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

Healthy pastors, healthy church

January 20, 2011

It’s true, this year I did make some quiet half-verbalized resolution to be more healthy.  Too many hours at my desk or in my car is making me soft – and I was feeling it!  But for me, health is more than just exercise, it’s about ensuring that I put my priorities in order.  How do I spend my time?  Is ministry about desk-work?  Is the time I spend driving about town helping me connect with my neighbours?  The question is less about my exercise, and more about joining God in the work he’s calling me to.  How do I stay healthy in the work I do?

An article in the Fall 2010 edition of Neue magazine says this,

“From obesity to depression, clergy burnout has become a major concern.  A Duke University report found that in teh Evangelical Lutheran Church alone, 69 percent of ministers are obese, 64 percent have high blood pressure and 13 percent take anti-depressants.  Of all Christian clergy, 76 percent were overweight – 15 percent higher than the general US population.  With ministers working up to 60 hours a week, experts say they must make room for sabbatical, Sabbath days and healthy habits.”

Do you think there is a connection between the overall health of our pastors and the health of our churches?  Thoughts?

Pastor Scrooge: Six tips to get through Christmas with a joyful spirit

December 9, 2010

One of my DMin peers works for Focus on The Family and writes some good stuff. Laird Crump offers some tips to pastors for a healthy Christmas season of (sane) ministry. I especially like this advice:

Cultivate a non-anxious presence. As the festive rush takes over the lives of the congregation, attempt to personify “all is calm”. You may even have to take a mid afternoon “sleep in heavenly peace” on your office couch. If we want to experience spiritual depth we need to ruthlessly eliminate hurry.

Check out the rest of the article here.

Asking the right questions

November 3, 2010

I recently read an article from Rod Wilson, the President of my alma mater, Regent College.  In it, he was reflecting on the questions that they ask as an institution.  This caught my attention,

“Recognizing that these are the questions students are bringing to Regent College in 2010 means that we must raise issues about curriculum (what we teach), pedagogy (how we teach), community (in what context we serve), messaging (how we describe what we do) and finances (how we fund what we do). We are doing this in a fresh way at this point in Regent’s history, not to communicate that the past is worse and the future is better, nor to engage in paternalism or consumerism, but so that we might continue to be sensitive to the work of the Spirit as we steer Regent College through this next season.”

Questioning methods and assumptions is healthy, it helps keep an institution on track, it helps keep people united and vibrant in their service, and it drives people towards excellence in ministry.  Regent College has been a Canadian success story in Christian higher education with a student body of about 700 and world renown faculty; but even so, they frequently pause to ask the important questions of themselves.  We should too.

To read Rod Wilson’s whole article in “The Regent World” publication.  Click here for the pdf.  The website may be found here.

What if…we trained leaders in new ways?

June 9, 2010

Rhythm In Twenty is an interesting approach to developing young leaders.  It’s a two-year program for church leaders age 25-35 that takes a group of twenty on a number of spiritual retreats and formative experiences that create new rhythms of faith and leadership.  I don’t know enough about the program to vouch for it, but it’s an interesting approach.  Right now, leadership development in the ELCIC is tightly defined, hierarchical and generally quite linear.  Committees choose candidates, move them through several years of education, bestow titles, and connect them with a church.  But we live in a world requiring a complex adaptive approach to the discontinuous change our churches face.  Do we need a more dynamic approach?  We need to educate leaders well, but education alone does not a leader make.  What if we created new approaches to leadership that helped people (clergy and others), explore the ways God is working in their lives and shaping them for service.  Maybe it’s a one year intensive experience like Vantage Point 3, perhaps it’s a two year series of retreats like Rhythm in Twenty, perhaps it’s a degree from a seminary, or maybe a mixture of experiences.  Whatever the case, we would do well to re-imagine leadership development in our context.

What if…we were motivated

June 8, 2010

Motivation is a funny thing.  Organizations tend to live in the thinking that since money motivates people (and since we’re short on cash) then we will not have the power to motivate people or affect any real change.  But studies show that motivation is not tied to money in the way we might think.  In fact, some of the best ideas and innovations came about when money was not a big consideration.  Here, this short video will explain it better…

Cool eh?  Now, what are the implications?  How do we create a healthy and vibrant motivated community of pastors, church leaders, seminary teachers, and ordinary church-goers like you and me?  I have ideas, but based on this video, what are your ideas?

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.

What if…we did something crazy (an Anglican 1000 Update)

April 20, 2010

It was crazy, really, for some Anglicans to dream an audacious goal like starting 1000 Anglican churches.  Didn’t they get the memo?  The Anglican Church is in decline and now is the time to batten down the hatches, hold the fort, and tighten the purse strings.  Why put such a hard task in front of a weary church?

Well last week the Anglican Church in North America announced that they planted 100 churches in the past nine months.  It’s amazing to see these churches take off, the latest church plants are listed here and they appear to be healthy communities with growing staff, outreach events, and exciting opportunities.  Here’s a great video about what’s going on with the Anglican 1000 (highly recommended and inspiring!)

What if a new memo went out in the ELCIC that laid out a new Christ-centered vision for church planting?  What if we started a Lutheran movement in Canada that turned our efforts towards seeing new people come to faith in Jesus and start new churches in their communities? 

But planting churches is only part of what could be.  I think a solid vision for church planting will change the way we do other things in the ELCIC, like how we train leaders.  Here’s a quote from the Anglican 1000 website:

Churches are thinking creatively about equipping leaders and planting new congregations in their communities. Church planting used to be for the elite superstars of the clerical ranks. Today, we thank God for those who He has immensely equipped for this work while recognizing that a superstar strategy is not sustainable. Church planting is a work of the Body of Christ and involves those sending, those equipping, those resourcing, and those going.

But should the church entrust its growth to the laity?  Jesus did and so did Paul.  Ordinary people with burning hearts for Jesus heard the call and the church grew by God’s grace.  What if we reform our leadership development system to equip passionate people to start churches and lead others into worship and service?  What if we asked our seminaries to support the work of the church in new ways?  What if we empowered the laity to become missionaries and ministers in their neighbourhoods – even to the point of starting new churches?  It was the first century model of Jesus, would it be crazy to try again?

What if we all Practiced Leadership Development?

April 8, 2010

One of the truisms of community organizing is that capacity is determined by the number and quality of leaders that you develop. I believe that this is also true for the church. One the one side this involves the initial identification and training of leaders. It also involves the continuous development of leadership skills by all leaders. One of the great opportunities of the digital age is now there are more and more leadership training initiatives that are available online and are free.

Once such upcoming event is called Sage. If you are interested check out the website by clicking on the link below.

Its Time to Join The Movement

March 19, 2010

There are only a few things that I consider essential for churches to be committed to be Christian. A commitment to Justice is one of those. After all to not be committed to justice is to reject the teaching of Jesus and the prophets.

What is interesting is that the importance to work for Justice goes beyond our own faith. Talk with Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. We all share the same sense that our religions call us to live lives of compassion, and that we structure our lives so that others can flourish.

More and more we are also realizing that we cannot live out this call for Justice on our own. The multi-faith nature of our communities and our world mean that we can only realize justice through collaboration among faiths. The great joy is that this is beginning to happen.

Do you want to get involved? There are two great opportunities. The first is of global importance. The G8/G20 is coming to Canada. At the same time as the politicians are getting together, there will also be a gathering of world Religious Leaders, so that the call to justice will be heard. What is exciting is that this isn’t just a gathering for religious big wigs, rather we are all invited to participate, by holding our own interfaith dinner and dialogues and inviting our local politicians to the dialogue as well. For more information visit

If you live in Calgary there is another opportunity. We are building our own community organizing network which is interfaith. If you want to see how faith communities can really make a difference in the Justice of their community – This is it. If you want to get involved come out to the training on March 23 and 24 from 5:30 pm to 9:30 at the Boilermakers Lodge 11055 48th Street SE in Calgary.

Quite simply without a commitment to Justice, as much as we might grow, as exciting  of services we might have, or churches we might plan, we will not be renewed. For without Justice we simply betray the faith we are called to.

A better way

March 16, 2010

[editor’s note: this is a post originally written by Scott McClellan at Collide Magazine’s Blog]

It occurred to me the other day that everything of value that humans create — great ideas, great art, great inventions, etc. — is misunderstood and/or misused by some segment of the public. Think of the best movie or book or painting of all-time. Now, accept the fact that there are millions of people who don’t care for it. Think of the most important invention in history — let’s say the wheel — and now imagine a crowd of ancient doubters saying, “What are we going to do with that thing?” If you need a more recent example, consider the iPod.

I was introduced to an Apple discussion forum in which the original iPod was unanimously bashed by a gaggle of tech-savvy folks who couldn’t recognize the device’s potential. (Not that I recognized its potential either, but I was fortunate enough to keep my opinion to myself.)

The point is, as you create and communicate, you’re going to be misunderstood. Even if your message is timely, relevant, and well-crafted. Even if you do your homework. Even if your delivery is perfect. Personally, I see this play out in Scripture frequently. I don’t remember any of the communicators in the Bible reaching 100 percent of their audience.

People have a hard time seeing new truths. People have a hard time seeing the future. People have a hard time seeing a better way.

Don’t let that stop you from doing what you’re supposed to do.

So how does change happen?

January 7, 2010

The question of how change happens in an organization or society is a fascinating one. One version of this (From the Book Getting to Maybe) might be worth considering. It involves stages of release, reorganization, exploitation and conservation. So what does this mean?  To make it easier the analogy of a forest is a good one for this.

Release – Where does new life come from? Well from the seeds of what came before. This though is not enough. There also needs to be nutrients, and usually this comes from the nutrients given by what came before, whether it is mothers milk or the charred remains after a forest fire. Some how the life of what has been needs to be released so that the seeds of the new can grow. This can be forced on an organization or intentional, but for new life, the old must give of it self for life to continue.

Reorganization – Continue is exactly what life likes to do.  As a forest grows new opportunities are sought, connections are made, and there is intense competition for resources. Think of the flourishing of life after a forest fire when all the seeds begin to sprout. So organizations need times in which almost anything is tried, possibilities are sought, and tried. Most will fail, but a few will succeed and grow.

Exploitation –  If the previous phase succeeds it moves to the stage of exploitation.  A new path is seen.  Resources, and new structures are refocused so that the new growth can grow, thrive and develop roots. Think of when a few trees begin to grow above others, while smaller trees begin to die and fall down, making room for a few trees to thrive.

Conservation  is when the successful paradigme/form begins to dominate the landscape and consume all the resources. In some ways we can think of our previous model of parishes, with a building and a pastor, serving their dedicated members.

The danger of conservation, is that a rigidity sets in which prevents future adaptation. History is full of the bones of organizations like this. Basically they refuse to change, and then on mass collapse. This is much like the supper forest fires that have happened recently after smaller fires have been prevented for decades. – Since there is no release of resources, there is too few nutrients for new growth to easily spring up – clearly a danger we are now in as a church. There is also a danger in re-organization called the poverty trap, when a lack of focus and a lack of letting go can prevent adequate resources going to could thrive.

In many way the possibility thinkers group is like the time of release/reorganization, when what is needed is for resources to be freed for countless seeds to sprout. Yep, it might look like a shotgun approach, but this is good so that there is the possibility of every possible seeds to sprout. I was in the rain forest of Costa Rica last year. And interesting the largest trees which eventually dominate the landscape are actually from a seed that is often the last to sprout up and which grows the slowest. So really who know what might eventually thrive.

I think the current challenge is to get as many people throughout the church planting seeds, and seeing what grows.

We are also though at the release phase, and since we have allowed a strong set of rigidly to exist for a while now, the question will be extra difficult in terms of how to release the nutrients we need to allow new life to eventually thrive. That is perhaps one of the most important stewardship questions for the church at this moment. (I offer a strong hint for planned giving emphasising both congregations and individuals)

In time the danger we will face is if it never moves to exploitation, in other words if it remains with many sprouts, and nothing develops deep roots –if we never develop focus. That is still a problem for another day. For now our question is how do we release resources so that we can allow as many seeds as possible the chance of germinating, and sprouting into the church God is calling us to be.

What if…we flipped over the sign?

November 4, 2009

Keep OutIs it possible that people outside of the ELCIC have good ideas to share with us?  What if we invited in people with experience and education to help the ELCIC find its feet again?  Could we ask new leaders to come and serve among us (perhaps even people from non-Lutheran corners of the Kingdom)?  We need to open the doors for those who come from the outside – recognizing that we don’t have all the answers.  Right now we have a KEEP OUT sign on the ELCIC when it comes to attracting new leaders.  What if that was to change?  Read the rest of this entry »

What if…Lutheran seminaries were hotbeds for Missional leadership development?

October 28, 2009

empty_classroomIt is no secret that seminary education in the mainline church is facing tremendous challenges.  Fewer people enrolling, tighter budgets, and so on.  Those challenges make us ask the big question, is Lutheran seminary education properly forming the leaders needed for today’s church? 

I recently read a remarkably inspiring article by Leonard Sweet, written as the forward for a book by Carl Savage and William Presnell.  It is called, “18 Rungs in The New Ladder of Learning.”  You can find the article online here.  In the article, Sweet offers 18 “transformations that are changing the nature of how we prepare leaders for the church.”  Many of the ideas directly challenge how our seminaries currently operate – numbers 8, 9, and 14 seem particularly poignant.  I found this article to be very cogent and concise – a helpful tool for examining norms in the ELCIC.

I would like to know, what do you think of Sweet’s offerings?  Which point seemed particularly inspiring for you?  Please post your comments below.

What if…we could get some ideas going

October 19, 2009

big ideasHow many knuckles do the leaders of the ELCIC have buried into the grass?  I’m talking, of course, about how well church leaders make decisions or gain momentum by way of grass roots innitiatives.  An organization rises and falls on its ability to return to its roots for renewal, vision, and direction.  Anytime in history that the church has seen growth, its been because the local church was invited, challenged, and empowered to speak out and act with boldness.  Jesus and Paul worked with locals, perhaps we need to rediscover the potency of God’s work among ordinary people.

Perhaps you’ve heard of a project called, “Project 10 to the Power of 100.”  It’s a Google innitiative to collect ideas – big ideas that could change the world in areas such as community, government, environment and others.  The result has been amazing – 150 thousand ideas, and they are truly innovative.  Their motto is great: “may those who help the most win”.  Check out the website here

What if the church asked for ideas too?

What if leaders in the ELCIC mined for new ideas among ordinary people?  Instead of a small group of leaders holding the reigns of innovation, could we trust God to work through the people?  What if big problems like money, unity, theological discord, and stagnant growth were allowed to be picked over by ordinary lutherans who have a passion for the church and for the gospel of Jesus Christ?  I’m not talking about forming a new committee, but the creation of an idea pool.  Perhaps it’s a kind of open source church development where ordinary people submit ideas for restructuring the church, doing missions, developing leaders, planting new churches, renewing old ones, getting involved in our communities, engaging youth, inspiring worship and prayer, and so on.  This would be a transparent process where ideas are gathered, examined, reviewed, and with some fortitude the best ideas could be implimented to the glory of God. 

Hey, it’s just an idea.

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