers are those who set sail for the risky land of Christian orthodoxy. The real brave men and women are those who consistently go to church, observe the sacraments, hear the word, and submit themselves to the discipline of the church. In an age of autonomy, it’s those who subject their thoughts, behaviors, and passions to an exclusive Sovereign that are the brave few. Those may not be the memoirs we’re interested in today, but they’ll be the ones that last tomorrow.”

Advocating for Life, After Colorado SpringsTrevin Wax

Colorado Springs Continues To Recover After Shooting“What does this do for “the cause?”

That is a question that presents itself to both pro-life and pro-choice people following last Friday’s rampage…

We should not be surprised to see pro-choice cheerleaders among the mainstream media and Planned Parenthood’s well-endowed politicians exploiting this tragedy, weaponizing the tragedy against the wider pro-life movement and painting all pro-life people as wild and zealous fanatics.

But our response should be different. We should grieve with those who grieve, mourn the loss of innocent life and consider the victims – the families who will pass through the weeks, months, and years ahead with a sense of loss and longing that will far surpass the volcano of words in our 24-hour news cycle.”

This is a beautiful little tribute to 20 years of Pixar animation…

Grandkid pic of the day:
Me and Oliver Lloyd work the HUB at WOCC Colerain

My Picks for Monday 11-30-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

So far, I haven’t heard a definitive motive for the recent shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs. I’ve heard plenty of speculation, inferences and attempts to tie it to a “radical pro-life” agenda. There was at least one person involved in that day whose “radical pro-life” stance was on full display, but we haven’t heard very much about him…

Swasey’s Last Sermon-Jordan Standridge
garrett Swasey“Swasey was shot while saving people at a place he abhorred. He was an elder of a church that believed in the inerrancy of Scripture, and that abortion is evil.

Let that sink in.

A man who hated abortion and hated murder–who gave his life helping others–didn’t hesitate about going to Planned Parenthood to save lives.”

Church Growth:
Feeding the Flock In a Count-the-Sheep Culture
-Karl Vaters
Church Growth: Feeding the Flock In a Count-the-Sheep Culture“We want numbers to verify our successes.

There are two huge problems with that sentence – and they’re found in the words numbers and our.

First, not all successes have numbers to verify them.

Second, the successes of the church are not our successes.

We need to start getting comfortable, in the first instance, with Success Without Numbers and in the the second instance, with Success That’s Not Ours.”

The Christian Century No One Predicted  -Justin Taylor
9780801097461“No scholar—or as far as that goes, not even a madman—predicted that at the end of the twentieth century Christianity would not be recognized even as a cultural factor in Europe by the nations that today compose the European Union.

No prognosticator predicted that more Christians would be worshiping each Sunday in China than in Europe or North America.

And, what might be surprising to us today, even the greatest mission leaders at the Edinburgh Missionary Conference in 1910 had pretty much given up on Christianity in Africa. Most of the missionary leaders, even in their most optimistic moments, thought Islam had the upper hand and believed Africa would become a Muslim continent. Fast-forward and we find that the opposite is true, for there are more Christians than Muslims in Africa today.

What am I…?

Source: Off the Mark

My Weekend Picks 11-27-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

When Culture Leaks  -Danny Franks
“Is it possible that what we have gained through experience, we have lost through habit, and that what we have gained through organization, we have lost in enthusiasm?”

Why Controversy Is Sometimes Necessary-Albert Mohler
“The only way to avoid all controversy would be to consider nothing we believe important enough to defend and no truth too costly to compromise…

To our shame, the church has often been divided over the wrong controversies.”

Bleak FridaySteve Dennis
https://stevenpdennis.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/cropped-o-shopping-bags-facebook.jpg“Get ready. The stories about Black Friday will start ramping up today. And by the time you awaken from a tryptophan induced haze on Friday morning,  you can expect your TV to be chock-a-block with shots of reporters standing outside Walmarts and Best Buys and Apple stores and within some big fancy mall opining on what it all means.

Spoiler alert: it means nothing. Absolutely nothing.

For consumers, it’s mostly a con.”

The vulnerability of ‘thank you’  –Seth Godin
“Thank you as in: I couldn’t do it without you. As in: I don’t want to do this alone. As in: I was afraid. And mostly: I would miss you if you were gone.

Thank you brings us closer together.

Thank you is a limb worth going out on.”

This Unusual Child
“If you were going to start a revolution that would change the world forever, how would you go about it?”

I’m really looking forward to this new series beginning this weekend at WOCC


Remember when we used to _________?


“Remember when we_______________?”

“Man, that was great.”

“How come we don’t do that anymore?”

Have you ever been part of a conversation like that? I was a worship minister for 30 years. I’ve had that same conversation approximately a billion times. The blank has been filled in by different things at different times over the years but it was the same conversation. Here are a few of the things that have been inserted in the blank:

Had a Sunday night church service.
Did a Living Christmas Tree (Remember those?)
Had a handbell choir.
Used an organ.
Wore choir robes.
Wore ties when we served. (BTW-Research has proven that the first century Christians never wore ties.)
Did Broadway-style Christmas productions.
Sang the old songs.

The blank varied but the insinuation was always the same.

The implication was that what we do now is inferior. We think that the church has lost its former glory. We remember the way things used to be, the important place some of those things had in our lives and in the life of the church, and we have trouble seeing the wonderful things that are being done right now, and the way God is moving in our people and activities right now.

Maybe we need to open our eyes, and hearts, to the possibility that God has something in mind that we can’t imagine.

The Israelites were in captivity for 70 years in Babylon. When they were finally released and allowed to return to their homeland they undertook the huge task of rebuilding the temple. There were some older folks who were alive before the earlier temple was destroyed and they remember what it was like.

Ezra 3:10-13
When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord:

“He is good;
his love toward Israel endures forever.”

And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.

There have been times in my ministry when it seemed like the same thing was happening. There were people who would be moved in powerful ways by the things that God was doing through our church while others could see nothing but things that upset them. The shouts of joy and the sound of weeping were occurring simultaneously. The celebrants couldn’t (or wouldn’t) understand the complainers and the complainers couldn’t (or wouldn’t) see what the celebration was all about.

Maybe we need to open our eyes, and hearts, to the possibility that God has something in mind that we can’t imagine.

God had something BIG in mind for the new temple. Listen to this:

Haggai 2:3,6-9
‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

Maybe we need to open our eyes, and hearts, to the possibility that God has something in mind that we can’t imagine.