Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Making church "relevant"

Midnight Oil Productiuons, which appears to be affiliated with Cokesbury, has a great article and excellent discussion (blog style) on being cultural and counter-cultural at the same time .

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

You're watching too much TV if...

You're watching too much TV if...

  • You know all the names of the characters on "Desperate Housewives" but you can't name the thirteen apostles .
  • You can guess ending of a "Boston Legal" episode, but you don't remember how the New Testament ends.
  • Your cable bill each month is more than your contribution to your local church.

Supplementary reading: Stewardship of possessions

Monday, May 29, 2006

The problem with 'The Da Vinci Code'

Mark Gudgel, reviewer for Relevant magazine, says that the problem with the Da Vinci Code movie is that it is a movie. Movies let people not think ... just experience. Many people may blindly assume that the fiction is based on fact.
"Just as it is somewhat terrifying to realize that many people’s primary understanding of the final days of Christ, of the crucifixion and atonement, came to them courtesy of Mel Gibson, so is it equally frightening to think that perhaps The Da Vinci Code, in all of its mass-media splendor, may be some people’s foundation for understanding Church history or Christian belief." -- Mark Gudgel

Friday, May 26, 2006

Stewardship: Kiss snows of Kilimanjaro goodbye

The rise of just a few degrees in average world temperature will raise ocean levels about half a meter by 2100. So say nearly all scientists who've studied the issue, according to John Harte, University of California, Berkeley. Harte was speaking at the U.S.-China Symposium on Climate Change at UC Berkeley this week. Even Evangelicals agree that global warming is real and we need to act now.

But that's not all. Warmer air means less snow, including on snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro. By 2020, Kilimanjaro could have a bare top, and that's just the good news, Harte says.

A related issue is soot (black carbon particles). Liquid and most solid aeosols actually cool the air mass under them, but soot soaks up heat and warms the air mass . Diesel engines produce soot. Outdoor fires produce soot. Global warming will increase the amount of wildfires. Many nations are trying to encourage use of diesel in vehicles.

Carbon dioxide is the number one cause of global warming, yet soot doesn't stay aloft as long as carbon dioxide. So reducing soot has a faster cooling effect, though CO2 emissions need to be reduced drastically. The Kyoto Protocol is a great step forward, but Kyoto ignores black carbon problems. Does anyone see the problem here? Is delaying action on climate change a foolhardy gamble?

"An Inconvenient Truth", a film about the impact of global warming, has started playing in select theaters. Watch for it in your area.

More folks find religious left right

A recent Washington Post article, "Religious liberals gain new visibillity", appearing on, reports that the religious left is gaining in popularity and influence. These Christians are fed up with conservatives incorrectly claiming that their views are the only morally correct ones. Followers of Christ who once wanted to stay "above the fray" may now be starting to speak out and get involved.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Church is not the same anymore

In his blog posting, "Difficult but not Impossible", Bishop Swanson of the Holston Conference says, "If there is one thing we know today about 'doing church,' it is that church is not the same today as it was 40, 30, 20, or even 10 years ago." Pastors (and congregations) need to adapt.

So maybe "gimme that ol time religion" is more for singing than following?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Discover religious shows

The Discovery Channel has a lot of prior show and news material online. Here are some related to religion:

UMM and UMW losing appeal?

United Methodist Men (UMM) and United Methodist Women (UMW) have experienced declines in many churches. Rev. Larry Hollon Larry Saunders, one of the many (and I do mean many) people who contribute to the Locusts and Honey blog, suggests that perhaps the traditional mission and purposes of these groups doesn't appeal to young adults. There are several comments.

I hate to say it, but the Web site for the General Commission on United Methodist Men is a very old FrontPage style with hover buttons and slowly displays on my screen despite the cable modem's ample speed. Is this just one more indicator of not being "with it"?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Jesus: God or Man?

The ACTS International web site has an excellent online tract, "Jesus Christ: Is he God or Man?". Of course, I wince a bit when Christians use "Christ" as though it was Jesus' last name. Christ comes from the Greek word pronounced "Christos" and means the same as the Hebrew word for "Messiah".

So if you really want to avoid inappropriately using Christ as a last name, perhaps you could say, "Jesus the Christ".

Toons tickle spiritual funny bone

Cartoons can be fun, funny, or sometimes crude. When it comes to those related to religion, few are crude. But there are some so-so ones. A few I like are Church of the Covered Dish, Church Mice, and Reverend Fun. Our church subscribes to Church of the Covered Dish (there's a small fee involved for this toon series).

Here are some favorite "ReligiToons":

Where should children worship?

It's the age old debate -- should children remain with parents in the "Adult" worship service or attend a separate "Children's Church" or similar? In fact, many churches today take a sort of middle ground, where the children stay in the sanctuary until a certain point, then attend "Children's Church".

Children's Ministry Magazine got over 2000 responses to a poll about the topic. Slightly less than half favored keeping children in the main worship, while a bit more than half preferred a separate worship experience for children.
Read opposing comments on "Where should Children Worship?" by two children's ministers.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Check your theological worldview

The QuizFarm site has an interesting theology quiz. I scored highest as an Emergent/Postmodern Protestant. Here's the description for that group:

You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan57%
Roman Catholic54%
Classical Liberal46%
Neo orthodox46%
Reformed Evangelical43%
Modern Liberal36%

What's your theological worldview?
created with

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal -- What's the difference?

Jo Carter gives a whimsical reply to a Catholic asking about the differences among these three Protestant denominations . You'll find the reply amusing, as captured at the Locusts And Honey blog.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Immodesty at church

When surveyed, 76% of children's ministers said they're fed up with immodesty at church, but a sizeable 24% said that we need more tolerance of today's fashion trends. Bare midriffs ... display of cleavage ... exposed underwear ... skin-tight blouses ... skirts so short that the girl can hardly navigate stairs ...

Do these really honor God? Read the whole " Indecent Exposure" article.

The Gospel of Debbie

OK, there's this young high school girl named Debbie. And she's just met the coolest guy -- Jesus. The New Yorker article by Paul Rudnick is a humorous look at the situation, in diary form. It's way cool (or maybe "it's the bomb" [... that will get Homeland Security to read this blog!] ).

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Friday, May 12, 2006

Sermon library serves all

Gateway (United Methodist) Church archives sermons online. Some pastors shudder at the thought, though. Why is that; are there solutions?

A big reason for shunning online sermons, some Pastors have told me, is that they fear that serving up Sunday sermons on the web just entices some people to skip attending church on a few Sundays when they might otherwise attend. To help lessen that temptation, Gateway waits a few weeks before adding the sermon online. On May 12th, the April 23rd sermon was the latest posted, for example.

Here's another thought -- people who'd skip church if the sermons were online might skip church anyway. In that case, having sermons online might just reach them with a spiritual message they'd otherwise miss. The up-side of adding sermons online is that the pastoral message reaches more people -- affects more lives. That's what the sermons is for, right?

In fact, consider adding a condensed sermon outline just above the text. It helps people mentally prepare to read the text. So don't hesitate -- archive those sermons online. Reach out into the world!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What is Methodism?

St. Andrew's by the Sea UMC in San Clemente, California, has a good video series. (Windows Media file format) You can find them at their Methodism 101 page:
Gateway Church (a United Methodist Church, though they seem to avoid admitting that in their name for some reason) has a 10-part series on "Theology 101 for Methodists". Here's their information on what United Methodists believe about...

Know who you're evangelizing

Ben Gray, at "Blog Ministry," says that when we start to evangelize, we need to understand the culture of the people who are our "target audience". He briefly discusses boosting your effectiveness as a youth minister by understanding today's youth and pop culture. For example, he says that young kids prefer IM and MySpace to email. Read the comments, too -- there's some interesting stuff there.

On the front lines of global warming

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has a page about "Witnesses to climate change" that has blurbs and links to articles about four people who describe what climate change has done to their area and their lives.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Faith vs. a political agenda

The most-emailed link on Google this afternoon was "My problem with Christianism". In the Time article online, Andrew Sullivan voices concern about the ongoing attempt by some Christians to paint anyone who disagrees with their particular view of Christianity as "godless" or worse.

Monday, May 08, 2006

God's earth: Hotter climate in the future

The NOAA site has a good page summarizing global warming trends and predictions for the future of God's earth. The conclusions are especially significant in view of the current Administration's seeming tendency to ignore scientific facts and theories and stifle scientific research that don't fit its political agenda.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Take the Pulse of evangelism

The Lausanne World Pulse free online magazine contains lots of interesting news, information, and analysis of evangelism, outreach, and missionaries. The home page always dishes up the current issue -- May as of this writing. The May issue has a mini-bio about Jennie Fowler Willing, a strong supporter of women's involvement in missions in North America.

Among other things, Mrs. Willing served as an officer in the Woman's Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. "In many ways, she was Methodism's Susan B. Anthony, and was certainly Evanston's and Illinois Methodism's most famous woman in history." [Quoted at "The Des Plaines Methodist Camp Ground", by CDCGA -- cached at Google].

The mini-bio in the magazine is topical and timely, since with Heritage Sunday 2006 on May 26th, the United Methodist Church celebrates 50 years of full clergy rights for women.
Related links:

Friday, May 05, 2006

Miracle Money Chicken

"The Mystery of the Money Chicken" describes a church's experience that passing around to youth a chicken flower pot as a collection plate got better results than other methods. Interesting. Can your church adopt some similar practice and get better giving?

This posting came from the "Alas! and did my Savior Blog?" blog, penned by a young man preparing to go into pastoral ministry in the UMC.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Too cool toward global warming?

"It is now plain that the emission of greenhouse gases' causing global warming at a rate that is unsustainable," said Tony Blair in a forward to a report of the British Met (meteorological) office. Even modest temperature increases could disrupt ocean currents and plunge Europe into a mini ice age.

Canada says the link between human activity and global warming is undeniable . Furthermore, a recent poll shows that 71 percent of Americans also believe that global warming is for real. An even greater percentage, 75%, want more Federal action on global warming. They are even willing to sacrifice to do something about it.
What is your church doing to protect God's earth? Are you part of the solution?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

'Be' church, don't 'Do' church

In " The Unattractive", Pastor Jim Hoffman, Lee's Summit UMC, says that churches are failing when they get stuck in "doing" church instead of "being" the church.

More ways to read these postings

You can always come to this blog's web page to read the posts. That's my personal preference. But if you start subscribing to a "bunch o' blogs", the number of new articles may get large. One way to manage scanning them for what you really want to read is to use a " Feed Reader", which I've mentioned in prior posts.

Blog readers (a.k.a. feed readers or RSS readers) come in two basic forms -- web-based and ones installed on your PC. The web-based variety involves setting up an account at Google, Yahoo! or similar wites, then adding blogs to track. You log onto the Web site to see new headlines from the blogs in your list. The local install method gives you a program. When you run the program, many of which look similar to MS Outlook, you "subscribe" to blogs. The program then pulls down information about the blog postings and you read as you like.

Here are a few recently touted feed readers (blog readers):

Monday, May 01, 2006

Pew Forum smells nice

The Pew Forum of Religion & Public Life has a lot of great links, surveys, news, ...

One tidbit:
Americans strongly favor increased government aid to the poor. According to a July 2005 poll conducted by the Pew Forum and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 69% of Americans favor providing more generous government assistance to the poor.