While I do promise to deliver stories that you haven’t seen in the past seven days, I will admit that I am guilty of repeating some key sources here rather frequently. That’s because there are some websites and bloggers which simply never fail to deliver good material. They are always on my weekly shortlist.
The stories in this list are carefully curated. So to our friends at The Christian Post, stop psychoanalyzing bloggers or painting us all with the same brush. Stick to writing the news. The image below is pinned to the account of @Tim_Good. It looks about right.
■ New Denom: On March 27th, a group of Anabapt-ish pastors and leaders met in Alexandria, Virginia to begin a more formal association of churches that will be known as The Jesus Collective. Watch the 3-minute promotional video.
■ Ed Stetzer is the latest individual whose name is entwined in the web of deception affiliated with the Harvest Bible Chapel/James MacDonald story. At issue is a classic 1971 Volkswagen convertible. “Harvest Attorney Christopher Nudo…confirmed that Walk in the Word had purchased the car for Stetzer last spring and that in March, Stetzer had reimbursed the ministry for the full amount of the car, just under $13,000. Nudo said the money for the car had come out of a Walk in the Word reserve account and added that he was 95% sure that former Harvest CFO Scott Milholland had cut the check. Nudo said two other people at Harvest almost certainly would have known about the purchase of the car with Walk in the Word funds—James MacDonald and his assistant, Sharon Kostal, who no longer works for the church…Though Stetzer’s car may be the only reported incidence of MacDonald gifting a big-ticket item to someone outside the church, several sources told me that MacDonald had a regular practice of giving large gifts with the church’s money to people inside Harvest…”
■ Significant: Ted Cruz is on the warpath after Yale Law School caved to pressure from pro-LGBT students when a lawyer from a Christian law firm was schedule to speak: “In his capacity as chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, [Cruz] intends to investigate the extent and nature of Yale’s discrimination against their own Christian and conservative students, continue gathering information from various sources within Yale Law, from faculty to students, and possibly hold a hearing to determine whether their rights are being violated by Yale, an institution which receives federal funds and is clearly prohibited from this sort of action.”
■ “One Sunday I was looking for a song I really like by Elevation Worship and I realized the lead singer was wearing a pair of Yeezy 750s. They’re pretty rare, they resell for 800 bucks or so. I thought I knew about church-type salaries — my wife works for a church — and so I was like, ‘This does not compute. How is this guy wearing these kicks?’” Who needs real estate listings when there’s enough excess to be found in the shoes worn by celebrity pastors.
■ Looking at a rapidly growing church brand, C3. “C3 has refashioned religion as a trendy lifestyle brand. But when your version of Christianity says that the Bible is the literal word of God, the devil is real, we’re all spiritually lost, premarital sex is a sin, and gay marriage is definitely a sin, it can make the branding part a wee bit complicated… C3 is a distinctly 21st-century manifestation of a church, aesthetically engineered to be as appealing as possible to young people, then packaged for global reproducibility online and off.” (If the name is new to you consider that in 2005 — remember that’s 14 years ago — “an Australian business magazine reported that its global revenue was believed to be over $100 million. At the time, C3 had only 100 churches.”)
■ Parenting/KidMin: An article on captivating the wonder and imagination of children contains a few quotations from Phil Vischer: “We’ve found that superficial teaching leads to superficial Christians…” “Kids can learn more than we think. Adults can learn less than we would hope. We consistently underestimate what kids are capable of learning and overestimate what adults will learn. Kids still ask questions; grown ups stop asking questions.” The author doesn’t say, but doesn’t this imply something breaks down when adults are teaching Children about God?
■ The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) holds a Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. “Influencing a nation to modify its behavior or change its laws is difficult. Yet that is what we seek to do…Churches have been opened after being shut down because of our persuasive and persistent appeals. Pastors and missionaries have been set free through our personal intervention with a senior government leader. Proposed legislation to curtail religious freedom was not passed, after our personal mediation, and pastors in a closed country felt emboldened and secure to speak up against discrimination because they knew their voice was being relayed in Geneva.”
■ Testimony: “A couple of days after we buried our stillborn baby, God spoke to my wife. It was Krista’s first time returning to the grave after we’d buried Avery. As the van rolled up to the cemetery gate, a song started playing on the radio. Krista sat in the vehicle and listened as the artist declared that God does not abandon us in our sorrow. As she began to cry, the lyrics went on to assure her that God holds our tears. She hadn’t been asking God to speak to her. God’s voice came unexpectedly.” (From the 2019 Thomas Nelson book, Simply Spirit Filled by Andrew K. Gabriel.)
■ It was interesting to see this Christian Post article with Mike Huckabee, which doesn’t use the word ‘transgender’ and then compare it to The Friendly Atheist’s summary of it which lays all the problem of Christianity at the feet of transgendered people. (In fact, I would argue that for balance, you really must read both.)
■ One of the best known missions stories, through which Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian became household names, is revisited in an Oxford University Press volume few of us can afford. The publisher of God in the Rainforest notes that this story of “Protestant missionary work among the Waorani came to be one of the missions most celebrated by Evangelicals and most severely criticized by anthropologists and others who accused missionaries of destroying the indigenous culture.” A career missionary reviewed the book and notes that i “seeks to tell the story of the Waorani from the standpoint of the people themselves, rather than explaining their lives through the eyes of others. They are presented as people with a complex and self-consistent society, in which violence is endemic. Far from being irrational savages, they come across as people like us, albeit living in a situation very unlike our own.”
■ The Early Church knew how to react when violence was the world’s default response. This article is an exhaustive collection of some classic writings, such as Justin the Martyr: “We who formerly hated and murdered one another now live together and share the same table. We pray for our enemies and try to win those who hate us.” In a world of violence and terrorism, has the church lost the way of Shalom?
■ A 9-year old boy who died in 1964 had an unusual grasp of human suffering and the suffering of Christ. Pope Francis has decreed Nelson Santana to be recognized as a Saint.
■ Media Watch: The movie After, which opens Friday, has been called a 50 Shades of Gray for teens and tweens.
■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Should busy pastors spend time and energy in the ‘dumpster fire’ of life in social media?“
■ Hebrews 11: The Women-in-Ministry Edition. Your translation may vary.
■ Provocative Statement of the Week: “Instead of church planters, we need church closers.” The writer continues, “Yeah, I know, it sounds awful. But think about it. Those of you who regularly attend church, how many other churches do you pass on your way to your own? I can’t even count, but it’s probably 50. The reality is that most of those can’t even afford to maintain their buildings. They can’t pay their pastor fairly. They are already on the brink of locking their doors for good. Even if they try to deny it, the end is near. Instead of closing as a last resort, let’s be proactive.“
🎬 The movie First Reformed: “Ethan Hawke stars as the troubled and reclusive Reverend Ernst Toller. Reeling from the death of his son, Toller is in something of a long, dark night of the soul. He has fewer congregants than tourists passing through his sleepy Dutch Reformed Church. His quiet, collared demeanor couldn’t be more out of place in the bombastic megachurch that helps keep his ministry afloat. His journal is full of searching and scrawling and longing. So when Mary comes to him with her husband’s demand she abort lest their daughter grow up in the ash heap of a world destroyed by climate change, Toller has true and genuine purpose. Maybe for the first time in years.”
■ Israel, David and the cultural artifact known FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out.
■ After two years in a Turkish prison, Wheaton College alumnus Andrew Brunson and his wife Norene (also a graduate of Wheaton) will speak at the school’s commencement for graduate students in May.
■ Remember that nun who threw that great pitch at the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018? Well, Mary Jo Sobieck has now got her own Topps Baseball trading card.
■ Clear and Loud: What Joshua Harris is doing now.
■ Only 10 Presidents in 133 years: A year after the controversy surrounding J. Paul Nyquist, Mark Jobe is installed as the new sheriff at Moody Bible Institute.
■ Congratulations: D.W. is 103 and Willie is 100. The Charlotte, North Carolina couple has been married 82 years. “They do make it to church every Sunday, in the front pew at Mayfield Memorial Baptist… All they have is love for each other and God.”
■ This isn’t exactly current, but for years I tried to find the album so that I could post this to my own YouTube channel. Apparently, someone got this online last fall. It’s Christian author and one-time cutting-edge CCM performer in the UK, Sheila Walsh singing with UK 80s rocker Alvin Stardust.
■ This is so 1997: A priest in Northern Poland burned Harry Potter books. However, now he’s apologizing in case anyone took it the wrong way. (How do you misinterpret a book burning?)
🎬 Don’t forget the animated version of Pilgrim’s Progress is in theaters for only two days, April 18th and 20th.
■ Just a week after being banned by a Texas airport, Chick-fil-A has been banned from opening at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. A spokesperson for the restaurants said, “Recent coverage about Chick-fil-A continues to drive an inaccurate narrative about our brand. We do not have a political or social agenda or discriminate against any group. More than 145,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs represent the Chick-fil-A brand…We embrace all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
■ A Pastor’s alleged affair has left him dead, his wife injured, and another woman facing murder charges.
■ Reddit of the Week: “Are you a Christian?” It’s like asking, “Are you Chinese?” There are many different ways of interpreting the question, and many differences which would be involved in determining how someone might answer.
♫ Looks like the people at Bethel Worship have discovered some Christian music that existed before theirs.
♫ Months after its release, the song from Canada’s Dan Bremnes, Wherever I Go, is breaking into the U.S market.
■ American Jesus: “It has finally happened. After nearly a decade of futility, Jesus has finally won the tournament that bears his name. I would say Shane Claiborne put up a valiant fight, but Jesus smelled the blood in the water. He finally made it to the championship match and he wasn’t going to miss his shot. He threw all that humility and first shall be last stuff to the wind and laid down a 99% to 1% beating that would make even Satan himself shake in his boots.”
■ “On this coming Easter, many will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus by going to church and having a family dinner. A group in the Philippines has a more literal interpretation of the holiday.Numerous Filipino Catholics will be crucifying and beating themselves in the same way that Jesus was punished by the Romans. At least seven will have nails driven through their hands and several will cut their backs and beat themselves in order to represent the pain felt by Jesus during the crucifixion.” The Roman Catholic church does not recognize the practice nor does it encourage trying this at home.
■ Finally: If you had some weirdness in your denominational history, would you not want to hush it up? The Church of England might. Consider: “He lived quite openly with his mistress, and his love of eating and drinking to excess was common knowledge. [Thomas] Patten would deliberately preach long and dull sermons that would continue until someone in the congregation held up a lemon – a sign that they would buy the Vicar his drinks for the evening.” Or how about, “Ian Henry Gaunt Graham-Orlebar discerned that it was his particular ministry to live a life that was self-consciously retro… A keen equestrian since his boyhood, [he] decided that, in homage to the dignified clergy of old, he would conduct all visits on horseback.” But we saved the best for the last…
[This guy deserves his own paragraph.] …Reverend Robert Stephen Hawker was a profoundly weird individual. As Curate at Bude, he decided that he had a joint calling; not only to be a Priest, but also a mermaid. In order to live out this vocation, he fashioned a wig out of seaweed and, naked apart from an oilskin wrapped around his legs, rowed out to a rock in Bude harbour one evening, sat on it and began to sing…He kept a sizeable menagerie, including ten cats (who would follow him to church and routinely made up the majority of his congregation). However, he reacted with fury when he saw one catching a mouse on a Sunday and publicly excommunicated it in front of his other animals.” And we didn’t even get to the parish pig.