A Return to Tent-Making?

April 8, 2013

Does the Church need full-time ordained leadership in the local context?

I have been wondering about the viability of the full-time ordained clergy in the near future. It used to be that the clergy were more often than not, the only educated person in the context of the local congregation. The knowledge held by the clergy, as well as the skills of reading, teaching, and public discourse often set the clergy apart from the parishioner. But that day has long been only found in the past.

What then is the purpose of a full-time clergy person? Is it a quaint holdover from “how we have always done it” or are we afraid of what might happen to the ‘orthodoxy’ of the Faith if the clergy were displaced from their ivory towers?

Now as a full-time ordained clergyperson, I do have a financial benefit in holding a call in a local congregation. I also have security in a future pension, healthcare, paid vacations, time and money for further education, and still some status in the surrounding community because of my position. Why do I question a good thing? Because I believe that we have stifled the Gospel by making it safe and comfortable. We have also diminished the ‘edginess’ of the message when it is wrapped in a corporate structure and institutional understanding.

I believe the ministry has suffered because of the time spent in administrative necessity in reporting a ‘successful’ ministry to the higher structural authority. The transformational power of the Gospel has been made palatable so that the financial supports may be protected while people continue to be suffocated with the status quo.

The Church needs to reawaken to the transformational power of the Resurrection if it is to continue to survive in a way that is true to its Commission. Change (conversion) is what this world needs, and if it cannot begin in the midst of those called together by the Author of Creation, we are truly a pitiful lot.


For those wanting to see our guide for d

September 22, 2012

For those wanting to see our guide for devotions you can now find it on my new website
http://transforminggrace.org/prayer/ Use away.


Renewing Contemplation

July 18, 2012

I just finished a week long silent retreat focusing on centering prayer (which is a method of prayer that leads into the prayer of contemplation). It was great. I must say that I was so deeply impressed by the wisdom contained within this simple practice and the possibilities of transformation that it holds.

The part the I especially connected with was the ways in which, by opening our self in silence to God’s presence and action in our lives, our deepest injuries, our false selves and sin begin to emerge from our unconscious and are healed. I was amazed as I could watch this happening with in me, and now as I am back at work, how this continues to open me up to God’s grace.

It makes me wonder what a church, rooted in contemplation, would be like. I wonder if this is a part of our path to renewal. That we can be renewed when each of us, in silence, opens the core of who we are to be healed by God’s grace, so that that grace can flow through us to heal each other.

Perhaps it is the structures of our false self that need to be transformed so that there might be new life.

To learn more about centring prayer visit contemplative outreach


Holy Spirit: Renewal

June 26, 2012

Lately I have been wondering more and more about the Holy Spirit.  In a conversation the other day with Preston, he mentioned something quite important along the lines of – “Every renewal movement of the church has been a movement of the Spirit and rooted in a renewed piety.”

I am sure that this is enough to send chills down many a Lutheran spine.  Yet there is something profoundly true about it. We try to restructure churches, we try to reason out new theologies, but it is usually only people’s experience of God that moves and motivates people. Further, one of the things I learned from my research into transformation is the importance of habits. It is not great decisions or great treatise that change our world; rather it is the ongoing daily patterns that, like the water of a stream, move mountains.

So where do we turn first? There is only one place, to again turn to God’s Spirit, to pray that we might be open to its movement, open to its renewal and that we renew this commitment in daily prayer, in daily reading scripture and in our daily practice of love. 


Convention – and I am excited.The church

May 22, 2012

Convention – and I am excited.The church is in upheaval, the rescue plan is dead on arrival and the faithful gather. Its Holy Spirit time!


What if? – There was still more to understand

January 31, 2012

Where are we in our faith journey at this moment in history? Have we come to an understanding of faith and the Church that will serve us for the rest of time? Have we fulfilled what Jesus came to show us?
I just started reading “Integral Christianity: The Spirit’s Call to Evolve” and have already found it quite telling in opening a new understanding about where the Church is and where it may have yet to reach. Paul Smith, a pastor for almost 50 years, uses an understanding of Ken Wilber’s integral psychology to delve into understanding the Church through its history, as well as where some churches have already embraced the possibility of going beyond the “traditional” understanding of the faith.
In conversation with a number of people from diverse backgrounds in Christianity, the Church, faith, and even other religions I have noticed a great number of differences in how one approaches “faith” and “belief”. Understanding these differences through the lenses of integral psychology and developmental psychology has given me a chance to reflect upon the strengths and weaknesses of each stage of faith influenced worldviews. This book presents in an approachable way how we can better understand one another as we work and live out the life to which we have been called to in Christ.


Models of Vibrancy

November 14, 2011

I have been spending some time pondering how the wider church could most effectively help congregations renew. The challenge is that most of us don’t even know what renewal could look like. Lets face it, most of us have grown up in and been trained in a model of church that seems to be struggling. As a parish pastor, what would help me is to see and lean from other churches that have found ways of thriving in their mission and ministry.

What we often forget is that there are many congregations out there that are thriving and in the process learning things about what it takes to thrive in our present age. What we need is for people to learn about these congregations and make available the lessons they have learned and the models that they have created. Thankfully someone has started this process. Luther Seminary and the Lilley foundations are undertaking such a project. It is called the Vibrant Congregations Project. It is still in process, but well worth keeping an eye on. Perhaps it is also something we could think about doing in our own contexts.


What If – We Trained Pastors Differently

November 1, 2011

I was just sitting with one of my parishioners, working on how we can rework an old website so that it can be more interactive. Before this I was visiting a parishioner who had been in hospital. Before that I was leading a bible study and before that a staff meeting. While I did use a few bits of knowledge that I gained in my seminary education,  I must admit that both what I learned in seminary classroom and and the very setting of a classroom somehow antiquated or perhaps out of touch with the reality of contemporary pastoral ministry that I experienced in this one day. The skills that I used today involved working with and leading a team, facilitating discussions, creating a healing relationship and technologically based communication. I must admit that I am not sure how any of these skill can even be taught in the setting of a traditional classroom. Perhaps it is time to not only rethink what is taught in seminaries, but even how we teach. What if seminary education was moved primarily out of classrooms and was instead in sites of practice. What if the focus shifted from knowledge learned to skills and competencies gained? This is now a question that many seminaries are exploring. If you want to read more you can read this article in the Washington Post.


New Beginnings and Laughter

October 9, 2011

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” – Genesis 18:10-12

Like Sarah, many of our people, congregations, denominations and church bodies have been around for many years. Over that time we have all experienced beginnings and new beginnings and yet, the older we get, the more impossible another birthing event seems to us.

In fact, we do much to protect ourselves from the probability. Yes, we may welcome and congratulate others in their new births, but good order, stability and security are what we work for.

A friend of ours became pregnant in her late 40’s and although I was happy for the couple, I could never see my wife and I welcoming another child at our age. I would most likely not be laughing at such an announcement, but crying.

In the midst of such attitudes God comes to us to proclaim that he has started a new thing in our day and time. The church is indeed pregnant, birthing and being reborn.

Now some of us will laugh at this possibility from inside the well constructed church institutions we have made. “Over my dead body” may be the declaration of a few. Some of us may agree with our need to be reborn, but limit it to controlled test tube events that really do not change the substance of life as we know it.

However, whether we laugh, cry or grieve, God is still in the process of birthing a new thing in the midst of the old.

Sarah laughed, but that didn’t prevent her from conceiving and giving birth to a child that would become part of God’s continually unfolding story of salvation. I wonder how much more she laughed at herself as she looked at what God had blessed her with.

May God bless us with the pleasure of participating in new beginnings.


Death, the best invention of life

October 7, 2011

I was reading through CNN’s news page and the caption (the title of this post) under this picture of Steve Jobs intrigued me so much I had to follow it.

The link led to a page with three videos highlighting Steve Jobs’ life. I decided t0 watch the middle one entitled “No one wants to die.”

This video (see below) was taken at a university graduation ceremony in 2005 after Steve Jobs was first diagnosed with cancer and had apparently beaten it. In this video he reflects on the critical role of death in defining what was important to his life.

None of us wants to die and neither do our congregations or the church we are part of. And yet it is only in recognizing the closeness of death and the need to die that we as followers of Christ and as people of Christ’s ecclesia can hope to participate in God’s mission of life.


Think Differently

October 6, 2011

I’ve discovered “Busted Halo,” an online magazine for spiritual seekers sponsored by the Paulist Fathers. Today, like many other sites, they featured an article entitled  Think Different by Tom Gibbons and inspired by the death of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple.

The article highlights for me the alternate story the church is called to be as part of God’s mission.

I leave you with a piece of this article and a video which emphasizes this point.

I have to confess, the part of me that has loved Mac computers for as long as I can remember sometimes strafed at the idea of becoming an official member for another worldwide organization for whom the slogan “Think Different” is not usually associated. But that’s when I remember that while “thinking outside of the box” is not typically a value that my church holds, it does often force me to think different in other areas of life — something that I might not have done before. And I am also reminded that the church, like Apple Inc., was started by somebody who would easily fit the commercial montage that begins with, “Here’s to the rebels.”

A discussion on the value and importance of our larger communities is something that is often lacking in American culture. The way our communities — ecclesial and otherwise — shape us. The way our communities remind us that it is not only about your individual life…my individual life…that discussion can be, and should be, had often.

But that conversation can be held another day because today is a day to honor those individuals who have reminded us about the limitations those communities can sometimes impose, the individuals on whose achievements we stand because they chose to “think different.”


A Journey from Church to Neighbourhood

September 23, 2011

In July of 2010 I resigned from the congregation I was serving. It felt good to be out from under the pressures that characterized my ministry in that place. It was good to breathe again without someone breathing down my neck. But after a few weeks of relaxation the question of “What Now?” popped up.

My wife suggested trying something new and I took here advice like an good husband should. I took a course totally unrelated to being a pastor and discovered another world. I sought out other jobs, but soon discovered that ageism was indeed the number one form of discrimination today. By December I had discerned that my calling to follow Jesus was in and through the church in some form.

So for the last nine months I’ve waited (not always patiently) and prayed (not always fervently) for an invitation to serve somewhere. For nine months the institutional church doors have been shut to me.

I’ve wrestled with the silence and at times been depressed that no one would want me. However, through this time I’ve practiced living missionally where I am.To live missionally is not only about being “Christ-like” where I am, but also listening and watching for God’s presence where I am.

Over these months I’ve visited with my neighbours and gotten involved with my neighbourhood. I’ve brought my neighbours together for fellowship. I even set up my barbecue one evening and offered free hot dogs and hamburgers. I’ve tried to practice a ministry of presence to the people around me. In a way, I’ve tried to live out my calling as a follower of Jesus where I am and with the people around me.

All of this neighbourhood ministry has made me wonder what would happen if upon graduating from seminary new pastors were sent to some neighbourhood and said, “Go therefore and make disciples…Be Christ’s presence and his voice calling people there.” I wonder how well we would do and how many of us would be able to survive.

I’m still looking forward in hope to a “community” call, but I realize now that the most important calling we all have is right where we live and move and have our being. In our neighborhoods and wherever we journey God is there inviting us to participate in the good news God is unfolding.

Perhaps that’s the lesson I needed to learn.


aXiom Calgary

September 9, 2011

I’m pleased to announce the upcoming aXiom Calgary two-day missional training event.  We’re pleased to have Karen Wilk and Cam Roxburgh in town, two seasoned practitioners in helping churches thrive in the neighbourhood.  The landscape that the church has operated in is shifting and aXiom seeks to offer fresh yet rooted insights and training for church leaders to see God at work and join him in that work.  You can download the full .pdf poster here: Axiom Calgary Poster


Becoming “Neighbourhood” Christians: Some Resources (part 2)

September 7, 2011

I’m a visual thinker, here are some helpful short videos that have helped me think about becoming a “neighbourhood” Christian in my own town.

Lastly, Check out the amazing work of a bunch of neighbourhood minded folks in the States.  They started a website to plot themselves in the neighbourhood, and find others who were keen to become better neighbours.  The result is a map that is growing to include people in the US and Canada.  Why not plot your own spot and start the journey of good neighbouring?  Check out the website, Building Blocks: Rediscovering the Art of Neighbouring.


Becoming “Neighbourhood” Christians: Some Resources (part 1)

September 7, 2011

This weekend I spent some time with several people who live out daily life as “neighbourhood” Christians.  They know their neighbours and have build deep lasting relationships with them by adopting practices of hospitality and making the persistent choice to live with and among their neighbours.  This is no easy task!  After a long day of work, church committments, and then barely getting supper together for your own family, how can we find time for fostering healthy relationships with other busy people on our street?  Maybe we can learn a few lessons from those who are doing it well.  Here are a few books, and better yet, a few local events that are helping ordinary church folks like you and me see our mission in a whole new light.  The result is a movement of churches that are finding health in unexpected practices:

Upcoming Events:

  • Axiom Calgary is a two day missional training event put on by Forge Canada and was created to help leaders from churches and neighbourhoods find a path towards hope for the church in a changing context.  The next Axiom event is November 11-12 at Lutheran Church of Our Saviour in Calgary and will be led by Karen Wilk, author of “Don’t invite them to Church” and Cam Roxburgh, the National Director of Forge Canada.  Click here for more info.
  • The Urban Forum is an exciting event happening in Calgary (Oct. 12) and Edmonton (Oct. 13) and it’s focus is to paint the theological and ‘how-to’  picture for local churches on how to be active participants in the building and transformation of their communities/parishes.  You can find out more by clicking here.  This is a great partnership between denominations and several para-church organizations.
  • If you’re in Winnipeg from November 15-17, you may want to attend the big church planing congress (The Congress) put on by Church Planting Canada.  It’s about more than church planting, but about how church leaders are reclaiming the missionary call in our neighbourhoods.  Exciting stuff!

Books:

The important thing for us is that the future of the church does not rest in how well we run programs or fill our church calendars, but in how we incarnate the love of Christ in our neighbourhoods and help equip our churches to live this out in real ways.


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