MOVIES & New film’s modern take on ‘Mary Magdalene’ will disappoint devotees of this great saint

by David Ives, Aleteia Magazine, 4/12/19.

While the look of the film is fine and the acting is uniformly good, any viewer with an ounce of respect for the actual biblical narrative will find themselves far too distracted keeping track of all the little ways the film butchers history to enjoy any of it. On top of that, to put it bluntly, it’s boring. If you’re going to make a revisionist tale that challenges centuries of belief about its main characters, you really need to find a more engaging way of doing so than showing repeated scenes of people staring wistfully into the desert.

Worst of all, though, is what the film does to Mary herself. The Magdalene is justifiably considered one of the greatest saints in the history of Christendom. She followed Jesus throughout his ministry, was present when he was crucified, and was there for his resurrection. More importantly, as the woman possessed by seven demons, and in tradition and art an acknowledged great sinner (though likely not the prostitute some claimed her to be), Mary Magdalene offers a narrative of salvation, conversion, and unswerving devotion to Jesus that is one of the most beautiful portrayals of discipleship in the Bible.

None of that applies to the woman in this film, however. Instead we are presented with an insufferable “Mary Sue” Magdalene who is always the smartest person in the upper room, and whose only sin is her apparent inability to convince the Apostles how stupid they are. Such an approach may prove inspirational to a select few, but to the untold numbers of those who have developed a devotion to the saint over the past two centuries, it’s going to fall flat. In short, by trying to give Mary Magdalene an appeal to a certain modern mindset, the film robs her story of all the elements that have made it timeless.

… possessed by seven demons, and in tradition and art an acknowledged great sinner (though likely not the prostitute some claimed her to be), Mary Magdalene offers a narrative of salvation, conversion, and unswerving devotion to Jesus that is one of the most beautiful portrayals of discipleship in the Bible.

None of that applies to the woman in this film, however. Instead we are presented with an insufferable “Mary Sue” Magdalene

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MULTIPLICATION & The 5 Levels of Churches Explained & the Percentage of Churches in Each Level. #NewResearch #Exponential

by Thom Rainer, LifeWay, 3/6/19.

In addition to the categorization of churches as

  • declining/subtracting (Level 1),
  • plateauing (Level 2), and
  • growing/adding (Level 3),
  • the study looked at two other supplemental categories.
    • A Level 4 (reproducing) church places a high value and priority on starting new churches.
    • A level 5 (multiplying) church takes church planting to multiple generations of congregations.

    … Here are some of the fascinating findings:

    1. 70% of churches are
    2. subtracting/declining or plateauing. Only 30% are adding/growing based on Exponential’s categorization of churches which is defined above. This data is largely consistent with other research we have done. The period covered is three years.
    3. There are relatively few reproducing churches. The research categorized only 7% of the churches as reproducing (Level 4). The numbers of churches considered multiplying (Level 5: multiple generations of church plants) was 0% in the sample, indicating a negligible number in the total U. S. church population.
    4. The majority of Protestant churches had less than 10 people commit to Jesus Christ as Savior in the past 12 months. That’s fewer than one person per month. That’s not good. That’s not good at all.
    5. Smaller churches are at severe risk.Among those churches with an average worship attendance under 50, only 20% are growing. That is the lowest of any of the categories of churches and is an indicator that these churches are at the greatest risk of dying.
    6. Larger churches have a much lower risk of dying. Among the churches with an average worship attendance of 250 and more, 42% are growing. That is, by far, the largest number of growing churches in any category.

    Read more at…

    MILLENNIALS & This 1 Sentence Summarizes the Entire Millennial Generation

    by Nicolas Cole, Inc. Magazine, 1/21/18.

    This one sentence summarizes the entire Millennial generation:

    “I want to be the one who comes up with the idea, not the person who executes on it.”

    That’s the problem.

    The world doesn’t need more ideas. Ideas are easy. Ideas are as abundant as air itself.

    What the world needs is more hands on deck, more doers, more builders–more people who know the value of patience, and who can take something that sounds great in theory and work to bring it to life.

    Because let me tell you: The way an idea starts is never the way the idea ends.

    What sounds like utopia often turns out to be a complicated web of inconsistencies.

    And any idea that is immediately validated because it sounds good usually turns out to be a weak or worthless idea.

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    MULTI-VENUE & Ch. of England Allows Sunday Services to Move to Other Times During the Week

    by BBC News, 2/22/19

    …. Decades of falling church attendances have left some priests looking after up to 20 rural churches. Previously, a rural priest would need to apply for permission from a bishop to not hold a Sunday service in each church.

    The Bishop of Willesden – the Right Reverend Pete Broadbent – chairs the Simplification Task Force formed in 2014 to improve the process of the Church of England. He said changing the law reflected the current practice of priests who look after multiple churches. Following the vote, he said: “You’re meant to get a dispensation from the bishop – this just changes the rules to make it easier for people to do what they’re already doing. It stops the bureaucracy.

    “This was just one (amendment) where we said, ‘Out of date, doesn’t work, we’re operating differently in the countryside now, therefore let’s find a way of making it work.'”

    When asked if the decision would affect elderly churchgoers in rural locations, who might have to travel further to attend a service, Rev Broadbent said: “No, because at the moment this is already regularised and it’s already happening.”

    The Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, a chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, said although it was “wonderful” to have “that one day where everyone can concentrate”, the Church had to be realistic about people’s day to day lives.

    “Times are changing – it is not just about a shortage of clergy but also the fact that people work on a Sunday,” she said. “There is no use in crying over spilt milk. We need to find creative ways to worship.”

    She added that at her churches “Thursday is the new Sunday”.

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    MISSIONARIES & Their role in raising awareness of global atrocities and bringing about moral reform

    by Jason Bruner, Arizona State Univeraity, The Conversation, 11/7/18.

    …One of the most notable examples of the use of missionary networks in bridging the imagined distance between a Western Christian public and distant people comes from the Congo Free State, which was established in 1885 and ruled solely by King Leopold of Belgium. 

    Leopold’s rule was characterized by widespread atrocities. Some estimates of the death toll of Leopold’s policies exceed 10 million people. Leopold used his reign to extract natural resources from the region. Following a boom in rubber prices, his agents were quick to use violence against the local population to make them harvest and process rubber.

    In 1904, Alice Harris, a Protestant missionary with the Congo Balolo Mission, which was organized and supported by British Baptists, took what would become an iconic image of the horrors. Her image has a Congolese father sitting in a kind of stupor, gazing at his daughter’s severed hand and foot, which lie in front of him on the missionary’s porch. 

    Harris’s image was reproduced in a host of pamphlets, books and newspapers in both Britain and the United States. Along with other images and reports, it helped foment an international reaction against Leopold’s brutal reign…

    Missionaries believed that God worked with them through religious conversions, moral reform and material and economic progress, to spread the truth of Christianity. The role of missionary media became foundational in providing information and images of suffering in the world.

    This role often pushed them into ever more remote territories. The information that they sent enabled many Christians in the West to more easily imagine the world as a globally connected community.

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    MEETINGS & A New Study of 19,000,000 Meetings Reveals That Meetings Waste More Time Than Ever (But There Is a Solution)

    by Peter Economy, Inc. Magazine, 1/11/19.

    …According to Doodle’s 2019 State of Meetings report, the cost of poorly organized meetings in 2019 will reach $399 billion in the U.S. and $58 billion in the U.K. This is almost half a trillion dollars for these two countries alone — a tremendous drag on the effectiveness of businesses.

    And what are some of the consequences for employees who suffer through poorly organized meetings? According to the report, respondents most often cited:

    • Poorly organized meetings mean I don’t have enough time to do the rest of my work (44%)
    • Unclear actions lead to confusion (43%)
    • Bad organization results in a loss of focus on projects (38%)
    • Irrelevant attendees slow progress (31%)
    • Inefficient processes weaken client/supplier relationships (26%)

    The good news is there are things anyone can do to make their meetings better and more efficient and effective. Doodle’s State of Meetings report suggests that doing these four things can make a big difference:

    • Set clear objectives for your meeting
    • Have a clear agenda
    • Don’t have too many people in the room
    • Use visual stimulus such as videos and presentations

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    MISSIONARY & Reflections on the Mission of John Allen Chau by historian of mission & evangelism Arun W. Jones.

    Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When evaluating risky missionary endeavors such as that of John Allen Chau, it’s important (as Dr. Armand Jones, Associate Professor of World Evangelism at Candler School of Theology, Emory Univ. reminds us) to consider three historical/theological aspects of missionary work.



    Some Reflections on the Mission of John Allen Chau by Arun W. Jones, University of Chicago Divinity School, 12/13/18.

    … these reflections come after my initial “What the heck?” reactions to Chau’s missiological adventures or misadventures, depending upon one’s point of view.

    There are three points I would like to make. First of all, given the long and extremely varied history of Christian mission, it seems to me that there is surprisingly little that is unusual in John Allen Chau’s missionary endeavor. From the earliest days of the Christian movement, missionaries, as well as others who witnessed to their deepest religious beliefs in their own circumstances, have felt compelled to tell others—or let others know—about their faith. Sometimes those witnesses have been understood in their context, other times they have not. Sometimes, though certainly not always, they have suffered and even died for their actions. The eighth-century English monk and bishop Boniface was killed along with fifty companions by Frisians (in the Netherlands) whom he was trying to convert. (Not unlike Chau’s report of being saved from an arrow by his waterproof Bible, Boniface attempted to protect himself from his killers by holding a book containing Christian writings to his head.) The Indian missionary Sadhu Sundar Singh died (no one knows how) after he set off to evangelize Tibet in 1929. Chau’s most obvious predecessor in missionary strategy and death was the evangelical Jim Elliot of Portland, Oregon, who was killed trying to make contact with the Waorani people of Ecuador in 1956. Through two millennia, women and men from all over the world have sometimes died while undertaking Christian missionary work. To understand John Allen Chau is not necessarily to condone what he did, but it is to say that a person of sound mind and judgment in his religious tradition could very well have undertaken mission work in the ways that he did. In fact, it seems that Chau made several reasonable and even thoughtful preparations for his missionary expedition, and he knew that death was a very possible outcome of his forays into the North Sentinel Island. John Allen Chau was not mentally ill, nor intellectually impaired.

    My second point hinges on the first one. I have been surprised at some of the vehemence with which Chau has been denounced by members of my own intellectual tribe (i.e., those of us who identify ourselves as “liberals” of one sort or another), including members of my own mainline Protestant community. What is it about his death that has made us so indignant? I think it is that in his mission and death, Chau represents a challenge to the systems of rationality with which we have become so comfortable—systems that are founded in the European Enlightenment…

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