Friday, March 31, 2017

Rural Church ministry

I’ve spent the last few days doing a venture of over 1100 km to touch base with others about rural church ministry.

This is not my usual posting – more an expression of the fun I’ve had!

Imagine meeting people with a passion the same as mine – that rural areas receive the same pastoral care as anywhere else. 

Imagine discussing how rural churches have much to pass on to other churches.  The relational approach meets our hearts and lives!

Imagine hearing others affirm an impossibility as possible. 

There is much work to come – to even approach a viable rural ministry center.  And that excites me.

This is not about grieving over hurts from being overlooked.  This is all about finding the great strengths that come in rural church ministry.  And humbly offering those treasures to others around the world.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A different day and age!

November 6, 1973 should be a date you remember!

That was the day that the official minutes of the 5th Day Adventists outlined the new movement that was beginning (and died as quickly as it started!!).

Some late (and some were often literally late all the time) teens were in a jovial mood.  The more they ventured into the hilarious, the more their discussion generated into degeneration.

To safeguard the innocent (or not so innocent), no names will be mentioned, but I do have the original document.

Here are a few choice (and they are my choice) pieces from the document:

Minutes of the meeting held of Nov. 6, 1973

Present:  [Names withheld to see if you can figure this out!]

I.  Some of the doctrine was discussed:

1) Thursday as a holiday . . .

3) Truth as found in grass [an aside here – this would be related to Nebuchadnezzar approach to grass??]

4) Women are the root of all evil . . .

II. Ways of raising money were considered:

1) Initiation fees

2) Selling of indulgences

3) Government grants

4) Local initiative grant (or LIP)

The meeting was then adjourned when the treasurer decided she was leaving!!

Signed . . .

I love the idealism, cynicism, freshness, naivite, truth seeking,  literary and political allusions, and stupidity of youth!!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

On the imminent passing

A friend of mine is on temporary life support.  He collapsed while playing hockey and sustained some injuries.  The official statement of the finality of his life is expected soon.

Eric Greenway was a friend, colleague, mentor and fellow churchman.  His children were the ages of my children.  His love for writing was an inspiration to me as I took up writing.  His quiet spirit was a cloak of righteousness for the right and the just and the true.  He loved and was loved by others.

The excruciating decision to release a life is truly difficult.  Twice I have been placed in such a situation, and there is nothing easy or comfortable about the decision.  For all the reasonableness and quick calculation that must take place, the finality is final.  Blessings on his family at this time.

Each day is a gift.  Use your gifts to love God and love others with a fierceness that cannot be tamed! 

Thanks for your life, Eric! 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

In search of a definition

I’m working on helping to start a Rural Church Ministries Center – along with a training track for rural church ministry. 

Here are some thoughts about how we might define a rural church.  This is just a start. 

How would you define a rural church?

My own observation of those who use the label rural church would include the following:

  • People matter – service oriented, local connection, mentoring, one-on-one, cooperation.

  • Change a life – transformation is the goal, flourishing is the economics of the church, world changing starts with one person at a time.

  • Small is still beautiful – numbers do not determine success, beauty is enhanced not crafted, unique is admirable.

  • Conviction trumps culture – doing the right is more important than applause, an uncompromising culture of Christian love is vital.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Lent of status quo

I am a person of more than one idea – per minute!!  After many years of various activities and involvements, the ideas seem to come even faster!

Retirement has meant that many of the usual restraints on my time have been “dismissed”.  Except that now I am busier than ever.  I tend to venture further into my explorations of possibilities.

I think a regular job is a joy – in the sense that you have a focused time of attention that allows you to get “something” done.  The focus most often comes from a boss, or a deadline, or the time clock.  Some of my best times were spent in studies at post-secondary schools.   You knew when you had accomplished what was required, and there is real satisfaction in this.

Entering Lent this year, I sought assistance from God.  A still, small voice seemed to say – just do what you are doing.  For most people that is status quo. 

For me, that is plenty.  The activities I am involved in are always turning to new ventures.  The more new ventures, the less likely I am to finish well those adventures that I began a while ago.

So, Lent for me this year is not about giving up things that I’m currently involved in, but giving up those things that I could be involved in.  Maybe that will give me a bit more time to spend with God!

Friday, February 17, 2017

A played out discussion

The discussion has been ongoing in centres of academia.  The popular versions are now arriving with force.

Descartes said:  “You are what you think.” 

Did Jesus really say:  “You are what you love.”

The Fundamentalism of the early 20th century fought for proper thinking and doctrine.  Evangelicals were the beneficiaries of this broad ranging study and research.  Nevertheless, as WWII finished, evangelicals were wondering:  Where was the heart?  Where did mission go when all you could see was the bad – and when love was interpreted through the fire of hell?

This was a perspective thing.

Fundamentalists were saving the church from the heresy and rot of an evil generation.  Evangelicals, the children of fundamentalism, wanted a more welcoming stance.

Now evangelicals are back in the old war, as division continues to break within their ranks.  The head that seems to be most notable in terms of a return to the fundamentals is the club that gets called “neo-reformed”.   The other head that seems to be most notable in terms of a return to the heart and inclusion comes from a now fractured emerging church movement.

And now the new buzz word is “flourishing”. 

Flourishing is seen as the whole person being saved, with primary emphasis on the here and now, with eternity an extension of the flourishing begun here.  Whereas church growth proponents looked at calculated numbers (those accepted by Jesus and saved into heaven), the flourishing group looks at heart transformation (those saved by Jesus and accepted into heaven). 

I could get into such things as REVEAL and Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren and John Piper and John McArthur – which are now old news. 

Might I venture to say that too much of a stretch on either side is bringing the elastic of evangelicalism to a breaking point.

Monday, February 13, 2017

When I asked

I recently had the opportunity to sit with my choral music mentor, Doug Richards.  In my days as a church choir member – while still a teen – Doug sat next to me and impressed upon me the place of vocal music. 

He still holds that the greatest instrument is the human voice.  We can mimic and imitate all sorts of sounds and graceful melodies.

So, I asked Doug:

What is one thing your have learned in your decades of singing and leading music in a church?

“If a song works, go for it.  If it doesn’t work, kill it!”

Good advice.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Fear and Trust

For the longest time I’ve struggled to understand the fear of God.  Mostly the struggle revolves around fear debilitating someone.  In the Bible, the idea is that love casts out fear. 

Very true. 

When someone loves you, you have no fear of them – in the sense that they will always be there to support you.  They will bring justice and stand up for you when an offense happens against you.

We overlook the truth that consequences will happen when we offend and step across the line. 

We are trusting that the one who says there are consequences will be able to fulfil their promises of judgment against those who offend us.

If we truly believe in justice, we will have to believe that justice works equally.  If we are negligent in our own duties, we can expect the consequences.

The flip side of loving trust is justified fear?

Monday, February 6, 2017

The concert–why music is important

Friday night I went to a concert.  Choral music – well done by high school students and young adults.  I was the eager listener seated next to the committed listener (his teen was in the choir).

I had spent part of the concert listening to see who were the outstanding vocalists.  Some were featured as soloists.  Others supported their vocal sections.  No doubt there was talent to be seen and heard.  At the end of the concert I was up and dancing.  Not all music gets me going – this one did. Three things stuck out in the introductions and presentations:

1.  Harmony is based in the universe – I grew up with a song we sung in our boys choir (grades 5-6).  “All things will perish, Music alone shall live.”  The words were rather pretentious – I think God lives forever, as do people.  But there is something to the way sounds harmonize and even have overtones and harmonics which we did not create.  The universe has a harmony of its own that God created.  Certainly nothing we created.

2.  Effective concerts invite you into the experience.  I personally start conducting music, and singing along and infuriating the people next to me!  A good concert gets my toes tapping, or my mind wrapped up, or my emotions overflowing.  There is that razor edge where the choir steps outside of their performance – as much as they enjoy the experience – and somehow projects the words and notes into your life.  In this sense, a sporting event is not much different than a concert.

3.  A concert is about humility and service.  There are enough divas in music.  A good musician recognizes that the music is not just for them – the audience (those hearing) are the real recipients.  Musicians cannot force you to enjoy their music.  They must humbly place their performance in front of you and allow you to chose.  A good musician also recognizes your current life – the concert is a service, not an edict of what you must or must not like.  When we connect, performer and audience, the audience has been humbly served and walks away encouraged and inspired.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Phrases day!

Here are some thoughts that I’ve run across lately:

Priscilla Shirer – The Armor of God (DVD series) – LifeWay

Truth – God’s opinion on any matter

Righteousness is not manufactured – it’s released.

Trust fuels thanksgiving and thanksgiving activates peace.

Your faith needs a job – active faith is a shield for us.  Faith is what you say you believe – in action.

Often promises are not placed in your hand, but within you reach.

Margaret Feinberg – Wonder Struck: Awaken to the nearness of God – Worthy publishing company.

Words are a gift through which we keep the past alive, the present bearable, the future hopeful. (p. 121)

Daniel T. Rodgers – When Truth becomes a Commodity – Chronicle of Higher Education, January 15, 2017 (a version of the article appears in the January 20, 2017 issue as well)

But where truths are utterly free to be individually chosen, where the processes of inquiry are marginalized, the social disintegrates. So does truth. (p. 3)

Ron Baker – The Die Rector – CJVJ media – publication in process.

The coin of life and death.  The currency we spend in life is returned at death – your legacy comes alive at your funeral

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