links: this went thru my mind

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Acceptance, evangelism, fellowship, forgiveness, hypocrisy, love, mercy, murder & outreach: He Befriended a Serial Killer, and Opened the Door to God [essential reading]

“Mr. Dahmer left behind confused parents, dozens of distraught relatives of the victims, the traumatized city of Milwaukee — and this white-bearded minister, struggling still at 60 with the sense that he, too, had been condemned, for having the audacity to grant God’s blessings upon the devil.”

Announcements & corporate worship gatherings: Nine Observations about Announcements in Worship Services

“I asked a number of church leaders of congregations of varying sizes about their practices in this area. They pretty much confirmed what I am seeing as well. Here are my nine observations.”

Capital punishment, death penalty, payback & revenge: Don’t Give Tsarnaev Death Penalty [required reading]

“Should we kill Tsarnaev? And the answer, despite the abhorrent nature of the crime, is simple: No, we should not. We are better than that. The fact is that the death penalty isn’t justice, it’s revenge.”

Choices, farming, generations, life, lifestyle, Millenials & priorities: A Young Generation Sees Greener Pastures In Agriculture

“America’s heartland is graying. The average age of a farmer in the U.S. is 58.3 — and that number has been steadily ticking upward for more than 30 years. Overall, fewer young people are choosing a life on the land. But, in some places around the country, like Maine, that trend is reversing. Small agriculture may be getting big again — and there’s new crop of farmers to thank for it.”

ISIS, money, Muslim, power, stereo-typing, terrorism & violence: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: These Terrorist Attacks Are Not About Religion [required reading]

“When the Ku Klux Klan burn a cross in a black family’s yard, prominent Christians aren’t required to explain how these aren’t really Christian acts. Most people already realize that the KKK doesn’t represent Christian teachings. That’s what I and other Muslims long for—the day when these terrorists praising Mohammed or Allah’s name as they debase their actual teachings are instantly recognized as thugs disguising themselves as Muslims. It’s like bank robbers wearing masks of presidents; we don’t really think Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush hit the Bank of America during their down time.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Afghanistan, Iraq, ISIS, veterans & war: The Truth About the Wars

“If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, I think we’re there.”

Church, expectations, inclusion, mission, perceptions & welcome: 3 Ways ‘All Are Welcome’ Is Hurting the Church

“Churches — like individuals — are called to know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and discern a clear and specific mission to where Jesus is calling them to act. Many times churches actually do have in mind a particular subset of people with whom they’d like repopulate their congregation. Many times this particular subset looks an awful lot like the current membership of the church, albeit 20-30 years ago. Often, though, neighborhoods and needs have changed. And a vital ministry — perhaps to immigrant workers, to retired folks, to single adults — is forgotten in light of chasing the ever-elusive ‘young families.'”

Corporate worship, hymns, music & singing: My Journey Away from Contemporary Worship Music

“I make this plea to my fellow ministers, do not neglect these milestones from ages past.”

Economics, income inequality & politics: A Change That Isn’t Coming

“…  until the two parties put forward lasting and structural fixes for these problems the pain and outrage are only going to intensify. And as the pain grows the American electorate will continue to lash out blindly and schizophrenically, alternately punishing the party in power and hoping for a change that isn’t coming.”

Joseph Smith, Latter-Day Saints, Mormons & polygamy: It’s Official: Mormon Founder Had Up to 40 Wives

“The biggest bombshell for some in the essays is that Smith married women who were already married, some to men who were Smith’s friends and followers.”

links: this went thru my mind

Action, application, relevance, theology & thinking: 4 Ways Theology Is Practical for Everyday Life [required reading]

“Teach theology long enough and you’ll face countless forms of the same basic question: What does this have to do with real life? Will it affect the way we do ministry, how we share the gospel, or what we do every day? How is it relevant to the problems and challenges the average person faces? You know, is it practical? And the deep suspicion lying behind such questions is that most theology is rather impractical. “

Church attendance, corporate worship, duty, sacrament & worship: The Lord’s Day as a Sacrament [required reading]

“So here’s the crazy thing. I’ve found my way back to seeing the wisdom of church as duty. But less as a duty and more as a sacrament.”

Courtesy, etiquette, manners & respect: Church Conference Etiquette

“… here’s a rundown of some folks you’ll find at every conference and hopefully how not to become one.”

Income inequality, money, poverty & wealth: 40 Years Of Income Inequality In America, In Graphs

“Hover over each line to identify household income, and click through to see the percentage growth over the past 40 years.”

Ministry & the preacher’s wife: Behind the Smile: 6 Things Every Church Needs to Know About the Preacher’s Wife

“I want to love you. Please don’t make it harder. … I wish you saw the man I see.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Ancient world, cartography, maps, Roman Empire & travel: Digital Map of the Roman World

“… until now there has been no digital map that can be used as background layer for use in a fashion similar to modern mapping applications like Google Maps. Thanks to Pelagios, this is work that I have undertaken …”

Anger, Christianity, harmony, meanness & peace: Five Reasons Christians Can Be So Mean to Each Other

“It’s just all so exhausting some days. … Why are we so quick to be mean to each other?”

Corporate worship, singing & songbooks: Worship Songs Aren’t Just for God

“… there is a horizontal aspect of singing–the church singing to and for each other–that has been largely lost in a lot of the contemporary Christian worship experience. And I think this is important because our almost exclusive focus on the vertical experience–singing songs to God–has meant that we’ve marginalized from our singing huge swaths of the human experience.”

Edification, lament & prayer: * Learning to Lament: Giving Voice to the Winter Christian Experience; * Pounding on Heaven’s Door

* “… it seems that in many locations within Christianity there is a great hesitancy to give voice to any negativity regarding our relationship with God. Again, the reason for this seems to be the assumption described above, that any distress, complaint or negativity in the God-relationship is symptomatic of a lack or loss of faith. Thus the voice of complaint—the hot cry of lament heard in the psalms—is silenced within the faith community. The assumption behind this sort of spiritual formation is that giving voice to complaint and questioning would undermine faith.”

* “… I’m not done kicking this door.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Church decline: To the Dying Church: Maybe Death Is a Blessing

“How very God-like of God to make death the beginning of a blessing.”

Congregational singing, corporate worship, singing & song-leading: The Church Singing

“Why We Sing … Five Qualities of a Congregational Song … Reflections on “What Can Miserable Christians Sing?” … My Congregation Barely Sings; How Can I Help? … Rediscovering Jesus’ Hymnbook.”

Gospel, holy kiss, hospitality & table fellowship: Embodying the Gospel: Two Exemplary Practices

“Against those contemporary patterns of thought that segregate thinking and doing, or “theory” and “practice,” this essay urges that Scripture works with a more integrated and communal understanding of human life, and thus of Christian faith.”

Generations & Millenials: Millennials in Adulthood [required reading]

“The Millennial generation is forging a distinctive path into adulthood. Now ranging in age from 18 to 331, they are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry— and optimistic about the future. They are also America’s most racially diverse generation. In all of these dimensions, they are different from today’s older generations. And in many, they are also different from older adults back when they were the age Millennials are now.”

One another & unity: The Centrality of the “One Another” Passages for Christian Unity

“This is more than just a list of more things to do. This is about how we see others and our own obligation to be supportive of those around us. This is a call away from self and pride to make a difference in the lives of those around us. If Christian embraced this kind of vision for people and way of life…I am convinced we would make a huge impact on the world.”

Jesus, nonviolence & violence: Jesus Said, “Buy a Sword.” What Did He Mean?

“…  justifying the use of violence by citing this passage [Luke 22.35-38] is as unwarranted as citing the temple cleansing passage to this effect.”

Preaching, sermons & thinking: 2 Big Problems with Overly Simple Sermons [essential reading]

“Here’s the problem: sometimes reality is more complex than our desire for simplicity allows. … When simplicity becomes king, the pulpit is often its kingdom.  I think too many preachers have taken Einstein’s quote to heart. They’ve heard too often that good communication must be simple. So they force everything into that mold, talking about complex issues like poverty, suffering, ethics, and even the gospel, as though these were relatively simple and easy to understand. They’re not, and pretending otherwise sets us up for one of two problems (probably both): we create simpletons [and] we create despisers.

Respect: When You Fail to Show Respect

“I am not suggesting that people needed to be ‘nicer.’ The problem runs far deeper than this.”