Archive for July, 2004

Personal Choice or Call

Personal Choice or Call

One thing that has been rattling around in my head lately is the idea of call.  In today’s ministry world we don’t hear a lot about it.  The career of ministry has replaced the call to ministry.  This has challenged my view of those who have a difficult time in their first two years in ministry and quit forever.  I’ve always been very sympathetic because I’ve watched a couple of my closest friends go through serious anguish.  One phrase I’ve heard is “I didn’t know my feelings meant nothing until I entered the pastorate.”  The hard truth is there are many local churches have people who really don’t follow Christ, who treat other people with utter disregard for their feelings.  It makes me even more ill to find out church leadership will not assertively address these people out of fear they will take their money and run.  There is a very nasty cycle that is repeating itself across the land.

There is another side to this.  If we are called by God to lead, then we shouldn’t give up.  We may need to take some time to recover but we can’t give up.  Ultimately we aren’t serving ourselves, we are serving God.  God didn’t say it would be easy. 


I have a girlfriend

I have a girlfriend

I’ve had one for a little while now.  We just kind of kept it quiet.  This time I think I’m toast.  There isn’t much hope for me.  I’m starting to experience that mushy feeling inside.  Her name is Carol and I love her very much. 


Postmodern Inc.

Postmodern Inc.

In the United States most of Christendom has bought in to free market capitalism and distribution.  Ministry can be bought, whether it be a conference, a book or a CD.  For all of the reimagining and rethinking that is going on in the emerging church there aren’t a lot of people questioning how we distribute teaching and knowledge.  We still produce ministry goods, we market them, we try to sell them.  I’m not religiously opposed to people making a profit.  I am self-employed.  However there are some inherent weaknesses in the system.

1) Authors lose creative and sometimes idealogical control over their work
2) For profit companies have less regard for the quality of work and more for potential profitability
3) Publishing companies cater to the segments of the market with money
4) Christian publishers are often smaller divisions of larger corporations which produce such lovely films like “Freddie got fingered”
5) Getting “published” is another rung on the ladder of ministry success. 
6) Less quality work is produced to fulfill contracts
7) Ghost writers author books under famous names so they sell more
8) We throw a lot of money at resources resulting in very little societal change

I may be very idealistic or 10 years ahead of myself but I think it is time to “reimagine” Christian publishing.  I come from the heart of democratic socialism in Canada.  I’m not a socialist but I’m also not convinced the free market is the best approach to everything.  For all of socialism’s faults there are certain things that are much better done cooperatively than competitively.  In scripture we see the early Jerusalem church holding things in common.  We see Jesus very angry at those who made the temple a marketplace.  We see Paul telling the Corinthians that they will be blessed if they send their money to another church.  

We have forgetten why Jesus cleansed the temple.  We have turned the church in to a competitive marketplace and that is dead wrong.  I don’t buy the argument that we have to play the system because they offer better distribution.  Really we are just prostituting ourselves so companies like News Corp can have a better bottom line. 


Rethinking the distribution of books

Rethinking the distribution of books

The distribution, marketing and sale of Christian books is big business.  There is so much profit to be made many major Christian publishing companies are owned by much larger “secular” companies.  Being self employed I’m not religiously opposed to people earning a living from an honest business.  But I’ve come to believe that the way we distribute books, music and other resources is more designed to turn a profit than benefit the kingdom.  This is a pracitical reality in our world today.  In North America we have a certain reverence for the free market and the church has adopted this model for distribution.

This model has some downsides.  The traditional publisher – wholesaler – retailer model common for many kinds of good has its share of people in the middle taking a cut.  There are authors who write books motivated more by finishing a contract than sharing something new or worthwhile.  The publishers themselves will be apprehensive about anything controverserial or threatening. 

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Randall and Dief the Chief

Randall and “Dief the Chief”

I was sitting on the couch chatting with Randall.  An idea popped in to my head.  Why don’t I drive up to P.A. and visit the honorable Mr. Friesen.  I floated the idea past him and he liked it.  I got up there and he showed me the sites.  We took a tour of the Diefenbaker house.  Diefenbaker was one of Canada’s most successful Conservative Prime Ministers.  He represented Prince Albert and is kind of an icon around here in Saskatchewan.  Canadians are very used to getting their Prime Ministers from Quebec.  It is rare when a westerner wins.  The Alberta/BC leaders never seem to have the same success that the Saskatchewan leaders do.  It’s probably because of our greater character.  🙂 These days our star is a Liberal – Ralph Goodale.

There was lots of cool stuff in that house.  A lot of it had changed or it was imported from other places. As I looked at Dief’s study it struck me how humble his beginnings were.  The house was fairly big, but compared to what most of us have now Dief had nothing special.  It makes me wonder if we sometimes shortchange ourselves.  We have this impression that the notable people in the world are somehow far above us and their kinds of accomplishments are not available to us “normal” people. 

Randall and I had a great talk after supper.  I asked him that if he were to write a chapter about one area or aspect of the church that needs foundational change what would it be.  He said it would be calling.  Church leadership has become a career not a calling.  It is something that we choose to do for ourselves, not something we do simply because God has called us in to it.  Our leadership training institutions and churches have lost their place in discerning the call of God for people.  We mused for awhile about how the changes of society with more prosperity and education as well as the rising tide of consumerism and individualism may have influenced the church in the area of calling.  I think it would be a great study, and it probably should be the chapter of a book.


Questions pastors are asking themselves

Questions pastors are asking themselves

The following questions came up in a recent IM conversation:
1) Is the Sunday show, which consumes so much energy, really worth it?
2) Do I believe in this enough to put up with all the crap that comes with it?
3) Do I want to keep putting all my energy in something I have so many questions about?


Maybe Bethany won't change, maybe I need to

Maybe the college won’t change, maybe I need to

Up at the college I am good friends with a big picture thinker.  We’ve been talking and analyzing things at the school for a long time.  We both feel that unless the school rethinks itself at a fundamental level it will eventually go the way of most other colleges like it.  I guess it comes down to one of the hardest questions people are dealing with.  Should our institutions change or should we make new ones and let the old ones die a natural death? 

Change is difficult.  We can’t get rid of the traveling choirs because that might drop donations.  We can’t drop this program because of accreditation.  We can’t rethink xyz department because it would cause conflict.  In the end we talk big, change little, and continue to train leaders that have about a 50% chance of ending up in a ministry dumpster.   

In our personal lives and out institutions we need to consider the parable of the talents.  God expects a return on his investment in us.  If what we are doing is not producing then change is not an option.  This is one of the critical issues.  When we compare our lives to scripture is there something missing?  Do we line up?  For most of us we interpret scripture and other tradition through the lens of our life with the dangerous assumption that we have experienced all there is to experience.  If we are honest, courageous and humble we will realize that there is stuff missing and we should seek it out. 

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Chitek Lake 2004: Camping and Converation

From Jul 26 to Aug 2 the Tebay family cabin at Chitek Lake is open for any and all who would like to get away and enjoy some conversation about church, theology, the gospel and culture. What we provide is a come and go atmosphere and lots of time to relax and chat. I will be presenting my paper on the power of influence versus the power of God and Becky will be talking about America’s best selling bible “Revolve“. We have room for 8 people and space for tents or RV’s. It is free to come, just bring food and some spending money. We will be renting a house boat for at least one afternoon.

Last time most of the people came during the Wednesday to Friday of that week. Randall still has some pictures kicking around from that week. You can see them here. I’ve got some more over here. Chitek Lake one of Saskatchewan’s best summer resort destinations. There are a couple of beaches, hiking trails, golfing, and great fishing. I personally can’t wait to fully test out my handheld GPS unit on some unmarked trails.

For more info on the town check out

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Fahrenheit 9/11

Fahrenheit 9/11

At first I liked this film.  After awhile I felt kind of bitter at this film.  Despite the fact I think Moore does offer some effective challenges to the dishonesty of the current US administration, he does things in such a way that completely turn me off. 

The first section of the film didn’t engage me.  I was beginning to nod off.  It did pick up when I started seeing footage of the families of people who had lost loved ones in the war.  This was the best part of the film.  In times of conflict we need to be reminded of the human cost for war. There are times when I felt tears welling up as I was deeply impacted by the suffering of people in the Iraq war.

In the film Moore appeals to the emotions of his hearers but fails to bring a compelling comprehensive argument.  He does his best to portray G.W. Bush in a poor light.  There were times he seemed to be mocking the president and other members of the US administration.  These portrayals failed to convince me Bush is the idiot Moore makes him out to be, but they did convince me that Moore will resort to petty and immature attacks. Much of Moore’s argument is flimsy and it’s based on a lot of innuendo and circumstantial evidence.  The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation did a far more honest documentary on the links between the Bin Ladens and the Bush family.  

There are many who live insulated by right wing politics and ideology.  When someone like Moore offers an effective challenge people usually respond in one of two ways.  Reject the message because Moore is perceived as a Bush hating, biased, and dishonest left wing nut.  The other is to see what Moore presents as the light of salvation illuminating the path out of ignorance to freedom.  The problem is that neither reaction serves people well.  Just because someone is biased that doesn’t mean they are wrong.  Just because Moore exposes the lies and inconsistencies of the current US Administration that doesn’t mean everything he says is the truth.

I found inconsistencies and half truths in my first viewing.  In one segment Moore mocks the coalition of the willing by citing only the weakest countries on the list, complete with imagery that would mock their military capability.  He failed to mention England, Spain, Japan and the Ukraine.  Check out spinsanity if you want to see someone cut through more of the BS in this film. 

In the film Moore quotes George Orwell’s masterpiece 1984.  Orwell would roll over in his grave at this.  The blatant emotional manipulation and the doctoring of truth found in Fahrenheit 9/11 is employed by the totalitarian regime found in 1984.  I would argue that Moore’s film is a tame version of Orwell’s “2 minutes of hate” where the regime to forced the people to view propaganda which inflamed the emotions of the people and demonized the enemies of the state.

I was probably not in a very receptive mood for this film.  In the recent election the party I supported resorted to using emotionally manipulative ads.  In our age of mass visual media democracy has suffered.  The sad fact is fear motivates more than hope.  The ignorance of the electorate tempts political parties to sway their vote through manipulative means.  This contributes to even more cynicism and more ignorance.  Each year the manipulation becomes more blatant and less people show up to vote.  Fahrenheit 9/11 is just another example of the sad state of democracy in North America.


Evangelicals are distrusted in the political arena

Evangelicals are distrusted in the political arena

Imagine if Canada was 2% Christian and 12% Islamic. There was one major political party that seemed to have a disproportionate amount of Muslims. Some, but not all of these Muslims were of the fundamentalist sort and thought that Canada should bring in legislation that brought Canada’s laws closer to Islamic law. Many of the Christians in this country would have a fond appreciation for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which protects the rights of all Canadians. They would be highly suspicious of any political party which harboured the kind of people that like to impose their own religious law on anyone else. If that political party had members which gave any indication that they had a hidden agenda to bring in Islamic law it would cause a lot of genuine fear.

During this year’s election I saw “social conservatives” from a different light. The fear that people have of a social conservative agenda in the Conservative party is very real. People are afraid that religious a minority will impose their agenda on an unwilling public.  This is because there are people who wish to do just that.  On one side the social conservatives present themselves as righteous on issues of personal morality, but often show very little moral character when it comes to war, poverty, the environment and the exploitation of the 3rd world. This is compounded by a party that has social conservative candidates, like the one in my riding, which continually refused television interviews. The lack of transparency comes across as deceptive and dishonest.

The Liberal Party inflamed fear but they didn’t create it. It was very interesting to watch this because I probably would be considered a “social conservative.” I believe life begins at conception and I believe in the traditional definition of marriage.

Evangelicals are going to have to recognize a few things about Canada. The government cannot play favourites with religious groups. It is not their place to enforce the values of one religion in a diverse and pluralistic culture. No matter how such an agenda is packaged it will always be rejected by the majority of Canadians.

No amount of legislation can change the moral direction of our nation. With our youth programs, bible camps, and Sunday schools we continually produce kids that don’t act significantly different from the people in secular society. What makes us think that the government can accomplish with laws what we can’t with our programs?