God's Politics

God's Politics


Becky Garrison: Bathroom Humor

posted by gp_intern

This bathroom evangelism clip is from the January/February 2007 issue of Outreach magazine. This material is better than any religious satire I could pen – sometimes truth is funnier than fiction.

On a slightly more serious note, in this same issue, they published their list of the 25 most innovative churches in the U.S. Mostly all-white clergy, all male-led, and mostly megachurches. Is this the church of the 21st century? If so, what makes these churches innovative? If not, then what are some examples of innovative churches you’ve found?

Becky Garrison
Becky Garrison is Senior Contributing Editor of The Wittenburg Door and author of the Amazon Short My Memorial, a creative non-fiction piece based on those 9/11 volunteers who find they are unable to move forward.



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Don

posted February 28, 2007 at 4:12 pm


Becky: This reminds me of a pastor candidate who came to preach at our church quite a few years ago. He started talking about taking a supply of evangelistic tracts into the public restrooms and inserting them into the toilet paper rolls. I thought it was quite ridiculous at the time, and I didn’t know whether I should take him seriously or not–not a good first impression. Aside from the time it would take, I wondered whether it would have a positve impact on those who were reaching for toilet paper but got a Jesus tract instead. He was appointed our pastor but he didn’t stay all that long. I never warmed up to him all that much, either. Not knowing whether to laugh,



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Rick Nowlin

posted February 28, 2007 at 5:51 pm


Here’s something “innovative”: preach and live the Gospel the old-fashioned way with no embellishments, not simply to get “souls saved” and build a big congregation but to foster reconciliation among all types of people regardless of race, class, nationality or culture. My church is actually doing it. http://www.acac.net



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Steve

posted February 28, 2007 at 5:57 pm


I am never sure what to think about anonymous evangelism. Leaving tracts and messages seems mostly counter-productive. Witness and evangelism is best when it’s personal. Instead of leaving gloves, help someone pump gas if they need it. Showing Christ through Spirit-motivated action is a powerful message. I do like the use of humor, though. It is too often neglected. Christians need to laugh more, even if it is at themselves.



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jesse

posted February 28, 2007 at 5:59 pm


Looks like a great church, Rick.Becky, does a church have be female-led to be “innovative”? Having an ethnically and economically diverse congregation would be innovative, but I don’t see how simply having a female or minority leader qualifies as innovative at all.



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Don

posted February 28, 2007 at 6:29 pm


Doesn’t Diana Butler Bass’ book (“Christianity for the Rest of Us” I think is the title) contain profiles of innovative “mainstream” congregations? Has someone here read it? I haven’t, but based on the publishers’ notes, it seems that its topic is related to that. Just asking,



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zt

posted February 28, 2007 at 6:35 pm


The Cincinnati Vineyard Church (from whom the “Love Practically” insert in Becky’s column is taken…has a goal of reaching 1 million people a year in Cincinnati with “random acts of kindness”. They do things like give out free water and pop at places where people gather, they go out and clean public restrooms so the employees don’t have to do it, they do free carwashes, and the list goes on and on. When someone asks why they are doing these things, they simply reply “Because God loves you and so do I.” It is very non-confrontational, and simply tries to show people God’s love in a tangible and practical way. Steve Sjogren, who started this church has written many books of the subject, and is trying to get people to simply live out their faith, in a new way, by doing these random acts of kindness. Maybe we should stop being so cynical and appreciate a church that tries to touch its community in a positive way (without being judgmental or confrontative). Check out http://www.servantevangelism.com for more info (and look at some positives before you knock it!). Our church has “Serve Fest” every Saturday, where we take ideas the Vineyard uses and other ideas we come up with… Two weeks ago we threw a Valentine’s Party at a women’s shelter in the Twin Cities…complete with cake, a magician, music, decorations… The women and children had a blast, and so did we!



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Aaron

posted February 28, 2007 at 6:41 pm


God I hate when you people leave those annoying tracts all over the place (though they are a step-up from Chick-tracts). I do my duty by recycling them in large quantities.



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john

posted February 28, 2007 at 7:14 pm


Becky Are you saying size doesn’t matter?;-0 I think the only thing they may only be interested in how many people they can reach or collect rather than the quality of the relationships.



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Elmo

posted February 28, 2007 at 7:17 pm


Rick, is there something wrong with being creative in your presentation of the Gospel? Our marketing skills and innovative ideas aren’t going to convert people, but maybe they’ll pay attention. “Faith comes by hearing,” but if they (or we) aren’t paying attention, we’ll never really hear the message.



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Rick Nowlin

posted February 28, 2007 at 7:24 pm


Rick, is there something wrong with being creative in your presentation of the Gospel? There can be because doing so can result in false conversions — it all depends. The tough message of sin and God’s resultant grace through the Cross can easily be lost in the methodology. Besides, the Scriptures say that the only overt confirmation of whether one really believes is how he/she treats people his/her “kinfolk.” Our evangelical culture can even get in the way of the Kingdom, and that’s why I reacted the way I did.



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kevin s.

posted February 28, 2007 at 7:57 pm


How you rank “innovative” churches depends on what innovations you are looking for. Are these churches all mostly white? I know that Saddleback goes out of its way to attract minorities (partly using the aforementioned innovative methods). At any rate, if these were calls to environmental action, would you be so critical?



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Rick Nowlin

posted February 28, 2007 at 8:29 pm


How you rank “innovative” churches depends on what innovations you are looking for. Are these churches all mostly white? They probably are, but what bothers me most is their apparent lack of accountability to any larger church body — no one above or alongside of them saying, “This is wrong” or “This might not work.” I just wonder how many “gray hairs” go to these churches.



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Adam

posted February 28, 2007 at 8:32 pm


Don, I have read “Christianity for the Rest of Us.” It is an excellent read – I highly recommend it. Along similar lines, but looking much different, I really enjoyed “Emerging Churches” by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger. Both of these books look at innovative churches that are impacting the Kingdom of God. DBB’s book focuses on mainline churches and Gibbs/Bolger look at so called “emerging churches” but in actuality they overlap a lot and are the two most encouraging books about the church I have read in a long time. Both books made me very hopeful.



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kevin s.

posted February 28, 2007 at 9:41 pm


“They probably are, but what bothers me most is their apparent lack of accountability to any larger church body — no one above or alongside of them saying, “This is wrong” or “This might not work.” I just wonder how many “gray hairs” go to these churches.” Most of these churches belong to a larger organization of churches, though the affiliations tend to be much more loose. I would rather have it this way then, say, the methodist church, where pastoral decisions seem to be made by one giant machine, or the episcopalian church where you could wind up with a gay priest cause the “gray hairs” think its cool.



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Hali

posted February 28, 2007 at 9:42 pm


Regarding Saddleback: I don’t think it’s the marketing. They’re more known for their community involvement, especially Rick Warren’s involvement in the fight against AIDS. Is walking the talk innovative? If it works, isn’t that what matters? Elmo: what kind of marketing and innovative ideas did Jesus use? By the end of his (earthly) ministry, he had multitudes of people following him. Was it only the miracles? How did he touch people?



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kevin s.

posted February 28, 2007 at 10:24 pm


“Elmo: what kind of marketing and innovative ideas did Jesus use? ” The use of allegory comes to mind. Performing miracles was another. He certainly didn’t condemn innovation.



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Payshun

posted February 28, 2007 at 10:38 pm


Storytelling is a lost art in today’s Christian culture. It would do well to remember Christ and his methodology regarding evangelism. It sure was not Paul’s model or Peter’s or…Each person modelled this art to different effects. I personally don’t understand the need for it w/o more understanding than saving someone’s soul or …p



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Hali

posted February 28, 2007 at 11:23 pm


The art of the parable has for the most part disappeared – but is that because of the lack of storytelling, or the lack of contemplation on the part of the listener? Jesus told stories that turned the conventional wisdom of the day on its head, and he did it in a way that led his listeners to think rather than just ramming commandments down their throats. But thinking is an important part of Middle Eastern culture, so I’m sure that other Jewish Rabbis of the day taught in a similar manner. What drew people to Jesus? I thought the Last Word in this months Wittenburg Door was interesting, especially this passage: The pagan philosopher Celsus, writing in the second century, was appalled at how different the Christian brotherhood was from every other group in society. Celsus noted that other mystery religions required seekers who have “clean hands and a prudent tongue” as well as those “free from all pollution.” “But let us hear what kind of persons these Christians invite. ‘Everyone,’ they say, ‘who is a sinner, who is devoid of understanding, who is a child, and, to speak generally, whoever is unfortunate, him will the Kingdom of God receive.'” http://www.wittenburgdoor.com/archives/lastword-210.html Hm. What do you all think?



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Payshun

posted February 28, 2007 at 11:42 pm


It is for the speaker to weave the tail. It is for the listener to digest and repeat it as necessary. It is lost because the speakers have chosen a more western consumerist model of explaining who God is. The speakers must learn to keep telling stories explaining God’s love (The Parable of the lost coin, sheep and prodigal) shrewd spending, love and care for all (ie Lazurus and the Rich Man..) We must learn to tell stories again or else Christianity will be stagnant. p



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Esther

posted March 1, 2007 at 12:38 am


Rick wrote: “They probably are, but what bothers me most is their apparent lack of accountability to any larger church body” That’s what bothered the Pharasees most about Jesus, too.



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 1, 2007 at 1:29 am


I would rather have it this way then, say, the methodist church, where pastoral decisions seem to be made by one giant machine, or the episcopalian church where you could wind up with a gay priest cause the “gray hairs” think its cool. I don’t think the “gray hairs” are the ones pushing homosexuality in the mainline denominations — they tend to be a tad more conservative if my experience.



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 1, 2007 at 1:32 am


That’s what bothered the Pharasees most about Jesus, too. Not exactly. He was a threat not only to their religious authority but also to their nationalistic fervor.



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Mike Hayes

posted March 1, 2007 at 1:35 am


Becky, There is a catholic priest in Michigan (near Detroit) by the name of Art Baranowski who works very hard to encourage “Small Church Communities” in parishes across the US. The basic idea is to enable small groups of members of a parish to gather together on whatever frequency they can accomplish to “share faith stories” and achieve a connectedness that can’t occur among a large number of parishoners at a mass on a weekend. It is a great concept, but the institutional church doesn’t get behind it and encourage it. http://www.basilthegreat.org/scc/default.html is an example and the resource information is at http://www.personal.psu.edu/users/d/d/ddz/resource.htm



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Becky Garrison

posted March 1, 2007 at 2:06 am


Few quick points – No a church does not have to be women led or adhere to specific set of political criteria in order to be innovative. I am just noting that there didn’t seem to be much variety here.As an avid flyfisher, size matters when it comes to fishing. But that’s about it.Both Butler Bass and Gibbs books are well worth the read. Also, Kester Brewin is having a book titled “Signs of Emergence” coming out under Baker Books this Spring that I was asked to endorse – fascinating and refreshing read from a UK urban perspective.Becky



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Mike Hayes

posted March 1, 2007 at 2:20 am


Becky, One other thought… it’s not necessarily unique, but churches which support food pantries in one way or another are certainly using creative thinking in how they might go about the great work of assisting those who are “thirsty” or “hungry”. My wife and I just recently began helping one day a week with a great organization in south Orange County in California, known as “South County Outreach”. We were a bit apprehensive about trying it, but we are impressed by the people who make it happen and also by the people who come in needing some help. We found out about it through a “ministry fair” at one of the local catholic churches.The food pantry began as a project of that local church and it has now grown to include volunteers from around the area. It is really quite something to see boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables and canned goods and pizzas and dairy products and so on come in with the assistance of volunteers who go out to collect it and bring it in. And then the volunteers who sort it all out and get it ready and those who speak with the families about what their needs are and other volunteers who load up shopping carts with goods depending upon the number of persons in the family. It must be difficult for the families to ask for help, and one can hope that being treated respectfully helps in the circumstances in which the families find themselves. I think this kind of “innovative” church is doing that great work of helping those who are “thirsty” or “hungry”.



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chad

posted March 1, 2007 at 6:06 am


“innovative” is the church supposed to be “innovative” or faithful? was Jesus’ interested in gimmicks and innovation? where in the Bible, or in church history, do we get the idea that innovation is the answer? last time i read the Gospel, Jesus was killed for the things he said, not put in a magazine as one of the most innovative leaders of his time… but i guess i’m just cynical…



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Mike Hayes

posted March 1, 2007 at 6:29 am


chad, Maybe Jesus was killed because he represented a threat to the Roman empire by his questioning of the established order… Maybe crucifixion was intended to discourage others from following suit… How grateful we should be that we do not live in such a society…



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kevin s.

posted March 1, 2007 at 12:54 pm


“Maybe Jesus was killed because he represented a threat to the Roman empire by his questioning of the established order…” Huh? “was Jesus’ interested in gimmicks and innovation?” You could just as easily say “was Jesus interested in indoor plumbing?” No. But that ought not discourage churches from partaking of the idea.



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Mark P

posted March 1, 2007 at 1:14 pm


I feel mixed on this. I think churches need to avoid becoming creaky and dead, but I think attempts to innovate can be dangerous because it says the way to keep a church alive and lively is innovation, rather than faithfulness to the Word and to Jesus Christ, both in word and in deed. Certainly there can be a creative outpouring of that faithfulness, but I do kind of think that giving churches perks for innovation seems a little silly.



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Eric Wakeling

posted March 1, 2007 at 3:05 pm


Do you mean they were all white like the authors of this blog???



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Helen Reid

posted March 1, 2007 at 4:33 pm


Artificial air fresheners would make a restroom out of bounds for my friend and many others who have environmental allergies. Sometimes natural smells are better than artificial ones. Helen



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Payshun

posted March 1, 2007 at 5:35 pm


For once I agree w/ Kevin, Jesus was not a threat to the Roman authority, the Hebrew one definitely. As far as church innovation I am mixed on it. I think American churches need to return to the powerful days of actually preaching. I know its hard w/ all the powerpoint slides… I am not against power points but please there was a point in time where it was expected for people to have great oratorical skills. That’s simply not the case now. Everyone wants to feel so comfortable.It’s annoying. But I am all for learning new and exciting ways to love people. That I don’t have a problem w/ at all as long as people are smart and do their research. p



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Donny

posted March 1, 2007 at 5:59 pm


Becky, Your racism is sickening. Why the need to mention the color of the people of these innovative Churches? Aren’t you past racism? How about just calling the innovations, innovations? Give people of non-color a break huh? There are some really good people from European descent you know.No really. I’m not joking. We’re not all godless hedonists. Seriously.



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 1, 2007 at 6:08 pm


Why the need to mention the color of the people of these innovative churches? What percentage of “people of color” attend your church? It’s a more relevant question than you might think because, frankly, we are still very much divided that way.



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Suzanne

posted March 1, 2007 at 6:58 pm


Becky- This article reminded me of a recent conversation between a few relatives and a friend of mine- all who have had, at one time or another, worked as a waitress. They all (4 out of 4) stated that people who worked at their restaurants would request not to work Sunday lunch/afternoons. Why? Because the church going crowds would be the poorest tippers all week . . . and believe it or not- some church members wouldn t tip at all, they would only leave a tract! Shameful- and what a pitiful witness. Suz



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mandy

posted March 1, 2007 at 7:12 pm


my “church” may not be the biggest, but it is pretty awesome. we have 4 people and we meet at least once a week for a few hours, usually more. one of used to work at the “big” church and the other 3 were hardcore volunteers. we all got frustrated with the commercialism, the fakeness and the lack of community. we hang out and eat, talk about life, all of it…good and bad. we keep each other accountable not only to the solid truths we grew up learning, but also to serving, treating others with respect, learning to live with less, respecting the enviornment, etc. and, we eat out…and tip very well. ;)



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Mark P

posted March 1, 2007 at 8:44 pm


Suz, I worked at a resturaunt in high school and can affirm that the Sunday afternoon crowd is the rudest, most demanding, least appreciative, and lowest tipping crowd of the week. The no-tip-leave-a-tract thing is AWFUL. The worst, though, is the fake-hundred-dollar-bill tract… shameful and godless. Payshun: agreed on the preaching for sure, but I’m gonna have to semi-disagree with you and Kevin regarding Jesus. Well sort of disagree.In His lifetime, Jesus was a more immediate threat to the Hebrew authorities, so I agree there. However, triune monotheism was absolutely a threat to the Roman Empire’s power structure… the Romans were *very* progressive and pluralistic in that they’d add any deity you wanted to the pantheon — they would have added Jesus… except that Jesus and His followers demanded exclusitivity, a direct undermining of the emperor worship so central to unifying their vast empire. Christianity was a legitimate threat.



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kevin s.

posted March 1, 2007 at 8:51 pm


“I am not against power points but please there was a point in time where it was expected for people to have great oratorical skills. That’s simply not the case now. Everyone wants to feel so comfortable.It’s annoying.” The best use of powerpoints, for me, is to put scripture up at the screen. That way, people don’t have to thumb through Bibles. But yeah, presentation-style services don’t do it for me.I think part of the issue is that younger (under 35) folks are rebelling against that sort of status quo that has been established by a number of the non-denominational “mega” churches that have grown in the last 25 years. These churches have their strengths in terms of outreach and making new people feel comfortable. Further, the emphasis on meeting in smaller groups outside of church is a valuable hallmark of these communities. They are also often characterized by shallow theology, and a disregard for intellect. In their pursuit of new membership, they have embraced techniques that might seem far-fetched.From a theological perspective, they embrace the more instructional books of the Bible (particularly Proverbs and the Pauline texts), often giving the gospels and old Testament short shrift (particularly the latter).As such, we see now a movement toward churches with stronger theological and intellectual grounding and less “overhead”. Calvinism has grown by leaps and bounds, as college educated students are rejecting the “touchy-feely” nature of the “modern” church (yes I’m using lot’s of scare quotes, I know). They embrace rigorous theological study, and demand to intellectual consistency in the treatment of God’s character. The emergent church, leery of a seeker based model that seems to put the cart before the horse, has also grown considerably among younger crowds. There is less fear of “religion”, and an embrace of ritual. Naturally, the two movements hate each other almost as they despise the modern church.Both of these movements have their own strengths, and their own potential pitfalls. Just as the modern “mega” church was a rebellion, so are these new church movements.Christianity will outlive both movements. There is nothing new under the sun.



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Rick Nowlin

posted March 1, 2007 at 9:47 pm


Calvinism has grown by leaps and bounds, as college educated students are rejecting the “touchy-feely” nature of the “modern” church (yes I’m using lot’s of scare quotes, I know). They embrace rigorous theological study, and demand intellectual consistency in the treatment of God’s character. A couple of years ago I read a profile in the New Yorker on Rick Warren, and it mentioned that he was a big fan of Charles Spurgeon, considered the “last of the Puritans.” If such is the case Saddleback Church is in better shape than some people believe.



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kevin s.

posted March 2, 2007 at 5:07 pm


Rick Warren gets a bad rap because of his obsession with practicality. I don’t have a problem with his theology.



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Suz

posted March 3, 2007 at 2:40 am


Mark- Oh I forgot – yes, they also said that the after church crowd was the most demanding and the rudest. How sad is that?If there are any Pastors reading this . . . consider saying something to your church members.



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