Archive for June, 2009

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HT Just Wondering


If I was a conference presenter

If I was a presenter at a conference on home/organic/simple church I’d probably talk about the following.

  • Continually proclaiming the mystery of the gospel
  • Making a safe place for people to be real
  • Eating together, the ancient ritual that still makes sense
  • Sacrificial love is the lifeblood of ministry
  • Forget looking like a success just build the kingdom
  • Interpreting the scriptures together
  • Relating to conventional churches
  • Leading from beside, gentle direction that empowers
  • Creating culturally relevant shared rituals and experiences.
  • Avoiding buzzwords and acronyms for all that is good and sane in this world 🙂

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The house church folk love Luke 10

A lot of the presenters here make a big deal about Luke 10. 

Luk 10:1  After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him two by two into every town and place where he himself was about to go.
Luk 10:2  He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.
Luk 10:3  Go! I am sending you out like lambs surrounded by wolves.
Luk 10:4  Do not carry a money bag, a traveler’s bag, or sandals, and greet no one on the road.
Luk 10:5  Whenever you enter a house, first say, ‘May peace be on this house!’
Luk 10:6  And if a peace-loving person is there, your peace will remain on him, but if not, it will return to you.
Luk 10:7  Stay in that same house, eating and drinking what they give you, for the worker deserves his pay. Do not move around from house to house.
Luk 10:8  Whenever you enter a town and the people welcome you, eat what is set before you.
Luk 10:9  Heal the sick in that town and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come upon you!’
Luk 10:10  But whenever you enter a town and the people do not welcome you, go into its streets and say,
Luk 10:11  ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this: The kingdom of God has come.’

This passage is presented as the primary approach for planting new churches.  Much is made about most of the passages here.  I’m finding it difficult.

1) These 72 weren’t planting churches.  They were out to heal the sick and proclaim the arrival of the kingdom.  Proclaiming the gospel and the arrival of the Kingdom of God is not the same thing as planting churches.

2) The people who did receive the ministry of the 72 were likely invited to join Jesus disciples when he came through town.  No possible church was established with these people until after Pentecost.  By the end of Luke many of these 72 likely scattered.

3) Jesus specifically mentioned his instruction in Luke 10 and changed it Luke 22.

Luk 22:35  Then Jesus said to them, "When I sent you out with no money bag, or traveler’s bag, or sandals, you didn’t lack anything, did you?" They replied, "Nothing."
Luk 22:36  He said to them, "But now, the one who has a money bag must take it, and likewise a traveler’s bag too. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.

While these passages do change Jesus’ instruction Jesus is implying that his disciples will be sent out again.  It is obvious from history that they were sent out and proclaimed the kingdom after Pentecost.  I kind of wish more people here included Luke 22 because ultimately it adds more weight to some aspects of this approach because it is affirmed more than once.  On the other hand it implies that people need to understand their context and change their game plan accordingly.

The church grew in so many ways in Acts I would find it limiting to stick with just Luke 10.  It is obvious that Pentecost wasn’t like this.  Paul’s method for planting churches usually started in the Synagogue and we know he went to Mars Hill.  Paul got himself arrested and as a result proclaimed the gospel to Roman officials and guards.  It seems clear that

That doesn’t mean there isn’t something to learn from Luke 10.  There in lies the work for me. 


I wish they all could be Minnesota

I’m safe and sound in a suburb of Minneapolis for what might be the longest stint I’ve ever spent in the United States.  A few observations:

  • Minnesota and Canada are more similar than many other states.  Unfortunately I haven’t found anyone who sounds like the characters in the movie Fargo. 
  • People drive bigger cars here.  In Canada the most popular cars are compact cars (Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Matrix, Chevy Cobalt, Mazda3, Ford Focus, Hyundai Accent).  We even have lots of sub-compact cars (Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Smart Cars) and I haven’t seen any here.  There seems to be an abundance of SUV’s but more Toyota Hybrids than I expected.
  • It is more humid than I expected.  Most places are more humid than Saskatchewan, we are pretty much in a desert.
  • When I say I’m  from the province directly north of eastern Montana it doesn’t help.  People don’t know where Montana is.
  • People here actually watch Fox News thinking they are finding out what is going on in the world. 
  • I saw a “Ron Paul was right” bumper sticker.  That was great.  Ron Paul is right about a lot of things but people aren’t listening to him.
  • The donuts I bought at the grocery store are quite tasty. 
  • Everything is cheap here now the American dollar has tanked.  I wonder if I could get some nice shoes here.
  • The people at the conference seem pretty cool.  Organic church people do like to dialogue!
  • My first session with Neil Cole was ok.  I like a lot of what Neil says but I could go without the buzzwords, and especially buzzwords converted to acronyms.  Maybe I’m a little too postmodern but I’d rather just here stories, rather than watch stories get reduced to bullet points.
  • I listened to a little N.T. Wright on the way down.  That was some sweet stuff from the Bishop.  That guy understands the nature, power and depth of narrative theology.
  • There are lots of trees and lakes in and around Minneapolis. 


And they have a plan

Flaherty has a plan to return to surplus.  I can’t help but wonder if it is anything like this plan.

What next?  Will they admit that some of them are programmed to think they are human?

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The church conundrum Part II

My last post might have seemed a bit harsh.  I may have given off the impression that I think nothing good happens in church. 

I strongly believe that the most powerful life transforming ministry happens in the context of personal relationships motivated by sacrificial love.  In most churches this exists.  It might happen in pockets or on the margins but there are signs of this life everywhere. 

Eventually I asked the question “if most people are changed more in relationship, why are we so busy with all these events and programs.”  I don’t really know why.  This is why I’ve become such a strong advocate of a simpler approach to church.  I say simpler because I think there is a spectrum, and I don’t advocate one approach as the only “biblical” approach to church. 

I’ve spent almost 7 years experimenting with simpler expressions of church.  I’m still learning lots and trying new things.  Here is my recipe right now.

1) Proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ

Most Christians don’t get it, or if they do get it in their mind, they have been conditioned by the legalism of their experience.  There are several metaphors in scripture for how we relate to God.  I like the following:


1Jn 1:5  This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
1Jn 1:6  If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
1Jn 1:7  but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.


2Pe 1:2  Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
2Pe 1:3  seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
2Pe 1:4  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.


Eph 2:4  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
Eph 2:5  even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
Eph 2:6  and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Eph 2:7  so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Eph 2:8  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
Eph 2:9  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

They all describe different facets of our relationship with God.  We must stop adding to the gospel because when we do we empty it of its power.

2) Love people

Sacrificial love is the lifeblood of the church.  Love has to be sincere and tangible and genuine.  I don’t know how it can be manufactured.  This love comes from God.  We love because He first loved us.  Until we know the love of Christ it will that much more difficult to sacrificially love each other.  Thus step 1 is so important.

3) Respect the inherent value Christ has woven in to each person

Do not try to control people, don’t manipulate them, don’t use them, don’t create fear.  There will always be some level of organization but it must always serve people.  Once this role is reversed and people are more assets of an organization we end up with a lot burn out and disappointment.

4) Offer generous amounts of grace and acceptance

In order for people to be able to help each other they need to feel safe.  Without safety people aren’t open.  If people aren’t open then it is very difficult to make a difference in their lives.  People can hear difficult truths from others that they know in their heart they are truly loved for who they are. 

There is a noticeable lack of methods and models in this recipe because those should change given the context and the people. 


The church conundrum

It seems like there is a wave of questioning and disillusionment with church among friends and acquaintances these days. Much of what I’ve read and heard is very familiar to me. I may not know precisely how these folks feel, but I’ve walked many miles on a very similar road.

If church and faith seems too complicated I have few observations about why that might be.

Reason #1) In church many things aren’t really what we say they are

· We sit in rows all facing the same direction listening to the same person and we call that community.

· We chit chat about superficial things for 10 minutes with a coffee in our hands and we call that fellowship.

· We listen to messages that most of us promptly forget 10 minutes after leaving the building and we call that discipleship.

· We spend most of our money for people and programs to serve ourselves while telling ourselves we are building God’s Kingdom.

· We feel terribly isolated despite being surrounded by people because we are afraid to be ourselves. We stay so we can be accountable.

Other people might sense a disconnect in other ways lurking beneath the surface of our conscious minds.

Reason #2) So many of us really don’t know what it means to be a Christian

In my years of ministry I keep coming back to the same thing time and again. I keep running in to people who think they need to add something on to Jesus. It might Jesus+Jewish Festivals, or Jesus+Covering, or Jesus+Tithing, or Jesus+The next conference.

Really what it all amounts to is Jewish Festivals+Covering+Tithing+The Next Conference and precious little of Jesus. Paul went through something similar, although in his time it was Jesus+Circumcision.

His comment on the matter?

Gal 5:5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait expectantly for the hope of righteousness.

Gal 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision carries any weight — the only thing that matters is faith working through love.

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Why your world is about to get a whole lot smaller

image I just polished off Jeff Rubin’s book “Why your world is about to get a whole lot smaller.”  Jeff’s book is a excellent foray in the complications of oil, the economy and our future.  As the former chief economist of CIBC World Markets he carries a lot clout, although he has been branded something of a maverick. 

While most of the book was review for me he did make one point that has stuck with me.  High oil prices are what tipped the global economy over in to recession.  The recession drops demand for oil and the price of oil comes back to normal.  What happens when we recover?  Oil demand will increase and the price will come back up again, until another recession forces it back down.  As oil production declines the economy will hit a continuously dropping ceiling and retreat.  Only decoupling ourselves from oil will enable us to break this cycle.

Jeff tackles the issue of Peak Oil with the depth and breadth of a seasoned economist.  He carefully illustrates how our society is deeply dependant on oil and paints a picture of a smaller de-globalized world. 

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David Fitch contrasts the Neo-Reformed with Neo-Anabaptism

The following was originally posted at

The Gospel Coalition is movement among some popular Reformed Christian leaders that is catching a lot of attention.  David Fitch summarizes their emphasis in 5 convenient points. 

  • If We Purify Our Doctrine The Rest Will Follow
  • We Must Return to the Reformation
  • Woman Cannot Be Pastors
  • The New Perspective is Our Enemy
  • The Mega Church Still Makes Sense

Fitch responds with a call to what he has labelled the Neo-Anabaptist Missional Vision

For the reasons stated above, and indeed some more reasons I have not posted, I suggest that the Neo-Anabaptist Missional impulse is a viable alternative to the Neo-Reformed groups including TGC. For both historical reasons and theological reasons, I believe the Anabaptist Missional impulse has much to offer the dwindling churches of N America in engaging the new post Christendom cultures of the West. I include in this camp Alan Hirsch, Alan Roxburgh, Shane Claiborne, Neil Cole, Scot McKnight. I myself have tried to write to contribute to the furtherance of this vision. Tim Keller has characterized the Neo Anabaptists on this blog as follows: “… As you know, I think that the neo-Anabaptist missionals are a bit too rigid in what they are putting forth for the future, but its emphasis on process over program, ecclesial liturgy over experientialism, deep community, concern for the poor and justice, and contextualization-are all quite right. and traditional mega churches don’t see this.” I agree with Tim Keller on his description, including the being “a bit too rigid” part. Such statements however encourage me to believe that Neo Reformed and Neo Anabaptist should be in dialogue together to further Christ’s Kingdom (some of my best friends are Neo-Reformed :)). So I am open to dialoguing and even being proven wrong on the five positional statements above that I suspect the Gospel Coalition of advocating. Where am I right? Where am I wrong?

As the church wanders through this transitional time it does seem like two streams are forming.  Have traditional anabaptists lost an appreciation for the elements of their traditional so much of the rest of the church is enamoured with right now?

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