Archive for May, 2009

Jim Flaherty : Canada’s 50 billion dollar man!

So we are looking at a budget deficit of 50 billion dollars!  The highest deficit in the history of this country.  To be fair a deficit of some size would have been unavoidable given the current conditions.  However if we had a buffer, the kind we used to have with the Liberals that deficit would be a lot smaller.  If we hadn’t cut the GST we would be a much better position right now.

Unless we transition to a economy less dependant on oil and natural gas this cycle will just continue again.  The economy will recover, oil supplies will become tight and the price will shoot up.  Then the economy will tank again.

If only we had a simple plan that guided our economy away from non-renewable resources to more sustainable practices.

However, if we had the kind of deficit Obama is proposing Flaherty would be the 200 billion dollar man!  It feels so good to be in uber-conservative Canada instead of the pinko-communist tax and spend….oh wait minute…print money out of thin air and spend America.

That last line was for you. 🙂

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I’m going to the Living The Mission Conference

June 17th to June 20th I’ll be in Bloomington, MN for an simple/organic church conference.  I’ll be driving there from Saskatoon through Regina and Winnipeg.  If anyone else wants to come with me I’ve got room in my car!

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I sold my Mac

A few months ago I picked up an older MacBook just to learn the OS.  It didn’t take long to learn and when I was done I was ready to sell it. 

I liked the interface more than the hardware.  I really didn’t like the trackpad or the big white solitary button. 

I really am so sorry to disappoint all those people who thought I would be converted.  🙂


Rethinking Christian Higher Education : Dump the M.Div?

From Notes from off-center

The problem now is that we are expecting our candidates for the ministry to continue graduate educations after college and asking them to assume positions that can only help them to pay their accrued educational debt (often 20K and more) by asking larger bodies for financial assistance to fill these positions. Thus, young ministers don’t want the small church because they and the church cannot afford the very requirements that were necessary for them to be approved to even see if they can get said job. The result is often burn out with educational debt playing a larger than life role. This is not a sustainable model.

The system is basically broken. We are asking people to accrue a large financial burden from the start to meet educational and other requirements that the positions that they will then qualify for cannot pay and probably should not be expected to pay. We saw this in the banking industry – when you have accrued enough bad debt and have no capital flows to pay the bill for those holding that debt, the markets freeze up and everyone suffers. Most of our candidates are like bad debt and as our churches get older and capital investments in churches continue to slow down, the financials will freeze up and seminary will be a really good classical education to serve the ends of another career.

Dumping the M.Div.

So here is a radical solution: dump the M.Div. as a core requirement and focus on beefing up the theological education that our undergraduate institutions can offer. Make the function of the preparation process include apprenticeships where candidates can work with a church and provide services to the church while continuing their education in a "real-life" setting. This might mean that Presbyteries and other local governing bodies can take a deeper role in the educational ministry they provide by offering oversight to these apprentices. It might also mean that pastors should take more interest in the youth to develop young ministers rather than treat youth groups as nuisances.

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Rethinking Christian Higher Education : Socialization

From “The Forgotten Ways” by Alan Hirsh

Perhaps the single most significant source of the malaise of leadership in our day comes from the way, and the context, in which we form leaders.  For the most part, the would-be leader is withdrawn from the context environment, for up to seven years in some cases.  During that period they are subjected to an immense amount of complex information relating to the biblical disciplines, theology, ethics, church history, pastoral theology, etc.  And while the vast majority of this information is useful and correct, what is dangerous to discipleship in that setting is the actual socialization processes that the student undergoes along the way.  In effect, he or she is socialized out of ordinary life and develops a kind of language and thinking that is seldom understood and expressed outside the seminary.  It’s as if in order to learn about ministry and theology, we have our places of habitation and take a flight into the wonderfully abstracted world of abstraction, we fly around there for a long time, and then wonder why we have trouble landing again.

Pg 121

Most of us function in more than one cultural world.  I function in the business world, the blogosphere, the unconventional church world, my local community and the academy.  Each one has its distinct qualities.  The people that like to pick on the academy like to paint it as a world less real than the one they normally function in.  This is a fallacy.  The academic world is a real world just like any other, it is just smaller and perhaps a little more distinct than some others.

We can all be so completely absorbed in to one world it makes us less able to connect with and understand people that live in other worlds.  That is one of the main points in missional thinking. 

Alan does make a very good point.  If we train leaders in an insulated world with its own language and values that is distinct from the world we are training people for we are making things more difficult than they need to be.

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Rethinking Christian Higher Education : Cost

I’ve worked in Christian Higher Education for a number of years.  Just about as many years I spent enrolled in one school or another.  I’ve never been entirely comfortable in this realm.  For someone who likes simple church, schools are on definitely on the more complex end of the spectrum.

The bible school movement in western Canada is definitely in decline.   Enrolment is down and some schools have closed down. 

I’m convinced that cost is an huge issue.  The cost of education has outpaced inflation for 15 years across the board.  A university can get away with this because there is no alternative and no real competition.  If you want to learn something that that actually increases your earning potential in a wide range of fields there aren’t any other options.

For most people a biblical education is a personal choice, not a vocational necessity.  It is a choice that more students are dropping.

In the United States cheap and easy credit created a housing bubble.  Give more people easy credit and there are more buyers willing to pay a higher price for a home.  I wonder whether cheap and easy credit in the form of student loans has given institutions the freedom to raise fees far in excess of what they would be if there were no student loans.  If the cheap credit evaporated what would happen?  I imagine we would see a rash of budget cuts and school closures.

What would happen if the economy, shifted in to a bout of high inflation and high interest rates?  Student loans have variable interest rates and cannot be cleared with bankruptcy.  Interest relief helps many in Canada but it doesn’t clear the debt.  I think the relatively low interest rates of the last 15 years have lulled us in to a false sense of security.  Debt is bad, it is a trap, and most 18 year-olds don’t appreciate how risky taking on on a huge debt is.


I got to watch the Canucks lose last night

I don’t know what was better!

Luongo turned in to  pumpkin
The Canucks blew a couple leads
The Canuck fan I watched the game with did a premature victory lap
The Canucks did just as well against the team that beat the flames
The Canucks are defeated by John Toews from Winnipeg!

Welcome to the Golf Course boys!  Whoo hooo!

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Leadership, accountability and emotional health

I’ve seen examples where hierarchy curbs the positive impact of life giving fellowship.  I once observed a leader run themselves in to the ground while the subordinates, myself included, did little more than watch.  Why didn’t we say more?  We rationalized that it wasn’t our job, it was the job of someone higher up, while the people higher up thought the same.  We aren’t in charge after all.

It seems to be terribly difficult for leaders to be real with anyone but their closest inner circle, if that.  No accountability mechanism can take in to account our propensity to towards self-deception.  The pressure to perform becomes the pressure to be perfect.  Doubts, fears, insecurities are pushed back out of conscious thought.  Juggling all those thoughts and feelings takes a lot of effort.  It is like holding a ball under water.  It is very easy for that ball to pop back up. 

All that effort saps our ability to process intellectually and emotionally leaving less room for dealing with difficult problems.  It seems to me we put leaders in places that make it difficult to be honest and real, which in turn negatively impacts their emotionally health, which severely impairs their ability to lead.