Weekend Roundup – November 17, 2017

He’s not worried that you’re following along on YouVersion: Pope Says No Phones in Church. Parishioners Keep Scrolling. (Note: you can get YouVersionhere.)

Not sure Francis would agree: The Reformation is over. Protestants won. So why are we still here? “Winning is dangerous — what do you do next? Do you return to Mother Church? … a number of my Protestant graduate students … convert because Catholicism is an intellectually rich theological tradition better able to negotiate the acids of our culture.”

For better, and for worse: Churches merge, close: ‘We no longer live in Christendom. We really have to accept that it’s a thing of the past’

Declining almost as fast as their congregations: UMC’s Young elder numbers slip in 2017

But some UMC congregations are fighting the trend, like Adam Weber’s Embrace Church: S.D. church makes ‘fastest-growing’ list. What’s their secret? “What we wanted to do was lower the bar for people to come in the front door,” Weber said. “We tried to open the door as wide as we possibly could.”

This played a role in my conversion: Are Free Minds and Free Markets Compatible With Christianity?

So much for the divide between science and religion: At Vatican, ‘Tenets of Faith’ Seen as Crucial in Climate Change Effort

Speaking of which, apparently there’s a debate between supporters of the Meteorite and Deep-Ocean Vent theories: We’re More Confident Than Ever That Life on Earth Really Did Come From Meteorites

Did the sun stop moving, or stop shiningHow Scientists Identified the Oldest Known Solar Eclipse … Using the Bible

Like “Friendly” ones. Welcoming Churches are Dying Churches. “Yes, we need to be welcoming… but more importantly, we need to be invitational. That means taking a risk and putting ourselves out there for possible rejection when we invite people to our church. It means going out into the world, making contact with people and building relationships with them.”

When Everything Is Missions: Kevin DeYoung reviews When Everything is Missions, by Denny Spitters and Matthew Ellison, who argue that a missionary is “(a) sent (b) across a boundary to where the gospel is not known, (c) to see a church planted that (d) can reach that region with the gospel once the missionary leaves.” I get what they’re saying, but I don’t think that (c) is always required and (d) defines the problem so nobody is a missionary unless they are planning to leave. But suppose you (a) go to work and (b) nobody there knows the gospel and (c) you invite them to be part of a home Bible study and (d) someday you move to a different town and the study moves to someone else’s home. Doesn’t that make you a missionary, even by their own definition?

(Cross-posted at jlppastor.)

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Gun Violence Information

It doesn’t seem like it. Mass killings happen randomly, yet rate has remained steady, study finds. However, other data support that conclusion: Kieran Healy: Assault Deaths to 2015

Point and Counterpoint: America’s unique gun violence problem, explained in 17 maps and charts (Vox.com), and I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise. (Leah Libresco, formerly with 538)

Christians don’t have to live in fear, but we do need to rethink what it means to be a church today: How Your Church Should Prepare for an Active Shooter

(Cross-posted at jlppastor.)

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Knowing Your Why, Baseball Edition

Church revitalization begins with knowing your why, your reason for existing, the irreducible minimum that everything else either supplements or, occasionally, is at odds with.

If you know your why, it’s easier to figure out what you must do, what you can do without if you have to, and (sometimes) what you need to stop doing. But it’s hard, because everyone in a church already has a why, a reason they attend church, support it financially, and participate in its community and ministries. Most if not all of those why‘s are good reasons, and most are roughly aligned with the why‘s of the other people in their church.

Probably.

But most churches don’t do the hard work of figuring out their why. If it ain’t broke, why make waves, etc. What if you figure out your why and your best friends at church have a different one?

But it’s not just churches. Major League Baseball has the same problem. (And they charge a lot more for season tickets than churches do!)

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Bishop Barron – long interview

I’ve enjoyed a lot of Bishop Barron’s postings inspired by things going on in pop culture. So I was intrigued when YouTube recommended this longer form interview between him and Dave Rubin. Barron is especially interesting here discussing gay marriage, since he’s talking to a married gay man.

Here’s part one of two:

The part about gay marriage is in part two, about 10 minutes in.

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Honoring God’s Name

In the book of Malachi (Malachi 3:16) we read that “a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name.”

What is the honor of God’s name? What does it mean to think about it?

I suspect that many of us have our own ideas about what would honor God’s name in different circumstances.

The first thing I noticed is that this is a continual rethinking: you can’t simply act as if you always know what brings glory to God’s name, as if it never changed in different circumstances.

The second thing is that our ideas are suspect, because we are the fallen people. The only trustworthy way to think about God’s name and what brings it honor, is by study of the Scriptures, and especially the example of Christ.

For example, we can honor God’s name by thinking what the name is. In the Hebrew Scriptures the name of God is YHWH, the Tetragrammaton. It means the living God: the God who is not a dead idol, but who acts.

In the New Testament the name is Jesus. Joseph is told to name the child Jesus … why? Because he will save his people from their sins. His name is the name of salvation. It is in his name that we are taught to pray—not our own name and our own merit, but his. It is his name that we are to gather in. It is his name that we are to baptize in. It is his name at which every knee shall bow, and which every tongue will confess. It is his name that is superior to the names of the angels.

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Habakkuk – a Good Question

In verses 12–13 of the first chapter of Habakkuk, the prophet affirms that God is sovereign. Israel’s troubles are not because God is unfaithful or weak. Rather, the Babylonians are tool God is using to punish Israel:

O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment,
and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.

The prophet poses this question:

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you are unable to look at disaster.
Why would you look at the treacherous
or keep silent when the wicked swallows one who is more righteous?

There’s an unstated assumption at the end, that Israel’s sin is less than Babylon’s. This is shaky ground. Who can say whether one sin is more offensive to God than another? Is religious pride and idolatry less offensive to God than violence and cruelty?

If we can find a way resolve that matter, however, there is a great question here: does the end justify the means? Is it right for God to use an evil tool to achieve a good result? That’s a great question even for us frail mortals, who work in a world where everything is tainted with evil. How much better a question is it for God? On the one hand, God can see everything clearly, and will not be overcome by the tools he uses. But for him not to stand off and watch, but to engage evil directly in order to use it: how can he do that?

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Sunday Worship Attendance

Tony Morgan has a series of blog posts about declining attendance in Sunday worship services, and I found it interesting:

Part 1: Panic at the Church: Dealing with Less Frequent Attendance Patterns

Part 2: How One Church Leans In to Less Frequent Attendance

Part 3: Church Attendance Decline? There’s a Problem with Your Product.

Part 4: Large Church Gatherings Are a Strategy, Not the Mission

Part 5: Why You Might Not Want People In Church Every Sunday

It’s well worth reading. Part three is tough, especially for people in church leadership, but part four is just plain thought-provoking.

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Wesley’s Questions

If you’re familiar with 12 Step programs, you might remember that Step 4 is the Truth, i.e., “Make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of yourself.”

There’s a reason they say *searching and fearless* — it’s hard to be honest about yourself. (Especially in writing.)

John Wesley and his Holy Club used to do that every day (not in writing). They had a list of questions to help them do it. Here are the first two:

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?

I should mention that I hate those questions and rarely do this.

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GA222

My friends from Seminary, many of them, are posting from #GA222 in Portland. Reading their posts, I feel like such a dog in the manger. “They’re happy. Why can’t you be happy for them?” I ask myself. The reason is the same reason I wouldn’t be happy if someone had cancer and they were treating it with homeopathic remedies. (“None of the side-effects of chemo!”) They may be happy, but they’re not addressing the problem.

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Well. Oregon-Idaho takes up support for RCRC denied at GC2016. RCRC is the religious coalition for reproductive choice, i.e., they advocate for abortion rights.

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