Veritas: Telling the Truth About Revitalization

May 31, 2010

I’m just starting to explore a project of the Evangelical Covenant Church in America called Veritas.  I grew up largely in the Evangelical Covenant Church in Canada, and it’s interesting to see how these Swedish Lutheran cousins are seeking renewal in their denomination.  Veritas is an effort to explore a variety of missional themes; changing the way they see their work in the world and their witness for Jesus.  What lessons can we learn from our cousins?  What does Veritas teach us?  Is “truth-telling” something we need to explore as we pray for the future of the ELCIC together?

Here are some notable facets to the Veritas project:

The purpose of CO-OP is to assist Covenant pastors in developing the skills necessary to lead their church to its full kingdom potential through pastor coaching. CO-OP helps the pastor lead strategically and organizationally. Through coaching, the pastor receives guidance on how to turn vision into reality.

Veritas Resources: Handouts and resources that are helping to shape their thinking.

Pulse: A church health assessment tool, first steps towards vitality in the local church.

What if…the Gospel mattered?

May 19, 2010

Here’s a great article called, “The_Centrality_of_the_Gospel” from Redeemer City to City.   Just thought I’d share this powerful reminder that the Gospel of Jesus is a powerful truth that both moralistic and relativistic, or religious and irreligious people need to hear.  What freedom we have in Christ!

What if…we moved in?

May 18, 2010

I was inspired by reading about a ministry called “Move In.”  Would you intentionally move into a low-income apartment or neighbourhood?  Would you make a point of living beside new immigrants and regularly have them over for supper?  That’s what Christians are doing through “Move In.” 

We have discovered that something amazing happens when a group of Christians intentionally moves into a neighbourhood to pray and be. In doing so, they have chosen to become part of the neighbourhood. Rather than visiting or serving and then going away, they will share in their neighbourhood’s joys and in its troubles; and they will have an opportunity to be right in there as salt and light – as the hands and feet of Christ – with a cup of cold water in one hand and the good news in the other.

It is time for Christians to move into neighbourhoods because they are not safe – to move into neighbourhoods that are messy and have high crime rates, high poverty rates, low standards of living, and a disproportionate representation of Christ.

“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” Paul, Romans 15:20

Cool, eh?  This is the kind of creative ministry that inspires me.  It’s not a new expensive program, it’s just the simple (and hard) act of living in a different space.  What if you and a few others from your church intentionally moved into a low-income neighbourhood or apartment and agreed to follow Jesus in that context, imagine the difference it could have?  If this is the direction that the Church is going, then I’m excited about what God has in store!  Check out this map of the seed “patches” where people have moved in already.  To learn more, visit Move In.

What if…we could do it?

May 14, 2010

It’s a risk, this blog.  We’re also hosting the What if 2010 one-day missional conversation.  It’s a risk too.  It’s a risk because we’re trying to dream and hope for the future of the Alberta Synod and the ELCIC.  It’s a risk because it may not make a difference to a church structure that may be unwilling or unable to change.  The Anglican Church, for example, spent a lot of time and money on a vision campaign called Vision 2019.  According to the Anglican Journal, it was largely a disappointment.  Here are some highlights from the article,

From February to October 2009, Canadian Anglicans sent in emails, voice messages, letters and videos answering the question, “Where is your church now, and where do you want the Anglican Church of Canada to be by 2019?” In all, 1,009 people responded, a tiny sample given the total number of people in the church.

In spite of all the rhetoric, all the time and energy invested, we have failed to dream outside the box. Where are the new ways of doing church? What are they and how will we embrace them? We have given lip service to notions of becoming missional with no clear direction for how to do so.

What we need to see in Vision 2019 is the kind of fire-in-the-belly passion that will inspire the average person to be part of our church and to support our mission. Where is our strategy for reaching the secular world, the unchurched, the spiritually hungry? How will Vision 2019 bring us closer to finding Jesus in ordinary Canadians and walking with them?

Tragically, any innovation that might have emerged from the grassroots has been lost, crushed under the weight of our own bureaucracy. Once again, we have invested heavily in maintaining the status quo, placing the Marks of Mission around the neck of Vision 2019 like a string of pearls. But let’s not fool ourselves. She’s still mutton dressed as lamb.

We need to be more ambitious about our timelines. Ten years is eight years too long. With church attendance in steep decline and finances plummeting, we need to get serious about implementing new ways of being church. To move with greater alacrity, we need to look for models of transformation that are already proving themselves.  Do we have the courage to make Vision 2019 relevant?

It’s a risk to hope that the ideas we generate will make a difference, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take, and a cause we all need to champion.

The Value of “Outsiders” and Disruption for Renewal

May 12, 2010

Traditional organizations work hard to create uniformity and consistency.  We tend to educate all our pastors at the same institutions in order to ensure that there is very little differentiation in the leadership of the church.  But this approach may backfire.  Consider this,

“A certain amount of disorder and disruption are required for adaptation.  The system must spend some time on an apparently random search for options before it discovers the most adaptive responses.  If a system accepts only people who readily assimilate, the differentiation that is necessary for change and adaptation is reduced.  The system becomes closed.  It repels new ideas and perspectives.  A complex adaptive system needs the disrupting influence of persons with different education and training… In tightly controlled organizations, in which predictability and stability are prized, self-fulfilling prophecies eliminate the possibilities that come from difference.  People who might “rock the boat” are kept under control.  Organizations that value adaptation and change, on the other hand, see “trouble makers” as those who move the organization to its creative edge, where innovations are most likely to occur.  In these organizations, the diversity of ideas and multiple perspectives bring about change.” Edwin Olson and Glenda Eoyang, Facilitating Organizational Change: Lessons from Complexity Science, 2001, p.92

This quote jumped off the page!  It describes a great deal of our church structure today.  By tightly controlling the system, we may actually be choking it.  But by embracing the so-called “trouble makers”, we may actually be embracing a new generation of Martin Luthers.  We need a generation of people who uphold the Bible as Luther did, and turn our hearts to the person of Jesus, our Hope.

An Upside Down Church

May 10, 2010

I just read a powerful response to the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. It is a opinion piece in the New York times call “Who Can Mock This Church”  In it Kristoph writes from Sudan about priests providing top rate education to the poor of Sudan, or a nun who after working with women in Appalachia , when to El Salvador in the midst of its violence and now work in Sudan education school teachers. And a priest who followed his flock into a refugee camp. The article reminded me powerfully of two things. The first is that what in part defines Christian Spirituality is that it is not individualistic, rather it is about a particular kind of life modeled on Jesus lived with and amongst others. The second key point is implied already. If we model our lives on Jesus, then the lives we live are ones lived with the poor, serving the most vulnerable, working to restore wholeness. In short the Christian faith is about lives of Justice. Without these Christ centered lives, we are lost, we are only a corrupt old club. Perhaps it is time for people to again live these radical lives of faith, to share their stories, and to invite us in to this life of Christ. For it is these lives modeled on Christ that will proclaim the gospel much  more clearly then mere words spoken from a soap box pulpit.

Reclaiming the Wisdom and Grace of God

May 6, 2010

I have been reflecting recently on the damage the 30 year old fight over homosexuality has had on the church.(I must admit that I often feel like a child who has come home from camp only to discover that your parents have ripped the house apart in some big fight and now the children are left to clean up.) I have begun to wonder if one of the great causalities is the interaction between gospel and law. In many conversations it seem like we have divided our selves up into two camps. One camp emphasizing the gospel of grace and the other the law of God. Since they have been fighting it is almost as if both sides have decided to shore up their defenses instead discovering the richness of their own gospel/law, and how vital the interaction is.

It just seems to me that the Gospel is about a God of such profound grace, that we are welcomed not only into a relationship with God, but into the very work of God, who shares with us God’s wisdom (law) about this work, and who picks us up when we fall and who helps us grow into this calling (grace). For me at least that is a much more compelling, and scriptural vision, then a God who loves us, but leaves us in our violence or a God who says shape up or I will denies you my blessing (which includes life it self). For what if instead of fighting over who is right, we are being called to be formed into the image of Christ (as Paul says),  a process that involves both the grace and wisdom of God.

What if…we closed our doors (just for a day, of course!)

May 6, 2010

At Lutheran Church of Our Saviour in Calgary, we closed the doors of our church on a Sunday morning to serve in the community.  It was a risky experiement that went over so well for us.  Here are the stories from our Be The Church Sunday.

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