30 June, 2007

Travelocity Sued for $400 trillion.

Independent missionary Roby Primes is suing Travelocity for $400,000,000,001,828, his latest estimate of eternal pain and suffering for lost souls plus the cost of an airline ticket to Hong Kong, China. “When we go on mission trips, we usually see about 4 souls saved per day,” said Primes referring to himself as “we.” “Since we were delayed 1 day, that’s 4 souls lost for all eternity. What Travelocity has done is nothing less than horrible!”

When the flight was delayed, Primes was distraught. “We kept going to the counter and saying ‘we are on a mission trip’ only to get the same answer: ‘Sir, we’re doing the best we can.’ We would explain that lost souls were at stake.”

Primes believes the world should be warned about Travelocity’s false advertisement. “Travelocity repeated touts ‘The Travelocity Guarantee’ on its website as well as all the television ads with that statuesque roaming gnome. As it turns out, the chilliness of his frozen features is only surpassed by his frigid heart. He seemed so sincere to us when we booked the flight. They have a guarantee! They have a Travelocity Customer Bill of Rights! The public needs to be warned,” wept Primes.

No one seems to understand the pain that Primes has experienced as a result of his ordeal. “It’s right there in black and white. ‘Guarantee.’ A guarantee should be just that… a guarantee!" Primes continued to speak about the gnome, "Although he wasn’t moving his lips to the words ‘guarantee’, that non-symmetrical figurine was obviously the implied source of the words. You could even tell from the accent of the television voiceover that Travelocity had that intention. It’s a shame to use an innocent, though grotesque, three-dimensional likeness of a diminutive being to do your work for you.”

Primes was embarrassed in the Los Angeles airport on numerous occasions during his 24 hour delay. “Many times we received blank looks which turned into light laughter and some pointing when we left the counter.”

TBNN representatives asked Primes how he determined the exact number of $400 trillion. “This is not a pair of replaceable pants we are talking about. I’m not sure how you could even place a value on a soul lost for eternity. But we know the number has to be large,” said Primes. The $400 trillion works out to $100 trillion per soul.

"Gnomes are known for guarding hoards of money. We’re going to see just how much that shriveled little man has accumulated.” Primes hopes to put the funds to good use. He explained to TBNN that he only wants $2 trillion for his pain and anquish. “We plan to use $398 trillion to go on more mission trips and save other souls,” said Primes.

“We don’t really want to sue, but we feel we must make a statement of the importance of our work for the Lord. The Lord needs us, and Travelocity let us down. I lay in bed at night wondering which 4 souls were lost on account of that incongruous dwarf. If you consider the length of eternity, this is really a small number. What price should be placed on eternal separation? We haven’t even considered all the souls that would have been saved if only those 4 could have been saved. If each of those 4 would have been able to go and save at least 2 per month, and those could have then saved 2 per month, and so on… the exponential growth calculates salvation of the entire world in as little as 32 months. It’s disheartening. If only I could have been 'on my way' at the right time.”

27 June, 2007

Creflo Dollar's Name Inflates


Creflo Dollar, founder and director of Creflo Dollar Ministries announced on Tuesday his plans to change his last name 'Fiddy-Dollars' due to inflation.

"I knew it was time for a change" said Dollar. "Here I am telling people that God has wealth and riches for them if they just give and ask in faith, and I have a last name like Dollar. What in the world can a Dollar buy anymore? Hardly nothing. People don't want a dollar, but fifty dollars, now that's some dough to get things going. You tell someone 'Hey, I'll give you a dollar if you do this' and they'd call you crazy. But if someone says 'Hey, I'll give you fifty dollars if you do this" and they'd be all up for that."

Dollar went on to state that his ministry, which focuses on God's giving of material wealth and prosperity to those who give generously to his ministry and 'name it' had been dwindling over the past few years for various reasons.

"Fewer people had been coming, and the tithes were really down" said Dollar. "I'm not sure why they have stopped coming. There's a new pastor that has started up a work not too far from here named Charles Diamond Ministries. I don't know if that's got anything to do with it or not."

TBNN was able to catch up with Charles Diamond, the founder of Charles Diamond Ministries for his comments.

"Yes, we've been having a lot of folks come over from Creflo's church" said Diamond. "I started my work here fifteen years ago when my last name was Hughes. Last year, when I changed my name to Diamond, people started coming more and more. We are packed to the hilt every Sunday here now with people tearing the down down just about."

But the presence of other competing ministries does not seem to be Dollar's main motivation for changing his name.

"I don't care what everyone else is doing" said Dollar. "Creflo Dollars has got to look out for Creflo Dollar, and soon I'll be Creflo Fiddy-Dollars. It's just a reflection of the riches that are out there for people to have if they'd only give in faith. I want people to see my last name and say 'Yeah, that's some money there.'"

Dollar's name will officially be changed to "Fiddy-Dollars" in July when all of the paperwork is complete. When asked if he ever thought his name would inflate again Dollar stated, "There might come a time here in the next few years when we need to up it to a hundred, but for right now I think we're okay."

26 June, 2007

"Welcome to Vacation Babble School"

For this week's installment of VBS news, see below:

ROANOKE, VA - Anyone passing Gethsemane Assembly of God cannot miss the words on the church sign marquee: "Welcome to Vacation Babble School." The sign often requires a daring double-take from drivers because of the obvious similarity with the much more common "Vacation Bible School." Dwight Knox, senior pastor at Gethsemane, explained his church's VBS this way, "At Gethsemane, we want to stress to our kids that they have been gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve the body of Christ. We have decided to gradually put an emphasis on all of the spiritual gifts, and we agreed that there is no better place to start than with speaking in tongues."

We at TBNN asked specifically about the name "Vacation Babble School." Pastor Knox indicated that there are two reasons for the name. "The first reason is that we just thought it would be 'catchy' sounding. Second, because we will be teaching kids how to speak in tongues, the word 'babble' seemed appropriate."

Cindy Proctor, the Gethsemane Children's Director, told us all about their VBS curriculum and schedule. It is outlined here:

9:00 AM - Group Assembly (Each day at this time, the Pastor Knox will model speaking in tongues to the children.)

9:30 AM - Children break up into age groups and head to 4 different 30-minute rotating stations. The 4 stations are entitled:
-"Learn to speak in tongues."
-"Learn how to interpret tongues."
-"Learn how to build a private prayer language."
-"Recreation" (Only speaking in tongues is allowed during kickball.)

11:30 AM - Group Assembly (Students are randomly chosen to perform speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues in front of the larger group.)

We asked Ms. Proctor how, exactly, the curriculum would be taught. She told us, "For speaking in tongues, the kids will be encouraged to just say whatever comes to mind. If nothing does at first, we tell them to just pick a two or three syllable word, and then say it backwards quickly four times. For example, 'banana' backwards is 'ananab.' After one or two tries, the kids get it."

Ms. Proctor continued, "As for interpreting tongues, we teach the kids to be very quiet and listen to what is being said with both their heads and their hearts. Whatever comes to mind must be the correct interpretation. Quite honestly, we don't stress this gift too much because most churches don't bother with interpretation. As for private prayer language, that is private so it is difficult to teach. We just tell them that if it is private and it feels good, then do it. Recreation is, well, to both get exercise and to force the kids to speak their new language."

Some local parents have complained to TBNN that they were confused by the church sign. Susan Woods, mother of 9-year-old Tiffany who attended the first day at the Gethsemane VBS, told us, "I assumed that 'Babble' referred to the Tower of Babel in Genesis. I just figured the church would be focusing on bible stories from the Old Testament. To be frank, I was looking for free day-care for my daughter for the mornings this week. I had no idea she would come home speaking gibberish. I keep finding her mumbling to herself all over the house. What am I supposed to do now? We attend a Baptist church after all, so we don't speak in tongues!"

Pastor Knox informed us that this VBS has gotten more attention than any in the past. "We have had a lot of people asking about us. We must be doing the right thing. Next year we'll keep some of the speaking in tongues classes, but our emphasis will shift to another spiritual gift. We haven't decided yet, but I think we will focus on healings and miracles. That should bring the kids in to the church."

25 June, 2007

Faith Actually Moves Mountain


Carlie Shiner always believed in the saying that "faith can move a mountain," and over the weekend that statement proved true. Shiner, a life-long resident of New Orleans, always had a love for the beauty of the mountains, but also loved her native city and state, totally devoid of any natural elevation above 600 feet. She moved back to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to rebuild her home and start over. But her love for the mountains never left her, and she longed to be inspired by their beauty and awe. So she began to pray.

"I believe what the Bible says when it says that faith can move a mountain" said Shiner. "So I started praying for a mountain, literally. They're beautiful and awe-inspiring, and New Orleans needs inspiration right now. We need something to lift our spirits."

But Shiner was very specific in her requests. She did not simply ask for just any mountain, but one in particular. Having visited Seattle, Washington in 2004 to spend time with friends, Shiner was struck by the majesty of Mt. Rainer.

"Mt. Rainer is amazing" she said. "I've seen beautiful mountains in the Carolinas and Tennessee and other places, but nothing compares to Rainer. I knew that was the mountain I wanted. That was the mountain New Orleans needed."

So beginning in December of 2005 she began to pray, daily, then hourly that Mt. Rainer would be "moved" to Louisiana, believing that one day she would open her curtains and there it would be.

"People thought I was nuts" said Shiner. "But I knew better. I just needed to have more faith and then my prayers would be answered. So I started praying, and fasting even more."

Finally, this past Sunday Shiner's prayers were answered, and now, as she revels in the beauty of her conquest of faith, the entire country is in shock.

"We are still working with the government to try and figure out what's going on here" said New Orleans Mayor, Ray Nagin. "The whole city, state, and country are just in utter shock over this. We've received calls from the State of Washington, and sure enough, Mt. Rainer is no longer there."

In addition to simply being baffled as to how this occurred, scientists are also deeply concerned that Louisiana's warm climate will not be able to sustain the mountains glaciers, and that a sudden melting of them might bring about massive flooding in the below sea level area.

"Those glaciers are going to melt within 3 months" said geologist Michael Hardgrave. "That's going to be a massive amount of water that is suddenly released into this area. Mass flooding will take place unless something is done."

23 June, 2007

Quinquarticular Tourette's

Pastor Wilkinstonson has been at the Routesville Methodist Church since August of 2000. In hindsight, the very first sign of the disorder was around the time of the Bush vs. Gore controversy at the end of 2000. No one knew he had any disorder at all, much less that it was related to Calvinism. For about 1 month, when he would say the word “election” it would come in threes. For example, he would say, "During the recent election election election…" and then continue with his sentence as if everything was normal. "We knew it was not a stutter," said longtime member Rosalee Plains. "It was just an odd burst of two extra 'elections', and it only occurred with the word 'election.' It never occured with any other word. The furthest thing from my mind was the connection with those vile Calvinists. He never once mentioned the word 'unconditional.' We just assumed he was stressed about the election."

Many people seem to think of bursts of profanity when they hear “Tourette’s Syndrome” (TSD). Researchers now know that TSD (a.k.a. Tourette’s Disorder, Tourette’s, and Tourette Spectrum Disorder) is a relatively common childhood onset defined by persistent motor and vocal tics and frequently associated with obsessions, compulsions, and attention difficulties. The truth is that the "tics" can be either vocal or motor (muscle), and the vocal tics need not be profanity to be classified as TSD. TSD is apparently much more common in children than originally thought. This however, is the first documented case of Quinquarticular Tourette's, or QT.

Dr. Mathias Cornwell, the J. L. Middleton Distinguished Professor of Neurological Surgery at Syracuse is a well-known and respected researcher with over 25 publications in the Journal of Neurological Disorders. "During a wedding performed by Pastor Wilkinstonson for my niece, Grace, in 2006, I knew immediately that the Pastor had a form of Tourette's. I, however, cannot take credit for discovering the quinquarticular connection. That credit belongs to my research assistant, Phillip Blackstone, who was raised Presbyterian. After our joint discovery of the pastor's unique theme, I decided to name his condition Quinquarticular Tourette's. His case is a remarkable one where the tics are unquestionably confined strictly and solely to the five points of Calvinism. Perhaps not coincidentally, if we observe his particular outbursts in light of strict Arminianism, one may consider it profanity."

The doctor's first known encounter with QT came in the summer of 2006 when Grace Jordan married William Teznel. "The crowd chuckled a few times at first because he kept referring to Grace as 'Irresistible Grace,'" said Dr. Cornwell. "There was an obvious change in tone and inflection with the phrase. 'William, will you take irresistible Grace to be your lawful wedded wife.' She was like a daughter to him, so no one suspected anything other than his complement of her and that he was a little odd." "I thought it was an inside joke or something," said Shelly Jordan, Grace's sister.

After Dr. Cornwell mentioned the possibility of TSD to Grace and her family, he discovered that several other bizarre instances had occured through the years. With the help of Pastor Wiklinstonson, Dr. Cornwell was able to able to make the link to what is now know as QT. Everyone remembered a funeral where the Pastor had repeatedly made a series of hand gestures. Pastor Wilkinstonson allowed them to review a tape of the funeral. "We were fortunate to find video of the funeral. As I stared at the video, I knew right away that it was TSD. After many obeservations, it came to me. 'Try sign language,' I said to Phillip." Phillip was able to decipher "total depravity" and almost immediately made the connection with irresistible grace as a Calvinist term. "Pastor Wilkinstonson was shocked when we gave him the news. He was totally unaware of this persistent theme himself. He wanted help."

In attempted discussions with Pastor Wilkinstonson, Tominthebox was able to determine that he had attempted some self remedies. "One of my bunyan members tried to help by spurgeon ordering for me a bottle of Calvinix hodge. Despite the odd flavor, I mather managed to take the entire bottle mohler. I was sproul able to avoid saying anything zwingli unusual for a while sproul jr. In fact, edwards I avoided saying anything at all for 3 days. Apparently, my brain fell asleep falwell, um piper, without any Calvinistic thoughts in my system."

Millie Riftrigger, representative for the church Ladies Group said, "We have spoken with Pastor Wilkinstonson about his apparent problem with Calvinistic profanity. We feel confident that he does not want to say these things. We have tried to work to help him. We have begun a prayer group that meets every Thursday night to pray for him for two hours. We pray for healing from this affliction. If we are not able to see progress soon, we will have no choice but to ask for a change."

There are many other instances. For example, during one Sunday Evening service, he began yelling Bible verse references. "I don't remember all of them, but two of them were Romans 8:29 and Ephesians 1:5," said Jennifer Martin, 16. "I looked them up and both of them contained that 'P' word. You could tell by the way he just screamed the references that it couldn't be something good."

Although Pastor Wilkinstonson had trouble speaking with Tominthebox, he wanted to make one final point. “I know I can persevere choose. I know I have a choice. I know I persevere have a choice in what I say. But the Calvinism just seems to burst out persevere. I can’t explain it persevere. I’m clueless as to how this stuff even got in my head. Tulip.”

22 June, 2007

Priest is Both Roman Catholic and Reformed

You might want to read this article before reading today's post.

On Saturday night The Reverend Father John Mark Henley dons his priestly garb and presides over mass at St. Mary's Catholic Parish in Dallas, administering Eucharist to the parishioners and leading the congregation in the liturgy. On Sunday morning he is faithfully in the front pew Canal Street Presbyterian Church (PCA) intently taking notes as the church's pastor preaches the sermon.

The question as to whether one can be both a Roman Catholic and a conservative Presbyterian is difficult for some, "absurd" to others. But for Henley it is an easy question with an easy answer. He professes to be both, and for almost fifteen months now he has practiced both faiths.

Henley's "conversion" to the reformed faith occurred in March of 2006 when he attended a funeral at a Presbyterian Church for a college friend.

"I was moved by the service" said Henley. "The people were so devout and so pious. The extemporaneous prayers moved me deeply, and I felt a great sense of peace. The people seemed so certain about salvation and so confident that their friend was saved."

Since that time Henley faithfully attends Canal Street Presbyterian Church once a week and spends the rest of his time doing his Parish duties at St. Mary's Catholic Church.

"At their core they are the same" said Henley. "There's really no distinction. We both believe in the Trinity, the virgin birth, the death burial and resurrection, etc. Being a Presbyterian only deepens my faith."

But many see the two theological positions as mutually exclusive and incompatible.

"While it's true that there are some very basic tenants of the Christian faith that Roman Catholics and Presbyterians agree upon, the two systems of belief are very different" said Dr. Milton Hilliard, professor of New Testament at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. "For instance, Presbyterians do not believe that baptism washes away original sin. Then you've got the issues surrounding the Pope, Mary, prayers to saints and transubstantiation. Catholics also do not believe in the exclusive authority of Scripture alone, nor do they believe in God's sovereignty in salvation the way we do. And at the top of the list is justification by faith alone in Christ alone, the very issue that gnawed at Luther's heart. The two systems of belief are just not compatible."

But Henley sees no "real" contradiction between his two faiths.

"I really don't see a problem" said Henley. "Sometimes I pray to Mary. Presbyterians believe in Mary too. Yes, I might pray to saints, but Presbyterians also ask their friends to pray for them. I just think of saints as like close friends that can pray for me. The fact that they're dead is only a minor thing."

Tominthebox News Network talked with Jeff Wells, pastor of Canal Street Presbyterian Church about Henley's attendance.

"I'm glad he comes" said Wells. "I'm glad when anyone comes, but I hope he realizes that Presbyterianism and Catholicism are very different. They are not the same faith. Reformed churches hold to doctrines that are explicitly contrary to Roman Catholic teachings. The five solas of the Reformation, Scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone and glory to God alone, are very much contrary to Romanist dogma."

But these issues do not seem to bother Henley.

"I look at the Reformed faith and think that it's an idea about God that draws people closer to him" he said. "I want to be closer to him too. Even though the Westminster Confession of Faith calls the Pope the 'Antichrist' that doesn't bother me so much."

Despite criticism and questions Henley still plans to continue practicing both faiths.

"I am 100% Roman Catholic and 100% reformed" said Henley. "No one can change that."

While Henley sees no problems with his practices he soon might face trouble with the local archbishop of his Parish.

20 June, 2007

Minor League Softball for Mega Churches.

Every year past as the church softball league started up at the Southampton Church of God the church faced a dilemma. The so-called "mega church" with a membership of just over 18,000 often found itself having to turn away literally hundreds of would-be participants.

"In the past we just didn't have space on the team" said head coach Eric DeVry. "Every year we had all of these people that wanted to play, but we would have to turn them away. And even if we could have put them all on the team, there's no way we could have let everyone play."

For years churches like Southampton with memberships over 5000 wrestled with the problem of what to do with those who so desperately wanted to participate but could not because of limited space. But as this year's softball season began history was made. Southampton and nine other churches in the state of Colorado with memberships over 8,000 began forming "minor league" church softball teams, and the idea has flourished.

The initial concept was conceived by DeVry last year while attending a triple-A Sky Sox game in Colorado Springs.

"I went to watch the Sky Sox play with my family" said DeVry. "And as I was watching the game it just hit me. If baseball has different leagues then why can't church softball?"

DeVry passed his idea along to the church board of directors last fall who immediately embraced the idea. He then passed on the idea to the coaches at a number of other large churches in the Colorado area, all of whom were thrilled at the prospect.

The process for forming the teams worked similarly to how major league baseball teams are formed. Four levels of teams were organized, beginning with A, and then moving up through AA, AAA and then on to what is called the "Mega League." Tryouts were held this past spring, and church members who desired to play came out to see if they would make the cut. After the tryouts the coaching staffs of each church "drafted" players beginning with the "Mega League" coaches.

The idea has been welcomed by the participants.

"I've wanted to play for Southampton for years, but just never was able to get on the team" said Alex Steed, pitcher for Southampton's AAA team. "It's really great to get out there and play now. On any given night we'll have six to seven thousand people out in the crowd, and it really gets exciting. I'm hoping that maybe next year I'll get called up to the Mega League."

Steed's wish could very well come true. The league system also has "scouts" that visit the different league games to watch for rising stars. Those players who perform well in the lower leagues can be called up over time.

"We were in Denver last week" said Gerald Barter, first baseman for the Southampton AA Salvation Sluggers. "Next week we'll be in Colorado Springs to take on the Parkview Prophets. They're really a tough team but I think we can take them. I'm really working hard to get my batting average up so I can get called up soon."

The formation of the various leagues has also generated a tremendous response from the various congregations. With more people from more large churches playing in the league, crowds have multiplied greatly. While the single-A games generally draw a modest crowd of 500-600 from the rival churches, some of the AA and AAA games have at times drawn crowds of almost 10,000 people, and several Mega League games have brought in crowds over 16,000.

"When Southampton played the Barrington Blessings we had 16,897 people there that night" said DeVry. "We had to rent out the Sky Sox stadium just to play."

While only in its first season, the future of minor league mega church softball looks bright.

"If all goes well we're going to add a rookie league next year prior to single-A" said DeVry. "That'll even get more people involved."

19 June, 2007

"Confrontational" VBS causes controversy in Alabama

MOBILE, AL - At Mt. Carmel Independent Baptist Church, Vacation Bible School (VBS) is different.

Rev. Thad Wallace, pastor at Mt. Carmel, describes his church's summer program, "At almost every VBS, they tell kids about Jesus, but they never tell'em about sin. The kids leave thinking that Jesus is their 'friend,' but they have no idea that He is a God to be feared. The kids never hear about Hell. Well, we're changing that."

This summer, the theme of the Mt. Carmel VBS was "Feeling the Fire." Most parents figured that the VBS would focus on the power of God, and maybe mention something about Elijah on Mt. Carmel, or the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Sally Morgan, mother of seven-year-old Stephen (who attended the first three days of VBS at Mt. Carmel), said "No one ever told us that the theme of the week was Hell. I mean, if they wanted to mention it that's fine, but to dwell on it just scares kids."

Pastor Wallace told TBNN that he wanted his "Confrontational VBS" to be different. For example, the snacks were chili, chips with hot salsa, and curried rice. Most of the activities also made children feel the heat. Despite the high temperatures of Alabama in the summer, the kids' activities all took place outside. Wallace reported, "We had them outside playing tackle football, and picking up trash on the church grounds. When they came in for a break, we served hot tea."

Parents were also concerned about the VBS theme verse this week. Penny Wolcott told us, "Revelation 20:15 just doesn't seem appropriate to me. Wouldn't John 3:16 have been better? Now my child knows only one bible verse, and it has to be that one?"

We at TBNN looked up Rev. 20:15. The verse says, "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

According to pastor Wallace, "We decided that Hell would be the key. This drove our themes for the first four days of the week." Below are each day's themes:

Monday - "What is Hell?"
Tuesday - "You deserve to go to Hell."
Wednesday - "You can't ever get out of Hell."
Thursday - "Fire hurts."

When the VBS leaders handed out a Chick tract entitled "Scream" on Tuesday, that was the final straw for some. Mrs. Wolcott again, "I sent my child to VBS to learn that Jesus loves him. All he came home with was fear of Hell and some lame crafts. What's that all about?"

Pastor Wallace was disappointed that only 17 of the 52 children who started the VBS came to the Friday finale. "On Friday night, as we all sat around a very hot campfire (see above photo), we told them about Jesus. I was sad that so few kids came, but, boy, did we get a response from those 17 kids. Whether or not they were Christians before, they all made decisions for Christ. A 100% salvation rate is alright by me."

Mrs. Wolcott summed up the week by saying, "Summer VBS is for fun. My son will never set foot in this church again. We'll go back to our church (Bethany UMC) for our VBS next week. I'm sure he won't have to hear about Hell there!"

18 June, 2007

Tominthebox 2.0 Coming Tuesday, June 19th

On Tuesday, June 19th the Tominthebox News Network will enter a new phase of its existence with Tominthebox 2.0! For about 6 months here I (Tom) have been the primary contributor to this blog, posting Monday through Friday. Recently my brother (Brother Slawson) joined TBNN to contribute on the weekends. His posts have been received with rave reviews.

While I tremendously enjoy posting here, sometimes five days a week can get a little tedious, and often I feel as though some of the articles I come up with aren't my best efforts. And recently, with my family about to move overseas and focus on our ministry in Russia, I have realized that the task of posting every weekday could become more difficult.

So what's the solution? On Tuesday, June 19th 2007 The Tominthebox News Network will cease to exist. It's been fun, and I have enjoyed everyone's readership.


Okay, just kidding. I wouldn't do that. But I'm very excited about the upcoming change. Beginning this Tuesday Elder Eric formerly of the excellent site Religion Roundtable joins TBNN every Tuesday and Thursday. I'll still be posting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and Brother Slawson will continue his weekend work on Saturdays.

We're all very excited about this new development. We feel this will enable all of us here to focus more time on the articles that we right. Also, for some time I've wanted to do more with a weekly podcast, but just haven't found the time.

So if anything is changing here at TBNN it's changing for the better! Look for the release of Tominthebox 2.0 this Tuesday.


16 June, 2007

No More Paris Hilton


At Evenridge Baptist Church in Memphis, Pastor Joel Davis and his congregation are adamently opposed to all of the Paris Hilton news. "Why must she be on the news every hour of every day?" The answer to this question has kept him up late almost every night for the past 3 weeks. "I turn on the news... Paris Hilton. I turn on the radio... Paris Hilton. I log onto the web... Paris Hilton. I stand in line at the grocery... Paris Hilton. Everywhere, everywhere... Paris Hilton, Paris Hilton, Paris Hilton. Why won't it end? Why is she so deserving of all the media coverage? Isn't there something better we can talk about?"

Pastor Davis is so disturbed that he has begun an 8 part sermon series entitled, "Why the Media Should Stop Talking about Paris Hilton." Part 1 of the series, "Paris Hilton: Who is She Anyway?" was a 45 minute sermon describing her life to date. Pastor Davis presented an overview of Hilton's life and pointed out just how unscriptural most of it is." Part 2 of the series, "Paris Hilton: Money Can't Buy Attention" will be preached as this Sunday's sermon. In the second sermon, Pastor Davis plans to point out how money and attention are not linked. Pastor Davis expects the remainder of the 8 part sermon series (each approximately 45 minutes) to be as follows:

Part 3 "Paris Hilton: We Already Know Everything"
Part 4 "Paris Hilton: Stop Talking About Her"
Part 5 "Paris Hilton: We Don't Need to See Her Picture Anymore" (a PowerPoint Presentation proving beyond a doubt that we already know what she looks like)
Part 6 "Paris Hilton: She's no Anna Nicole"
Part 7 "Paris Hilton: What Else Could Possibly Be Said?"
and finally
Part 8 (The Conclusion) "Paris Hilton: She's Really Not Worth All the Attention"

"I'm so excited about this series," said Sabrina Wilkes, 23. "Pastor Davis is very knowledgeable about Paris. Even I didn't know some of the things he mentioned. I hope others can listen to his online sermon. He makes some really good points. I really need to reconsider why I spend so much of my day keeping up with her latest information. I agree with Pastor Davis. The media is spending way too much time on her. I feel convicted to return for the rest of this series. I'm going to try to get my friends to come too."

"He's right! He's right!" said Martha Holmes, Sunday School teacher for the college and career class. "The young people in my class are constantly bombarded with useless information in the media. I pray they take Pastor Davis' advice and boycott certain news programs."

"I've already ordered the boycott kit," said William Jetters. "I and three of my friends were able to compose a very well written personal letter to the news networks last night in a little less than 4 hours. We plan to get serious about leading one of the local Paris Hilton boycott chapters set up by Pastor Davis."

Pastor Davis wants Tominthebox to let everyone know they should not worry if they miss any of the sermons. At the end of the series, all 8 sermons will be recapped during a 2-day "No More Paris Hilton" conference. Four sermons will be covered Friday, August 10th from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm with registration beginning at 7:30. Four will be covered on Saturday, August 11th. The conference will take place at the Majestic Marriot (formerly a Hilton) at 100 Hilton Avenue.

15 June, 2007

Child Named Judas "Not Iscariot" to Help Clarify


Josh and Cathy Swanson have a unique family. The couple just gave birth to their eleventh son. When they had their first son 15 years ago they decided to name him Simon Peter. When their second came along he was named Andrew. Then came James, John, Phillip, Bartholomew, Thomas, etc. As the couple had son after son they continued to name them after the twelve disciples without a second thought, that is until number eleven came along.

"Well, as we went down the list we realized we were going to run into a problem if we had more than ten boys" said Josh Swanson. "We, of course, didn't want to name a child after Judas Iscariot. But remember that there was another disciple named Judas, so beyond ten names we weren't sure what to do exactly."

And sure enough when child number eleven came along it was a boy. The couple then came up with a unique idea to solve their problem.

"You know the name Judas has gotten such a bad rap because of Judas Iscariot" said Josh. "I'm sure there were lots of honorable people named Judas in Jesus' day, like the other Judas. So we wanted to find a way to redeem that name."

Drawing from Scripture the Swansons came up with a way to name their eleventh son Judas yet keep him distinct from Judas Iscariot by giving him the name "Judas Not Iscariot."

"We realize this is a little peculiar" said Cathy. "But we believe that people will get used to it over time. We're going to call him Jude for short as going around saying 'Judas Not Iscariot' could get tiring."

When asked if they planned to have another child Josh Swanson replied, "We definitely want to have at least one more child. If it turns out to be a boy we'll probably cast lots to figure out what to name him."

14 June, 2007

Letter From the Editor

Dear Mrs. P-R__________

Thank you for your recent email regarding the Tominthebox News Network Blog site. It is very obvious, though, that you do not care for our site. I am sorry that you find the site "repulsive" and "cursed."

You mentioned in your email that you are currently engaged in praying "imprecations" against us here at Tominthebox. While we wish you would not do this, we completely and totally understand if this is what you must do. Might I suggest several ideas for your imprecatory prayers;

  • Smite him hip and thigh
This is an oldie but a goodie. We will both know, then, if I suddenly become crippled one day whether or not your prayers have been heard.
  • Let him be stoned
This is probably a less common imprecation, but it sure is a neat idea. As you yourself brought up in your email my "offenses" are such that I am "worthy to be cast forth from the camp and stoned." I have never been stoned before (though I was hit in the head once with a dirt clod while I was in the Boy Scouts by Roger Waguspack, but that is a different story.) I imagine if it ever comes to pass that it will be an unpleasant experience.

  • Let him be stricken with a sudden incomprehension of the English language
While, again, this is not necessarily an imprecation found in Scripture, this would undoubtedly bring an end to this website (at least the English version of it, as I might, conversely, be granted the ability to suddenly speak another language as a form of judgment against those people, i.e. Japanese, Korean, Ki Swahili, etc.)

So I hope those suggestions help you in your pursuit of my destruction. I invite you to please continue reading the website at your leisure.

As to an address where you can come "protest" me, we are currently in the process of moving overseas to St. Petersburg, Russia. You are more than welcome to come and protest us there. Might I suggest that when you come you also bring signs condemning current Russian President Vladimir Putin and protest right in front of the United Russia party office. I can assure you if you do that your protest will be greatly noticed.

Tom Slawson

P.S. You accused me of not believing in the King James Bible. Of course I believe in it. I have seen it!

13 June, 2007

Secret Soul-Winning Gambling Practices Uncovered


Larry O'Neal was shocked when he found out the news. For eleven years he has pastored Yellow Creek Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas and has never seen or heard anything like it before. The members of the independent Baptist church which focuses its energies primarily on "soul-winning," were also shocked when they found out. People had been placing bets on how many people would get "make decisions" at the church each week.

The church of just over 500 members boasts some "500,000 souls won" in the last ten years. Each weekend the church works hard at their "bus ministry," sending out large buses to the surrounding neighborhoods and towns, picking up kids, gathering kids on the buses, preaching to them and asking them to "make a decision." The results of the weekend's work are then posted on the church's website.

"Last week alone we had 2,702 make a decision" said O'Neal. "It was one of our best weeks yet."

But as it turned out those numbers were significant in more than just a "spiritual" way. A number of bars in Las Vegas, Nevada had begun allowing their patrons to place bets as to how many souls would be "won" each week by various churches around the country. Tominthebox spoke with Joe DiCarlo, the owner of Oasis Tavern in Las Vegas about his bar's participation.

"It was simple really. People would place their bets during the week and then we'd post the numbers on Monday when the various churches would put them up on their websites. Based upon how a church did the previous week we'd have different odds for different churches."

In addition to Yellow Creek Baptist, about ten other churches found themselves "victims" of the gambling ring.

"We're debating as to what we're going to do now" said Gray Yelverton, pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida. "We're against gambling here, and we're against any activity that is tied to gambling. We can't stop the soul winning, but we might have to stop posting the numbers on our website each week. But that's hard too because it's all about those numbers. Those numbers are really the most important thing, to show people how many souls we're winning out there."

But O'Neal's church has made their own decision about what to do.

"We're not going to change anything" he said. "We've got to get those numbers posted up there for all the world to see. We're steadily on our way to a million, and no one is going to stop us. If people want to bet on it then there's nothing we can do to stop them."

12 June, 2007

Rick Warren to Join Together for the Gospel


In news that is both shocking and rocking the evangelical world, Rick Warren announced this weekend that he is now a Calvinist and is joining up with the ranks of C.J. Mahaney, Al Mohler, Mark Dever and Ligon Duncan to support Together for the Gospel.

Warren shocked his congregation at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest on Sunday when he brought up his newfound convictions.

"After much study and prayer I'm convinced that Calvinism is Biblical and true" said Warren. "It is, therefore, my conviction to start preaching and teaching the doctrines of the reformation here at our church, and for me to start fellowshipping with others of like-minded views."

Tominthebox News Network spoke with members of Saddleback after the service, many of whom were very upset.

"This is horrible" said Trisha McElhannon. "I've been coming here for three years now and have been perfectly happy. Now I don't know what I'm going to do. Pastor Warren has just gone off the deep end."

"I'm still waiting for the 'Ha! April Fools!' to come out" said a shocked Danny Petterson. "I'm just disgusted with this whole situation."

"He needs to get some therapy" said Eric Coleman. "That's all I'm going to say."

Warren declined to comment to TBNN after the service, but released a statement;

"I know this is going to be difficult for many to accept, but in the famous words of Martin Luther 'My conscience is captive to the word of God!' I look forward to building relationships with those with whom I have disagreed for so long. I am excited to now be part of the Together for the Gospel team."

While most in Warren's own congregation were upset about his theological shift, he was welcomed by many in the reformed camp.

"We're glad to have in on board now" commented C.J. Mahaney. "We look forward to fellowshipping with him and growing with him over the years."

Warren is now slated to speak at the 2008 Together for the Gospel conference to be held in Louisville, Kentucky. He will be speaking on the subject of his upcoming book The Purpose Driven Calvinism.

11 June, 2007

Zondervan Plans Release of TNAIRSECCLKJMV Translation


Zondervan Publishing announced on Monday that they plan to release yet another English translation of the Bible in 2008. The new translation known as Today's New American International Revised Standard English Christian Contemporary Living King James Message Version will feature, what Zondervan calls "the best of every English translation out there."

The TNAIRSECCLKJMV (called the 't-nair-seckle-k.j.m.-vee' for short) began five years ago as an effort to produce the "absolute best and perfect translation of the Bible in English."

"This is the culmination of many years of scholarship and study" said Kurt James, editor in charge of the translation. "When this comes out next year this will be the absolute best English translation that you can buy. I have no doubt that the t-nair-seckle-k.j.m.-vee will become the most popular and most widely read English translation in the world in just a few short years."

The TNAIRSECCLKJMV claims to be the first English translation that accurately "captures every nuance and subtlety of the original languages" making it "the last English translation that will ever need to be done." As a result Zondervan plans to also include a campaign to "trade in your old Bible."

"Once you have the t-nair-seckle-k.j.m.-vee you will never need any other translation of the Bible" said James. "You will also never here another pastor who uses this translation ever reference the Greek or Hebrew again because this translation perfectly captures every meaning of every Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic word."

Zondervan further claims that the TNAIRSECCLKJMV is also the first English translation in which all issues of translation that were once controversial in the past have been resolved.

"There were absolutely no disputes over any translations when we got done" said James. "We feel so confident in this translation that from now when we put the Bible into any other language we're going to translate it not from the originals but from the
t-nair-seckle-k.j.m.-vee. No other English translation can claim that."

TNAIRSECCLKJMV is set to be released in the last spring of 2008. The Bible will be available in bonded leather, genuine leather, calf skin, hardback, pew, wide-margin, extra large print, extra small print, and pocket sized in a variety of colors. Zondervan also plans to release multiple study versions of the Bible for teens, women, young men, old men, married men, single men, single women, married women, divorced men, divorced women, men contemplating marriage, women contemplating marriage, men contemplating divorce, women contemplating murder, teens contemplating dating, dating men, dating women, old people with pets, old people with teens, teens who live with old people, and people with lisps.

09 June, 2007

Walk the Aisle at the Walmart Church

Stacey Chauf, 37, read about First Baptist Church Walmart in a Thursday circular stuck between the Sav-a-Bunch and the Dollar Market ads about two years ago. The next day, she heard the Friday services and her life changed when she was invited to ‘walk the Walmart aisle.’ Chauf remembers, “I was baptized as a kid after praying the prayer with the pastor. But I was never really sure that I was saved because I had never walked an aisle. I kept hearing my parents and grandparents say, ‘I remember when I walked the aisle… this… and ‘When I walked the aisle… that… I had no specific time in my life that I had walked the aisle. Something was missing. The Walmart Church helped me. After walking the Walmart aisle, I now have assurance of my salvation.”

As it turns out, the FBC Walmart rents space in many Walmarts around the country where banks, EyeCareMax, and H&R Block used to be. For example, the FBC Walmart on the west side of Shreveport Louisiana, is located in space formerly occupied by Fidelity Trust, before being bought out by Bank of Shreveport, before being bought out by Premier Bank, before being bought out by Bank One, before being bought out by Chase. Since Chase already had a bank branch on the main street just off Walmart’s parking lot after buying Sheila’s B-B-Q, they closed operations within Walmart and FBC Walmart rented the space.

“I never remember a time when the Great Provider was not in my life,” said 14 year old Sonja Abney in reference to Walmart. “When I pray at the Walmart Church altar, I’m comforted when I hear the announcements for ‘customer needs assistance.’ It reminds me that someone is watching over me and someone is available to me if I need a friend.”

“We didn’t really know how it would work out,” said Patrick Harris, charter pastor of the very first FBC Walmart located in Turner, Alabama. “We knew moving into the space would provide some benefits and more visibility. So, we formed a church and started meeting and singing in the space.” One day a visitor came who wanted to be saved. Pastor Harris was concerned at first because they didn’t have an aisle for the visitor to walk. “But then I realized we had many aisle! We went looking and noticed the bulk container aisle was empty. I stood at one end while the visitor stood with the rest of the attendee/customers at the other. I gave a signal that the invitation had begun. The visitor was able to satisfy the ‘walk the aisle' requirement for salvation right then and there in Walmart. That’s when the revival started. We’ve now duplicated this style of church in 14% of all Walmarts. Most people don’t even realize we are there.”

“From the financial and accounting side, it’s unbelievably easy,” said Deacon Walter Bowman. “One turnkey rental price covers our water, electricity, property taxes, insurance, security, and maintenance. Not to mention the free parking. The best part has to be never having to leave the church and drive somewhere to get supplies or materials of any kind. We don’t need storage rooms for supplies. Walmart meets all our needs and keeps us supplied according to its vast riches.”

What about services? Well, the congregation never meets together. The pastor preaches a full 20 minute sermon each Sunday and Wednesday into his home computer. It’s recorded to DVD and then piped through a short wave AM radio station transmitting from the FBC Walmart space. A license is not needed because the transmitter transmits up to 0.25 miles, which works well for 97 percent of all Walmarts. As attendee/customers arrive to shop, they pick up a small ear piece to place on the ear of their choosing. The sermon is constantly broadcast in 20 minute cycles followed by 20 minutes of praise choruses. “Since the average shopper shops about 1.08 hours at Walmart per week, there is a really good chance that they will hear a full 40 minute service at least once a week,” said Pastor Harris.

“I really get a lot out of the sermons on the weeks I let Walmart change my oil,” said attendee/customer Michelle Mowen. “On oil changing days I get the opportunity to hear the sermon at least three times.”

“We’ve teamed with Walmart to offer a low-cost way to get saved,” explained Pastor Harris. “This is a non-intimidation environment. Come as you are. Each staff member goes through Walmart training to learn item locations. Each promises to help all Walmart customers, regardless of religion. There is a subtle difference on our nametags which say, ‘Always humble spirits, Always’ rather than the typical ‘Always low prices, Always.’ That may be the only way you can tell us apart. The nametags are a plus because in most churches, members don’t even know who the deacons are, much less, their names.”

“We had problems with some of our members who wanted to read a Bible during the sermon, but we solved that by adapting the new Google Bible with a special strap that allows it to lay comfortably between the hand positions of the cart handles,” said Pastor Harris. You won’t need the child seat for your child, because FBC Walmart will keep children in the “Anyday School” (not just confined to Sundays). Each Monday, a fresh Anyday School lesson begins. You can also register the kids for the at-your-own-pace VBS.

Probably the most amazing fact about the FBC Walmart is the weekly membership attendance rate. Rather than saying the rate is “high” it might better be described as “unbelieveably steller” with an unheard of attendance rate of 99.86% of the membership attending at least 1 service per week. “It’s really not that shocking if you consider the statistics that for a family of 4, somebody drops by Walmart an average of 7.3 times per week,” said Pastor Harris. “Unlike most churches, once a person walks the isle at Walmart, we’ve found that they continue to walk the Walmart isles in the future. At traditional churches, we’d rarely see them again. At FBC Walmart, we’ve assembled a real body of dedicated attendees seeking the will of the Lord on a regular basis.”

“Although they usually only attend traditional church services around Easter, Christmas, and maybe Mother’s Day, we’ve discovered that even the portion of the congregation typically labeled as ‘sickly,’ ‘elderly,’ or ‘shut-in’ still managed to find a way to visit Walmart an average of 1.3 times per week,” said Pastor Harris. “Now, rather than visiting them in their homes, we minister to the elderly by helping them shop at Walmart. It’s a tremendous ministry. Our FBC Walmart staff members and volunteers listen to the concerns of the elderly and share life stories as they assist them with shopping during the sermons.”

“I’m so glad I don’t have to attend another long boring church service,” said member Alan Machan, 87. “Rather than spending two separate mornings on both shopping and then going to church, I can enjoy both at once. FBC Walmart allows me to designate a special time each week to love the Lord while still getting something done. The rest of the week is freed up for just me.”

FBC Walmart did ask Tominthebox representatives to warn shopper/visitors to enter the church immediately across from checkout 14. “If you get to checkout 27, you’ve gone to far. That’s where you’ll find the heretical Second Baptist Church of Walmart that formed in January of 2007 after the split over which direction to walk the aisle.”

Next time you’re in Walmart, listen carefully to loudspeaker announcements. If you hear “customer needs assurance on aisle 11” that’s the cue for the FBC Walmart staff to send a pastor. Someone is ready to walk the aisle.

08 June, 2007

Church Divided Over Pronunciation of "Naked"


It is a controversy that has been brewing now for almost ten years at Piney Hills Baptist Church in Memphis. At various times during the year the subject comes up, and each time the division between the factions within the church only grows deeper. The whole issue surrounds the pronunciation of the word "naked."

On one side of the issue is the church's pastor, Paul Billingsley.

"The word is pronounced 'nay-ked' just like it's spelled" said Billingsley. "I have no idea why these people want to make such a big deal over how I say it."

But on the other side of the issue is the church's associate pastor, Jeff Cummings.

"I know that it's spelled 'n-a-k-e-d' but you say it like 'nekkid'" said Cummings. "That's just the way to say it. To say 'nay-ked' sounds so 'hoity-toity' and smarty."

While these two factions are the predominant ones within the church there exists another smaller group that insists on a totally different pronunciation.

"Look, 'b-a-k-e-d' is pronounced 'baked'" said deacon Arthur Gillian. "No one goes around saying 'bay-ked' so why should 'n-a-k-e-d' be 'nay-ked?' We should just say 'naked' just like in 'baked' or 'waked.'"

The issue was heightened this past Sunday when Cummings preached from Genesis chapter 3 and quoted God as asking Eve "who told you that you were nekkid?" which clearly caused stirring amongst the members of the congregation.

"I knew he was going to do that" said Billingsley. "I think he chose to preach on that passage just to bring up the issue."

The church has requested that a board of overseers made up of pastors from surrounding area churches intervene before the issue causes more division in the church. But many fear that hard feelings have already grown too deep for there to be a real reconciliation.

"I'm willing to talk" said Cummings." But I'm firm about my convictions. I'm not going to change the way I talk for anyone. I hope we can find a solution to this problem."

07 June, 2007

Finney Land Set to Open in 2009


Looking for a place to take the family for vacation? Now look no further than Finney Land! Finney Land will be a full service family fun park complete with rides, games and shows set to open in 2009.

-Ready for a scare? Then take ride on the Anxious Seat roller coaster.

-Want to practice your shooting skills? Head over to the Cock n' Aim at Calvin shooting range, and see if you can hit the mark.

-Is the weather getting you hot? Cool off by riding down Warren's Wave into the huge baptistery. Didn't get wet enough the first time? No problem. You can ride as many times as you like until you get it right!

And don't forget to take the time
to catch special appearances by our park characters, including Jacobus Arminius, and Charles Finney himself!

And, you won't want to miss Caner's Tree Stump show on the weekend with special appearances by Ergun Caner!

Be sure to look in specially marked boxes of Arrr-mini-ohs for your chance to win free tickets!

All the fun begins on May of 2009. Mark your calendar, and make plans now to visit Finney Land.

The park is open to anyone, but only you can choose to come. Make your decision today!

06 June, 2007

Extra Verses for "Invitational Hymns" Helps Greatly


It has been a common practice for over a century in churches across the country. The preacher finishes his sermon and steps down from the pulpit to give people a chance to "make a decision" or "respond" to the sermon. Often this period at the end of the service known as the "invitation" can be a very emotionally charged time. It is during this time that people often come forward to either profess faith, ask for prayer or join with a particular congregation.

The invitation is almost always accompanied by the congregation singing a hymn, and over the years particular hymns have become tied to the invitation time. One of those hymns, Just As I Am has been one of the most popular choices. But the singing of this hymn has at times presented a some difficulties.
The problem arises when the invitation time goes long, often caused when a number of people decide to come forward for whatever reason. What results is that the congregation must sing not only the six verses of the hymn but they then must begin repeating the verses over again. At times it is possible for the hymn to be sung four or five times through until the invitation time has ended.

"We had one Sunday a couple of years back where we sang the song five times through" said Rev. Richard Bailey of Wildwood Baptist Church in McKenzie. "I'll admit the song gets kind of old after a while."

So to remedy the problem Wildwood's song leader, Wes Hatfield recently wrote an extra 25 verses to the hymn that can be sung in the case of an extended invitation time.

"The solution was very simple" said Hatfield. "We just needed more verses so that we don't have to repeat the song over and over again. So if it looks like the invitation time is going to run longer than the standard six verses we'll just project the words up on the screen for people to see."

The extra verses were recently used by the congregation during an extended invitation time to much acclaim.

"I really liked them a lot" said Todd Davis, a member of the congregation. "I could tell it was going to be a busy Sunday. A lot of people were coming forward with prayer requests and such, so as we got to the end of verse six the projector came on and we started in on the new verse seven. We made it to verse fifteen before we finished."

In addition to writing more verses for Just As I Am, Hatfield also has plans to write extra verses for Trust and Obey, Nearer Still Nearer, and I Need Thee Every Hour.

"All of these songs need extra verses" said Hatfield. "There's no need to put people in the position where they get bored during the invitation time. I'd like to put an extra twenty or thirty verses to Trust and Obey if I can."

05 June, 2007

Pastor's "Unfortunate" Name Makes Finding a Church Tough


Sharing the same name as a famous historical figure can be a positive or a negative thing depending on one's perspective. For example about five years ago a small church in Virginia was thrilled when they called their new pastor Robert Edward Lee. Around the same time a pastor by the name of William T. Sherman struggled to find a pastorate in state of Georgia. The same stands true for one Southern Baptist Pastor in Mississippi. After attending New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary he began looking for a pastoral call to a Southern Baptist Church, but with little success. Now, six years later he continues to search and pray for a call to the ministry. His name - John Calvin.

Calvin, who was brought up Presbyterian, joined the Southern Baptist Church during his college years. He also changed his theology to match the more pervading Arminian views held by most Southern Baptists. After college he felt called to attend seminary and enter the pastorate. While his years at seminary seemed to go well, Calvin has had "nothing but problems" ever since he finished his studies and began seeking a call.

"Growing up Presbyterian my name was never a big deal, but when I became a Baptist and stopped following Calvin's teachings a lot changed" said Calvin. "Some of my seminary professors even suggested that I start going by my middle name. I didn't think it would be that big of a deal, but I guess I was wrong."

Immediately out of seminary Calvin began searching for a call. While most of his friends quickly received calls, mostly to small rural churches, Calvin did not receive even so much as a phone call from the churches he contacted.

"I sent out resume after resume and no one would even call me back" said Calvin. "Finally one day a deacon from one church called me. I got really excited, and then he asked me 'Is your name really John Calvin son?' I told him yes and he just started laughing and said 'Well, we just wanted to see if this was a joke or not.' I never heard from them again after that."

Calvin currently resides in Kiln, Mississippi where he works for a concrete mixing company and attends Mt. Zion Baptist Church and helps with the church's youth ministry. But even at Mt. Zion Calvin, still struggles to be accepted by the congregation.

"They have yet to ask me to preach once or teach Sunday School" he said. "I suppose it might be time to change my name or start going by my middle name, Luther."

04 June, 2007

Formal Dress in Worship Causes Stir

Trenton's The Church of the Living Waters is known as a "come as you are" kind of church, where worshipers can feel comfortable wearing whatever they want. Many members regularly show up on Sunday mornings in shorts, flip-flops and t-shirts. Even the church's pastor, Patrick Cox, often preaches in his bare feet wearing ripped jeans. The church's policy of very casual dress was supposed to make anyone feel at ease about attending worship, and that was the case until this past Sunday.

The stir began five minutes into the worship time when a new young couple entered the church's worship center. The man was wearing a suit and tie and the woman a very formal dress. After walking down the main aisle they sat on the second to front row of the church and proceeded to join in the worship with the rest of the congregation. But not everyone was excited to see them there.

"Part of me wondered what they were doing here" said Mary Joseph, a church member. "I thought they were just trying to make a point or cause trouble or something."

"I just don't think it's appropriate to get all dolled up like that for church" said Nathan Callaghan, another member. "It's like they made this point to get all dressed up just to come to church and show off their clothes to everybody. I was kind of embarrassed for them because everyone was staring at them and giving them weird looks."

While most of the members were upset or concerned to some degree about the "strange" visitors, some felt differently.

"I think it's a much needed change for our church" said John Michael Thompson, the church's worship leader. "If that's what they want to wear to church, then they should be able to without anyone else criticizing them."

After the service a few people greeted the couple, but most people kept their distance, suspicious of their "motives."

"If this is the direction that our church is going, with people dressing up in suits and ties to come and worship, then I don't want any part of it" stated Joseph. "They day people start showing up every Sunday dressed up like that is the day that I leave."

02 June, 2007

Iron Chef Evangelism

Goodbye Minister of Education. Goodbye Evangelism Coordinator. The two positions have been replaced by one Culinary Chef at South Fork Baptist Church in West Creek, Mississippi, a mid-sized town north of I-20, just east of Jackson. "The transition was as smooth as chocolate. The chef's salary is a little less than the other two combined," said Mike Johnson, Personnel Committee chairman. Though he himself claims to be agnostic, Henry Thomas, a 2002 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio, appears to have greased the evangelistic pan down in West Creek.

"There's an old adage that goes something like, 'The way to a man's heart is through his stomach'. That's our goal. We want to get Jesus into the hearts of people. We're doing it by going through their stomachs," said Tom Bardwell, head deacon. Bardwell went on to discuss how the deacons in the Bible were originally chosen to wait on tables. "At South Fork, we're simply fulfilling our designated Biblical duties. We wait on tables and we feed the hungry."

Princeton Moore, pastor, says "What we are doing is breaking from blind tradition of just telling people to ask Jesus into their heart. We used to get so many suspicious looks. Now, we are showing them with food. The stomach is just another passageway by which Jesus gets to the hearts of people. Women have won husbands in this way for centuries. Isn't it time that we let Jesus start winning hearts through the stomach?"

Things have been going great since South Fork implemented their new "Food Evangelism" program. FE (for short) appears to have replaced the less appetizing EE program of the last century. "Food effects people," said Pastor Moore as he bit into a cross-shaped cookie with red icing. "This cookie is an evangelism miracle. When I hold this cookie in front of a kid and ask him if he wants Jesus in his heart, the answer has never been 'No'. They always say 'Yes'. I saved four kids just this morning using simple cookies just like these. With old programs such as EE, we had to go through a much longer explanation and I'm not so sure the kids were honest as they reluctantly prayed the closing prayer after me. Now I'm sure they're saved because you can see the eagerness on their faces when we use the cookies."

Apparently the food acts merely as a subliminal stimulant, leaving the individual to choose. The cross-cookies are designed to operate below the threshold of consciousness. Yet, the sensations they create are just intense enough to influence mental processes so the children can say "yes" to Jesus on their own.

"I found Jesus just last week in a cute little doughnut," said Dottie Martin, 13, as she straightened her Walk-through-the-Bible Jelly Belly bracelet. "The doughnut hole was heart-shaped. Pastor Moore explained that something was missing in the doughnut. It was my heart. He told me to give my heart to the Lord. He said I should ask Jesus to be Lord of my life. Just like the pamphlet says the Bible says, 'Just ask Jesus into your heart and you'll be saved.' That's what I did as I ate the doughnut."

"This program is not just for kids," said janitor Wesley Richards, who just received a raise with the recent increase in hours spent cleaning the fellowship hall. "The Try Jesus Layer Cake is my favorite." Tominthebox representatives were given a piece of this cake along with a business card explaining the meaning of the layers. The outer dark frosting represents sin. As your utensil cuts through the frosting, you immediately notice the red of the red velvet cake, representing blood. Beneath this red layer is a bottom coating of white frosting representing that cleansing has taken place. "After the first bite, we encourage people to drink water or Blueberry Koolaid to signify baptism," said Moore. "They then wipe their mouth with a green napkin to remind them that they need to grow before scraping the final crumbs from the golden plate clean."

"Unfortunately, there has been some unintended growth," Alexis McDonald, 22, admitted. "When I joined Food Evangelism, I was not exactly thin, but I was healthy and was careful about what I ate. After inviting Jesus to come into my heart last month with the seven layer Lasagna, I've had to get a new larger wardrobe. But, how can I not eat? It's evangelism."

Chef Thomas prefers to do his own designs. "Little Dottie Martin actually tried to garnish one of my meringues with flowers. It grated on my nerves as I saw her place a tulip on the table. I was quite steamed when I told her, 'there is no room for tulips around here.' I'm happy that I simmered down quickly." Fortunately, no one was left battered.

01 June, 2007

Lausanne Designates "The Smelly" as New People Group


The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism (LCWE) announced on Thursday that it has designated as a new people group those who suffer from chronic body odor problems. The announcement came after several weeks of discussion by members of the committee around the world.

"We hail this as a major step towards evangelizing all peoples" said LCWE North American director Earl Robinson. "Throughout history those who smell bad have always been rejected and marginalized by society. It's now time to recognize that these people need the gospel."

In a report by LCWE entitled Christian Witness to the Smelly the committee published information regarding the problem of body odor around the world.

"Estimates of the total world smelly population vary. The most recent statistics number smelly and extremely pungent persons at 1.5 billion."

"In the United States alone just over 30% of the population stinks" said Robinson. "There are real needs here that we have to meet for these people to help them."

The report further described how the smelly might be helped.

"Generally one may describe the needs of the smelly as counter-repugnantness. Deodorants, soaps and antiperspirants are the most pressing needs. Concern about future olfactory offensiveness can be overwhelming for the smelly person. Those who work with the smelly will need to communicate good hygiene habits in addition to providing the necessary sanitary materials. Genuine concern for the well-being of the smelly person proves the gospel credible."

"All throughout Scripture the idea of something being a 'stench' is bad" said Robinson. "A billion and a half people in this world stink, and we have an opportunity as Christians to help them."

Already a number of churches have taken the vision. While some have decided to focus on domestic odors, a few churches have already looked to other nations to begin their work.

"We're looking to Eastern Europe" said pastor Clark Herring, of New Falls Baptist Church in New Falls, Nevada. "I was in Eastern Europe just last year and I know the great need that exists there. Our hope is to ship 10,000 cases of Old Spice to various former Soviet Bloc countries by the end of the year. Eventually we'd like to send mission teams over with supplies of Irish Spring"