Monday, April 28, 2008

Stuff Christians Like

In my bumping around the blogosphere in recent weeks I've gotten introduced to a number of websites that deal with a given group of people poking fun at themselves. Any group of people, whether it be religiously, ethnically, or affinity-based, has certain elements that stand out from other groups of people in society. Among the sites I've found are:

But the site I find most humorous is "Stuff Christians Like." This blog is right on target in identifying the things that we Christians are attracted to that are just flat-out peculiar to everybody else. Among recent posts are:

- "Giving Open Flames to Kids on Christmas Eve"

- "Telling the Pastor What His Kids Have Been Up To"

- "The 'Pray if you feel led' Prayer"

- "Testamints - Sending Bad Breath to Hell"

The only knock I have on "Stuff Christians Like" is that it is written from a very white, middle-class, evangelical perspective. So if you're a Christian, but don't fall into those categories, you may miss some of the humor. I could easily see similar blogs written for "Stuff Black Christians Like", "Things Hispanic Christians Like", etc.

One of the things that I like about all these blogs are they are designed to poke fun at the group that the author(s) are a part of. They are not mean spirited, but are self-deprecating. We should always be able to laugh at ourselves and let others join the fun as we enjoy what make us "us."

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

American Idol 'Shouts to the Lord'

I know this is over a week late, but I thought I would comment on what happened during the group song portion of American Idol during "Idol Gives Back" week. Since it has been covered extensively in the Christian blogging community over the past week and a half, I won't go into all the details of what happened. But at the end of the show, which focused on needs in Africa, the remaining contestants sang "Shout to the Lord", the popular Christian worship song by Darlene Zschech (pronounced "Check").

Now to those of us that are evangelical Christians, "Shout to the Lord" is an extremely popular song. In fact, it is currently the fifth most popular song in American churches today (according to the CCLI.) But for the general population, I doubt very few of heard of it. And now thanks to the makers of American Idol, tens of millions are familiar with the song.

There has been quite a scuttle about AI's choice to perform this song. Some argue that since it is a thoroughly Christian worship song, it has no place on a secular show with all the contestants having to sing it. On the other hand, some Christians are bothered because the opening line of the song was changed from "My Jesus, My Savior" to "My Shepherd, My Savior." Some thoughts...

1. I'm happy they did the song. I think that having a Christian song sung at the end of a night devoted to giving was appropriate. While other religions also are involved in giving, I doubt any other faith gives more time, money and resources to Africa than the Christian church. Obviously, the producers of the show were fine with it and that is why they performed the song. Another thoroughly Christian song, Amazing Grace, is sung all the time by non-Christians and nobody says boo about it.

2. Since American Idol is easily the most watched show in the U.S. right now, millions of viewers got exposed to a song (and possibly a genre of music) that they were previously unfamiliar with. I don't have any high and lofty notion that millions placed their faith in Christ the night the show aired, but my guess is that the iTunes ranking on Shout to the Lord went up dramatically in the days following the performance. And just maybe some of those people that bought that track, bought some others and might find a relationship with God as a result.

3. I do wonder why they changed the opening lyric. I'm not mad about it...just curious. I know the reasons why they changed it (not wanting to offend and all), but if you're gonna do the song, then do the song. Jesus has been mentioned in other songs on the show (e.g. just recently with Dolly Parton) , so why eliminate His name when it is in the context of adoration? For those of us that hold this perspective, we also need to be okay with it were they to do a song that refers to some other faith's deity (e.g. Allah, Krishna, etc.) In a pluralistic society, if we want our views expressed, we have to allow for others as well.

For some more complete insights on this, I suggest you check out Joshua Harris' blog. Josh is the author of the popular book, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye", and a very good friend of mine. No, I'm just kidding. I've never met the dude, but do check out his posts.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Exhibiting Social Grace

Some wise words from my friend, Gilbert...

The Scriptures talk about three kinds of witness.

1. The witness of our words.
2. The witness of our actions.
3. Our witness as the body of Christ.

Have you ever been in these situations?
  • You go out to eat with friends and one person is really rough with the server? It seems to go beyond the quality of the food. I have been embarrassed by the lack of respect that I have seen some Christians treat those who serve us.
  • You are riding with someone and they cut another off in traffic? Last week, someone followed me out of the church parking lot and I watched them lay on the horn toward another driver. It seemed unwarranted. Would they have been as aggressive if they weren’t so anonymous behind a wheel?
  • What about situations where you thought a simple “Thank you!”, “Please.” or “Excuse me.” would have been the obvious thing to say and it did not happen?
I often wonder where manners went, why we lack social graces in our dealings with others and why we neglect the little things that show respect for the other person. The little things, like a kindness, a smile and common courtesy make such a difference in whether a person enjoys being around us or would rather not. My wife always asks the person doing check out in the grocery store how his or her day is going. Chris says she wants to leave them more encouraged than drained from having spent that moment with her.

Now here is why I am talking about this. We will be more effective witnesses as we reflect Christ in how we treat others. So often people don’t regard our message about Christ because our lifestyle doesn’t match our words. Paul says to the Thessalonians in his first epistle to them. “You know how we lived among you for your sake.” (1:5b) Are we salt and light? Do they see something different in how we treat others?

But more than the witness of our words, our witness as the body of Christ is enhanced when the non-Christian comes into our fellowship. Do they see something different there? Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35. The body mode in our evangelism model is even more strategic today in light of the need for others to belong on the way to believing. With the breakdown of the family, we need to teach the social graces that used to be taught at home. We provide valuable interpersonal skills when we do.

I have been reading a devotional this year, Wisdom for the Way, about selected writings from Chuck Swindoll. In a selection entitled “Helping the World on to God”, Swindoll quotes Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Then Swindoll comments,

“[The world] will see “your good works,” Jesus said. Like what?

They will hear your courtesy.
They will detect your smile.
They will notice that you stop to thank them.
They will hear you apologize when you are wrong.
They will see you help them when they are struggling.
They will notice that you are the one who stopped along the road and gave them a hand.
They will see every visible manifestation of Christ’s life being normally lived out through you. They will see all that and they “will glorify your Father who is in heaven”
We are the ones who help the world on to God.”

I am sure that there are many of you who have some simple messages that teach practical ways to respect others, describes common courtesy and social graces and, generally, what it means to be kind to others. Let’s help each other create ministries that are more inviting places for the non-Christian and, in so doing, our evangelism will be more effective."