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.


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.

Thank you!

July 5, 2011

Since August, 2009, abtrenewal.wordpress.com (or the What if? Blog) has been a place to get us thinking about renewal and new ways of ministry and thinking in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and the Alberta and the Territories Synod.  We have almost 150 posts from several contributors and almost 25,000 hits on our little blog.  We’d like to continue creatively push the envelope by sharing thoughtful, Christ-centered vision and innovation – ideas or reflections that move us in healthy and vibrant directions.  How do we move past broken systems?  How do we instill hope for tomorrow?  How the does the living Gospel of Jesus change our whole perspective and move us into open spaces?  If you would like to contribute to the conversation, please send your mini-articles to Preston Pouteaux (equip@oursaviourchurch.ca), and we’ll post your thoughts. 

Like Luther we want to turn hearts towards Christ.  This blog, we hope, will encourage us to live that out.  Unlike Luther, who faced tremendous push-back, our Bishop is quite pleased to hear of new ideas for faithful ministry.  So what is yours?

Reclaiming Our Spirituality

September 20, 2010

I have recently found the growth in the number of people who say that they are spiritual and not religious quite fascinating. Many of the people that I know that define them selves as such are quite fascinating. I had dinner with some folks who would identify themselves as such and they were each very creative, compassionate and profound people who were taking their beliefs and practices seriously as they made real differences in people’s lives. These were not flakes but profound people.

So we should be taking their critiques and description of religion seriously. Someone else gave me a list of how some 20-30 somethings described religion: tradition bound, blindly dogmatic, irrelevant, hierarchal and authoritarian, out of touch, institutional, judgmental and hypocritical and my favorite dead or dying. Spirituality on the other hand was defined as being of the heart, experiential, mystical, thoughtful, personal, engaged, progressive, inclusive, transformative. I must say with descriptions like that, and the reality that this description of religion in many way fits with my own experience of the larger church,  tempts me to start calling my self spiritual and not religious.

The realty though is that I am spiritual and religious. For religion is not all of those things listed, rather religion comes from a word which means to bind the whole together. Religion is the big picture, and the big questions which give meaning to life and shapes our life. Spirituality (the very term itself is rooted in the Christian tradition) is about how God moves in our life, lives though us and shapes us. The reality is that we have a tradition that that contains 4000+ years of accumulated wisdom. It is a tradition that at its heart is a God who comes down to us, moves in our midst, and transforms us so that we become the image of Christ and are invited to participate in the very life and Love of the Trinity itself.

Our challenge is to once again explore this rich tradition, and allow the spirit present in it to move though us once again.

Summer Sabbath

July 7, 2010

As we ease into these warmer summer days, I’d like to remind all of my hard working ministry peers to take some Sabbath rest this summer.  I’ll be doing some traveling, study, and a little bit of camping – all to recharge the batteries and allow God to quiet my heart with his love (Zeph. 3:17).  We may be easing up on blogging for the summer, but this fall will be a new season of renewal and attentiveness to the work God is doing in our midst.  God is up to something new in the ELCIC, and we’re excited to be along for the journey!

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.

Asking “What if?” in the Context of Global Conversations

April 6, 2010

Here is a great short video about the Lausanne Global Conversation.  They wonder what it would be like for Christians around the world to collaborate their ideas.  Bold and exciting, check it out.

Visit the Lausanne website here.