The Weekend Wanderer: 28 March 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.

116238“To Cancel or Not to Cancel: That Is the Question” – Like so many other church leaders, I have wrestled with adjusting to the new challenges of this time of COVID-19. We quickly cancelled public gatherings, including weekend services, due to state and local governmental orders services, but also out of the desire to love our neighbor by not spreading the virus. I do know that many churches continue to struggle with these decisions and what it means to “not forsake meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25) while also “being subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1). Here is a joint statement on that topic issued by The National Association of Evangelicals and Christianity Today.


Tom Wright Coronavirus“Ask NT Wright Anything #33 – Tom on Coronavirus, self-isolating and praying through crisis” – If you’re not acquainted with the podcast, “Ask NT Wright Anything,” this is a perfect opportunity to do so. Hosted by Justin Brierley, this episode finds Tom Wright self-isolating in his home in Oxford, covering topics related to the Coronavirus pandemic. “They cover: How Christians can maintain spiritual health during isolation, the pastoral implications for churches now and in the future, and why God created a world where disease and sickness exist.”


_111407082_priest_976“Coronavirus: At least 50 priests killed by coronavirus” –  What does selfless love look like? Maybe like this. “The deadly coronavirus sweeping across the world has killed at least 50 priests, officials say. They include Father Giuseppe Berardelli, 72, who died early this month in Lovere, Bergamo – one of the worst-hit cities in Italy. Reports on Tuesday that he had chosen to give his respirator to a younger coronavirus patient he did not know have been denied by close friends. Italy is the world’s worst affected country with 6,820 deaths so far.”


Oberammergau

“Pandemic postpones Oberammergau ‘Passion Play,’ itself a response to a plague”  – In neighboring Germany, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing a different sort of change. “In 1632, when the bubonic plague was spreading death across Europe and killed at least one member of every family in a small Bavarian Alpine town, distraught villagers in Oberammergau made a vow to God to perform a Passion play depicting the death and resurrection of Christ if their lives could be spared. As the legend goes, no further deaths were recorded and the Passionspiele — reenacting the end of the life of Jesus — has been staged every decade, or 41 times, since 1634. The coronavirus pandemic has now forced the cancellation of the 2020 edition — a total of 109 five-hour-long performances scheduled to run from May 16 to October 4. Officials announced Thursday that the world-famous open-air production, which features 2,500 residents from the town of 5,400, would be postponed two years, to May 2022.”


When a third of the world died“When a Third of the World Died” – History is important in the present moment to help us gain perspective on our own time, but also to learn from the past. Here is Mark Galli’s 1996 article from Christian History about the black plague in 14th century Europe, and its impact on the world and the church. “From 1347 to about 1350, medieval Europe experienced perhaps the greatest calamity in human history. It shouldn’t surprise us that this plague, or the Black Death as it is often called, left its mark on medieval Christianity. But in many cases, the mark it left looked as hideous as the symptoms of the Black Death itself.”


Chung Sye-kyun“S.Korea to act against churches for defying COVID-19 guidelines” – “South Korea’s Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said on Monday that his government is planning legal action against some Protestant churches for going ahead with their services, defying the ban on social gatherings. The move comes after the government claim that social distancing measures have shown positive results. South Korea on Monday said that it has reported the lowest daily figure of new COVID-19 or novel coronavirus infection since its outbreak….Chung said stern measures would be taken against churches, who have defined guidelines, meant to stem the spread of the virus. ‘The act of churches has seriously hurt not only the safety of individuals attending the service but also communities,’ Chung said while heading a meeting of various government agencies.”


116306“Pastors from Europe Tell North America: Get Ready Now” – A pastor friend shared this article by Ed Stetzer with me and I found it incredibly helpful and challenging. “This week, the Send Institute hosted a Zoom call with pastors, church planters, and missionaries in Italy and Spain to show solidarity and to glean from them how to prepare North American churches for the next few weeks. The resounding theme from the call was: Get ready.


Communion“Worship and Sacrament When the Church Is Scattered” – Every once in awhile you experience something fun when you discover two people you know separately actually know each other. That happened to me this past week when The Pastor Theologians Podcast featured Chris Ganski of City Reformed Church here in Milwaukee with Benj Petroelje, who I know from a previous ministry setting, of 14th Street Christian Reformed Church in Holland, MI. In this conversation, the two pastors explores what it means to worship and celebrate the sacraments in the time of COVID-19.


 

Music: Kirk Franklin and the Family, “Now Behold the Lamb,” from Christmas

[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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 14 March 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.


CoronavirusCoronavirus – Public Health Informational Links – In the midst of all of the ever-changing updates on coronavirus and COVID-19, it is important to stay informed about what the virus is and what to do. I urge everyone to stay informed through the following resources:


masked girl to protect herself from wuhan virus in public area

Coronavirus – Church Resource Links – I have also come across a wide variety of resource links for churches who are trying to navigate this situation. Here are the resources pages I have found most helpful. If you have others, please feel free to post them in the comments for this post.


Eastbrook at Home Screen“Eastbrook at Home” – Like many other churches, we were forced to move our weekend services away from public gathering because of the declaration of a public emergency by our governor and the recommendation that events involving groups over 250 not meet. We have dubbed that online presence “Eastbrook at Home,” and it also includes links for further worship and discipleship at home resources. You are welcome to join us. We also have pulled together a page for congregational updates, including from our Medical Advisory Team, at “Health and Wellness Updates.”


1_QZDBZ9nV4EcpizDnCKKtMQ“Love in the Time of Coronavirus” – Andy Crouch offers a thorough and insightful look at how we can step forward to shape the culture at this unique time.”A leader’s responsibility, as circumstances around us change, is to speak, live, and make decisions in such a way that the horizons of possibility move towards shalom, flourishing for everyone in our sphere of influence, especially the vulnerable.” I view this as a must-read article for anyone with some sort of leadership presence. Justin Taylor offers a helpful summary of Crouch’s article in “A Guide for Christian Leaders in the Time of Coronavirus.”


Wuhan“Wuhan Pastor: Pray with Us” – I had not seen this letter written in January by an anonymous pastor from Wuhan, China, until I stumbled upon it recently when searching for something else. Given the way this situation has changed so quickly for us in the States, as well as around the world, I highly recommend reading this pastoral letter to believers in a time of crisis.


115964“Bethlehem Christians Bear Burden of Israel’s Coronavirus Crackdown” – “Visitors to Israel are now required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, according to safety measures implemented by the Israeli government in response to the global COVID-19 outbreak. The new policy has put a major dampener on Easter pilgrimages to the Holy Land—where 6 out of 10 tourists were Christians in 2018—dealing yet another blow to communities heavily dependent on foreign visitors.”


Music: Keith and Kristyn Getty, “Jesus, Draw Me Closer,” from In Christ Alone

[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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 6 October 2018

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.

 

nobel prize“Nobel Peace Prize for anti-rape activists Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege” – From the BBC: “The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize has gone to campaigners against rape in warfare, Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege. Ms Murad is an Iraqi Yazidi who was tortured and raped by Islamic State militants and later became the face of a campaign to free the Yazidi people. Dr Mukwege is a Congolese gynaecologist who, along with his colleagues, has treated tens of thousands of victims.” As Christianity Today reports, Dr. Mukwege is a Christian who has dedicated his career to caring for victims of rape. “If Christians do not live out the practical implications of their faith among their communities and neighbors, ‘we cannot fulfill the mission entrusted to us by Christ,’ he said at a keynote for the Lutheran World Federation last year.”

 

83718“What Tim Keller Wants American Christians to Know About Politics” – Christianity Today‘s “Quick to Listen” podcast has an interview with Tim Keller this week on the hot topic of Christian approaches to politics. “Shortly after the [Kavanaugh] hearing, a book excerpt from Tim Keller, the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, appeared in The New York Times. ‘Christians cannot pretend they can transcend politics and simply “preach the Gospel,”‘ he wrote in his latest book Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy. ‘Those who avoid all political discussions and engagement are essentially casting a vote for the social status quo. … To not be political is to be political.’ But that doesn’t mean that Christians have to hold convictions about every moment of political life, said Keller.” About twenty minutes in, Keller speaks some wise words about the way in which politics can easily become our identity or are religion, and how the gospel might strengthen us within the church to have meaningful discussion about these divisive issues in order to bridge gaps.

 

merlin_144839694_a3396ea5-3907-4a24-8669-225c037f5985-superJumbo“A Complete National Disgrace” – David Brooks writes on themes of the Kavanaugh hearing, political polarization, institutional thinking, and the possibility of a way forward. “Over the past few years, hundreds of organizations and thousands of people (myself included) have mobilized to reduce political polarization, encourage civil dialogue and heal national divisions. The first test case for our movement was the Kavanaugh hearings. It’s clear that at least so far our work is a complete failure….What we saw in these hearings was the unvarnished tribalization of national life.” I do believe that  [Thanks to Alan Jacobs for sharing this article.]

 

william-willimon“Court Preachers” – Speaking of this sort of thing, Will Willimon, professor at Duke Divinity School and co-author, with Stanley Hauerwas, of Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, writes a provocative essay against “court preachers.” What are court preachers? “Preachers attempting to ingratiate themselves with the powerful; some clergy are always willing to sacrifice the gospel in exchange for proximity to the crown.” Who might be a court preacher today? Willimon takes aim at Franklin Graham on this account, and for some good reasons, it seems. I continue to ask myself: have we lost who we are as evangelicals in this season of time, or are we trapped within the endless cycle of ideological polarization?

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 8.20.23 AM“Overcoming Our Greatest Affliction”Andy Crouch, author of such books as Culture Making and Strong and Weak, opens up an important cultural discussion for those of us naming Christ as our Lord. “We are the most powerful generation in history, but also the loneliest, most anxious, and most depressed. We’re meant to flourish in heart, soul, mind, strength, and relationship — yet culture asks us undermine our personhood to acquire power. ”

 

Stalin“Among the Disbelievers” – Gary Saul Morson, in a wide-ranging essay in Commentary, traces the ways that atheism was not just a part of Soviet communism, but “central to the Bolshevik project.” He explores the place of “ethics” within that ideology, as well as the loss and recovery of “conscience,” particularly as seen in the work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. He writes: “As Richard Dawkins explains in The God Delusion: ‘What matters is not whether Hitler and Stalin were atheists, but whether atheism systematically influences people to do bad things. There is not the smallest evidence that it does.’ This comment displays an ignorance so astonishing that, as the Russian expression goes, one can only stare and spit.” [Thanks to Micah Mattix for sharing this in the Daily Prufrock.]

 

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“Azusa Pacific Reverses Approval for Gay Student Couples” Last week I shared an article on Azusa Pacific University’s (APU) change of stance in relation to human sexuality and, more specifically, attempting to not shine the spotlight in a discriminatory manner on same-sex attraction or those with gender dysphoria. Apparently, the board of trustees of the university weren’t asked about it, and APU has reversed course on that move after receiving severe criticism about this change.

 

83694“No Refuge: Persecuted Christians Entering US Dwindle to Record Low” – “Refugee resettlement hit a record low over the past year, with the United States taking in fewer than half the amount permitted under a reduced refugee ceiling of 45,000….Though most of the refugees welcomed over the past year are Christians, the overall drop means far fewer believers are finding refuge in the US than in prior years. In the 2018 fiscal year, 15,748 Christian refugees entered the country, a 36.4 percent decline from the previous year and a 55 percent decline from fiscal year 2016.” Of course, as the article points out at the beginning, all of this is a subset of the overall reduction of refugee resettlement both in the past year and now in the coming year.

 

merlin_141072990_3f059377-d122-45a7-ba46-95c7e81bf387-jumbo“Migrant Children Moved Under Cover of Darkness to a Texas Tent City” – “In shelters from Kansas to New York, hundreds of migrant children have been roused in the middle of the night in recent weeks and loaded onto buses with backpacks and snacks for a cross-country journey to their new home: a barren tent city on a sprawling patch of desert in West Texas. Until now, most undocumented children being held by federal immigration authorities had been housed in private foster homes or shelters, sleeping two or three to a room. They received formal schooling and regular visits with legal representatives assigned to their immigration cases. But in the rows of sand-colored tents in Tornillo, Tex., children in groups of 20, separated by gender, sleep lined up in bunks. There is no school: The children are given workbooks that they have no obligation to complete. Access to legal services is limited.”

 

83583“The Unintended Impact of The Church Planting Industry on Our Evangelistic Impact”Ed Stetzer, a seasoned church planter and trainer of church planters, reflects on some issues that have led me to pull back from modern expressions of church planting. Primarily, he begins to question one of the driving assumptions behind the modern, American church planting movement since its beginnings in the 1980s. That assumption (given to us by missiologist C. Peter Wagner): “church planting is the most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven.” Ed asks some meaningful questions, while admitting that an industry has arisen around church planting. His admissions don’t go far enough in my mind, but I still encourage you to read this essay.

 

[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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 16 June 2018

The “Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly post in which I gather a smattering of news, stories, resources, and other media you could explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

 

82253“Fleming Rutledge: Why Being ‘Spiritual’ Is Never Enough” – If you’re a preacher you should read this article. If you’re a Christian, you probably should read it to and consider passing it along to your pastor. Rutledge writes: “I, too, would argue that our crisis of discipleship stems in part from a dearth of biblical preaching. Many people, clergy and lay people alike, think we are hearing biblical preaching because the sermons we hear on Sunday seem to be based on a biblical text, but that is not what makes a sermon biblical. If the preacher is not personally invested in expounding the text, so that he or she seems to be risking something, it’s not biblical preaching. If the sermon does not seem to be coming out of the preacher’s inmost convictions, it’s not biblical preaching.” (Thanks to my friend, David Bier, for sharing this one with me.)

 

Aleksandr_Solzhenitsyn_1974b“40 Years Ago Today: When Solzhenitsyn Schooled Harvard” – This articles comes from last week, but marks an important anniversary of a serious rebuke of Western secularism by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn for its overemphasis upon personal freedom. If you’re unfamiliar with Solzhenitsyn’s commencement speech, “A World Split Apart,” then read it or watch it.

 

Religion-and-Film“Religion Goes to the Movies” is Robert Sinnerbrink’s in-depth review of  S. Brent Plate’s book, Religion and Film: Cinema and the Re-creation of the World. Starting with the recent uptick in religious film-making, Sinnerbrink track’s Plate’s look at how film and religion relate in the contemporary culture. “Religion and Film is a fascinating and impressive text, both engaging and illuminating. It opens up new ways of thinking for the uninitiated as well as providing thought-provoking theses for the more expert reader. And it makes the otherwise confusing relationship between religion and film perspicuous and persuasive in ways that few academic studies have been able to achieve.”

 

82310“Moving Our Congregations to More Effective Evangelism”Ed Stetzer points out three ways that leaders can move their congregations to become not only evangelistically-minded but evangelistically effective.  It all flows from a healthy understanding of what evangelism is, our role in it, and how we can work with God in sharing Christ verbally with others.

 

Nietszche“Reading Dangerously: The illiberal philosophers and our fractured politics” – Ian Marcus Corbin takes a critical look at the book Dangerous Minds by Ronald Beiner that leads him into a deeper exploration of our fractured politics. In the end, he suggests that perhaps looking at everything through a political lens may create the fractures that we experience today.

 

[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.]

10 Practices of a Missional Jesus (via Root 48)

My friend, Brian Hofmeister, recently posted this list of Jesus’ missional practices on his blog, Root 48. He drew the list from Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer’s book, Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations. With all the talk of what it means to be missional, I found Brian’s list from the book to be a refreshing look at Jesus’ actual practices of mission.You can visit the Transformation Church web-site here.

What do you think this means for our life as the church?

  1. Jesus Invested in People because He Believed in People (entrusted responsibility and anticipate transformation)
  2. Jesus Saw Long and Far (prayed for generations down the road)
  3. Jesus Sent People Away on Mission (two waves of sending in pairs)
  4. Jesus Grieved Over the City (broken of Jerusalem’s unresponsiveness)
  5. Jesus Lead a Balanced Life (engaged mission, then restored in retreat)
  6. Jesus Embraced Other Cultures (Samaritans and Gentiles)
  7. Jesus Gave Up His Will (followed the Father’s lead)
  8. Jesus Surround Himself with Lost People, and they Enjoyed Him (friend of sinners; extending grace to failures)
  9. Jesus’ Harvest Vision was Leveraged by Prayer (prayed as much as he did)
  10. Jesus Felt the Needs of People (wept for Lazarus)