this week’s round-up (september 22)

Roger Olsen: Is Hell Part of the Gospel? Also Olsen asks the question, do we really think of the people of America as family? (his answer in short, only when it suits us).

Rick Dake: Moving Out. Rick’s a good friend & colleague and I appreciate his thoughts on choosing isolation, or choosing to learn a new language and embrace a new culture.

Chad Holtz: After the Storm More Christians are Developing a ‘Designer Faith’

Philip Bewer: Social Security is Not a Ponzi Scheme

Jonathan Martin: What Does it Mean to be a Preacher? Some great stuff in there (I’d encourage you to read the whole thing):

“It is understandable why we would pretend to be something different than what we are, because to put it mildly, preachers have limitations. We are compared to poets, but we generally lack their precision with language, using words with clumsy brute force as often as not. We are sometimes called prophets, but we are not generally so courageous, especially since our livelihood generally depends on the people we prophesy to. We are not precisely artists, since we lack the artist’s originality. The preacher’s job is not to paint new things but to repeat old things…

 “I am a preacher… I live under the weight of words. I carry words in my pockets, words in my satchel, words in my heart. Words, always the words. Words as pitiable weapons in a world when there are guns for sale at Wal Mart, words as medicine in a world where prescriptions are all we seem to need. Carrying my words to places where they are impractical and words to places where they are inept. Delivering words that make some people look at me with the superstitious fear of a witch doctor, a shaman, the village medicine man who has all the answers—words that make people look like the village idiot, a man out of time, a man that won’t move on with the world.

“And I know that words cannot always be the answer. But that sometimes they can, and that words can create galaxies and words can burn cities down. All this damnation and hope at my disposal, all this absurd power—living under the weight of the words. I wish that I could live up to the greatness of the words, to have a soul big enough and a life noble enough to be worthy of them. But don’t you see by now—I’m a preacher? There is nothing greater than the words, they are the stars that light up the night. Isn’t Jesus Himself called the Word of God? Only He could bear up under the weight of so many words, only he could exceed the expectation that words create and surpass the reality of what words signify. 

“I don’t live up to the words, create the words, own the words. I gaze at them, I gibber with them. I consume them, I choke on them, I vomit them. I am a preacher. Words are all I’ve got, words will have to be enough.”

Lifehacker: Forget the Standing Desk – Move. Too bad, I always thought the idea of a standing desk seemed kind of cool (although also somewhat impractical).

Donald Miller: The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received.

Seth Godin: Lousy Tomatoes and the Rare Search for Wonder. While Godin’s critique crosses all institutions and industries, it seems especially apt for the church – we are the boring supermarket – there when people need us, more often than not, offering visitors “good enough” instead of remarkable. It’s possible the church can swing too far in one direction and go overboard with trying to get the “wow!” factor, especially when you set the expectation that each week you need to top the previous one – before too long, the pastor will have to be juggling flaming batons, while a trapeze act flies over the pews, or you end up with this. We can be reliable, let us also aim to be remarkable.

Jay Voorhees: Get the Churches to do it, They’ll do Anything! Great post from Jay, questioning one of the key arguments of those seeing to limit government assistance to people in need. The argument is that churches will pick up the slack, and that they are precisely the institutions with the missional foundation to best help those in need. You can back the argument up by showing how it was churches that built the key social structures in this country, hospitals, colleges, even public schools have their roots in religious institutions and are the result of faith-based leadership. The problem is the world has changed since then. Many hospitals and colleges are now only loosely affiliated with the religious bodies that founded them. I haven’t studied the reasons behind that shift, but I’m guess there were a few elements behind it – the institutions were adapting to a more secular culture and  the churches shifted their focus to congregational life instead of social service. But my guess is the primary reason has to do with the professionalization of the fields – the business of running a hospital has become so complex that it no longer makes sense for pastoral authority to hold supervision over the institution. It might have worked 50 or 100 years ago when clergy were among the best educated people in the community, but that is no longer the case.

In Jay’s blog, he addresses a different point. Based on current conditions, most congregations are in no place to address the groundswell of needs that are happening in our nation right now. And the notion that a tax cut would produce a sharp increase in charitable giving to help churches provide for the new needs is questionable at best. The reality is, it would need to be basically a one-to-one ratio, not to mention the increase in inefficiency due to a lack of coordinated authority.

Jen Lemen: How to be Happy (Part 5).

Will Willimon: Using Dashboard to Understand the Church’s Story.

The end of R.E.M. I know I should feel sad, and I wish I had seen them perform live, but honestly they had pretty much dropped off my music radar for the last decade.

My DS, Eugene Blair, writes on cross-racial appointments and urban ministry here (and no, I’m not posting that just to “kiss up”).

One of my former professors, Rabbi Jay Holstein, is featured in a recent documentary. Unfortunately I don’t have the channel the program is being broadcast on, but he was a fascinating professor. (I’d especially love to go back and sit on one of his classes now).

Michael Hyatt: How to Write a Blog Post in 70 Minutes or Less. Good ideas in there, especially since at some point I’d like to break away from the pure “round-up” nature of this blog. Related: 13 Idea-Starters for Stuck Bloggers.

Derek Thompson: Who’s Had the Worst Recession: Boomers, Millennials, or Gen-Xers?

This week – new music from Gungor – “When Death Dies.” Anytime you have a guy beat-boxing AND playing cello simultaneously, you know something awesome (or awful) is happening (fortunately, I file this under “awesome”).