The Weekend Wanderer: 1 May 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


“Died: C. René Padilla, Father of Integral Mission” – Here is David C. Kirkpatrick at Christianity Today remembering a leading missiologist of the last century: “C. René Padilla, theologian, pastor, publisher, and longtime staff member with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, died Tuesday, April 27, at the age of 88. Padilla was best known as the father of integral mission, a theological framework that has been adopted by over 500 Christian missions and relief organizations, including Compassion International and World Vision. Integral mission pushed evangelicals around the world to widen their Christian mission, arguing that social action and evangelism were essential and indivisible components—in Padilla’s words, ‘two wings of a plane.'” You may also appreciate the further article: “Leaders and Friends Remember C. René Padilla.”


“Despite multiracial congregation boom, some Black congregants report prejudice” – Adelle M. Banks at Religion News Service reporting on a recent study by Barna and the Racial Justice and Unity Center: “Most practicing Christians believe the church can enhance race relations in this country by welcoming people of all races and ethnicities, new research finds. But 29% of Black practicing Christians say they have experienced racial prejudice in multiracial congregations, compared to about a tenth who report such an experience in monoracial Black churches. And a third of Black Christians say it is hard to gain leadership positions in a multiracial congregation. The new report, released Wednesday (April 28) by Barna Group and the Racial Justice and Unity Center, examines the views of what researchers call ‘practicing Christians,’ people who self-identify as Christians, say their faith is very important to them and say they attended worship in the past month.”


“How Quebec went from one of the most religious societies to one of the least”– Church historian Philip Jenkins in The Christian Century: “Religious Americans sometimes look nervously at the rapid secularization of European nations and wonder if something similar could happen to them. The last decade has witnessed a notable drift to the secular in the United States, measured for instance by the substantial rise in nones, those who reject any religious affiliation. Meanwhile, the current pandemic will assuredly have wide-ranging effects on institutions of all kinds. But we don’t have to look as far away as Europe for an example of a quite sudden and irrevocable decline of religious faith and practice and the general re­placement of old congregations by new populations. To see just how speedily an old religious order can collapse, look no further than the Canadian province of Quebec.”


pastors read“Why Pastors Should Read Literature” –  Karen Swallow Prior at The Center for Pastor Theologians: “It’s always seemed strange to me that reading good literary works—poetry, drama, short stories, novels—is something that needs defending, particularly among Christians. After all, most people seem to understand (even if we don’t make time to do it often) why we visit art galleries, attend symphonies, and go to plays….But the truth is that we are made of words, by words, and for words. Immersing ourselves in beautiful words (even if only for a few precious minutes most or a few days) is like getting a burst of oxygen in air-deprived lungs. Most of us live and work in polluted environments. We are surrounded by words of anguish, anger, anxiety, and—most of all—efficiency. Literary language, on the other hand, is evocative, rich, resonant, and inviting.”


“A Law of Deceleration: How I dumped the internet and learned to love technology again”  – Paul McDonnold at Plough: “The monster had taken over my work life, home life, and many of the spaces in between. My one-time enchantment was now disgust, and in 2019 I decided to disconnect, or at least pull way back. As much as possible, I began reading and writing with paper and pen instead of pixels. I dropped my home broadband service. My only personal internet came from a smartphone, which had a 3-gigabyte monthly limit. Beyond that, I used public wi-fi at the library. Email became a once-a-day thing, and I stopped scanning Google News. I let my Facebook page languish for weeks, then months. Then I deleted it. My life decelerated, and time seemed to expand. I was able to do more, read more, and think more. And I felt better. But with so many people still paying near-constant obeisance to digital screens, I also began to feel like I was in a science fiction movie – the only human who had snapped out of the monster’s malevolent hypnosis. Then Covid-19 hit, and I had to make some concessions to the monster.”


friendship“Friendship is a place of sacrifice—and sanctification” – Eve Tushnet at America reviews a recent book on friendship: “There is a way of praising friendships that unintentionally undermines them. We often picture friendship as our refuge—romantic relationships bring drama, work brings hassle, family is chaos, but with friends you can relax. You’re understood. Friendship is ‘The Golden Girls,’ where every tiny comic tiff is resolved by the end of the half-hour. Friendship is sweet because friendship is easy. Friendship is safe, because friendship is too small to really hurt you. This is not the only Christian model for friendship. It isn’t even the most obvious Christian model. The greatest friendships in the Bible are sites of sacrifice. Jonathan, having made a covenant of friendship with David, gladly sacrifices personal safety, his relationship with his father and the kingship. Jesus identifies friendship with discipleship and with his own sacrifice for us on the cross, in Jn 15:13-15 (of course it’s in John, the Gospel of the “beloved disciple”): ‘No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.’ That model, in which friendship can be the site of our sanctification because it is a site of sacrifice, animates much of St. Aelred’s dialogues, Spiritual Friendship.”


Music: U2, “The Troubles,” Songs of Innocence

The Weekend Wanderer: 5 September 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Chadwick Boseman“Chadwick Boseman: Man of faith in real life, ‘Black Panther’ on screen” – This past week brought news of Chadwick Boseman’s passing after a four-year battle with colon cancer. Boseman, best known for his portrayal of the title character of Marvel’s Black Panther, also portrayed Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall in feature films. “From the impression he left on a pastor of his youth to his own words at the 2018 commencement of Howard University, his alma mater, Boseman demonstrated a Christian life that included service, overcoming stereotypes and a desire to depict strong characters.”


Elon Musk Neuralink pig“Human Interests and Technological Systems” – What happens when human life serves technology more than technology serves human life? L. M. Sacasas critiques a recent display of apparent technological ingenuity by Elon Musk to raise significant questions about human life and technology. “Who is being plugged in to what? Or, to put it another way, who is the dominant partner, the computer or the brain? Are we plugging into a system that will serve our ends, or are we being better fitted to serve the interests of the technological system.”


Congregation at church praying

“1 in 5 churches facing permanent closure within 18 months due to COVID-19 shutdowns: Barna president” – Many churches have been detrimentally impacted by COVID-19, whether in the loss of church members, the inability to meet in person, or financial difficulties. In an interview with NPR, David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group, predicts that 1 in 5 churches could face permanent closure in the next year and a half because of shutdowns related to COVID-19.


vocation“Vocation in a Time of Precedented Uncertainty” – Here’s Noah Toly speaking about vocation in Comment:  “Even if ‘unprecedented’ is overused, the novel coronavirus, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the containment and mitigation measures put in place to check the spread of the disease have been extraordinarily disruptive, destroying lives, upending livelihoods, and clouding the future with uncertainty. Among the many casualties of these current risks and future uncertainties is sure-footed conviction about our vocations. Why would we continue to invest time and attention in the same things that captured our imaginations before the pandemic? Where does our work fit into questions about the future of the global economy, the possibility of environmental integrity, the pace of scientific discovery, or the scale of global charitable giving?


iran“Researchers Find Christians in Iran Approaching 1 Million” – While not the first to report the news of the growth of Christianity in Iran, what is perhaps most interesting is that this latest research about the growth of christianity in Iran is from a non-faith-based perspective. With government statistics showing the traditional Armenian and Assyrian Christians in Iran number 117,700, ” a new survey of 50,000 Iranians—90 percent residing in Iran—by GAMAAN, a Netherlands-based research group, 1.5 percent identified as Christian.” This data extrapolates out to over 750,000 people in the total population of Iran.


Music: Max Richter, “Mercy,” from Voices.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Age Segmentation in Church Ministry

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For five years I was the Collegiate Ministries Pastor at Elmbrook Church. In my work area (affectionately known as the West Wing) also resided the Middle School Pastor and the Senior High Pastor. Across the building, there was the 20-Somethings Pastor and the Children’s Pastor. We also had a 30-Somethings ministry for awhile, not to mention the Seniors Ministry Pastor and those who gave attention to Middle Adults.

Dividing up people into age segments is natural and helpful in a lot of ways. It has become the standard way to focus in on the specific needs of certain groups of people, while also insuring that the entire group is taken care of.

Large churches are not the only churches to do this sort of thing. Smaller churches tend to do the same thing, although they have less staff power behind more specific endeavors.

However, in recent years, there has been a lot of questioning of this age segmentation within the church. The word ‘intergenerational’ has become a popular buzz-word in ministry settings, particularly in student or youth ministry settings. The reaction to age segmented ministry has arisen in large part due to recent studies that show that many students simply abandon their faith during their college years and never come back, not even when they have kids. You can see this sort of research from the Barna Group, as well as in the work of sociologists of religion like Christian Smith in his book Soul Searching and the National Study of Youth and Religion.

Leadership interviewed Kara Powell, a researcher on these topics, in their most recent issue and you can read the interview online here. I appreciated this article because Powell does not offer trite answers on this topic, but does dig deep into how this should impact church structures, student ministry, senior pastoral leadership, as well as the family and parents’ role in the discipleship of children and students.

With 50 to 70% of students who were actively involved in church student ministries leaving the faith in their early twenties, we need to give careful attention to what we are doing as a whole church to develop a family of faith.

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