blog absence

I didn’t plan a blogging absence — but we bought an old house in Port Arthur and all my spare time has been invested in framing, wiring, tearing out lathe and plaster, more wiring, trips to the hardware store… you get the picture. We also did two weeks holidays — and I haven’t been reading much through all this.

I HAVE — on the odd day — written or revised on “Broken Futures.” The book is now half finished — and I’m preparing the submission to a major publisher. I expect to complete the work this fall, so the earliest it will see print is the spring of 2016, and more likely not until the fall.

I also won the Grace Irwin prize for the best Christian book by a Canadian author in 2014. Whether or not No Home Like Place really deserves that award, it was an honor to win!

It’s been a good summer. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of physical work — and lost about 15 pounds in the process, meaning my pants no longer fit! Still a solid bit of work to do before winter, and in particular before September 1st. The plumbing inspector wants a change. The electrical people want to see an arc-fault breaker installed. Keeping the city happy. More to come on this story, but that’s it for this Wednesday!

experimenting into the future

coverIn Introducing the Missional Church Roxburgh and Boren describe the early stages in shifting a church culture as “experimenting into change.” They warn first of risk aversion. What shapes a risk averse culture?

1. some of the theologies of conversion push toward perfectionism
2. a culture of professionalism pushes us toward a need for control
3. church systems are shaped by the need for performative leadership.

The authors argue that we usually select board positions because of demonstrated ability in managing the existing paradigm of church life. These people care deeply for the congregation, and they know how things have been done, but have little sense of alternatives. Furthermore, “performative” leaders (leaders oriented primarily around maintenance) are invested in success as measured by traditional church (and business) values. They do not want to risk shame by leading the church into unknown places. (183-84) Similarly, Kevin Kelly of WIRED Magazine writes, (more…)

encounter with Jesus

imageLuke 24:13-32 and the road to Emmaus. Emmanuel Levinas writes that “A relational life is dependent on encounters that are revelatory.” What’s happening along this dusty stretch of road? Who are these disciples and why are they struggling? Why was Jesus hidden to them? Where is he hidden to us?

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core capacities of missional leaders – Niemandt

Apostolic leadership

The first role given to missional leaders, in their journey towards helping establishing missional congregations is that of “apostle” or “sent one” (Cordier 2014:264). The missional leader is, first and foremost, someone that has been sent by God – that is overwhelmed by the missio Dei – and exemplifies and models the spirituality, values and habits of the missional lifestyle. The implication is that a missional leader’s own journey with God – especially his/her willingness to be constantly embarking on a new journey with God – together with his/her apostolic formation is most fundamental when considering him/her for the role of leading a congregation on the journey to becoming missional (Cordier 2014:264). It is not primarily about strategic thinking or management, but about a grounded and integrated missional theology and an awareness of his/her calling; in which a thorough and internalised knowledge of missional theology – both the missio Dei and the mission ecclesiae – is non-negotiable (Cordier 2014:265).

Rebuilding language houses

The well-known Canadian philosopher – Charles Taylor – says that all the different stories that form part of our lives creates what he refers to as “social imaginary”. Social imaginary shows us how human beings make sense of the world, and is transferred through language, but especially through story. Peter Senge (1994:235,237), refers to mental models – the images, assumptions, and stories that we have within our thoughts regarding ourselves, other people, institutions, and every other aspect of reality. The Old Testament theologian, Walter Brueggemann, explains that language and stories are used to build “houses of language”; complex houses wherein all of us exist/live. It is through language that the world opens up to us and becomes understandable; even more, it is with language that we build our language houses, our reality (Branson 2007:95). (more…)

developing missional congregations – Niemandt

“A key aspect where missional leadership is concerned, is “the discernment of (the) missional vocation” (Van Kooten & Barrett 2004:139) of the congregation. The church’s function can thus be described as participation in God’s mission to the world and the whole of creation (Cordier 2014:82). It is for this reason that the first and most fundamental function of missional leadership is to constantly refocus the congregation’s attention towards God, to discern in faith whether God is present, where He is already at work in the congregation’s context through his Spirit, in order to determine where the congregation can become an active part of God’s already existing mission (Cordier 2014:82). “Listening attentively to the Word, to one another, and to the world is central to participating in God’s mission. The listening must be accompanied by discernment – the Christian practice of attending to God’s call for Christian communities corporately, and for each of us personally” (Van Gelder & Zscheile 2011:151).

“Therefore the missional congregation can most strongly be associated with believers and a church that are constantly moving, with a spirituality of pilgrims on their journey (Cordier 2014:83; Niemandt 2013:78). So a missional spirituality steers clear of the idea that God is distant and uninvolved in daily life – a missional theology builds upon the foundation that God is present and involved, and that His desire is for the transformation of individuals, groups and institutions (Niemandt 2013:78). It is for this reason that discernment is such an important and decisive first step in the process of joining God in his mission; and one of the key aspects of missional leadership, along with creativity and innovation (Niemandt 2013:79). To help clarify this even more, we will now look at the differences between faithful discernment and strategic leadership (SAVGG Konsultantehandleiding 2008:55):

• God wants to be known, that is why He still keeps revealing Himself to his congregations. Discerning leadership lives with the expectation that we are constantly able to learn new things about God.
• Faithful discernment is not a skill, but a gift from God; found when we humbly search for God’s will because we know we do not have the wisdom.
• In the process of faithful discernment my insights become our insights; since God does not lead us in isolation, but for the edification of the congregation.
• All of the above implies that the start of faithful discernment is the deliberate leaving behind of power and the suspension of all our preconceived ideas and beliefs, so that we can become beggars before God.
• If, with this process, a consensus is reached, all involved rest in the knowledge that God has answered.
Faithful discernment is thus about living with the expectation that God will answer; that we will not stare blindly at our own rational understanding and our own solutions, but that we wait expectantly for those from the living God (Cordier 2014:84).

“The skill of discerning is the door to transformation, to renewal of our personal lives, and to the beginning of the renewal of faith communities and the world. As such, discernment is the biggest single challenge facing spiritual leaders in this world of changing contexts; for it involves both divine disclosure and the human shaping of God’s word (Osmer 2008:134), and entails listening to this Word and interpreting it in ways that address particular social conditions, events, and decisions before congregations (Osmer 2008:135). “Discernment is the activity of seeking God’s guidance amid the circumstances, events, and decisions of life” (Osmer 2008:137), “that cultivates within the community the discernment of missional vocation” (Van Kooten & Barrett 2004:139).

Listening attentively to the Word, to one another, and to the world is central to participating in God’s mission; (but only) if the listening is accompanied by discernment – the Christian practice of attending to God’s call for Christian communities corporately and for each of us personally. (Van Gelder & Zscheile 2011:151).

“In doing so, the church affirms that the purpose of God’s mission is fullness of life (John 10:10), and that this is the criterion for discernment in mission (WCC – Together towards Life 2013:73). Jesus calls us out of the narrow concerns of our own kingdom, our own liberation and our own independence (Acts 1:6) by unveiling to us a larger vision and empowering us by the Holy Spirit to go “to the ends of the earth” as witnesses in each context of time and space to God’s justice, freedom and peace. Our calling is to point all to Jesus, rather than to ourselves or our institutions, looking out for the interests of others rather than our own (cf. Philippians 2:3-4).”

Rooted in heaven, growing in place

imageJesus says, “Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.” (John 15:4, MSG) Henri Nouwen writes that everyone lives in one of two houses: the house of fear or the house of love. Many who follow Jesus still live in the house of fear; many who don’t claim to follow him live in the house of love. Who can understand these things? Why are our lives so often dominated by fear? How do we learn to accept Jesus invitation to the house of love?

Scripture: John 15:1-9 / I John 4:7-21

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Jesus for All Nations

Micah 6:8
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Jesus and childrenWhat do justice and the good news of reconciliation mean for Canada’s indigenous peoples? What role does the church have in shedding light on the issues? How do we become a safe and welcoming place for all nations?

The art is by Father John Giuliani, and represents the Navajo people. The portrait is “Jesus and the children.”

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