Blogs and My Public Life

For almost a decade I have blogged on a regular basis. Initially, I found this medium an exciting and developing way to share my thoughts and reflect on biblical theology, culture and current events. Over time I found that writing blogs seven days a week was so demanding that I had to reduce my blogs to five times per week. Then it became four. Finally, some weeks ago, I quit writing for a long season. I have not quit altogether. In fact, I posted two new blogs over the last two days. During this “blog vacation” I have concluded several things about my blogs:

1. Blogs can be of various kinds and styles. My writing personally ranged over a wide field of interests because I enjoy many different aspects of culture and theology. I read widely and thus I wrote very widely. I am first a Bible-reader but I am a man of many books and interests. This impacted what I wrote and how I did it.

2. Blogs can be heavily documented academic articles that serve a great long-term purpose. I did very few of these types

What a Classic Movie Can Teach Us About the Church

Quiet ManToday’s Guest Blogger is Dr. Dave Lescalleet

Every year our family watches the 1952 classic movie The Quiet Man as a way to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day.  This film, because of its Ireland location, is more and more associated with this national holiday.  The story, set in the 1920’s, stars John Wayne as retired American boxer Sean Thornton who returns to the village of Inisfree, Ireland, where he was born, in the hopes of finding peace and quiet but in the process finds love.  The beautiful and equally talented Maureen O’Hara plays the female lead as Mary Kate Danaher.  The feisty Danaher, quickly falls in love with the affable Thornton and easily proves his equal, giving as good as she gets.

The Quiet Man is a ‘fish out of water’ story as Wayne’s Thornton must not only integrate himself into the odd but endearing community of Inisfree, but along the way learn their old Irish customs and how they do life together.  To say that this is one of my all-time favorite films is an understatement.  From the

Difficult Men: Why Did Cable Television Produce So Many Great Works of Popular Art? Part 2

61wQB1+4LXL._UX250_Brett Martin identifies a first burst of literary energy in 1950s television (when the medium was young) and a second that came in the 1980s (when the forward-thinking television executive Grant Tinker’s MGM Enterprises begat the groundbreaking Hill Street Blues). These are followed by the “Third Golden Age,” beginning with The Sopranos. This story is at least half the content of his book. He uses it to set the stage for understanding what followed in shows that may be even better than The Sopranos. The Emmy Awards, given for the best programming in television, are now routinely given only to cable shows such as these, all of which have garned an incredible number of such awards. The New York Times book review of Martin’s books says that he “writes with a psychological insight that enhances his nimble reporting.” Again, I have to agree completely.

Martin takes the reader (listener) behind the scenes of this cultural shift and provides extensive reporting based on interviews and good research. He gives you “never-before-heard” stories and reveals how cable television has distinguished itself

Difficult Men: Why Did Cable Television Produce So Many Great Works of Popular Art? Part 1

cover225x225As a true fan of what Brett Martin calls “The Third Golden Age” of television I devoured his new book, Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Man Men and Breaking Bad. I devoured the book by listening to Martin’s work as an audio book. Listening to a book in its entirety is a first for me. This one was very easy to listen to since I used long driving stretches to work thorugh it in only a few days. The essential core of Martin’s story was easy to grasp. The actual reader, Keith Szarabajka, was also fantastic, making the aural experience deeply satisfying. (I am told my own book, Your Church Is Too Small, is poorly read in its audio version since the reader apparently does not understand important words and thus mispronounces a number of them. O bother!)

In the late 1990s, and early 2000s, the landscape of television began a transformation with a wave of new shows, all featured on cable channels. The reality is that

Two Modern Films That Define Us as Americans, Part One

11180834_oriI have not reviewed a movie here for many months, maybe for a year or more. I am not sure why this is true. I simply lost interest in film reviews I suppose. I’ve also seen some fairly bad movies in the last year. I think the Academy nominees for this year included some of the weakest films and performances in years. But I have not lost my interest in film.

In the first few months of 2015 I have seen several films that I enjoyed. Today I’d like to compare and contrast two films that capture something of the spirit of America. One is being deeply debated, American Sniper. The other film, McFarland USA, is not so well known but should be. (I will give the compare and contrast part of my blog in tomorrow’s post.)

American Sniper is a critically acclaimed movie that is debated left and right. It features Clint Eastwood’s sure-handed direction and has a gripping central performance from Bradley Cooper, who plays the lead role as a sniper in Iraq. It is tense, violent,

ACT3 Network Story Video (1)

For more than a year I have desired to present a well-done video that shares the vision of ACT3 Network as clearly as possible. Given the time span that people will give to viewing such a video online this presentation needed to be designed to run for less than five minutes. It also needed to feature some of our ACT3 friends, our “big” story and my personal vision for missional-ecumenism. Finally, we have produced this new video. I am genuinely excited about it and the potential it has to help our mission. When you now go to our website you will see this film on the homepage.

Today I introduce you to this new ACT3 Network Story video. I will tell you more about this video, and how it can be used to read the flame of missional-ecumenism, over the next few days. Please watch it if you are interested and then share it with your friends as widely as possible.

Please allow the Spirit to lead you as you watch. We need donors and friends who will help us make this vision “viral.” To this end please pass this link to the

For the Life of the World: The Classic Book and a New Video Series

I have mentioned my friend Byron Borger at Hearts & Minds Books in several contexts. There is no better reviewer of good books than Byron. Everyone who values my blogs should subscribe to his newsletters and pay attention to his reviews and book specials. There is simply no better Christian resource for good books – at least in the Protestant world – so far as I have discovered. Below is a review that covers the brilliant new film series that I am totally stoked about: “For the Life of the World.” Please order this series from Byron and you will not regret it I promise you. Show these films to friends, your small group, your local church, your adult education class, your older children, etc. There is no better introduction to whole life discipleship thinking available. This is not a series of polemical overviews but a good, solid Christian discipleship resource about living well that is applied to life in a holistic way.

Hearts & Minds Books



DVD “For the Life of the

Divergent: What To Do With the People Who Do Not Conform

20140321_inq_svrdiv21-aThe much anticipated science-fiction film Divergent opened this weekend to mixed reviews. Divergent is a thrilling action-adventure film set in a world where people are divided into distinct factions based upon human virtues. Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is warned, via a test given to every sixteen year-old, that she is divergent. This warning means that she will never fit into any one group of the five groups in this post-war culture. When Tris discovers a conspiracy by a faction leader (Kate Winslet) to destroy all divergent’s she must learn to trust in the mysterious Four (Theo James). Four becomes her ally and love-interest (refreshingly without sexual scenes or nudity). Tris and Four must find out what makes being divergent so dangerous to the various “tribes” before it is too late.

Divergent only received a 40% “fresh” rating by the popular movie site Rotten Tomatoes. In spite of this I took the bait and went to see it over the weekend. While it did not have a great script it actually played out rather nicely on the screen. It

By |March 25th, 2014|Categories: Film, Personal, The Future|

Philomena – A Film That Reveals Gospel Grace and Forgiveness

220px-Philomena_posterI saw the new movie Philomena last week. I was unprepared for how much this film would move me to the depths of my spirit. It is my “sleeper” film for 2013! I noted this weekend, with great joy, that it was nominated for the Golden Globe as “Best Picture.” (There are only five nominees. The Academy now has ten nominees and if Philomena is not nominated someone should investigate the process!)

Philomena is a 2013 British film based upon the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, written by Martin Sixsmith. (Martin Sixsmith was the reporter who helped Philomena search for her lost son.) The film tells the true story of Philomena Lee’s 50-year-long search. The book focuses more, as the title suggests, on the life of Michael/Anthony (Philomena’s son) after his adoption in Ireland. The film focuses more on Philomena herself yet it gives us a clear picture of what transpired in Michael/Anthony’s life over the years since he was taken from the convent in Ireland.

As the film begins Martin Sixsmith has just lost his job

Waiting for Another MLK – What Can We Do As Christians?

My good friend Rev. Carlos Malave, the executive director of Christian Churches Together USA, shared a lovely meal with me in Louisville just a few weeks ago. Carlos was raised in the Seventh Day Adventist church but eventually became a Presbyterian minister. He was drawn to ecumenism while a student at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he was influenced by another friend, Dr. Cecil (Mel) Robeck, Jr. Carlos says of this part of his journey: “What really clicked was a church history class taught by  Robeck, an Assembly of God pastor but a really strange Assembly of God pastor because he was a leading Pentecostal ecumenist. That was captivating to me, his call to work for the unity of the church.” Carlos finished his degree at Fuller and went on to serve as an associate for ecumenical relations in the Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Unknown-3In a recent letter to leaders in CCT, titled “Waiting for Another MLK,” Carlos eloquently wrote this appeal:

Are we waiting for another Dr. King? As I collect