Archive for February, 2003

Things are getting better

Things are getting better

Over the last few months I went through some of the most difficult times I can remember. At times I needed to spend large amounts of time with God just to make it through the day. Time and again I was overcome with feelings of anxiety and worry.

A major source of my anxiety was my internship. I’m almost done, and I received terrific reviews from my supervisor. From the perspective of those who are trying to train me I’ve done well but their encouragement did little to comfort me. Inside I was driven to be the best. I wanted to be as good as faculty that have been teaching 10 or 15 years. I don’t think I really caught on that my goals were unrealistic. I still have 6 more classes to teach. The next one is tomorrow morning.

I think I’m finally beginning to let this go. Ministry success can become a blinding temptation. I think I wasted a lot of worry trying to be a success instead of trying to be faithful. It was wrecking me inside. I feel a lot better now that focus has switched from success to faithfulness. I wonder if that is an important aspect to ministry.


Take the Ethics Survey

Take the Ethics Survey

Find out how your personal ethics compare with those of other Christians. The survey will take a few minutes and results are available immediately.

This results of this survey will be used in a class I’m teaching next week. Feel free to link to the survey, the more people taking the survey the better.




Small church vrs Big Church

Small church vrs Big church

Thought provoking book review on “Multiplying Churches”. According to statistics small churches are more effective at evangelism than large churches. I believe it!

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Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property

Recently I discovered that the material I present in class is my intellectual property. I am under no obligation to share it. I have every right to build a portfolio of material that I can take with me from one job to another. If it’s of sufficient value I can package it in a book or present it in conferences. My portfolio of knowledge enhances my monetary value to conference organizers, book publishers, bible colleges/seminaries and churches.

Why do I have the right to claim ownership over something God taught me? I have this strange impression that I’m working in kingdom, and in that kingdom I’m just a steward of what God gives me. This concept seems pretty strong in the church when the preacher is telling me to cough up my 10% tithe. If all that we have is God’s doesn’t this include our knowledge?

I understand that people should be properly taken care of financially. If someone spends one year writing a book they should be able to maintain their standard of living.

To me it seems silly trying to make money off of my ideas. 1) There are better ways to make money. 2) Its an expensive process to package ideas in a book, get it published, marketed and retailed. It seems to me the only one getting properly compensated for these ideas is the Christian marketing industry.

Imagine what could happen if we were all a lot more free with our knowledge. Perhaps we would need to work part time while we created God’s intellectual property, but everyone would have full access to everything. Would the global church be better off if we shared everything? Imagine being able to read any book you wanted just by downloading it. Perhaps we pay a dollar or two straight to the author. Imagine how much filler would be removed from what we read because no one is trying to meet the publisher’s contract? Imagine how much crap would not get published because there is no profit motive? I know we would all suffer deep loss if we couldn’t buy the latest edition of The Prayer of Jabez for left handed polish piano tuners”.

Are we being good stewards of God’s monetary and intellectual resources when we buy in to the idea of intellectual property?


Internship Journal XII

Learning about First Nations

At the end of February I’m teaching a section of the issues and ethics course. I had the option to unpack one of a variety of ethical issues. Materialism was my first choice but then I decided to tackle native issues. Canada has a real problem. European colonization has not served the first inhabitants of this country well. The more I read about the issues the more I realize how much I did not understand.

I once thought that First Nation’s people were to blame for their own predicament. While I could always acknowledge that Indians were cheated out of their land it wasn’t like racism didn’t exist against other ethnic groups. Asians overcame racial bias and have become well respected members of our society. When I was growing up there was a certain amount of awe given to Chinese immigrants who could come to our country, learn our language and then out perform us in school. My social circle respected these people because they were able to beat us at our own game.

Now that I’ve done some research I seem some very important differences. The Canadian government has always assumed a paternal controlling position in relationship with Indians. It is assumed that these “savages” couldn’t orchestrate their own affairs. Our education system and government policy reinforce the idea that Indian culture is inferior. When combined with racism the dominant culture stripped native people of their self-respect and pride. How can they be expected to “beat us at our own game” when they have been so terribly damaged? How can we assume that they even want to play our game?

It is common for a Canadian to say that the Indians are a conquered nation and they should just give in and be assimilated. For your average white middle class person considering the high levels of suicide, substance abuse, crime, and unemployment among native communities it is to conclude that Indians would be better off if they became just like everyone else in our society.

The First Nation’s were nations. They acted independently of the French and English in the early years of European colonization. The English crown negotiated treaties they did not declare war. No one was conquered. The First Nations were cheated.

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Consumption Ministry

Consumption Ministry

This weekend is the college’s big youth event. Unlike most of my associates here I find myself unmoved by this type of ministry. There are several purposes for an event like this and the primary one would likely be school advancement and recruitment. We hold big Christian parties at our college so that students will like our school and come here after they graduate. Other purposes include fostering spiritual growth in young people and having fun.

When we use flashy events to attract people to our ministry are we bringing people closer to Christ or to us? Each event needs to build upon the next. The event needs to get bigger and better and compete with what the ministry down the road is doing. The people that attend these events pay money to consume a product or service we deliver. People evaluate ministry with the same mindset they would use to purchase a car. What does it do for me? What is it going to cost? What are my options?

The church has slid so far in to consumerism it is nearly impossible to live out your faith without paying for it. If you want to be properly discipled it’s about $9500 a year here. You want to have worship experience? Go to a conference or purchase a CD. You want to teach people in your church? Purchase lesson plans and materials at your local Christian bookstore. Each ministry competes with other ministries to attract enough people and dollars so they can offer bigger programs with better facilities.

Money isn’t the primary issue for me on this topic. It’s the almost blind obsession to make our ministries bigger and better”. Is the currency of the Kingdom of God larger, more impressive institutions or changed lives?

Lives are changed at ministry events. When I was in high school I was challenged and encouraged by the youth event at this very college. Do we point the immediate fruit these events produce as evidence for their continued existence? Do we have the courage to look a little deeper? What are the long-term consequences of doing ministry this way?

We offer ministry as a service to consume then we are surprised when people are unwilling and unable to contribute to the life of the community. How can we expect people to contribute to the life of the church when we train them to be consumers?


The gospel is for all times

The gospel is for all times

The gospel is for all times, all peoples, and all ages. Otherwise it is not the gospel.” Vincent Gammadion wrote this in a recent article over at theooze. Vincent is Orthodox and he offers a warning those who attempt to be culturally relevant. Cultures are in constant change and being relevant in one moment usually means being incredibly irrelevant in the next. Vincent points people to the richness of the Orthodox tradition with its long history. A tradition that is resistant to the passing fads that mark the shallowness of evangelicalism.

Vincent has a good point. The more the emerging church gets caught up with fancy worship, pomo buzz words and technology the more we insure our future cultural irrelevance. We need to hold to something that doesn’t change.

I’m not convinced the tradition of Orthodoxy is what we should adopt. A number of good friends of mine left evangelicalism for Orthodoxy. While I agreed with them that evangelicalism, and in particular North American evangelicalism, has some very major weaknesses I wasn’t interested in trading a young tradition for an old one. The reformation occurred for some very good reasons. Any tradition is corrupted over time.

There are a few things that should not change. God’s kingdom should be built in the hearts of people. His people should love one another and preserve the world from corruption. God’s power and Spirit should be evidenced in the lives of those that serve Him. We should bear fruit for God.

The church will be relevant when it delivers a message and walks in a power that changes people’s lives. Nothing is more relevant than redemption, healing and sincere community. Give me a church that is real, caring, and more dedicated to God than themselves and I’ll take it. I don’t care if we sing hymns or have a liturgy.

Very few churches are real. When I first started attending church” what I saw really bothered me. I didn’t know how to describe it until I learned the word pretense”. Today’s warmed over stale consumer gospel is not changing lives. We need to reexamine what it means to follow God because modernism has tainted our understanding. If the emerging church takes the same modernized consumer gospel and delivers it in a post-modern package we will be no further ahead.

I believe that the gospel is for all times and all ages, but the heart of that gospel is not a human tradition, but the love and power of God redeeming humanity regardless of the symbols and language we use to frame it.

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