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

 

Attitude, life, outlook & perspective: How to View the Struggles of Your Day

“In every situation, we can choose to think higher. We are not to live in denial of the rugged nor insulting terrain. Rather, we are to set our minds upon the many more elements that are going right.  In every case (note: every), conditions could be much worse; but they are not. I’ve encountered brutal take your breath away kinds of days. By His clear call, I have understood that even these could be worse.  Leading my mind to think upon the many issues going well has allowed God the room to prove His above point. Peace that cannot be explained … arrives.”

Change, fear, generations & the Holy Spirit: Why are We So Afraid of Change?

“Fear isn’t to be the church gauge. Trust in the Spirit is. Change is an ever-present trait of the Holy Spirit of God. Each generation needs to remember this as we strive to move forward in the most exciting kingdom ever!”

Communication, leadership, problems & relationships: A Culturally Intelligent Way of Handling the Elephant in the Room

“I’ve always been a fan of directly addressing the elephant in the room. I don’t enjoy conflict but I loathe avoiding it even more.”

Depression & mental illness: * Five Common Myths About Depression; * Mental Illness & The Church: An Interview with Amy Simpson

* “1. Depression is synonymous with sadness. … 2. Depression is a sign of mental weakness. … 3. Depression is always situational. … 4. Depression symptoms are all in your head. … 5. If you are diagnosed with depression, you’ll be on antidepressants the rest of your life.”

* “One of the most painful elements of mental illness is that it’s marked by isolation, which is exactly the opposite of what people need. Everybody needs community and loving friendship and a place where they belong. And one of the things people with mental illness most need is for this kind of loving community to tighten around them, not to loosen. This is one of the things the church can provide.”

Discipleship & faith: Kent Brantley: Every Now and Then a Disciple Breaks Outs

“Who says that kind of thing in that moment?”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bible class, children, church & Sunday School: Sunday Schooling Our Kids Out of Church

“… churches creating Sunday School experiences for kids that ran concurrently with their parents’ worship service.  In other words, kids and parents were separated from each other, having different Sunday experiences. … But there was (and is) one huge unintended consequence:  We have raised the largest unchurched generation in the history of our country.”

Churches of Christ & religious debates: Debates

“No person and no church will ever agree on all topics. It is good to discuss many biblical and religious concepts, but all in love and in full fellowship with God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and all godly people through Jesus Christ.”

Encouragement, grief, mourning & respectTo Mourn, or Not to Mourn [required reading]

“When someone dies our first response should not be to condemn the life that has been lost or those who are mourning. The world needs to see compassion from us. They need to know we care. There are people struggling with depression and drug addiction all around us and to dismiss these diseases is to show a lack of compassion. The way of Jesus is not to condemn people who are hurting, but to come alongside them and to help them in their time of trouble. To help, show compassion, or mourn the effects of drug addiction or depression is not to approve of them. When we do these things we are showing empathy. We are trying to understand and help people escape the darkness they feel encompassed by. To fail to act in this way is to turn our backs on people who desperately need help.”

Generations & Gen Z: Coming Soon to a Workplace Near You: Generation Z

“… the most common definition of Gen Zers as being born after 1996 …”

Ministry: * The Two Times the Pastor is Most Vulnerable; * Higher Calling, Lower Wages: The Vanishing of the Middle-Class Clergy

* “The minister is most vulnerable at two times: in the few minutes before the morning service begins and in the half hour after it ends.”

* “There is certainly a growing trend towards bi-vocational ministry in both mainline and evangelical churches … This trend dovetails with other recent developments that are troubling to many religious communities. Not only is church attendance in long-term decline, but financial giving by church members is at Depression-era lows. Meanwhile, seminary students are taking on ballooning debt for a career that may not exist by the time they graduate. This trend began before the Great Recession, and has only worsened since then.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Church, church decline, leadership, ministry, morale & vision: * How Churches Became Cruise Ships (part 2); * Six Subtle Signs Your Church is Dying [essential reading]

* “Eventually we will learn that no matter how much money, effort, or innovation the church possesses, it will never be as cool as the culture. Relevance is a race it cannot win, but in our misguided attempts to compete with the culture we risk losing sight of the only thing of value the church can offer the world–Jesus Christ.”

* “There is more talk of the past than of the future. … More effort goes into keeping people than winning people. … There is no budget for evangelism, outreach, missions, or advertising. … Everyone wants to know everyone in the ‘church family.’ … The church is mono-generational (relating to one single generation). … No new leaders are being trained.”

Corporate worship, nationalism & patriotism: Why Younger Evangelicals May Feel Uneasy in a Patriotic Service [required reading]

“The church transcends the state, a truth that should be proclaimed clearly in a worship setting.”

Cynicism, happiness & joy: The Giant Hole in Cynicism

“[There is] a radical difference between cynicism and joy. Cynics seek darkness wherever they go. They point always to approaching dangers, impure motives, and hidden schemes. They call trust naive, care romantic, and forgiveness sentimental…They consider themselves realists who see reality for what it truly is and who are not deceived by “escapist emotions.” But in belittling God’s joy, their darkness only calls forth more darkness. [Henri Nouwen]”

Divorce & remarriage: Divorce & Remarriage

“‘A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.’ (I Cor. 7:39)

Holy Spirit & intercession: Weakness, Groaning, and the Holy Spirit

“The Spirit does not simply know our suffering in some mere cognitive sense. Rather, the Spirit is present within us and experiences our suffering as a sympathetic friend, and thus the Spirit groans as well. The Spirit groans with us and for us, and this groaning becomes part of the experience of the Triune God. God is for us not only in the intercession of the Son, but also in the intercession of the Spirit.”

Prayer: A New Way to Pray

“… rather than have one ‘quiet time’ a day … pray for at least 15 minutes four times daily.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bible, faith & Jesus: Are We Building Faith In The Bible INSTEAD of Jesus?

“… we should have the highest view of the Bible as possible, but the Bible is not for creating faith in the Bible, but in Jesus Christ. … Are we teaching our youth and all age groups, for that matter, how to build their faith on the written word or the Living Word? That difference may be subtle to you, but I contend it is essential.”

Critical spirit, criticism, negativity & youth: Curing a Critical Spirit in Students [essential reading]

“Every one of these deans, provosts, directors, faculty members and coaches had stories to tell about how much their students had criticized others. …  we have witnessed an increasing number of students who carelessly criticize programs, ideas and institutions. We are discerning a critical spirit among young Millennials. Why is this happening?”

Cross, faith, non-violence & self-sacrifice: Cross-like Love and Non-Violence

“Though it seems to have been forgotten by many today, the cross wasn’t simply something God did for us. …  contrary to the way most Christians today view the matter, the call to manifest God’s indiscriminate, self-sacrificial love and to unconditionally refrain from violence cannot be considered an optional aspect of what it means to follow Jesus. Rather, as cruciform love is the most definitive distinguishing characteristic of God’s nature, so manifesting cruciform love must be considered the sine qua non feature of all who are the children of this God.”

Generations: Generation X: America’s Neglected ‘Middle Child’

“This overlooked generation currently ranges in age from 34 to 49 … Gen Xers are bookended by two much larger generations – the Baby Boomers ahead and the Millennials behind – that are strikingly different from one another. … Gen Xers are a low-slung, straight-line bridge between two noisy behemoths.”