Archive for February, 2006

Reflections on trust in the church

Reflections on trust in the church

Trust is an essential element in any organic church ministry. If a church is able to foster a climate of acceptance and love people will feel the freedom to be transparent to a certain degree in the whole group. Most people will only go so deep in a group regardless of how well they know them. The most powerful ministry happens in groups of 2 or 3. This is where trust is offered and earned.

It isn’t too profound to say that the key to earning trust is to be trustworthy. However this is not the absence of relational failings. Mistakes and failings in a relationship are often an opportunity to build trust. Being able to genuinely admit wrong doing can do a lot to bolster a relationship. Being able to forgive does the same.

I think one of the reasons why church people are so rarely different from the rest of world is that we often don’t trust one another. If we don’t trust one another we don’t make a way for others help us to become more like Christ. Often people live under an unhealthy fear of personal judgment so people hide their true selves.

The most common philosophy of ministry assumes we facilitate change in people by challenging their thinking through preaching. This way we can change their worldview and ultimately their character. This might happen in a few rare cases but for the most part it doesn’t work. There are communication issues. There are issues with the hearer that skew the message. When a person is listening in a crowd it is too easy to disregard the truth they hear. Without the relationship the message gets lost.

I don’t question the necessity of proclamation. Proclamation of truth can have a marvelous impact on people. Especially when that truth is spoken one on one in a relationship of trust where both parties know they are loved and accepted.

I wonder if there is a reason why so my programs and church ministries are designed in such a way that people don’t get an opportunity to build trust with each other. Do you ever wonder why so church people are caught in a continuous cycle of meetings where you never get the chance to truly meet someone? I have.

I think that a some church leaders don’t feel adequate to the task of getting in to the nitty gritty of people’s live so they minister at arms length through sermons, bible studies and devotionals. It is much less messy to try to change people’s minds than to tend to their wounded hearts. I don’t think this group would be the majority. I know of a lot of pastors who want to get in to the nitty gritty but are too busy doing everything else to have an opportunity to do that.

Unfortunately the church will not change if we can’t make places where we can earn one another’s trust.


I took down a post today

I took down a post today

The Kinsella vrs Bourrie fight should be a wake up call for bloggers. Bloggers are just as subject to libel laws just as any other public figure. One of the interesting things about libel law is that you can quote a defamatory statement and be sued along with the person who made that statement. What is even more strange is you can sued even if you criticized the defamatory statement. In the midst of the VoteOutVellacott furor I did a comparison of the statements and sources. In doing so I put myself in a very vulnerable position. I potentially quoted defamatory statements. I took that post down.

Someone from the Vellacott camp who has chosen to remain anonymous warned me that I should remove the quotes from my blog for my own protection. It seemed silly to me first because I wasn’t giving any of the statements a blanket endoresment, I was just analyzing the potential legitimacy of a law suit. There were a number of items where I did agree that the VoteOutVellacott website put a deceptive spin on their quoted source.

In the course of dialogue I discoverd that for some of the issues in the question the original media story did not report certain facts that would change people’s opinion of Mr. Vellacott. While Mr. Vellacott did sleep in his office he didn’t pocket tax payers money in doing so. Housing allowances are based on receipts so he actually saved tax payers money. According to my anonymous source the person who claimed to have been railroaded out of the nomination for my riding didn’t meet the standard in some criteria. To say Vellacott squashed the nomination would likely be unfair. I haven’t double checked what my anonymous source has told me but I have no reason to doubt what I’ve heard.

I want to make it clear that there have been no official warnings of civil action or requests to remove what I’ve posted. I just thought it would be wise to error on the side of caution and ensure that my actions are above reproach. I care a great deal about the truth and I am happy to provide clarification to any issue that has been muddied.

It did deeply disturb me that someone close to Vellacott was sincerely concerned that legal action was within the realm of possibility.

I talked with Mr. Vellacotts opponent Chris Axworthy a few weeks after the election and asked him about the things that were said about him by the Vellacott camp that I thought were skewed or deceptive. Statements like

“Axworthy caught second time practicing the black arts of politics”

“It appears Axworthy endorses spreading lies and attempted character assassination”

“Vellacott challenges Paul Martin to distance himself from Axworthy and such sleazy, corrupt and dishonest actions”

Chris just shrugged it off. Turned the other cheek if you will.

The whole situation is sad but Chris would never endorse slander, nor did he. Someone, most likely a volunteer made some terrible accusations about Vellacott on a local cable show. The person acted on their own and has since refused to own up to it. The unforunate fact is this person did it at Chris’s campaign office completely sabatoging whatever hope Chris had of winning.

To imply that Chris is personally sleazy or corrupt because of this is wrong. I honestly believe he had nothing to do with it. Chris could have pointed the finger at the person the Vellacott camp accused of making the call to save himself, but he didn’t. He wasn’t going to condemn someone without solid proof. I’m impressed with that.

It reminds of a quote from Scent of a Woman, a favourite movie of mine.

“I don’t know if Charlie’s

silence here today…

is right or wrong;

I’m not a judge or jury.

But I can tell you this:

he won’t sell anybody out…

to buy his future !

And that, my friends,is called integrity.

That’s called courage.

Now that’s the stuff leaders should be made of.

Now I have come to the crossroads in my life.

I always knew what the right path was.

Without exception, I knew, but I never took it.

You know why ?

It was too d–n hard.

Now here’s Charlie.

He’s come to the crossroads.

He has chosen a path.

It’s the right path.

It’s a path made of principle…

that leads to character.”

To all those who are tightly wound up in your ideology, in your us vrs them thinking, in your self-righteous crusades I am truly sad for you. Sad that you can’t see God’s heart of compassion and desire for justice coming through in people that don’t share your view of the world. I’m sad that your paint your opponents with brush strokes that are dark, wide and imprecise. When you stop giving people the benefit of the doubt it is tragic. When you see Satan behind the actions of honest people that don’t see things the way you do, it is even more tragic.



Lousy, lousy, lousy

Lousy, lousy, lousy

Lousy Bertuzzi, lousy Pronger, LOUSY QUINN.


Some church models are better than others

Some church models are better than others

I’ve been surfing around house church websites and I see a pattern. It seems a great many of the people that have embraced simple churches think that they have found the lone legitimate expression of church. To some other larger more institutionally driven models are next to evil. I imagine that your average Joe pastor would disregard these people as nuts and extremists.

I have a few thoughts on this.

There is no one pristine model of doing church but some are better suited for their context than others. Some make it more or less difficult to actually accomplish the purposes of the church.

I agree with a lot of what simple church advocates proclaim. I believe that small and simple is a better fit for church. I see the structures of the church as a means to an end and not and end in themselves. What matters is the end. So you can use an ill suited structure and still accomplish what you are called to do. We each have different callings and God works with us where we are at. So if someone is called to work with seniors you go to where the seniors are and use the structures available.

All in all I find some the rhetoric from the simple church side less than useful.

On the flip side I don’t think established church leaders should so easily cast off the assertions of the simple church movement. I’ve heard a lot of people say there are things you can do in a big church that you can’t do in a small one or really small one. I’ve asked people to actually name something that might serve as an example. Answers don’t always flow forth. The truth is most big churches do very little to leverage any advantage in their size. History has shown us the most powerful movements in church history were completely successful without the use of buildings.

There are parts of scripture that are hard to reconcile with larger program driven churches. Paul’s concept of church had everyone playing a necessary role (1Cor 12). When the primary expression of church is 90% of the people listening or singing it is hard to see how essential most of the people are. Even if you were to consider all the other activities that are generally considered less essential you won’t find more than half the people in a significant role. One might argue that people just need to step up more and volunteer.

The reality is some church models make it more difficult for people to feel affirmed and empowered to do ministry. One of the main problems is that actions speak louder than words. If you sit in a pew every Sunday and you are not allowed to speak you will slowly be convinced that you have nothing to say or that you are unqualified to say it. It wouldn’t matter if the preached talked incessantly about how everyone is a minister. The actions speak louder than words.

In my experience a simple church, which is forced to rely on other people to do ministry is far better structures to affirm, train and empower people to engage in ministry. I’m not saying a program driven church couldn’t do the same thing. I imagine some do, but it is really hard.

1Cor 12 NRSV

14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.


20 things to do while you’re not multiplying churches

20 things to do while you’re not multiplying churches

This post is so true it is funny. By Steve Addison

1 Call yourself an apostle. Have some business cards printed. Hand them around.

2 Throw lots of money at subsidizing unhealthy, declining churches.

3 Throw money at “experimental missional initiatives” and never evaluate their effectiveness.

4 Set goals for multiplying new churches but don’t make it clear who is responsible.

5 Make someone responsible but don’t give them any real authority, discretionary time or sufficient funding. Change the appointment every two years. After ten years, save money by retiring the position and making everyone responsible.

6 Appoint a committee to undertake a study and write a report for the leadership group. Wait three years, then do it again.

7 Hire a consultant to undertake a study and write a report. Wait three years then do it again.

8 Appoint the wrong people to plant churches. When they fall over say, “Church planting doesn’t work.”

9 When you see a healthy church plant say, “Yes it’s growing but it’s not really a Reformed/Baptist/Assemblies of God/Presbyterian/Methodist/New Vine/etc (choose one) church.”

10 Require pioneering leaders to be theologically trained before they can plant a church.

11 Throw your best leaders at your biggest problems, not at your greatest opportunities.

12 Watch pioneering leaders exit your movement and comment on their lack of commitment.

13 Reward pioneering leaders with promotion. Get them away from the front line. Harness their drive to keep the institutional wheels turning.

14 In the 1960’s change the word “missions” to “mission”. To usher in the new millennium change “mission” to “missional” . Around 2010 plan to change “missional” to “postmissional”.

15 Agree to plant new churches when: (a) You’re large enough (b) You’re healthy enough (c) You have the leaders to give away (d) You have the money to spare (e) God has clearly shown you it’s time (f) When the cow jumps over the moon (g) Any or all of the above.

16 Run workshops on church planting. Hold conferences on church planting. Offer a course at your theological college on church planting. Do nothing to follow up the people who show an interest. Make sure only experts like me get to teach. Keep the practitioners away from the students. Keep the students in the classroom.

17 Grow your church, its facilities, staff and budget as BIG as you can. Let your vision stop at your car park. Let church history end with you. Let the Kingdom dream die.

18 Set ridiculous but catchy sounding goals like 500 in 5 years, or 2,000 by 2,000. Three years after the target date expires set new goals. Don’t forget to change the dates!

19 Modernize your theology then PostModernize your theology. Remove evangelism and church planting from the centre of God’s mission in the world. When decline hits make sure the paid professionals are the last to feel the pinch.

20 Lastly, set up a blog on church planting. Link to other bloggers on church planting. They link to you. Add smoke and mirrors.


Emerging Uncertainty

Emerging Uncertainty

I just finished listening to a sermon by John McArthur on the Emerging Church. In a manner reminiscent of his book “Charismatic Chaos” he labels and condemns the Emerging Church. As with so many other critics Brian McLaren is held up as the poster boy for the movement.

MacArthur condemned the charismatics because he believed that they were diminishing the word of God when they claimed God revealed things to them. Charismatics believe that God speaks to them in various ways and somehow this creates a problem. How can you have two authoritative versions of the word of God? Aren’t they attempting to add to the word of God?

Most Charismatics dismiss this as nonsense and very simply claim that any revelation received now is to illuminate scripture or provide very specific direction or encouragement. Scripture is still held as the only authoritative guide for doctrine. Nevertheless MacArthur believed that the charismatic movement was an attack on scripture.

The Emerging Church, he says, is attacking the authority of scripture through ambiguity. The EC considers scripture authoritative but it is unclear so in the absence of clarity it can make up any doctrine it likes. I don’t know of anyone who things scripture is that unclear, just that it is just less clear than we were led to believe.

I don’t understand people who claim they understand the scriptures with absolute certainty on all but the least important issues. If scripture is so clear why is the church so divided over doctrine? Is the problem that we all refuse to acknowledge how right the fundamentalists are and how wrong everyone else is? How well have settled issues like the mode of baptism, the sovereignty of God, spiritual warfare, authority of tradition, the nature of eternal punishment, eternal security, models of the atonement, the structure of church, the nature of the sacraments? When you have dozens of different understandings on all these issues how can one claim, with any healthy self perspective, to know with absolute certainty that they are right and option b, c, d, e, f, and g are all wrong?

Was Peter wrong when he wrote: “So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.”

If the scriptures are so abundantly clear then why do we need professionals to expound upon it? Why must people spend tens of thousands of dollars to become qualified to rightly divide the word of the truth?

I can only speak for myself but I think there is something between the polar opposites of absolute certainty and complete ambiguity. I can believe with great certainty in the saving grace provided by Christ’s death for humanity and be unsure about penal substitutionary atonement. I take the bread and cup in remembrance of Christ without knowing exactly what is happening.

Take careful note of what Peter said. SOME THINGS, not all things but some things that Paul wrote were hard to understand even for the people who lived in the very same time and culture!

I really wonder if the quest for theological precision is as pure a passion as it is held up to be. Given the lengths we go to assert our superior knowledge are we really motivated by a desire to reach a deeper understanding? How much of our motivation is just the desire to compete in some elevated form of intellectual gladitorialism. Men, well, mostly men trying vanquish each other in the name of God. We wage conflict not with swords and spears but with books and articles. I can speak of this honestly because I have felt the temptation to engage in this conflict not for God, but for the sake of vanity.

The truth is there are a great many people who are seeking radical change for the church and have not indulged themselves in the philosophical and theological bunny trails of the “Emergent” poster children. There are a great many that look at the state of the church in the English speaking western nations and are gravely concerned. According to common thinking in the church the problem is the government or society or the media and somehow the forces of these things in the world have overcome the power of God and the gospel. I disagree. I think we have strayed from pure gospel message and replaced it with something far less adequate. I think we have no power because have faith in principles and formulas but not Christ. I think we stand in ignorance of what is really happening because we refuse to look at what really matters and are far too concerned with our personal success and the survival of our institutions.


House Church: Studying the scriptures

House Church: Studying the scriptures

This is what usually happens with our house church

We eat a shared meal together and enter in to a time of worship or communion with God

We ask God to help us understand

One person prepares a study or a guided discussion.

Often we will study a theme, or concept in scripture

The leader will print out the scriptures and give copies to everyone

The division of who reads what can be different

  • Everyone studies the same
  • Half study one, half study another
  • All get different scriptures

These themes often follow the main issues in our lives

We never use pre-packaged materials

There is opportunity to study the scriptures individually

We encourage people to look at the context and background

We interact and share our findings

Those professionally trained in biblical study provide tips on how to interpret scripture

Everyone can share

A special effort is made to encourage leadership from people with different backgrounds

People can lead in order to explore a question and find answers

After doing this for over a year now I’ve discovered some great benefits

The plurality of leaders helps ensure topics are more relevant to all

There is a very narrow gap between leaders and general participants

Just by participating you learn how to lead

There is more openness to questions, far fewer pat answers

Provides a good opportunity to give insight on how to study the scriptures themselves

Open discussion reinforces everyone’s value, worth and ability

You can lead with a posture of exploration, rather than just knowing the answers

People who would normally have no voice, have a voice

It takes way less time to prepare than a sermon

There is incredible richness in seeing the scriptures from the perspective of people who aren’t like you

There is still room and a place for proclamation and monologue but it is framed by the dialogue

The more you see someone’s real life and their issues their words take on greater meaning and impact

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Google Maps in the Dark!

Google Maps in the Dark!

Check it out.

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If you've experienced the Charismatic movement read this

If you’ve experienced the Charismatic movement read this

Robby Mac has put together an excellent resource on the Charismatic movement. I haven’t finished it yet but so far I think it is better than most “emerging” books I’ve read.


I wish more MPs were this principled

I wish more MPs were this principled

Check out Garth Turner’s latest.

Speaking of offices, after today I’m expecting the Whip will be assigning me a renovated washroom somewhere in a forgotten corner of a vermin-infested dank basement in Ottawa. That should go well with my seat in the House of Commons that will be visible only during lunar eclipses.

Uh-huh. That kind of a day. This one MP came face-to-face with the party machine in a series of unhappy meetings including one tonight with the prime minister. I think it is now safe to say my career options within the Conservative caucus are seriously limited. If you would like a course on how not to be popular in Ottawa, then take a seat…

Going from door to door turns a politician into a democrat. At least, it did for me. By the time I got to Parliament Hill, I was infused with the spirit of a new era in government, sated on the belief we would see freedom reign in the Chamber and that the days of subjugation of MPs by the prime minster’s office were numbered. I had swallowed with gusto promises of more free votes, more powerful committees of free-thinking MPs, more listening to the voters, and an elected and responsible Senate.

And, most importantly, I had taken that to the people. Change. The election was about change. I asked people in Halton to embrace the Conservatives as a modern, inclusive, mainstream, principled party of honest people committed to changing the system for the better. Finally. Something worth knocking on doors for in the dark and the cold. Something to believe in. Something to run for. Something on the Hill worth coming back for with a passion…

Did I know the potential consequences of speaking my mind, or sticking with the principles that brought me to this cold hill? Yeah, I did. I have been an MP before, and a leadership candidate and a cabinet minister. I have the hide to prove it. I know the PMO has a song sheet it wants all caucus members to sing from, and I know what happens when an individual chooses to go his or her own way. I was just hoping this time I would not be asked to choose – between party and principle.

I chose principle. My deepest loyalty is to what I believe, what I told the voters and what I want Parliament to become. The Emerson affair may indeed blow over. The minister may decide not to take the heat. David may turn into a cabinet star and a national asset. But he should still have the conviction to get elected a member of the team he chose. The same team that I chose, and fought like a warrior to join, helped by hundreds more and supported by tens of thousands of others. How could any member of caucus not privately feel the same?

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