I’ve tried to give the evangelical pastor (and interested layperson) some good resources by which to stay up on current trends in theology and culture. Day one covered explicitly Christian resources; day two provided a mix of blogs and magazines; today I offer up another scattered mix of outlets that you might check once in a while to see what’s going on.
1. Relevant Magazine email list (click the link and look to the lower right of the page for a sign-up box) has some good links and gives you a little snapshot of what young, hip, “cool” evangelicals are thinking. Some of it will make you scratch your head, but if your goal is staying in touch with what various groups of people are thinking, this email will help.
2. The 9Marks blog provides lots of good thinking on the church. It asks great questions, questions that most people leading the church won’t ask, such as “How does the Bible teach us to structure our churches?” Also, check out Mike McKinley’s writing–he can be hilarious (he’s the cool 9Marks guy).
3. For that matter, let me recommend the 9Marks site. Have you checked it out? I talk about it pretty often on this blog, but if you’ve never bookmarked, you really should. The site has a ton of good content–interviews, book reviews, and articles, all of which center around the church and its life. The bimonthly newsletter is nothing less than exceptional and will acquaint with current conversations on the church.
4. The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has a great blog called GenderBlog. Because gender issues are so important and contested right now, you should avail yourself of the content on this blog. Some pieces are brief, but you’ll be able to stay up with current trends on this hugely important subject. Also, go to GirlTalk for helpful writing on Christian womanhood (and check out Carolyn McCulley’s blog on womanhood from a single’s perspective–excellent).
5. Once in a while, take a spin through some cutting-edge cultural reference points–sites like The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, People, Conde Nast, Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, and so on. You’ll want to be careful on some of these sites about what content you view, but if you are, you’ll gain a healthy perspective on what people in various pockets of culture are thinking, coveting, and struggling with.
One of the most helpful things you can do as a pastor and a thoughtful Christian person is to acquaint yourself with local media. For example, now that I’m in Chicago, I pick up the free RedEye magazine and read Sheridan Road magazine (also free) when it’s sent to me. RedEye keeps me up to date on what hipsters and edgy twentysomethings are thinking, while Sheridan Road lets me know what the ultra-rich of the North Shore are into.
This is one of the most helpful ways you can think culturally as a Christian, and therefore minister more effectively in your setting (like Paul at Mars Hill in Acts 17). Identify the leading thought media of your area and browse it to learn what people are thinking and talking about. I learned to do this from my former boss, Dr. Al Mohler, and also from Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll, each of whom excels at reading, understanding, and speaking to the culture. I followed their example in DC, in Louisville, and I plan to do it wherever I go in order to connect with people better and minister to them.
I hope that this brief series has been helpful to you. There is an avalanche of resources I could recommend and there are many that readers will identify as personally helpful that I have not listed here. However, I’m confident that the fifteen to twenty resources listed here will greatly assist pastors across the nation (and perhaps the world) to stay up to date on both Christian and secular culture. You and I need to know the Word, preeminently, before anything else; but beyond this, it will really help us to know what people are thinking. The world is constantly changing, and we should not fall behind as we engage it.
Ministering as if we’re in a vacuum may not prevent us from faithful ministry, but it won’t do much to help us. Bookmark some of these links, get in touch with the world, and get passionate to reach all corners of your world for Christ.