Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006: the year "the powers that be" became "the powers that were"

Click on the title of this post for The Washington Post's year-end summary of religious news. The bottom line: whether the subject is Congress or church leadership, people are just not happy with the status quo.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Jeremiah 29:7

Year ago, the comic-strip Kudzu featured the Reverend Will B. Dunne -- a pastor who felt he'd been called to minister to the rich and famous. Somehow, it never turned out . . .

But click on the title of this post, and you get read the LA Times profile of Kim Dorr -- a Hollywood agent who runs Bel Air Presbyterian's outreach to the entertainment industry. (And yes, this is one woman you might want to keep in your prayers; I cannot even begin to imagine the challenges she must face in her ministry!)

The purpose-driven church comes to Hog Mountain

What happens when a little, bitty, rural church gets swallowed up by urban sprawl? Click here to find out! (And the next time you're tempted to mutter about "old fogeys," remember that the change-agent in this church is a pastor who's 81-years-old!)

Friday, December 22, 2006

You can do the same thing with most CCM.

Click on the title of this post for Benny Davis's "Four Chord Song" -- a pastiche of 19 pop songs that all use pretty much the same chord progression.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Where would we be without Ned Flanders?

The Parents Television Council (PTC) reports that TV shows mentioned religion only half as much this year as they did the last -- and a full third of the references were negative.

The big exception? Reality shows, where religion often comes up -- and almost always in a positive light!

And even though the PTC doesn't mention it, religion is also an essential part of The Simpsons! Click here for a reprint of "The Simpsons have soul" -- and if you'd like to read a Wikipedia article on The Simpsons and religion, click here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Today's communion service was brought to you by Welches grape juice . . .

So . . . you get a letter that offers you a chance to win both a thousand dollars and at a free trip to London; all you need to do is mention Disney's film, "The Chronicles of Narnia," in one of your sermons.

Would you do it?

And no, this is not a theoretical question. According to a recent article in the Wharton School of Business's on-line journal, major corporations such as Disney and DaimlerChrysler are looking for ways to reach church audiences . . . and if that means paying pastors to do "product placements" in church services, then so be it.

Full disclosure: as editor of Signs of the Times, I wrote an annual sermon that was sent out to all Adventist pastors; the hope was they'd use the sermon -- and in the process, they'd put in a plug for Signs. And yes, I've also run announcements in the church bulletin for upcoming Adventist Book Center sales; in return, our church got a $20 credit on future orders.

Click on the title of this post for a reprint of the article in "Out of Ur." As you do so, I hope you'll appreciate the irony of the fact that it's sponsored by Leadership magazine. And yes, you may want follow this article with William Willimon's mediation on consumerism; click here to read it.

Update: For part two of the Wharton article, click here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Love is blind -- and often tasteless

I don't know any pastor who's going to be surprised by this article in The New York Times -- it reports that a lot of couples plan to get married without really knowing all that much about each other.

Click on the title of this post for the article -- and if you'd like a list of the 15 questions a couple should ask before marriage, then click here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

New York, New York, it's a [heavenly] town . . .

I dunno -- you think about starting an outreach ministry to the people who work on Wall Street, and you picture something . . . sophisticated.

But faith healing? Speaking in tongues? And the kind of straight-up belief in miracles that says the World Trade Center was kept standing as long as it did by prayer?

Meet Dan Stratton: a graduate of Yale and a former commodities trader who now leads a 400-member Pentecostal church in downtown Manhattan.

(Click on the title of this post for the article in The New York Times.)

Episcopalians face split over gays

The Episcopal Church has always prided itself on its ability to draw together all kinds of Christians:
  • "high church" Anglo-Catholics,
  • "low church" evangelicals,
  • and "broad church" liberals.
That era may be coming to an end. The American church's decision to ordain women dismayed Anglo-Catholics; its decision to ordain a gay bishop has outraged Anglo-Catholics, evangelicals, and Anglican leaders around the world. Now a group of American churches has announced its intent to secede from the local diocese, and form an alliance with a bishop overseas.

For a mix of perspectives on this issue, click here for an article in The Christian Science Monitor, here for an article in The New York Times and here for an article in The Washington Post.

Update: To read the response of a "broad church" Episcopal priest to all this, click here for the article in Slate. (You can sum up her view as "good bye and good riddance.")

Update: Click here for a NYT profile of Peter Akinola -- the Nigerian archbishop whose strong stance against homosexuality has made him the leader of 21 Episcopal churches in the USA.

Jesus was homeless too.

Click here for an article in The Christian Science Monitor about "Common Cathedral" -- a ministry to street people in Boston. And you can click here for an article in The Oregonian about "Dinner and a Movie" -- a ministry to homeless adolescents in Portland.

Thinking about trying something similar yourself? As both articles point out, ministries such as these take time -- time on the street, time to earn trust, and time to see results.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rest in Peace?

It's a scene that's played out by thousands of families every day . . . but when you're Billy Graham, it gets covered by the Washington Post.

Simply put: the Graham family has split over the question of their parents eventual burial.
  • Youngest son Ned wants his mothers' wishes honored; she's always wanted to be buried up in the hills of North Carolina -- and she wants Billy there beside her.
  • Oldest son Frankling wants them both to be buried on the grounds of the new Billy Graham Evangelistic Association museum that he's building in Charlotte -- a museum that features (among other things) a talking cow.
  • And Billy? He hates controversy.
Click on the title of this post for the article in the Washington Post.

Update: Billy Graham's response to this article was that he and his wife will choose the site of their graves; click here for the article in the Washington Post.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Not only are there no atheists in foxholes, but there don't seem to be many at the Pentegon.

Seven high-ranking Army and Air Force officers appeared in a promotional video for the Christian Embassy -- an evangelical outreach group that's run by Bill Bright.

Nothing wrong with that . . . but they did so in uniform, and that's raised some eyebrows.

Click on the title of this post for the article in the Washington Post.

But wait -- there's more! Click here to read an interview with Mikey Weinstein, the man who's leading the charge against this video. (And yes, I think it's safe to say that he is not a happy camper.)

Caught between two worlds

Sooner or later, it happens to every pastor.

One of the kids in your church -- a nice kid, always polite, never missed church or Sabbath School, did a great job leading Student Week of Prayer . . .

He finishes high school. Moves off to college. Gets a job in the big city.

Then you hear from a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend that he's "come out of the closet."

And yes, he's still part of the church family -- part of the church family in a way that only someone who grew up in a small church can be.

But . . .

(Click on the title of this post for the article in the New York Times.)

The day Harlem got its steeple back.

It was one of Harlem's landmarks . . . but 35-years-ago, the Ephesus SDA Church caught fire and lost its steeple.

Today, the steeple is back -- and the church is on the front-page of the New York Times!

Click on the title of this post for the article.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Ditch the praise team; add a belching contest.

Click on the title for an LA Times article on Brad Stine -- the Christian comedian who's made it his life's work to "dewussify" American Christianity. And yes, if you've read Wild at Heart, you know what he's talking about:
  • holding hands,
  • sharing feelings,
  • and Praise services that sound like the kind of music your wife listens to in the car?
All that is now verboten; the goal is a church service for "manly men."

Mind you, I'm not entirely sure that "rude and crude" is all that much of an improvement . . .

Thursday, December 07, 2006

When "purpose driven" meets NIMBY

It's not just the traffic -- no, it's also the impact on the environment that has their neighbors so upset.

Talking about shopping malls?

No -- we're talking about megachurches. Click on the title for the article in The Christian Science Monitor.

India's Christians

Yes, they make up less than three-percent of India's population -- but come Sunday mornings, you'll find more Christians attending church in India than you do in the United Kingdom. Click on the title of this post for a quick look at that country's believers in the Christian Science Monitor.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Okay, you've shown me the money. Now what?

Want to realize just how rich you really are? Click on the title for this post.

As an Adventist pastor, you see, I make roughly $50,000 per year. That's not including my pension plan, medical benefits, and educational subsidies -- and when you have two children in SDA schools, that adds up fast!

Still, I'd always thought of myself as "middle-class" -- and in the USA, I'm about as close to the median for family income as it is possible to get.

But then I clicked on "Global Rich List," and I discovered that I make more money than 99% of the people on this planet . . .

It's an odd feeling.

Tax-collectors, sinners, and Democrats

Op-ed piece by the Washington Post's E. J. Dionne on Rock Warren's invite to Barack Obama viz. the Saddleback Church's recent conference on AIDS. The bottom line: Evangelical Christianity (says Dionne) is no longer a Sunday-morning pep-rally for the GOP.

Then again, E. J. is something of an anomaly himself -- he's a liberal Democrat, remember, AND a devout Catholic. So . . . has he really found a kindred spirit in the Purpose-Driven pastor? Or is this wishful thinking?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Harold be thy name

Too late for the holiday, I ran across BustedHalo' s guide to Thanksgiving prayers . . . but it still applies to Christmas (and an amazing number of pastoral prayers that I've heard in church).