What if…Bible School was the norm? (from Stef McDonald)

February 26, 2010

{Editor’s Note: Today’s guest blogger is Stef McDonald, Director of Student Ministries at Lutheran Church of Our Saviour in Calgary, Alberta}

Picture this: despite boxes of food falling off the shelves, your 16 year old opens up the cupboard and says “there’s nothing to eat!” After a lecture on global hunger, you offer your child a sandwich and a glass of milk, which he or she happily accepts. Why is an after school snack such a huge decision? It’s because the last portion of the brain which develops well into adolescence is the cerebellum. Dr. Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist from the National Institute of Mental Health, explains the role of the cerebellum: “Anything we can think of as higher thought, mathematics, music, philosophy, decision-making, social skill, draws upon the cerebellum. ….” (link) Your child is not trying to be difficult in an effort to see your face turn red. It’s because your child’s brain isn’t sufficiently developed to make a simple decision.

I have been privileged to help mentor a group of high school girls for the last three years. Once a month we get together and the girls pick a topic they’d like to discuss. Since September, the topic of post-secondary has been chosen twice. Why? I think it’s because our girls are being asked to make huge decisions that will affect the rest of their lives, and their brains aren’t mature enough to handle the responsibility. My standard response to our students has become this: take one year to learn more about God and who you are as His child. The Christian Discipleship program at CLBI is one option of many. From the CLBI website: “The Christian Discipleship Program is a one-year program designed to help students become rooted and rock solid. Students are prepared to face decisions regarding lifestyle choices for the future. Every student is exposed to God-honoring directives for life.” Through programs similar to this one, young people would be given the opportunity to develop their hearts and minds. They could create faith-based bonds with fellow students. They could participate in missional projects at home and beyond.

What if bible school was the norm?

Cam Roxburgh: whatif2010.ca

February 23, 2010

I’m pleased to announce that Cam Roxburgh will be one of the speakers at the “What if…?” Conversation held this November 6th, 2010.  Cam Roxburgh is the National Director for the Forge Missional Training Network as well as the Team Leader of Southside Community Church  in Vancouver, BC.  He is currently the Director of Church Planting Canada and serves as an advisor to the Research Committee for EFC. He also serves as Canadian Baptist Ministries Missional Director.  Cam will be with us all day to help guide us into our conversation about becoming a congregations that enter into God’s mission in the world. 

The What if…? One-Day Missional Conversation is hosted at Lutheran Church of Our Saviour in Calgary, Alberta on November 6th, 2010; it’s a time to come together and talk about the future of the Church.  What is God up to and how can we join in?  What if God was up to something new in our midst?  You’re invited to be part of it.

For more information, visit whatif2010.ca

A Centre for Innovation

February 23, 2010

I want to continue to develop some of the ideas presented in other blogs. Today the question of a centre for innovation.

So what could this look like. Well to begin with I believe we need to recognize that innovation and renewal is happening. While some paint a broad brush that says the church is dying, the reality is that God is still at work, congregations are being renewed, people’s lives are being transformed, healing and new life is happening. If there was to be a center of innovation, its basic mission I believe would be to find and lift up this new life so that others can learn from it.

So it starts with a conversation. Much like what is happening here. After all conversations are places where something can be named as important and an opening can be created for us to begin to see that innovation and renewal is happening.

Next come means of sharing that conversation. This blog is  start or the “What if  . . . ? conference. All things we are doing. What if we were to dream further.

One of the next tasks would to begin to build more of a network between those who are committed to renewal in the church. These networks could be means of sharing ideas and hopefully collaborating on projects.

Another task is ensuring its spiritual roots. In other words, what is needed is a deep engagement with spiritual practice, formation and our shared life together.

And if we wanted things to really fly. Well what if we had staff . . . whose job it was simply to find where new life is happening and devise means of sharing it.

What if we could do research . . . actually go out and study this new life, test what is working and share the results.

What if we could gather those who are engaged with renewal on a regular basis . . . , to share ideas, and share bread and wine.

What if we could use more means of sharing this . . . posting pod casts, videos, templates, experiences. In effect planning seeds widely and freely.=

There is a part of me that says isn’t this what our national office and seminaries should be doing? Then  I think a much wiser part of me responds isn’t it good that they are not, for if it was to be a center of innovation or renewal, then it would need to be broader then denominational lines. It would be define not by history, but by wisdom and the spirit.

In many ways this is what we are starting to do. Could it go further? Oh yes. This is the question of where the spirit is leading this. And I can’t wait to find out. If you would like to join in though, come along.

What if we trained more missionaries?

February 18, 2010

I was just thinking of Preston’s earlier post. “What if . . . we supported more missionaries?” That ratio of members to missionaries we support being 54,000 to 1 has really struck me. What is going on here? Now I am one who increasingly believes that the mission field that most of us are called to is right around us. So I wonder what would be the number of missionaries to our own communities do we currently support? Now I know that we are all suppose to be missionaries to our own communities, but I wonder what a difference it would make if we trained more people to be full time missionaries to our neighborhoods? I must be clear this would not be to let the rest of us off the hook. Rather what if we had people who were given time and space to only focus on mission and then to take what they learn and share it. What if these people also had it as their responsibility to train the rest of us to be missionaries as well? It just makes me wonder . . .

What if…the status quo is not an option?

February 16, 2010

I came across a striking headline in the Globe and Mail, “Anglican Church Facing Threat of Extinction.”  The article paints a hard picture of the future of the Anglican church.  With declining numbers, a Bishop in British Columbia is closing churches en mass.  The conclusion of Anglican leaders is that the status quo is no longer an option.  Simply letting things trundle along is not a strategic plan.   Church must be done differently.

For the sake of the Gospel, and for the sake of the Kingdom of God, and for the sake of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, what if we didn’t accept status quo?  What if our passion and love for the Church ran deeper than simply upholding the status quo?  Jesus caused ripples of change.  His earliest followers went far and wide, boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God.  Fueled by the Good News of Jesus, the early Church grew in fiery love and grace.  What if the Jesus Way became our way?  I’m hopeful that it will.

The Helpful Strangeness of Jesus

February 16, 2010

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the Lutheran Church will thrive only when ordinary people reaquaint themselves with the person of Jesus.  I’m an advocate for a variety of structural and innovative changes to the way we shape our communities of faith and ministry, but it all comes to life only when Jesus is the reference point.  I’d like to recommend a recent blog post from Prof. John G. Stackhouse who reminded me, once again, of the wonder of Christ.  Jesus is the hope of the Church.  You can read the post here.

New Life.

February 13, 2010

One of the most profound experiences of recent days has been with my new born daughter at night. For the first two weeks of her life she would only sleep while held in someone’s arms. So for hours on end I would sit in our rocking chair, holding her in my arms, watching her sleep.

During that time I could not help but contemplate new life. It is amazing how something can come into our lives, and suddenly everything is different. Suddenly there is a new pattern, new responsibilities, new joys and new worries. And it is not all easy. There are late night diaper changes, or crying that won’t stop when I desperately need sleep. Life’s options have narrowed. A trip to Thailand or to hike in the Himalayas will now have to wait.  Life has been re-arranged and in this there is loss, but it this re-arrangement there is something profoundly good.

In many ways that goodness is tied to the moment that Gabriella was born. There was a birth, there was a new relationship, but also in me there was a profound opening of my heart. I must admit that I don’t know what words I can use to describe it. Joy, happiness, worry, terror, – they are all nice words, but they don’t quite describe the sudden shift and opening of my heart that is really beyond words. Quite simply looking at my new born daughter, something at the very core of who I am shifted, and opened – life will never be the same.

In many ways I believe it is this experience that our faith is about as well. There are so many things wrapped up in our faith, beliefs, organizations, committees, rituals, acts. In many ways these are all just the surface of what our faith can mean in our life. At the heart of it though there is this movement in the very center of our being. It is a movement, when our heart is opened, when we become open to the sacred presence in our life; it is a moment when we become open to grace; it is a moment when we become instruments of love. They are moments when bit by bit our lives become open to God. It is in these moments that new life begins; new life that turns our life upside down; new life with new demands, but also new joys; new ways of life; new ways of love.

Often these days I have been left to ponder where new life in world, in our church and in our lives will come from. Perhaps it is from these moments, when God enters in, when Christ is born, when the Spirit lives in our life. Perhaps we are simply waiting for the moment when our hearts are opened, life is born, and we will never be the same.

What if…? A One Day Missional Conversation

February 11, 2010

What if ordinary people gathered together for one day with one common hope for renewal in the Church?  Visit whatif2010.ca

More to come…

Emergent Village

February 11, 2010

Emergent Village is a growing, generative friendship among missional Christians seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Another website that has some interesting ideas for living and reaching out missionally to the world.

via Emergent Village.

What if…we created more “Aha!” moments

February 3, 2010

The Leadership Network has been publishing some great books recently.  Now they are hosting a free online event on Wednesday, March 3rd.  40 speakers are given six minutes each to share new ideas for ministry, leadership, and church development.  It’s perfectly free, but you must register to participate.  Check out their website for details. 

The Leadership Network also hosts a number of other events to promote innovative activity and thinking in the church.  Check out these two:


We have an innovative God who, by His very nature, is creative.  What if the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada had a centre for innovation?  What if we fostered a culture that encouraged ideation?  What if ordinary people had an avenue to bring forward their ideas; a place where the church could make room for broader dialogue and action?  I believe that the Lutheran church could thrive in a culture of innovation.  I believe that our creative God would be delighted if we joined Him in His ongoing creative and redemptive work in the world.

What if…it was all about God’s story

February 2, 2010

I spent my most formative teen years growing up in the Evangelical Covenant Church.  I was surrounded by Swedish Lutheran families and it was our Pastor Rob Peterson who gave me the language that I needed to see myself as part of a greater story – God’s story.  Recently Pastor Rob Peterson was asked to be the senior pastor at Thornapple Covenant Church in Grand Rapids, MI.  In his first sermon to the congregation he asked,

“Have you ever been bored with the Christian life…thinking, there’s got to be more?  The reason that that happens for me is that I lose the sense of drama, I lose the sense that I’m part of this huge story.  I get pushed into thinking that what matters is my story.  I know my story matters to God…but when my life seems a bit small and pedestrian, I need someone to come to me and say, ‘turn around and look at God’s story.'”

Are people bored with church where you live?  Are they bored with the weekly routine and the occasional potluck?  I think we need to get reaquainted with God’s story; the grand, magestic, sweeping story of God’s epic creation and redemption of the world.  Why?  Because as followers of Jesus that story becomes ours and there is nothing boring about it.  What if we found creative ways to recount this grand narrative today?

You can hear Pastor Rob’s whole message here.

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