More proof of false Christian persecution

As I outlined in my last blog post concerned Robert Griffin III and Christian persecution, it is a false narrative.  The myth of Christian persecution was again proved as Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah caught and intercepted Tom Brady‘s pass on Monday Night Football.

In celebration of Abdullah’s play, he went down to pray. Abdullah, a Muslim, was penalized and his team incurred a 15-yard penalty on the next kick off.

In response, this tweet was posted on Twitter:

If anything pro-Christian favoritism could be argued here. Fortunately, the NFL responded that Abdullah should have not been penalized. The decision for penalty during the game was:

The prayer drew a 15-yard penalty flag for unsportsmanlike conduct, for “going to the ground” while celebrating after a score. There are exceptions made for religious prayer in the rule…

At the least we have learned two things:

  1. The media look for any angle to make a story run
  2. It’s easy to selectively prove (falsely) that Christian persecution exists.

Beware of the danger of the single story.

RG3, false persecution, and Christianity

rg3

There’s a big uproar over Robert Griffin III reversing his shirt inside out at a press conference. RG3’s shirt read, “Know Jesus Know Peace” or “No Jesus No Peace”. (Cool play on words there.)

Over at Fox News, they are creating a controversy. On the Fox and Friends Facebook page, they posted the above picture with the text:

Out of Bounds! At a post-game press conference, Washington Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III was told to turn his shirt inside out before speaking to reporters! Do you think he should have been allowed to wear his shirt as-is?

Of course, the implication here is that RG3 was not allowed to wear his Jesus t-shirt because it was religious in nature. Fox News has a history of creating the idea that Christianity is being persecuted in America.

If Fox News wanted to do some reporting, they would have found the following:

[Read more...]

The 12 Disciples… and Bartholomew

As my two kids (7 and 5 years old) are learning the 12 Disciples song for Cherubs choir, my wife and I had to find the tune online. We were not really familiar with it. We quickly went to YouTube and discovered. I like the kids should sing this version in church:

First off, I rather like the Weezer-like children’s music. It brings me back to my high school days. Second, I don’t know how I feel about Judas being a Ginger. It just reinforces a certain stereotype. Third, Bartholomew looks like Where’s Waldo with a beard and Thomas better wipe that smile off his face… doubter. Fourth, Simon looks a little wacked out and Jesus could pass for a South Park Jesus. Lastly, the high production value makes viewers enthralled with excitement.

Any other observations for the public good humor?

There were twelve disciples Jesus called to help him:
Simon Peter, Andrew, James, his brother John,
Philip, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus,
Thaddeus, Simon, Judas, and Bartholomew.
He has called us, too. He has called us, too.
We are His disciples, I am one and you!
He has called us, too. He has called us, too.
We are His disciples, I am one and you!

Christian news site scrubs Islamophobic opinion

I opened Facebook this morning to read this headline, “Why I Am Absolutely Islamaphobic”. I clicked the link and read the opinion piece by Rev. Gary Cass and was disgusted by what I read.

I posted the Charisma News article on my Facebook page only to find that the original post was pulled: there is a 404 error. Brian McLaren has a lively comment section on his Facebook page.

I think it is obvious what happened here. After such blow back from Christians, Charisma had to delete the article. David Hayward (NakedPastor.com) has a good response. I mean come on, the title explains that this pastor and CEO of a “Christian defamation” organization is clearly anti-Isalm. Gary even has his own page over at Right Wing Watch – so you know he’s legit.

Here’s a few nuggets of Cass’ craziness from the original opinion article:

My fear is not an irrational fear based on uniformed prejudice; rather it’s an historic, clear eyed, informed, rational fear. ISSA is doing to America journalists what every true follower of Mohammed wants to do to you and yours; subjugate or murder you. They believe they have been given a mandate by Allah (Satan) to dominate the world.

And then Cass paints all Muslims with one brush stroke:    [Read more...]

Pastors minister in Ferguson unrest

The continued unrest in Ferguson, MO which have featured protests, violence, and racial tensions, have the country waiting for new news of peace. The conflict revolves around Michael Brown’s murder by the hands of a police officer. Conflicting information from police sparked riots, protests, and demonstration. Local police responded with riot gear only for other departments to be dispatched to try to keep peace.

In the midst of this unrest, pastors and clergy have responded. Ministers in the middle of the Ferguson crisis have sought to provide comfort, direction, and peace. Perhaps under reported are the stories of pastors ministering to protesters, police, and local officials:

Here are some notable stories:

[Read more...]

Robin Williams and the church

robin williams As most everyone has heard, Robin Williams died on Tuesday from an apparent suicide. The reaction on Facebook and Twitter was one of shock. How could someone who brought so much joy and humor to the world be so troubled? Robin Williams brought us a diversity of characters in his movies and television shows.

I remember as a child watching reruns of “Mork and Mindy” and wondering, “Who is this guy? He’s so funny!” His films such as “Good Morning, Vietnam”, “Good Will Hunting”, “Mrs. Doubtfire”, and “Hook” are now classics running regularly on TV. His long filmography on IMDb yields several scrolls from the mouse. As reports surfaced of his drug and alcohol abuse, we began to learn of a troubled man. Robin Williams apparent depression most likely led him down the path of suicide.

Unfortunately, some have made hurtful comments. Fox News anchor, Shepherd Smith gave his own unhelpful perspective of the nature of suicide:

“One of the children he so loved, one of the children grieving tonight. Because their father killed himself in a fit of depression… You could love three little things so much, watch them grow, they’re in their mid-20s, and they’re inspiring you… And yet, something inside you is so horrible or you’re such a coward or whatever the reason that you decide that you have to end it. Robin Williams, at 63, did that today.

[Read more...]

Church sign responds to border crisis

As thousands of people stream into the United States from Mexico, people have spoken out against the government’s handling of the border crisis. Children are coming into the United States from Mexico and looking for a better life. Some have criticized the Christian response, or lack there of.

What are Christians supposed to say about this problem?

Some are holding public prayer events. Like this one in Texas:

The collective prayer marked the beginning of “For His Children,” a charity initiative that seeks to provide undocumented migrants with both physical and spiritual support. The event, according to ABP news, was organized by the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and three other charitable organizations.

More than 50 Hispanic pastors prayed at the facility where the undocumented children are processed upon arrival, at the Border Patrol station, and at Sacred Heart — a Catholic church where volunteers have set up a temporary shelter where families can rest before setting out to meet relatives across the United States.

One church took a rather pointed position on the crisis with their church sign. Thinking about would Jesus would not say, College Avenue Presbyterian Church in Oakland, CA posted this sign:

[Read more...]

The case for the 45 credit seminary degree

The Atlantic ran a disturbing article on the state of middle class clergy carrying a seminary degree: high debt, low wages, vanishing churches, and part-time pastor positions. The piece profiles Justin Barringer, a recent seminary grad who like many before him graduated the call to pastoral ministry. His story is not unlike thousands of other ministers:

Justin Barringer would seem to have the perfect résumé. He’s a seminary grad, an author and book editor, and a former missionary to China and Greece. But despite applying to nearly a hundred jobs over the course of two years, Barringer, who lives in Lexington, Kentucky, could not secure a full-time, salaried church position.

So he splits his time among three jobs, working as a freelance editor, an employee at a nonprofit for the homeless, and a part-time assistant pastor at a United Methodist Church. “I am not mad at the church,” Barringer says. “However, I wish someone had advised me against taking on so much debt in order to be trained for ministry.”

Here is the reality: high debt and scarcity of full-time paying pastor positions.

The traditional mainline church track for full-time pastors followed like this: 4-years of college, 3-years of graduate seminary education, and ordination. This process launched a generation of pastors into their ministry in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s. The traditional 90-credit seminary degree, the master of divinity, became the mark of an intellectual, professional, and full-time pastor. Churches had the people and money to support such a model. The pastor typical could raise a family and even buy a house (if one was not provided).

Now, because of cost of graduate education, seminary graduates are saddled with debt. In the $40,000 to $60,000 range (on top of college debt). The pace of the rise of the cost of education has exceeded the rate of inflation: to the tune of 500% since 1985.  Usually, when a professional incurs such a debt, their boss gives them a raise because of their higher degree. Not the case with pastors. Many pastors have the same credit hours as school administrators, but paid much less.

With this current reality of shrinking churches, downsized church budgets, less full-time pastor positions, and need for a generation of clergy to lead churches into a new culture, a shorter more focused seminary degree is needed. An online distance modified 45-credit degree could shake up this bleak future for pastors and churches. Here’s what the 45-credit seminary degree could look like:

[Read more...]

Learning church growth trends in England

church

As American churches slowly declined, we watched our European neighbors over the pond decline even faster. The “Death of Christianity” was forecasted to spread from England, Germany, and Norway to  around the world.  Surprisingly, a new study has revealed church growth trends in Europe. The death of Christianity story is greatly exaggerated.

What can we attribute to this growth? Hipper churches? Better social media? Flasher worship bands?

No… none of the above were found to produce long term church growth and revitalization.

The church growth movement in England has discovered deeper trends that can help American churches. A 10 year study was completed by the Church Growth Research Programme to study British churches. The study found that 18% of churches in Britain grew over a 10-year period. The study aimed to uncover what was different about those churches. The findings were reported by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership:

[Read more...]

Don’t fall for this scam

Scam, scam, scams. Internet scams are nothing new. You may have received a scam request for $1000 to be sent to some guy in Asia with a promise of a huge reward. These scams are getting more involved and more creative.

From time to time, I’m asked to speak at conferences, seminars, or denomination gatherings. It is not usual for me to receive an email about a speaking opportunity from someone I do not know. This morning, I received a rather usual email: A “invitation” to speak at an event in England.

Great, right? However, there were several red flags:

Poor wording/spelling/grammar I’m not a super self editor, but when you invite someone to speak, the invite is free of errors. They didn’t spell Baptist right. The email is riddled with errors.

Broken website If you click the website, the webpage is “frozen”. If there’s a conference, then there’s a website.

Use of CAPS No one uses capitalization in an email unless they are YELLING.

They want money No speaking conference is going to ask for money upfront. I learned that this scam is common and the next email is about money. This guy fell for it.

Use of Gmail If a large or small conference invites you, it’s not going to come from a Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo account. That’s bogus.

Bottom line, if anyone wants your identity information, passport information, or money – do not give it out! Below is the invite: [Read more...]

5 Counterintuitive leadership habits

confused

Leaders often struggle with questions of “Am I effective?” or “Why isn’t this working?” in the course of their leadership. Organizational leaders and pastors are often plagued with such questions because unlike their for-profit counterparts, non-profit leaders often work with very limited resources of people and money.

Forbes gives business leaders “5 Counterintuitive Habits Of Truly Authentic Leaders” that transfer easily to congregations. Maseena Zieglar writes:

We live in an era in which increasingly, leaders who are authentic, and who translate this into shared value for their people, whether shareholders or stakeholders, employees, customers or constituents, are the ones who have true and lasting impact – ultimately making the world a better place to live in. Striving for authenticity in leadership is the new kind of success to aspire to, and may well one day be the measure by which some aspects of performance are evaluated.

Zieglar states that the following five qualities are effective for authentic leaders:

[Read more...]