CHURCH HISTORY & Why Were the Pharisees the ‘Bad Guys’ in the New Testament?

by David Roos, 5/27/21.

We spoke with Bruce Chilton, a religion professor at Bard College and co-editor of “In Quest of the Historical Pharisees,” to better understand what the Pharisees really believed and why they clashed with the early Christians.

Who Were the Pharisees — and the Sadducees?

During the first century C.E., when Jesus lived, the Pharisees emerged as a religious movement within Judaism, not a separate sect. The Temple still stood in Jerusalem and it was the center of Jewish life. One of the greatest concerns of Temple rites was purity — that both the people who entered the Temple and the animals sacrificed there, were “pure” enough to satisfy God. The Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible starting with Genesis) contains written commandments that explain the proper way to conduct Temple sacrifices, but the Pharisees claimed they had additional divine instructions that had been passed down through centuries of oral tradition.

“The Pharisees believed that they had a special reserve of knowledge for determining purity,” says Chilton. “They taught that their oral tradition went all the way back to Moses at Sinai, so not only was there a written Torah, which anyone could have access to, but there was also an oral Torah which was inside the Pharisaic movement.”

What was distinctive about the oral tradition of the Pharisees was that it expanded the question of purity to life outside of the Temple. Even if a Jewish person lived far away from Jerusalem (in Galilee, for example) and wasn’t planning to make a pilgrimage to the Temple, they could conduct their lives in such a way as to be pure enough to enter the Temple.

“In that sense, the Pharisees became a movement for the purity of the Jewish people,” says Chilton.

The Pharisees were not, however, the powerful elite of first-century Judaism. Those were the Sadducees, the priestly class that controlled Temple worship and held the most political influence with the Roman Empire, which ruled over Palestine. The Sadducees rejected the oral tradition in favor of the written law (Torah).

The Pharisees were a working-class movement concerned with establishing a clear and consistent Jewish identity in everyday life. Interestingly, it was the Pharisees who believed in an afterlife and resurrection of the dead, both of which were rejected by the Sadducees as they were not mentioned in the Torah. Pharisees also believed a messiah would come who would bring peace to the world, though most of them did not think that messiah was Jesus.

Jesus Had Friends (and Followers) Who Were Pharisees

The Pharisees are portrayed as a monolithic block in the New Testament, but Chilton says that while all Pharisees were concerned with purity, there was fierce debate among the Pharisees about how best to achieve it. There were certainly Pharisees who believed that purity was obtained from the outside in, and who taught that ritual baths (mikvahs) and the ritual purification of cups and cooking implements was the only way to achieve purity.

In Matthew 23, Jesus lambastes the pharisaic practice of purifying the outside of cups and dishes while “inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”

“Because Jesus himself was engaged in the issue of purity — but wasn’t a Pharisee — his conflict with some Pharisees of his time was inevitable,” says Chilton. “If you accuse somebody as impure, you’re not saying purity doesn’t matter; you’re saying the opposite — there’s a better way to achieve it.”

But Chilton says there were other Pharisees who would have agreed with Jesus, that the true work of purification starts with a pure heart and faith in God. If you read the New Testament closely, in fact, you’ll see that Jesus won sympathetic supporters and even followers from the ranks of the supposedly hated Pharisees. Nicodemus, who visited Jesus at night to ask him questions, and then provided money and spices to give Jesus a proper Jewish burial after the crucifixion, was a Pharisee (see John 3). And in Luke 13:31, a Pharisee comes to warn Jesus that Herod wanted him killed…

The Meeting That Doomed the Pharisees

In Acts 15, there is a meeting or “council” in Jerusalem attended by Paul, Peter, James, Barnabas and other apostles and followers of Jesus. The agenda of the meeting was to settle an important question among the early church: did non-Jewish men need to be circumcised in order to be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit? The Pharisees in attendance were the first to chime in. In Acts 15:5, it says: “Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.'”

Notice that it says the Pharisees were among the “believers,” further proof some Pharisees, too, were early followers of Jesus. But here’s where things go south. The apostles are in stark disagreement with the Pharisees and say that everyone, circumcised or uncircumcised, can have their hearts purified through faith in Christ. Peter, acknowledging the physical pain and danger of circumcising an adult, rebukes the Pharisees in verses 10 and 11:

“Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

“By the time you get to this meeting in 46 C.E., now the Pharisees are on the other side of this extraordinarily consequential decision,” says Chilton.

Read more at … https://people.howstuffworks.com/pharisees.htm

CONFLICT & How to have difficult conversations at work. Plus, how I coach leaders in the art of socially skilled conflict resolution.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When coaching church leaders I often find that it’s not the conflict, but the way it’s handled, that polarizes leaders and leads to more conflict. A primary tool is what I call “other-based conflict resolution.” This means thinking of the other’s needs and not your own needs when resolving conflict. This can include: choosing a place that’s more comfortable for the other, a time that’s more comfortable for the other and putting your concerns in the language of the other. For more ideas read this article.

BY TOMAS CHAMORRO-PREMUZIC, Fast Company Magazine, 4/14/21.

…As always, the ideal level of transparency can be found at the center of a continuum that ranges from no filter cruel honesty/confrontation to totally fake conflict avoidance/ingratiation. In fact, people do appreciate candid feedback, especially if they understand you have told them what they need to (but didn’t want to) hear.

…With that, here are some tips to consider:

CREATE, OR AT LEAST FIND THE RIGHT CONTEXT

Humans are emotional creatures, and even for the most phlegmatic and cool-headed person, some moments will be happier than others. If you are going to have a difficult conversation with someone and tell them something they don’t want to hear, you should start by creating the right context. Prepare them in advance, so they are not taken by surprise. Ensure that they are not going through a hard time already. For example, a Friday may be better than a Monday, during a pandemic is probably worse than a non-pandemic period, etc. Being aware of their personal circumstances is key.

CHOOSE A FORMAT THAT WORKS FOR THEM, NOT JUST FOR YOU

Have you ever been dumped via email or text? It is cruel and cold, but very convenient for the person who delivers the message. Most of us prefer impersonal, technologically mediated channels to convey unpleasant news, but they tend to make things worse. First, you will look like a chicken. Second, you will increase the probability of misinterpretations and miscommunication. Third, you will not be able to show or pick up any empathy. 

An in-person message, or the closest we can get to these days (video call), may work best, even if it is not your preferred option. That said, if the other person is highly introverted, reserved, and private, they may appreciate a heads-up via email or text, with the option to discuss in-person or via video later. Try to adapt to them, know their style, and make an effort to adjust to it.

REMEMBER THAT YOU COULD BE WRONG

Most disagreements are clarified once a discussion takes place. This is both humbling and encouraging because it provides the biggest incentive for bringing up difficult topics and having challenging conversations with others. If something bothers you about someone, or you think they need to hear something, then bringing it up is the only way to address the issue. 

Most importantly, it is a great opportunity to understand the person better and get a sense of whether you may have been wrong. If you disagree, then being aware of your disagreements is quite helpful, especially if you can find a way of living with your differences, and turns these differences into an actual strength. As Churchill said, “If two people agree, one of them is unnecessary.”

Read more at … https://www.fastcompany.com/90624750/how-to-have-difficult-conversations-at-work?

CHURCH PLANTING & prioritizing church planting over personal evangelism is what has led to decline in the Southern Baptist Church according to leading SBC seminary president and author. Today we need a re-emphasis of personal evangelism in the church planter and the planted church.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I first met Dr. Chuck Kelly, president of New Orleans Baptist Theo. Seminary, when a conference I help lead (called the Great Commission Research Network) was meeting at their facility. I was humbled and honored when Dr. Kelly, then President of the seminary, began serving tables to the men and women assembled for our annual banquet. Not only a humble and gregarious man, he is also known for his insights and understanding of church growth. Here are his comments on why the Southern Baptist Church has lost 2.3 million adherents in the past 15 years.

I agree with Dr. Kelly that church planting is important. But I have noticed many denominations and networks focus training their leaders in church planting procedures – but not equipping their leaders with ways to empower attendees to personally share their faith.

Dr. Kelley‘s observation is that because of this you get more churches, but not more Christians, is well taken and something I’ve seen in practice.

My hope is this article, and my work coaching churches and denominations, will lead to a needed re-emphasis of personal evangelism in the church planted and the planter church.

by Bob Smietana, 5/21/21. Religion News Service.

… Kelley, of the Conservative Baptist Network, sees the decline as an organizational failure. The (Souther Baptist Church) denomination’s North American Mission Board, he said, moved away from personal evangelism in the 1980s to a focus on church planting. That has led to more churches but not more baptisms and Southern Baptists.

Churches have also dropped the ball on keeping and inspiring church members, he said, a practice known as “discipling.” From the 1920s to the 1970s, he said, Southern Baptists had a range of programs to help people grow in their faith and learn to live according to Christian teaching. Those programs, he said, have largely run out of steam and disappeared.

Chuck Kelley, the former president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a leader in the Conservative Baptist Network. Video screengrab

Chuck Kelley. Video screengrab

“You combine that failure of discipleship with less and less attention to evangelism and a culture that is less and less hospitable to the Christian faith and guess what?” he said. “You have declining churches.”

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/05/21/russell-moore-is-leaving-southern-baptist-leadership-the-denominations-troubles-remain/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Russell%20Moore%20leaves%20Southern%20Baptist%20leadership%2C%20but%20denomination’s%20troubles%20remain&utm_campaign=ni_newsletter

WORSHIP & When Do the Latest Hillsong and Bethel Hits Belong in Your Sunday Lineups?

by Kelsey Kramer McGinnis, Christianity Today, 4/6/21.

“Learn these tunes before you learn any others,” John Wesley wrote in his Directions for Singing. “Afterwards, learn as many as you please.”

The specified “tunes” were those included in the 1761 publication of the early Methodist hymnal, Selected Hymns. Wesley’s seven directions for singing have long been included in the opening pages of the United Methodist Hymnal. They include exhortations like “Sing lustily and with good courage,” “Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can,” and “Attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually.”

Wesley wrote his Directions for Singing for a different time, for a church usually selecting congregational music from a confined set of songs in printed hymnbooks. But this centuries-old guide helps establish a theological framework for a new project designed to help worship leaders evaluate a growing catalog of contemporary worship music.

The United Methodist Church’s (UMC) Discipleship Ministries recently released CCLI Top 100+ Beyond, the latest iteration of a project begun in 2015, aiming to help leaders curate worship songs. CCLI stands for Christian Copyright Licensing International, which provides copyright licenses to use music from a vast library of artists; it ranks its most popular songs twice a year in the CCLI Top 100.

The UMC project offers a recommended song list, with a description of each song’s lyrics, theological underpinnings, musical difficulty, and a list of recording artists and alternate arrangements.

The list includes seven titles by Hillsong Worship and Hillsong United, seven by Bethel Music, and five by Elevation Worship; the top-ranking CCLI song at the time was Pat Barrett’s “Build My Life,” and the team said it appreciated “that this song petitions Jesus to lead us ‘in Your love to those around’ us, which ties in to Wesleyan notions of cooperation with God in Christ Jesus.”

Another resource developed by the UMC suggests issues worship pastors should consider, such as finding music from underrepresented regions, engaging global worship traditions with cultural competence, and shifting to more inclusive language without violating copyright law.

… Worship pastors from across denominations may find that the Methodist resource helps them define and articulate the theology of worship that they want to practice and impart. It’s a reflective guide—there’s no list of rejected songs, nor any diatribes about the loss of the traditional hymnals or the dangers of contemporary music.

… Music selection and worship leadership is teaching. To treat it with less weight than that is to miss the opportunity to use a powerful medium to teach, learn, and deepen faith. Through the music we sing together, we teach ourselves over and over what we as a congregation affirm about God’s identity, our identities, and our relationship with God personally and corporately.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/april-web-only/worship-song-vetting-project-umc-ccli-music-bethel-hillsong.html?

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & Churches Grapple With The Vaxxed And Unvaxxed Divide

by Blake Farmer, NPR, 5/16/21.

… Even as the most vulnerable have pretty well gotten their COVID-19 shots in Nashville, Temple Church still hasn’t returned to in-person worship services.

Many congregations in Nashville — especially those with predominantly Black members — have taken a more conservative approach to getting back together. And no government regulations are stopping them.

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Leath is the bishop overseeing African Methodist Episcopal churches in Tennessee and Kentucky. While many have held vaccination events for members, almost all worship — on the bishop’s recommendation — has remained virtual.

… So if A.M.E. congregations want to go back to in-person gatherings, he’s still requiring masks for everyone, no hugs or handshakes, and — critically — no maskless singing.

Relegating unvaccinated members in the balcony — or some other segregating policy — just doesn’t feel right to most church leaders. But some are willing to draw a distinction between the vaxxed and the unvaxxed.

… At Acklen Avenue Church of Christ in Nashville, preacher J.P. Conway greets members as they arrive with some instructions.

“If you’re vaccinated and you’d like to take your mask off when we sing, feel free,” he tells them, directing everyone to the church lawn. 

Conway says he never wanted anyone to feel too much pressure. But people started volunteering that they’d gotten the shot. So he began giving weekly updates in Sunday school on Zoom and then from the pulpit — like a church might do with the weekly offering.

“We were basically telling people what percentage of our church had been vaccinated every week,” he says. “So that was an indirect way of saying, ‘we think you should all do this.'”

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2021/05/16/996858744/houses-of-worship-grapple-with-the-vaxxed-and-unvaxxed-divide?

If you would like to discover best practices for Growing the Post-pandemic Church check out the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Growing-Post-pandemic-Church-Leadership-church-Guides/dp/

reMIX & Researchers tell us what’s dramatically declining in the U.S. is white Christianity. It’s time you get serious and hire a coach to help you become a church of living color. MarkDeYmaz & I coach churches & together co-authored a practical book on how to do it.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I have taught hundreds of churches how to become multi-ethnic. And I’ve produced books and scholarly research/papers on how to do this too.

If your church is serious about becoming multiethnic you need someone to coach you. And that’s what I do.

For background why you need a coach, see this article of March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelsonhttps://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/ where the author said:

“Sociologists also report that the experience of immigration increases the intensity of whatever religious convictions are held by migrants. They find religious homes in the U.S. within existing congregations and through establishing new ones, often using the facilities of declining churches. Denominations rooted in Africa and Asia now have hundreds of congregations throughout the U.S., which continue to grow. As much as Hispanics have supported Catholicism’s numbers, today there are more Latinx Protestants in the U.S. than Episcopalians.”

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reMIX & Denominations rooted in Africa and Asia now have hundreds of congregations throughout the U.S., which continue to grow. As much as Hispanics have supported Catholicism’s numbers, today there are more Latinx Protestants in the U.S. than Episcopalians.

Sociologists also report that the experience of immigration increases the intensity of whatever religious convictions are held by migrants. They find religious homes in the U.S. within existing congregations and through establishing new ones, often using the facilities of declining churches. Denominations rooted in Africa and Asia now have hundreds of congregations throughout the U.S., which continue to grow. As much as Hispanics have supported Catholicism’s numbers, today there are more Latinx Protestants in the U.S. than Episcopalians.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

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CONFLICT RESOLUTION & “Listening leads to understanding people. The biggest communication challenge is that most of the time we do not listen to understand. We listen to prepare our reply.”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. The author of this post has been shadowing me to become a missional coach. He is an experienced pastor having served in megachurches such as D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Church in Ft. Lauderdale as well as Vineyard and Presbytetian churches. Now in his late 70s, Tom is still learning, sharing and serving (and inspiring me).

Leadership Thought: So You Think You Are A Good Listener! by Tom Crenshaw, 5/6/21 (quoting John Maxwell).

… This past year I read a book by John Maxwell called the Leaders Greatest Return. It was one of the most rewarding leadership books I have read in many years, and I would like to provide a few insights from his chapter on becoming better listeners.

“The average person suffers from 3 delusions: (1) that he is a good driver, (2) that he has a good sense of humor, and (3) and that he is a good listener. Most people, however, including many leaders, are terrible listeners; they actually think talking is more important than listening,” writes Steven Sample, author of The Contrarians Guide to Leadership.

“What most people want is to be listen to, respected and understood, and if this happens, they will be more motivated to listen to you and see your point of view (p 54).

“Listening leads to understanding people. The biggest communication challenge is that most of the time we do not listen to understand. We listen to prepare our reply. Effective listening requires more than hearing the words transmitted. It demands that you find meaning and understanding in what is being said. After all, meanings are not in words, but in people. (Listening) is more than hearing words. It demands you find meaning and understanding in what is being said …..…… People are far more likely to listen to us if we first listened to them” (pp. 55-56).

Listening is the best way to learn. Television host Larry King says “I remind myself every morning that nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening…… When we fail to listen, we turn off much of our learning potential” (p.56) …….”What others have to say to you is more important than what you have to say to them” (p. 57)

Listening engenders trust and connection. “Billy Graham said a suffering person does not need a lecture, he needs a listener………By listening you gain the trust of the people you work with” (p. 57). David Augsberger said, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable…… “Listening draws people to you, which works much better than trying to push your leadership on them” (p. 58).

“You will never get the best out of people if you do not know who they are, where they want to go, what they care about, how they think and how they want to contribute. You only learn these things by listening. When you listen to people. it makes them feel like they are at the very heart of things, like partners, and not employees. They trust you because you care about them” (p. 59).

And in conclusion I might personally add to what our brother James has to say in his charter text on listening. “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). I know these words are so easy to say but yet so difficult to live, that is, unless we allow the Holy Spirit to take full control of our tongue.

Let our prayer be, “Lord Jesus, help me this day to open my heart to your Spirit and allow me to be more interested in hearing what others have to say than what I wish to say.

Yours in faith and friendship, Tom

GIN CRAZE & The Reasons Behind John Wesley’s Teaching Against Hard Alcohol.

Writing for History Extra, Mark Forsyth, author of A Short History of Drunkenness, explores the history behind this alcoholic spirit.

…Alcoholic spirits were a pretty new commodity in 18th-century society, though they had actually been around for a long time. They started as a chemical curiosity in about the 10th century AD. They were being drunk by the very, very rich for pleasure by about 1500, as shown when James IV of Scotland bought several barrels of whisky. But even a hundred years later, in 1600, there was only one recorded bar in England that sold spirits to the curious (just outside London, towards Barking).

Then in about 1700, spirits hit. The reasons are complicated and involve taxation of grain and the relations with the Dutch, but the important thing is that gin suddenly became widely available to Londoners, which was a good thing for the gin-sellers as Londoners needed a drink. The turn of the 18th century was a great period of urbanisation, when the poor of England flocked to London in search of streets paved with gold and Bubbles from South Sea [the South Sea Bubble was a speculation boom in the early 1710s], only to find that the streets were paved with mud and there was no work to be had. London’s population was around 600,000. There were only two other towns in England with populations of 20,000. London was the first grand, anonymous city. There were none of the social constraints of a village where everybody knew everybody’s business. And there were none of the financial safeguards either, with a parish that would support its native poor, or the family and friends who might have looked after you at home. Instead, there was gin.

A craze among the poor

It’s very hard to say which was bigger – the craze for drinking gin that swept the lower classes, or the moral panic at the sight of so many gin drinkers that engulfed the ruling classes. Anonymous hordes of poor, often homeless people wandered the city drinking away their sorrows, and often their clothes, as they readily exchanged their garments for the spirit.

Before the industrial revolution and the rash of cotton mills that would fill the north of England a century later, cloth was very expensive. Beggars really did dress in rags, if at all, and the obvious thing to sell if you really needed money fast was, literally, the shirt on your back. The descriptions left to us by the ‘Gin Panickers’ would be funny – if they weren’t so tragic.

The arrival of gin

Before gin had come on the scene, Englishmen had drunk beer. English women had drunk it too – up to a point – but beer and the alehouses where it was served had always been seen as basically male domains. Gin, which was new and exotic and metropolitan, didn’t have any of these old associations. There were no rules around gin. There were no social norms about who could drink it, or when you could drink it, or how much of it you could drink. A lot of places served it in pints because, well… that’s what you drank. A country boy newly arrived in the city wasn’t going to drink a thimbleful of something.

This was, quite literally, put to the test in 1741, when a group of Londoners offered a farm labourer a shilling for each pint of gin he could sink. He managed three, and then dropped down dead. It’s amazing he got that far, as gin, in those days, was about twice as strong as it is now and contained some interesting flavourings. Some distillers used to add sulphuric acid, just to give it some bite.

And so the efforts to ban drinking among the lower classes began. And they didn’t work very well. When authorities decided to ban the sale of gin, there were fully fledged riots. The poor didn’t want their drug of choice taken away. They loved ‘Madam Geneva’, as they called the spirit.

The Puss-and-Mew machine

The contraption known as the ‘Puss-and-Mew machine’ was simple. The gin-seller found a window in alleyway that was nowhere near the building’s front door. The window was covered boarded over with a wooden cat. The gin-buyer would approach and say to the cat: “Puss, give me two pennyworth of gin,” and then place the coins in the cat’s mouth. These would slide inwards to the gin-seller who would pour the gin down a lead pipe that emerged under the cat’s paw. The crowds loved it and the inventor, Dudley Bradstreet, made three or four pounds a day, which was a lot of money. As nobody witnessed both sides of the transaction, no charges could be brought.

Read more at … https://www.historyextra.com/period/georgian/gin-craze-panic-18th-century-london-when-came-england-alcohol-drinking-history/

reMIX & People of color are actually preventing a more precipitous drop in overall church participation. The Assemblies of God, one of the few denominations showing growth, saw its white membership decrease in the 10 years between 2004 and 2014, but nonwhite members increased by 43%.

… What’s dramatically declining in the U.S. is white Christianity. People of color are actually preventing a more precipitous drop in overall church participation. The Assemblies of God, one of the few denominations showing growth, saw its white membership decrease in the 10 years between 2004 and 2014, but nonwhite members increased by 43%, reflecting trends continuing today. One-third of U.S. Catholics are now Hispanic. Without its growing nonwhite members, the Catholic Church would be in free fall instead of remaining at about 22% of the U.S. population.

The nones who enjoy lattes at downtown coffee shops on Sunday mornings instead of singing in church are largely young, hip and white. But the country’s demographic future as a whole is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, and this will impact the religious landscape.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

FORGIVENESS & According to Research Here’s The Best Way To Forgive And Forget

by Emma Young, British Psychological Society, 5/4/21.

… Now a new study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, led by Saima Noreen at De Montfort University, specifically investigates how different types of forgiveness towards an offender can help people who are intentionally trying to forget an unpleasant incident.

As the name implies, “intentional forgetting” involves actively trying to suppress memories of an unpleasant experience. Recent studies have suggested that this lessens the associated negative emotions. Forgiveness has been more extensively investigated, and there is work finding that forgiving the perpetrator helps(though of course not all victims feel able or willing to forgive, and forgiveness is not an essential component of recovery).

Noreen and her colleagues set out to explore possible interactions between intentional forgetting and “decisional” vs “emotional” forgiveness. Decisional forgiveness is making the decision to forgive the perpetrator, and not to seek revenge — indeed, even to make efforts to maintain a relationship — but while still bearing a grudge. In contrast, emotional forgiveness involves getting rid of negative emotions towards the perpetrator and replacing them with positive ones.

…The team found that participants in the emotional forgiveness group showed greater forgetting of the detail, though not the gist, of the offence than the other groups. These participants also reported feeling more psychological distance from the offence.

The team’s analysis revealed that for these participants, emotional, but not decisional, forgiveness was associated with greater forgetting of the detail of the original transgression (though again not the gist of it). It was also associated with a shift to reporting feeling more forgiveness for the perpetrator.

“Collectively, our findings suggest that the act of emotional forgiveness leads to a transgression becoming more psychologically distant, such that victims will construe the event at a higher and more abstract level,” the team writes. (In other words, retaining the gist, but not all the detail). “This high-level construal, in turn, promotes larger intentional forgetting effects, which, in turn, promote increased emotional forgiveness,” they go on.

Read more at … https://digest.bps.org.uk/2021/05/04/heres-the-best-way-to-forgive-and-forget/#more-41993

STREAMING & Today’s #SundayChurchHacks: Don’t neglect the “chat” feature of your worship streaming platforms. Have a “host” in each chatroom of each streaming option. They can welcome virtual attendees, take prayer requests & provide answers/followup.

STREAMING & #SundayChurchHacks: Check your streaming webpages early every Sunday to ensure they are ready to stream. This church’s streaming page was empty, up to & through the beginning of the service. Plus, add links on your streaming page to FaceBook and YouTube streams of your live worship (though their menu was truncated).

Even this client church, that has done remarkably well hosting online services, left many viewers without a worship opportunity.

Thankfully, the links to their FaceBook and YouTube streaming (in the top menu) added work around options for the technologically inclined.

MINISTERIAL TRANSITIONS & Utilizing a simple graphic, such as this one by a client church, helps congregants visually track the ministerial transition process.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., April 11, 2021.

While designing a course to help pastors and churches successfully navigate pastoral transitions for Fuller Theological Seminary, I became aware of how much church communication must be a priority during pastoral transitions. But often too much or too little information is shared, leading to confusion at best or suspicion at the worst.

This client congregation overcame this problem and communicated its process well through three simple charts.

CHART 1 (behind the word “prayer”) depicts the 5 stage process with a time for each stage. Attendees can quickly see where they are in the process and which steps are still ahead.

CHART 2 depicts how the selection process “narrows” to the selection of a candidate. It is important for attendees to see that the eventual selection has emerged from a significant pool of candidates.

CHART 3 (with the word “prayer” superimposed) reminds that the overriding consideration is that this is a spiritual exercise and prayer is how each stakeholder participates.

The above is CHART 1 (without the word “prayer” superimposed)
& CHART 3 (with the word “prayer” superimposed)
The above is CHART 2

WEALTH & Does Money Make You Mean? Thought provoking and research-based #TedTalk by #UniversityOfCalifornia professor & author #MichaelMechanic

Read more at … https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/04/does-wealth-rob-brain-compassion/618496/?

TRENDS & The primary challenge facing pastors … is how to invite nonmembers into an authentic experience of God rather than persuade them to join or rejoin a religious organization.

… The decline of membership in churches, synagogues and mosques cannot be equated with decline in religious curiosity or practice. When nones are asked why they have disaffiliated from any religious organization, only 22% say it is because they do not believe in God. The primary challenge facing pastors, rabbis and imams is how to invite nonmembers into an authentic experience of God rather than persuade them to join or rejoin a religious organization.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson. Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

STREAMING & one of today’s #SundayChurchHacks: Have a “trouble shooting FAQ” button w/ a list of common video problems. While analyzing a client the streaming feed quit. Other online attendees (the chat room still functioned) figured out a work around. But some of us lost 10+ minutes.

See more ideas in the chapter: “Best practices in streaming services” in Growing the Post-pandemic Church.

COMMUNICATION & Today’s #SundayChurchHacks: When you’ve been away (but still watching online) don’t say ‘It is good to be back’ from the stage when you return in person. It makes the online congregation feel second class. Instead say, “It is good to be with you again this week.”

Read about innovative strategies in Growing the Post-pandemic Church.

MUSIC & The impact of the faith & music of DMX

by T.C. Moore, Religion News Service, 4/14/21

The Gospel of John tells the story of the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist, describing him as “the voice crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord,’” paving the way for Jesus the Nazarene.

Hence, his other, lesser-known title: John the Forerunner. John’s fearlessness and bold announcement of the coming of the Messiah tilled the soil of hardened hearts and planted the seeds Jesus would cultivate into his world-changing kingdom of God movement.

Earl Simmons, better known as DMX, was my John the Forerunner.

In the wilderness of my gang-involved teens, DMX was a voice unlike any other, piercing my defenses and opening me up to the work of God that would eventually convert me into a devoted follower of Jesus.

DMX burst onto the hip-hop scene in 1998 with an utterly unique debut album, “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot.” It was at once a raw testament to DMX’s story of suffering and survival while also sounding a faith-filled and hopeful note.

It wasn’t as if God was a stranger to hip-hop lyrics: Tupac Shakur, whose posthumous 1996 album “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory” depicted the rapper on a cross on its cover, had often invoked God and heaven, to say nothing of the “Five Percent” theology that pervaded so much of East Coast rap.

But what “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot” had that no other could claim was a distinct and overt Christian — maybe even charismatic — spirituality. DMX spoke directly with God in “The Convo,” in a lament worthy of Job (“Why you chose the hood for me?”) and wrestled with satanic temptation in “Damien” as Jesus did in the wilderness. “The Snake, the Rat, the Cat, the Dog / how you gonna see him if you livin’ in a fog?”

DMX wrote hauntingly about death, summoning the anguish of Jesus praying passionately in the Garden of Gethsemane. “You give me the Word / and only ask that I interpret / and give me the eyes / that I may recognize the Serpent.”

The only child of a schizophrenic single mother, I’d experienced more than my fair share of abuse and neglect. For a teenager wrestling with his own inner demons, DMX opened up a way out of the game through faith. If he could loft his questions about the problem of evil directly at God and rebuke the devil who tempted him to sin, maybe I could too. “Somebody’s knocking / should I let him in? / Lord, we’re just starting / but where will it end?”

Later that year, DMX dropped “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood,” which, like “Hell Is Hot,” topped the charts. When the criminal community to which I’d fled for safety began to unravel and my own choices landed me in one too many potentially deadly situations, the lyrics of “Slippin’” hit me like prophecy: “See, to live is to suffer. But to survive, well, that’s to find meaning in the suffering.”

About this time, my childhood friend Nate invited me to his baptism at a Pentecostal church. I heard God’s voice through the pastor. It called me like the voice of God in DMX’s music. After I was baptized, I encountered a new version of myself. On repeat on my Sony Discman, meanwhile, DMX was telling the story of a prodigal come home: “My child, I’m here as I’ve always been / it is you who went away and are back again,” he said on “Ready to Meet Him.” I tagged my first Bible with a sketch of myself drenched in blood like the cover of that album.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/04/14/dmx-was-my-john-the-forerunner/?utm_source=