The Weekly Town Crier

July 24, 2009 at 6:37 am

130038_town_cryerYeah yeah, you know the drill. Browse away, click away, explore away, just don’t go away.

Be my friend on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

R.I.P. Walter Cronkite.

Read about Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard collaborating on a Jack Kerouac project.

See the graph breakdown of Christian music.

Read about the iPhone app. that helps you score pot.

See B.J. Penn jump out of three feet of water.

Forget the “new car smell,” we want the smell of books.

Read about Jimmy Carter leaving the SBC over their “treatment of women.”

Read about the recent survey that seeks to reveal “what Muslims detest most about the West.”

Read as Christianity Today wrestles with “Why change is not our most important product.”

Read as Women’s Wear Daily profiles Imogen Heap.

Read as Newsweek examines vampire pop culture.

Read about the Harvard professor who was arrested for “breaking in” to his own home.

Read this piece which seeks to find the right way to “remember Joy Division.”

Browse the Free Music Archive, which now contains 10,656 free and legal mp3 downloads across a variety of music genres.

Browse as the Observer lists the 50 albums that changed music.

Read as interviews Neko Case.

Bid on a Geneva Bible with John Calvin’s signature.

Read about iPhone, Mac sales continuing to propel Apple forward.

Read about Obama’s “Mom jeans.” What have we come to?

Read about the independent investigator who has found evidence that Gov. Sarah Palin may have violated ethics laws”

Read about Stephen Baldwin filing for bankruptcy.

Read about Amazon buying Zappos.

Read Ed Stetzer’s piece on accountability groups, including helpful questions.

See a crazy wedding processional.

Browse this list of 10 soundtracks that changed the world.

Read as the Quietus interviews Siouxsie Sioux.

Read as the Buffalo News profiles Jason Lytle.

Consider these five future trends of church planting.

Music Friday

July 24, 2009 at 6:37 am

Here is a live performance from the newly reformed/reunited/reinvigorated Vigilantes of Love performing one of my favorite tracks, “Nothing Like A Train:”

Here’s Ramsay Midwood performing “Jonah:”

Jesus Doesn’t Promise Us Ever Increasing Numbers

July 23, 2009 at 7:27 am

1178387_water_cisternBy Adam Groza

From what I’m told, the numbers don’t look good. Churches are baptizing fewer people. Jimmy Carter isn’t alone: More and more people are losing their religion. In the past few years, several long-time friends who grew up in the faith have renounced the faith and opted for some amorphous spirituality or naturalism. Sure, I could tell stories of people who have converted. But lots of people are also deconverting. A recent dissertation by Steve Henderson found that two-thirds of professing Christians abandon their faith . . . in Christian Colleges!
As a result, evangelicals are trying to re-think, re-evaluate, and re-tool: fewer programs, more authenticity, more preaching, and less entertainment. Plant more churches, give more money, and pray more often. Get back to the Gospel; get missional, de-centralize, or increase transparency.

Let me just say, I am all for evaluating process. If there is a money leak lets plug the hole. Ending opulence is a good idea. But what exactly is the goal? My fear is that religion has become a machine such that when the machine breaks down we just retool: Tinker with this, adjust that, and get the desired results. I suspect the desired result (for some) is that same old idol; numbers. Better numbers! Quite simply, we want charts and graphs that are showing upward momentum. Until we get the right numbers, we must be doing something wrong. I know, I know, those graphs represent souls who will either go to heaven or hell. But our goal isn’t just souls; it’s an ever increasing number of souls, specifically, more souls than last year. My contention is that this impulse for constant increase is fueled more by our market mindedness than Scripture.

Why do we think doing the right things will bring about an ever increasing number of saved people? God says the Gospel will bring about conversions, but there is no promise of an ever increasing number of converts. Jesus did things the right way, and in John 6, was abandoned by everyone but the twelve. When the disciples saw the masses leave, John tells us (61) that the disciples complained about the exodus. Jesus’ response to them is essentially to remind them that the Gospel is offensive and that the Father is capable of overcoming the offense by being granted faith from the Father (65).

I suggest we prepare ourselves for this truth: Increased numbers are not the norm, even for Jesus. The church will continue, but as churches take membership seriously, practice church discipline, and proclaim the narrow way, numbers will most likely decline. The offensive message of John 6 is still offensive. By all means, reorganize, retool to save money for missions, witness more, etc. But we may do things in a way that honors God and the numbers might just keep going down. Christianity does not judge its success like 4th quarter earnings. Do we want growth; yes! Should we worry when it doesn’t happen and assume we are doing something wrong? No.

Our victory is in the resurrection, not ever-increasing numbers.

Sinful Nostalgia In Music

July 22, 2009 at 11:24 am

cassetteBy ADAM GROZA

Brent posted this morning that got me thinking about how sinfully nostalgic music can be. I think of John Cougar’s “Jack and Diane”. Kenny Chesney’s “I Go Back” talks simultaneously about church, football, and um, other things. Putting aside my disdain for Kenny Chesney’s repulsive brand of pop-country, I think his sentiment of sinful nostalgia is something to consider.

Christians do not want to go back to the way their life use to be. It is a forward thinking religion. It is an eschatological religion. It is a religion of confession and repentance. Christianity has nothing to do with Cougar/Chesney’s obsession with the sins of our youth.

The thought of going back to who I was at 16 and the things I did is repulsive to me. I would rather die. How different, at this point, is popular culture.

A Crisis of Morality?

July 22, 2009 at 8:50 am

1095535_dental_workI had an early dentist appointment the other day. Don’t worry, it was just a cleaning, thanks. But as I was lying there with hands in my mouth and bright light in my eyes, I did something I often do in doctors’ offices: I tried to pay attention to the music that was playing. More often than not, it’s a “mix” radio station including everyone’s favorites. Just bland enough not to be offensive but just catchy enough to be pleasant.

I’m not sure why I started this habit of focusing in on music in public places. It’s not just at medical offices, though that is often the most prominent. I pay attention at coffee shops, grocery stores, anywhere music is played publicly. I guess at least part of it is because I love music so much, but also, I often find out at least a little something about people by the music they listen to. I guess I suppose that I can ascertain a bit about the owner of the establishment. For example, the walkway outside Church of the Cross’ PO box always plays the best straight-ahead jazz, including hard bop while the salon next to our PO box filters out the sound system with “smooth jazz.” There’s two competing sensibilities going on here but none of this is really my point. Please forgive my excursion(s).

So here’s my point, as I was paying attention to the music in the dentist chair, it was indeed a “mix” station including “hits” from the “80′s, 90′s and today!” They played the usual suspects, Counting Crows, Sheryl Crow and the Eagles (a Byrd motif, I guess? – yes, I spelled it that way on purpose. Music nerd humor.). Then, they slowed things up a bit with “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman and then came the song that really got me thinking: “All Summer Long” by Kid Rock.

While I find it amusing that Kid Rock has been so sanitized that he’s now being played in medical offices, it was the utterly detestable content of the lyrics (not to mention the travesty that he made out of the original music for his lyrics, from “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd). Consider the chorus:

And we were trying different things
and we were smoking funny things
Making love out by the lake to our favorite song
Sipping whiskey out the bottle,
not thinking ’bout tomorrow
Singing “Sweet Home Alabama” all Summer long

Fine poetry that it is, this song represents for me a painful reminder that our culture has, perhaps reached a crisis of morality. Far from being offensive to most people, Kid’s (or is that Rock’s?) lyrics conjure up wistful memories of the “good ‘ol innocent days.” The more sophisticated “indie” version of this might be Wilco’s song “Heavy Metal Drummer,” which begins:

I sincerely miss those heavy metal bands
I used to go see on the landing in the summer

and hits its stride with:

I miss the innocence I’ve known
Playing KISS covers, beautiful and stoned

Jeff Tweedy, Wilco’s primary lyricist, in fact, goes a bit farther than Rock. Whereas Rock just sort of longs for the good days of yestersummer, Tweedy actually refers to getting stoned as days of “innocence.”

But the problem here goes beyond just rock lyrics fondly remembering the past. Remember where it was I heard the Kid Rock song: in my dentist’s office. While this initially seems like nothing, and perhaps it is and I’m making too big a deal out of nothing (which I’ve been known to do), I think it’s telling that everywhere we go, we are bombarded with the glorification of sin. We have reached a crisis of morality.

While I will be the first to remind you that Christianity is more than just morals, I am deeply concerned, especially as a parent, that I can’t even take my boys to the dentist without them hearing something that contradicts God’s plan for our lives. As a pastor, I pray for discernment for my people and that they/we fight against passive living. When we don’t pay attention to the things going on around us, that doesn’t mean they aren’t going on around us and, as much as we might like, it doesn’t even mean that they don’t affect us. When we don’t pay attention, the next thing we know, we’ve got a loop of Kid Rock singing a catchy chorus about smoking illegal substances, drunkenness and fornication playing in the back of our minds and we don’t even know where it came from. And then it’s not long before we start to think: “Well, that’s just a catchy song,” it doesn’t really mean anything.” Or does it?

We shouldn’t be surprised that the world around us glorifies sin, but, I think, we should be quite disturbed that we are so passive about what’s going on around us. Please know, I am the last to argue for the church as a bomb shelter. I am the last to advocate withdrawal from the culture around us and submersion in the “Christian subculture.” But I will be among the first saying that Christians need to be more aware and we need to practice, then practice discernment.

Biblical discernment does not come easily or naturally. We must immerse ourselves in Scripture, saturate ourselves in prayer and surround ourselves with believers. We, in all honesty, must learn to think differently. Believers are no longer the people we once were (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have literally been transferred from the kingdom of this world into the kingdom of Jesus in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13). Our minds are being renewed, so that we should no longer be like the world (Romans 12:2).

We should think differently. This means learning to think about what surrounds us. It does not mean we should simply shelter ourselves from everything, though we should not pursue sinful material and media. Instead of throwing everything away, we must strive to filter everything through the Gospel. This is much harder than simply listening to “Christian” music. It means that instead of jumping up out of the dentist’s chair when Kid Rock comes on the radio, I try to understand the best way to communicate to my children and my church where what Rock advocates falls short of biblical ideals.

The fact that we can’t even go to the dentist without being bombarded with sin is indeed a crisis of morality and it should not surprise us, but the answer is not more morality it is the Gospel. How might we think and act differently if we grasped this and applied it? What if we really lived like everything must be filtered through the Gospel? Would catchy choruses so firmly implant themselves in our brains and would we take sin quite as lightly?

Don’t Forget The Heart

July 21, 2009 at 6:12 am

From the people at

Theology of Heart from Mothlight Creative on Vimeo.

The Weekly Town Crier

July 17, 2009 at 8:05 am

toastmasters_-2Well, here we are once again, welcome to the Weekly Town Crier. I gather, collect, scavenge, and maybe even pillage and then you click, link, browse to your little hearts’ content. That’s not to say that you have a little heart, it’s just a figure of speech you understand. Well now that I’ve put my figurative foot in my mouth, let’s proceed, shall we?

Be my friend on Facebook.

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Read LifeHacker’s coffee tips.

Browse Digg’s IE 6 stats.

See “Stuff Fundies Like.”

Read as the Seattle Times interviews Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore.

Browse as American Songwriter lists 25 of its favorite songs of the past 25 years.

Read as Peggy Noonan says of Sarah Palin: “She wasn’t thoughtful enough to know she wasn’t thoughtful enough.”

Browse 50 Beautiful HDR Images from 50 World Cities.

Browse LifeHacker’s suggestions for the best content filters.

Read a real-world comparison of the iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre.

Read about the new study that claims “Swearing Makes Pain More Tolerable.”

Read this piece asking “What’s in a Name?” especially when it comes to marketing.

Read about Iran’s “Facebook Police.”

Browse Paste’s picks for best rock documentaries.

Read as the New York Times reviews Rufus Wainwright’s new opera, Prima Donna.

Read as the Financial Times examines the changing business models for independent music stores.

Read as Australia’s Triple J radio station counts down its top 100 albums of all time.

Browse as MSNBC lists 5 albums musicians don’t want you to hear.

Read as Collide writes about “Why Fixing Your Website Won’t Fix Your Ministry.”

Browse this guide to Sesame Street characters.

Read about the potential army of cyborg crickets.

Read about the new settlement: Olive Garden endangers your credit security and you get a free appetizer.

Read about Morgan Freeman marrying his step-Grand-daughter.

Browse this list of the dumbest iPhone apps.

Read about the 17-year old who tried his own Fight Club, including bombing a Starbucks.

Read about the man convicted of having sex with a minor who hopes to become a minister.

Read about PEZ suing over world’s largest dispenser.

See James R. White with Lecrae, Tedashi, Trip Lee and others.

Watch a cool stop-motion video.

Browse Acts 29′s “Top Three Acts 29 Church Planter Characteristics.”

Watch video of an iPhone attached to an RC plane.

Read as PopMatters examines the literary influence of William S. Burrough’s chaotic book Naked Lunch.

Read as the Kansas City Star interviews Neko Case about her songwriting process.