The Weekly Town Crier

August 28, 2009 at 8:38 am

cryextractedWelcome to The Weekly Town Crier. Welcome one, welcome all. Welcome tall welcome small. Browse to your heart’s content, click to your finger’s discontent.

Be my friend on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

Read about what happens when you let Dwight from the Office name your band’s album.

Read Frank Viola on the Postchurch Perspective.

Read about Michael Jackson’s death being declared a homicide.

Browse this collection of “20 Non-Preaching Websites for Better Preaching.”

Read “Why I Love the Church: In Praise of God’s Eternal Purpose,” by Frank Viola.

Read as Jeremy Wilson recounts: “My Experience with the Acts 29 Crew.”

Watch Mark Driscoll preach at the Crystal Cathedral, in a suit. Yes, you read that correctly.

Read as Trey Herweck talks suburban church planting.

R.I.P. Ted Kennedy.

Read Christianity Today‘s review of the latest from Leeland.

See cool photographs of now extinct animals.

Polaroid at Urban Outfitters? How hip.

Meet Ignatius the Ultimate Youth Pastor.

Browse Steve McCoy’s Tim Keller resources.

Browse this list of 41 questions a pastoral candidate should ask a potential church.

Browse lots of C.J. Mahaney videos.

Read as Daniel Wallace asks “Who Should Run The Church” and offers “A Case For A Plurality of Elders.”

Read as Lee Irons tries to determine where N.T. Wright stands on penal substitution.

Read as Lee Irons warns against “The Problems of Theological Perfectionism.”

Shoes for the indie kid? Get your Sub Pop Nikes now!

Read as the Irish Independent interviews composer Nico Muhly.

Read as The Nation profiles Wallace Stevens and his poetry.

Read as Pitchfork recaps the 2000s in pop music.

Browse as FACT Magazine lists the 20 best post-rock albums.

Read about the upcoming black and white graphic novel treatment of Johnny Cash.

Read as the Telegraph interviews singer-songwriter Imogen Heap about her new album, Ellipse.

Read as the Louisville Courier-Journal profiles the Great Lake Swimmers.

Browse as Ars Technica lists ways to discover new and interesting music online.

Consider as Rolling Stone examines why the Beatles really broke up.

Pre-order the Bifrost Arts album!

Read as Christianity Today offers “Six principles that might bring a truce to the age-old tension between tradition and popular culture.”

Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson (A Book Review of Sorts)

August 26, 2009 at 9:47 pm

_140_245_book61coverMy parents weren’t real picture takers growing up. There are some, but not volumes and volumes (or boxes and boxes depending on how your family operates). I’m not sure why, but whenever I think of childhood photographs, I always think of one of me and my Dad in the lame cars on the track at Disneyland. To be honest, I don’t remember specifics of that trip, but there is a feeling that wells up inside of me when looking at the photo; when gazing into the wide-eyed wonder of that little boy I know is still inside me somewhere and I wonder: what happened to that sense of amazement?

Do you remember going to Disneyland for the first time? Or maybe it was Disneyworld if you’re on the other side of the world I know? Or maybe Six Flags, or Knotts Berry Farm, or the State Fair, or the County Fair, or the traveling fair? Something loud and seemingly chaotic and overwhelming but joyfully exuberant nonetheless? Do you remember walking around in wide-eyed amazement, just trying to soak it all in, finding yourself unable to contain the “WHOA, LOOK AT THAT’s!!!” In the midst of that wide-eyed wonder, did it ever occur to you that the amusement park just happened by chance?

Welcome to the world of N.D. Wilson. Wilson, in an organized, unorganized way beckons us to travel with him through this amusement park of a world. How could we not be amazed when we:

“live on a near perfect sphere hurtling through space at around 67,000 miles per hour. Mach 86 to pilots”?

Wilson goes on to put this into perspective:

“Of course, this sphere of mine is also spinning while it hurtles, so tack on an extra 1,000 miles per hour at the fat parts. And it’s all tucked into this giant hurricane of stars. Yes it can be freaky. Once a month or so, my wife will find me lying in the lawn, burrowing white knuckles into the grass, trying not to fly away. But most of the time I manage to keep my balance despite the speed, and I don’t have to hold on with anything more than my toes.”

With a balance of humor, with and sarcasm, some might see Wilson’s take on the universe, and God, a bit irreverent. But dig a bit deeper, and you’ll find that nothing could be farther from the truth. This is a man who has drunk deeply at the well of God’s grandeur. How often are you moved to praise by thunderstorms, let alone ants? Wilson walks us through some of his thought process while interacting with daily events and looming-large philosophers. He does a tremendous job at distilling several (very) large philosophical arguments to day-to-day language and then filtering them through the Gospel. This is everyday theology.

But most of all, Wilson is especially moved by the wonder of it all, and for that I am unfathomably thankful. How often do we take everything for granted? I mean everything? The roaring of the sea, the falling of the snow, the hanging of the icicles, the order of the ants, the approach of the thunderstorm? Wilson forces us to pause and see again through the eyes of faith, again like that child in awe of the Tilt-A-Whirl for the first time? Have you forgotten that you ride one every day of your life? Let Wilson remind you.

I am so thankful that this book came to me at just the time I needed to be reminded of God’s infinite-ness and my finiteness and just how amazing it all is. That every breath I take, every step I walk, is a gift from Him and that it all fits in His story, for His glory and my good. How often I need to have my view of God expanded and my view of self detracted. This book has played a small role in that for me. I highly recommend it.


*NOTE In honor of full disclosure, I received a copy of this book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers to review here. Further disclosure: I would have said it was bad if it were. It’s not. Please read it.

  • Read Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World by N.D. Wilson

Acts 29 and the SBC: Stuck In The Middle Again

August 25, 2009 at 12:53 pm

untitled-2NOTE: This post is the opinion of Brent Thomas only and does not necessarily reflect my blogging partner Adam Groza.


Surely you know that there is a controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention (when isn’t there, right?!) regarding some SBC churches and their involvement with the Acts 29 church planting network. Let me just say right up front, I am in the candidate phase of the Acts 29 membership process, so I have one foot in that camp (or at least I’m stretching my toes in that direction). At the time I received my undergraduate degree, the school was Southern Baptist. I received my M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. While in Louisville, I was a member of a Southern Baptist church prior to taking my first ministry position in a Southern Baptist Church and moving to TX to pastor a semi-SBC church. So I have a foot in that camp as well (at least I have a foot that seems to be coming out but still has a “soft spot” for the denomination, though maybe I just need to grow some calluses and let go?).

When we moved to Arizona to plant Church of the Cross, we tried to partner with the Southern Baptist Convention. But, coming in as a church plant, we needed to find a sponsoring church that would help us through the process. Yes, there were financial considerations involved but that came to nothing because no church was willing to sponsor us. Not only that, I know for a fact that my paperwork was “flagged” by a good ‘ol boy in the AZ SBC. This man went to two different associations (local associations are not geographically based here in AZ) and said “You know this guy’s ‘Reformed,’ right?” In other words, my paperwork was flagged because of a historically Baptist position I hold on salvation.

So here at home, we tangibly felt the sting of rejection from the Southern Baptists. Then, at this year’s convention, there were motions against Ed Stetzer and Danny Akin for their involvement with Acts 29, not to mention the motion to ban all of Mark Driscoll’s books from Lifeway stores. Not only that, it’s now “illegal,” so to speak, to be SBC and Acts 29 in Georgia and Missouri. So now, not only do we as a church plant hear the message that we’re not wanted locally, we hear the message that we’re not wanted nationally. My sentiments may be summed up in something I posted to Twitter on June 23, 2009:



The SBC thrives best when it has a common enemy and it seems to rotate between “Liberals,” “Calvinists,” and “Tongues-Talkers (Not quite Pentecotals)”. And guess what, they’ve (Falsely) rolled all of those categories into one common enemy in Acts 29, a group that will not only not outright ban alcohol but calls the SBC out on its legalism for going beyond Scripture. Talk about the perfect storm! Such a storm, in fact, that now, as a pastor planting a church, I have members of Church of the Cross that not only see no discernible benefit to partnering with the SBC, they in fact see disadvantages and worry about us trying to fit in somewhere we’re not wanted.

Jared Wilson, author of Your Jesus is Too Safe, recently took a stab at summarizing the “controversy”:

My basic appraisal of this criticism can be summed up this way:

  • a) The SBC is fading and will continue to fade more quickly especially if they keep stiff-arming the young men the Acts 29 Network appeals to, who are passionate about the gospel and about planting evangelistic churches.
  • b) What I continue to see is Acts 29 demonstrating love and affection, and a desire to cooperate, to a denomination that continues to cast aspersions in the other direction. The way things are going, the SBC could seriously use the injection of youth, mission, and passion for doctrine over pragmatism of the Acts 29 Network, and the Acts 29 Network has virtually nothing to gain by hitching to a fading denomination that snubs its nose at them. Yet they still want to find ways to work together. If you’re measuring by Jesus’ prayer for love and unity in the church, who wins that one, do you think?

Wilson contends that the “SBC is fading.” This is not just conjecture, Ed Stetzer himself in April, 2009 wrote a pieces for Lifeway Research entitled “The Southern Baptist Convention: A Denomination (Continuing) in its Decline” and “A Year Is Not A Trend: Decline And the SBC.” There are other voices in the wilderness crying wolf for the SBC. Ed Stetzer’s boss, Thom Rainer posted a “wordle” (a visible representation of words) of a recent survey he conducted about what the first thing people think of when they hear about the SBC:




When “Pharisee,” “Don’t,” “Tradition,” “Legalism,” and “Fried Chicken” are the first things people think of, there’s a real problem (by the way, I’d like to do the same thing for Acts 29. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear of the Acts 29 Network? Let’s compare the results.). The SBC has a self-imposed and self-inflicted identity crisis and many of those at the top simply don’t care. They will go down with the Good Ship Tradition. Of course, there are exceptions. Watch Al Mohler’s recent talk on “The Future of the SBC:”



But what about those of us stuck in the middle? To be absolutely honest, if they would have taken us, the church I’m planting would have been Southern Baptist. But they made it crystal clear that they didn’t want us. So why would I pursue a denomination that doesn’t want me? It breaks my heart to see a denomination that, honestly, has been quite good to me and I still care for choose sin. And I see no other way to describe what is happening. You may disagree, you are welcome to do so and I’m sure some of you will. But when I look at the loudest SBC voices, I hear vitriol, gossip, slander, and one-upsmanship. When I listen to Acts 29, I hear things like Scott Thomas pursuing a “Ministry of Reconciliation,” saying:

My goal is to reconcile the relationships between Acts 29 churches and Southern Baptist churches so that we can spend our time, money and energy planting gospel-centered churches and not interacting through blogs and comments ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

I typically avoid commenting on the Southern Baptist Convention here for many reasons, but I feel like I just need to say to my SBC brothers “knock it off.” Turn the magnifying glass of criticism inward, ask why people think of fried chicken before they think of Jesus when they think of the SBC?! While one side is calling for reconciliation and partnership, the other is calling for book and partnership banning.

No, Acts 29 is not perfect, but let’s be perfectly honest, they are succeeding in many areas where the SBC is choosing to fail miserably. Guys like myself would have stayed in the SBC if they would have opened their arms just a little. But if I have to choose, am I going to go with the ones banning books are calling for reconciliation? Except that the real issue is that I shouldn’t have to choose at all.

The current situation breaks my heart, as a (possibly former?) Southern Baptist and (possibly future?) member of Acts 29. In the now oh-so trite words of Rodney King, “can’t we all just get along?” After all, isn’t that what Jesus Himself would have for us (John 13:35, Philippians 2:3, 1 Peter 2:17, etc.)?

Jeremy Casella House Show

August 24, 2009 at 8:33 am

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Church of the Cross, in cooperation with The Habañero Hour are pleased to welcome our friend Jeremy Casella. Please join us Friday, September 4th, 2009 at 6:30pm. Jeremy will be performing a house show at our good friends the Whitens. Please RSVP and spread the word.

  • Visit Jeremy Casella’s official website
  • Visit the Habañero Hour’s website
  • Visit Church of the Cross’ website

Habañero Hour Episode 06!

August 21, 2009 at 5:17 pm

hh-show-6Featured artist: The Agents of Future. Also featuring Otha Turner, The Race, Bradley Hathaway and more and more. Welcome to Episode 06!

Episode 06 features an interview segment from an interview with Todd Fadel of The Agents of Future (read the entire interview here). Episode 06 also features some great music. Check it out:





The Habañero Hour Episode 06 setlist:

  1. Let Us Make A Record by Sister Gertrude Morgan
  2. Sewn In My Skin by Agents of Future
  3. Streetlight by danyew
  4. Curiosities and Such by Joy Electric
  5. Introducing . . . What’s Your Name? by The Procussions
  6. Father 2 The Fatherless by Agents of Future
  7. These Frail Hands by Brave Saint Saturn
  8. Give Me Your Bible by The Race
  9. Sandwich Time by Jeremy Enigk
  10. Silence by Bradley Hathaway
  11. Shining Star by Papa San
  12. Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! by Otha Turner
  13. There Is A Name by Agents of Future

The Weekly Town Crier

August 21, 2009 at 7:16 am

alfie-howard-051Welcome to the Weekly Town Crier. Do what you have to do. Just be sure to link back here.

Be my friend on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

Read as Ray Ortlund offers six reasons why he’s glad to be involved with Acts 29.

Read about the possibility of no more Radiohead albums.

Read this piece exploring why “Why men in ads are dumb, goofy or completely inept.”

Read this piece that reminds us that we can’t innovate like Apple.

Stream the new Joe Henry album from NPR.

Read about the new WPA “supergroup.”

Watch Mark Driscoll on the Hour of Power. Wait, what? Huh?

R.I.P. Les Paul.

Is Al Mohler a mutant?

Browse this collection of funny protest signs.

Read about Apple’s reported music festival.

How long does Bill Murray spend in Groundhog Day?

Hear Al Mohler’s recent talk on the state and direction of the SBC.

Read about the bus driver who was suspended for refusing to drive a bus with an atheistic billboard ad.

See some cool cupcakes.

Read as CNN profiles the 12 most annoying types of people on Facebook.

Browse this collection of the worst design flaws in the Star Wars universe.

Read as Pitchfork profiles Antony Hegarty.

Read “The Grownup’s Guide to Indie Rock.”

Read Newsweek‘s Q&A with Wayne Coyne about the Flaming Lips.

Stream Imogen Heap’s new album, Ellipse on her website.

Read as Justin Taylor argues: “The Government Health Care Plan Would Make It Non-Optional for You to Give Money to Cover Elective Abortions.”

Get the Mars Hill iPhone App. Annoy Southern Baptists with mobile Driscoll? There’s an app for that.

Print custom Bible memory cards.

Read as BBC News talks to Clint Boon of Inspiral Carpets about the Manchester music scene of 1989.

Read as Clickmusic interviews singer-songwriter Imogen Heap.

Al Mohler on the future of the SBC.

Too Many Christians!? Never Thought I’d Say That . . .

August 17, 2009 at 10:12 am

470259_espresso_drippingI remember, when we lived in Louisville, there was a coffee shop that was close to the seminary. It was full of seminary students. On the surface, this may have been great for business, there was more percolating. The owners didn’t like their establishment being seen as a seminary extension, so they actually moved locations to be a bit farther from the seminary.

There’s a coffee shop down the road for us that is great. They have succeeded, in many ways, where Starbucks has failed, in seeking to be the “third place.” There are always people hanging out, studying, talking, etc. They have a conference room, couches, live music, good coffee, and in many ways, this place serves as a community hub. And it’s full of Christians.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that every time I walk in, I see open bibles and hear words like “secular” (who uses that word except Christians?!), “worship,” “ministry” and there are even pastoral teams who have staff meetings there. Heck, our church even has a Friday night discussion group there.

I love to see Christians outside of church, but I’m not sure that what I see here is really healthy for everyone involved. It is possible that this coffee shop will come to be known as “the Christian place,” and non-Christians will begin to feel uncomfortable. The owners may or may not be Christians, I don’t know and I don’t know how they feel about all of this.

The presence of so many Christians also presents difficulties for “missional coffee drinking” (wink and read here to see why we at Church of the Cross use the word missional). I often work at coffee shops for the express purposes of gauging the culture and engaging in conversations, but this becomes less vital when I look around and I’m surrounded by Bibles. Why is it that we as Christians tend to congregate like this? Is it just because this is a great place and no one wants to go somewhere else or do we as Christians somehow feel more comfortable when surrounded by other Christians?

Has the idea of being “missional” simply come to mean being outside of a church building? Does it ever occur to any of these other Christians that by clumping together like this, we may not actually be doing anything helpful? Is it possible, in a situation like this to have “too many Christians,” or am I just overly cynical (which may in fact be a possibility, go ahead, I can take it)? Am I making an issue where there isn’t one? Should I just go to another coffee place to work? But I like it there!