Archive for November, 2002

It's been rough

It’s been a rough couple of days

I feel anxious. So many things in my life seem to be converging at the same time. A collection of moderately stressful things combined to really throw me off. Worries and fears. Worries about my intership. Worries about money. Worries about business. Worries about my future. There was a time in my life I claimed that I was relatively worry free. I wish I was like that now.

I think that the heart of my anxiety is fear. I’m afraid of things I really don’t need to be afraid of. I know it in my head but my emotions are subborn. It’s getting better but it’s still hard.

I hope and pray that the Lord will help me to see through my fears and realize the reality of my safety in Him.

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Internship Journal VI

Teaching has challenged me

If the heart of teaching were passing knowledge from one person to another it would be easy. As a student I know that I can accumulate knowledge over 13 weeks and spit it out on a piece of paper at the end. 2 months after this I’ve forgotten most of what I’ve absorbed. 2 years later I can remember almost nothing.

As a teacher my goal cannot be to pass knowledge. My role is to inspire learning. If all the students walk out of my class satisfied that they have heard the right answer to the right question I’ve failed. If they walk out with more questions and a desire to explore those questions and their answers then I’ve succeeded.

It seems as though a big key is the motivation to learn. Almost 10 years ago I took a class on teaching. I don’t remember much of anything I was taught in that class. Now I am helping in a college level class and I have a lot of motivation to learn how to teach. I am learning. I want to read books about teaching methods because I need to teach. I want to hear feedback even if it is uncomfortable.

It seems as though people don’t want to learn and grow unless it is out of necessity. Bible College’s create the necessity using academics. You are motivated to study because you want to get a good mark. This can be counter-productive because people fall in to the trap of satisfying the academic motivation rather than the spiritual one. To be fair to academics, my internship is an academic exercise and it has put in me in the right place learn. I think the degree to which people learn rather than absorb information is somewhat dependant on the teacher.

I have a lot of motivation to learn. I would like to get a good mark, but I’ve never really been good at academics, so I’m generally pretty happy if I stay above a 3.0 GPA. I have to admit that part of me would really like to impress others. It’s selfish but it’s true. The heart of what motivates me is the opportunity to build God’s kingdom. I’d love nothing more than seeing the students I’ve taught connect with God on a deeper more meaningful level. I want to see lives changed.

I don’t want to waste people’s time. I am in the Lords service instructing His disciples. They have come from all over the country and paid thousands of dollars to be a class that I am helping to instruct. I had better be my best. In ministry it looks like the best I can do is to create the right environment for God to do what He does.

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Spectacular Rant

Spectacular Rant

“When it comes time to preach we want people to listen. We want people to learn. Better yet. We want people to learn from US. We like to be necessary. We want to be missed when we are gone and we want to be essential to ongoing ministry in God’s plan. We are arrogant but pretend to be humble. We are weak but pretend to be strong. We are frazzled but pretend to have it all together. We preach the truth… but we live a lie.”

Mark Riddle

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Tired of Church

Tired of Church

A few days ago I had a long discussion with yet another person who is disillusioned with church. My friend still participates in church but knows several in his community that have given up. They haven’t given up on God just the church.

I imagine there are several sources for the current level of discontent. I have identified two that I resonate with.

In church we can convince ourselves that we are accomplishing something when in reality we are accomplishing the opposite. We have meetings with no fellowship, teaching without learning, preaching without change, and leaders with no vision. It is like we are smoking to cure our cancer. People leave church because they want what church is supposed to be but have given up on finding it in the institution.

The trend of churches to base their ministry on felt needs has turned church members in to ministry consumers. While this does attract people it isn’t really what many are looking for. There is a real yearning to be part of God’s grand purpose. People want to commit but deep down they don’t believe that our institutions are serving a purpose that is greater than our own comfort or glory.

In my personal journey I’ve gone through a number of phases. At first I had a deep and abiding passion for the church and I wanted to see it change. Next I became disillusioned and distrustful of any form of organized religion. Church became a non issue for me. My personal study lead me to conclude that even the New Testament church had some organization. There are things the church can do better when it’s organized. I’m back to caring about the institutional church.

Not every disillusioned person leaves the church. Some provide real leadership and create pockets of true community inside the broader scope of the organization. These people give many a reason to stay. I commend these people because sometimes they get little help.

I’m still stumped on how a group of Christians can become an authentic faith community without getting lost in the common trappings of church life.


Christian Distribution

Christian Distribution

North American evangelicalism has bought in to free market capitalism as a primary distribution tool for the church.

When we write or produce anything of value we copyright it and sell it.

I think the post-evangelical church should reconsider how it distributes music and books. Why do we feel the need to charge for books and discipleship materials? How much richer would we all be if we could download most Christian books and pay a nominal fee straight to the author. Perhaps those with a steady income could donate their works to the entire church. We seem to believe that offering money to the church is an eternal investment why isn’t offering our written thoughts the same?

We waste a lot of money paying for the traditional system of distributors and retailers. Utilizing this system becomes less attractive when you realize the same corporation that brings you the NIV bible has subsiduaries that bring you “Freddie got fingered”.

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Internship Journal V

Internship Journal V

I enjoy the challenge of teaching. It’s relatively easy to maintain the standard you find in a church sunday school. It’s much more challenging to team teach a class with someone who is a very experienced, knowledgable, and effective teacher. I can’t say I felt intimidated, but I didn’t want to be the low point in what is usually the students favorite course. Last week I was encourged to hear people say that their favorite class was the one I was helping to teach. Part of this is the content. Spiritual formation is an incredible subject to teach on. I feel good because it seems as though I’m doing the job I’ve been assigned to do.

I imagine that rookies in the NHL are happy to get through their shifts without screwing up and if you net a few goals all the better. I think I know what that feels like. I enjoy working with my coach. Rick Schellenberg is solid. The more I learn how to teach the more I want to bring this to the church.

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Rethinking the labels

Rethinking the labels

I spent a few hours last night with some dangerous thinkers (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty). There are many in my social circle that have drifted outside the realm of conservative Christian thought. I sometimes feel like I’m the most conservative Christian in some groups, but the most liberal in others.

I’ve begun to question the validity of our traditional labels of conservative and liberal. Many might consider my view of scripture liberal yet I believe very firmly in the miraculous. Politically I lean right in terms of taxation and the free market economy but I believe in some government monoplies and Canada’s ratification of the Kyoto Accord.

I think we need new to guideposts for our thinking. Our traditional categories don’t suit today’s spiritual and intellectual climate.


The Younger Evangelicals

The Younger Evangelicals

When I read this book I thought Webber had special insight in to my personal life. He does an excellent job capturing what is going on in the hearts and minds of young evangelicals.

Webber does a compartive analysis between traditional (1950-1975), pragmatic (1975-2000), and the younger evangelicals (2000-). He works through several categories of thought (history, theology, apologetics, ecclesiology) and practice (church, pastors, youth ministry, educators, spiritual formation, worship, art, evangelism, activism). The analysis is thoughtful and engaging. I appreciated how the book frames everything in a historical context.

After reading the book I felt like I’ve been missing out on the revolution. I was encouraged by the stories of churches that were striving to become missional, incarnational, authentic communities.

The chapters on educators gave me new insight on how discipleship can work in a post-modern world. The chapters on theology, apologetics and ecclesiology gave voice to a lot of what I’ve been thinking through in the last few years.

This book, as well as Brian McLaren’s “A new kind of Christian” eerily echo my personal struggles with church for the last 10 years. It feels odd that other people have been thinking the same way I have and have gone deeper and I didn’t realize it.

The younger evangelicals is a great book. I heartily recommend it.

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It's not about you

It’s not about you

Among many Christians I hear the phrase “I didn’t get anything out of it”. They might be talking about a sermon, a church service or a bible college course. Everytime I hear the phrase I want to “rage”.

The hidden assumption here is that the individual Christian is a ministry consumer. Ministries exist to fulfill felt needs. If those needs aren’t met then you switch to another brand of ministry. We have completely missed the point that church is more about God than it is about us.

The people of God need to see themselves as part of a grand story, God’s divine plan to redeem humanity. God has a plan for us as a community, not just as individuals. In community we are called to service and participation.

We need a radical adjustment in the way we cast our vision. We should not be centered on our own ministry success. Each church needs to connect with God’s grand vison that is bigger and broader than ourselves.

Our lives and our ministries should be more about what God “gets out of it” or what humanity “gets out of it” than what we “get out of it”.

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Church growth

Church Growth

Today the measure of a successful ministry is the number of people involved and the size of the facilities. Encouraged by the church growth movement we have created larger and larger congregations that became more and more satisified with themselves. We’ve been tricked in to thinking that bigger is better.

Bigger is not better when it comes to church. Studies have shown that as a church grows larger and older it becomes less effective. The philosophy of indefinite expansion is inferior to repoduction. Leaders need to produce leaders and churches need to produce churches.

Church planting and apprenticeship are unpopular because they are selfless. By our measure of success there is no glory when a church sacrifices people and resources. We must be willing to forsake perceived ministry success for true kingdom growth.

As the church our primary task is building God’s kingdom, not our ministry reputation. The emergent church should forsake the idol of ministry success and pursue God’s purposes for our community of faith.

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