What if…we were proactive about where we started new churches?

September 29, 2009

New details about “Plan It Calgary” are now out.  It is a long term plan to develop Calgary into a bustling modern city. 

Here are some websites with details on the plan:

Plan It Calgary Microsite

Plan It Calgary Maps

Clearly, the city is doing some serious thinking about what neighborhoods will look like and how density levels will change.  Now, more than ever, we need to do some serious thinking about how the Lutheran Church in Calgary will grow with the city.  Where are the up and coming neighborhoods?  Is there any designated space for churches?  Why not?  Can we carve out space in the up-and-coming neighborhoods now?

If we cast a vision in Calgary today, we can establish centres of Christ-centered worship, service, and the hope of Jesus Christ.  What if we were proactive and charted a new direction?  Church planting is essential to the wellbeing of our Synod and the ELCIC as a whole – let’s see what can be done!


…we entrusted the whole church with the ministry of word and sacrament?

September 28, 2009

I like having clergy who generally know their stuff – who are able to use the resource of their minds to preach and teach so that all might know the good news. Yet – it’s also true that we have oodles of laity who might enliven our preaching, folks who ARE leaders in the faith, whose voices are seldom heard apart from council meetings and private conversations in the parking lot or over coffee. What if we encouraged everyone to preach? Yes, trained rostered clergy on a regular basis.  But also our lay members on a regular basis – and not just when the pastor’s away on holidays! They would be nurtured and helped by the pastor, yes, and if necessary, closely overseen. But we need our eyes opened to the good news wherever God is present, and too often we only see the world from the pastor’s vantage point. A bit too narrow a view.

This also goes for presiding at Holy Communion and Baptism. Again, I don’t want a free-for all – but too often we don’t celebrate Christ’s holy meal because the pastor’s not available, even though the meal is in fact needed – pastorally, prophetically – at that time. “Do this in memory of me…but only when you have a rostered clergy present.” I don’t know, I don’t remember that being in the Gospels or Paul’s letters…

I wonder…are we missing out on one of the ways Jesus has promised to be with us because we are scared of trusting one another?

What if we placed our emphasis on building people instead of institutions?

September 24, 2009

There have been few things that have pained me so greatly then how our church seems to consistently place greater value on its institutions and policies rather then on its people. Whether it is nationally, where we dispose of people, in order to preserve our policy making capacity, or at our educational level where we sacrifice opportunities for education and building people for having people fit into our predetermined boxes and preserving instructional structures. Or at a congregational level, were we leave so many pastors and lay people hurting . . .

I remember once, a pastor who I still deeply respect, telling me how he was replaceable, if he was gone, someone else would fill his place. Ahhh! No I say, for that man is not replaceable, but rather a gift from God.

What if we treated people like they were a unique gift, or if we followed the advise of the Apostle Paul to build up one another in love.

Imagine what a blessing it would be for the church if we focused on ensuring our pastors had the educational opportunities they needed so their gifts could flourish, no matter where they needed to go to realize this. Image if we made sure people ended up places where their gifts could be most fully used? What if we had adequate support for people, including reasonable expectations and ways of ensuring these reasonable expectations were respected?

What if we look for and found ways to support people in the gifts that they had, including having more specialized positions where people could focus on the unique gifts they had? What if we approached people as a gift from God, and treated them with the respect that this deserved.

Perhaps as you read this you think is this not what we do? Well some try, but when we look at the burn out rates not only of pastors but of dedicated lay people, or at our inability to attract new people to the ministry, or at how many pastors suffer from depression, failed marriages etc . . . perhaps this is something we need to look at again. For God gives us the gift of people, as the most precious resource that we are called to be stewards of. If we help these gifts flourish, then I am sure we will be amazed at what God will do through as a church.

Presb. Church USA launches ambitious plan to lose only 5% of members

September 24, 2009

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Church (USA) has launched a campaign to slow the rate of decline to 5 percent, according to the denomination. “People at the grass roots need hope and motivation,” says a spokesman. “This is a positive goal we can all get behind.” The Minus 5 Campaign aims to lower the attrition rate in spite of the denomination’s continued struggle with moral issues, which has led to even greater exodus of members. Instead of losing 12 to 15 percent of members every decade, the group will now “work in great unity and joy to lose only five percent.” “This is the rallying cry we’ve been needing,” says a pastor in Pittsburgh, Pa. “It’s heartening to people at the local level to know we’re determined not to shrink as rapidly.” •logo




What if…we launched a campaign to grow by 5%?

Check out LarkNews.com – just for fun

What if…we learned from others?

September 22, 2009

photo1593I came across a tremendously inspiring series of articles done up by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.  Leaders from various denominations write about the work that they are doing to re-shape themselves to better serve the Kingdom of God.  Could we learn some lessons from the Baptists, Mennonites, and Pentecostals as they find new ways to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  You bet.  Check out the articles here.

A_Church_You_Should_Know.inddThere is also a series of church profiles from Canadian churches who are trying to live missionally in their own contexts.  You can check that out here.

After reading articles like these, I’m apt to think that we should consider moving away from our, dare I say, insular approach to eccumenical cooperation, and build bridges with groups like the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.  They are exploring missional renewal and we need all the help we can get.

…we started fresh…well, maybe?

September 22, 2009

vdonovanWe sometimes look around the world for ways of being church that are somehow better than what we have. An interesting article entitled Fresh Expressions of Church among the Massai? by John Bowen reveals that sometime when people are given an opportunity to start fresh they still choose to do it the old, sometimes less than helpful ways.

Vincent Donavon, a Catholic missionary to the Massai in Tanzania in the 60’s and 70’s was determined to allow them to define their own sense of being the church. This approach led to three “problems” from Donavon’s perspective:

  1. The people simply adopted the European way of doing church
  2. Very few Massai desired to be ordained or even trained as lay workers
  3. The national church hierarchy had little interest in including the culture of the people in their church

Bowen asks whether Donovan’s work was a failure and then answers his question this way:

“Failure” is a tricky word to use in the Christian life or in ministry. Just because things do not work out the way we expect does not mean that, in the economy of God, they have failed.In the case of Donovan, the way his ideas are being picked up in North America and Britain are encouraging. In particular, the three obstacles he encountered are likely to be less in this part of the world.

  • In the Fresh Expressions movement in Britain, there are certainly many non-traditional ways of being church which are attracting people with no Christian background. New people are not complaining that “this is not the way church ought to be.”
  • In terms of theological education, Wycliffe College is following the lead of seminaries in Britain and moving towards training ordinands for specifically pioneering types of ordained ministry.
  • And, as for bishops, my experience is that there is great openness among Canadian bishops to new forms of church and ministry. I spoke to one bishop after the Vital Church Planting conference in Februarys and asked him what he had learned. “That bishops have to be permission-givers,” he replied.

Starting fresh doesn’t always result in “fresh” ideas, especially when we carry the luggage of our past. so how can we carry forward the best of the past without also carrying the so-called “dirty laundry” that always trips us up and drags us back into those unhelpful patterns? Or does even our “dirty laundry” have a role to play in our journey of faith?

Still, it would be an interesting exercise to start from scratch and see what kind of church God might lead us to.

Baptism took three years?

September 17, 2009

A conversation:

Him: I looked at the church roles and there were over 150 kids baptized there the past 10 years. And where are those kids and their parents now? Very few of them are in church.

Me: And is that because the parents are getting their babies “done” and not taking the promises all that seriously? Or the congregation is not taking a greater role post-baptism? Or pastors are not taking on the education and formation demands baptism now needs? I wouldn’t want to lose the baptism of infants. I still think that’s God’s graciousness at work.

Him: Me too. But still, what of those kids? So now I’m thinking if someone wants to have their child baptized, I’ll still say yes. I’ll say : “Yes! It might take three years. When can we start?”

Me: (laughing) I wonder what would happen?