Friday, November 25, 2011

The Road to Missional

Just finished reading a review copy of "The Road to Missional: Journey to the Center of the Church" by Michael Frost. I really enjoyed this book. As a pastor I have read more "missional" material than you can shake a stick at. Our leadership team is currently working through one of those books right now. Some love it, some hate it, some think it's just restating the obvious in new words. Frost's book does the church a great service as he works to help us understand "missional", the new buzz word, as more than a program or component that you add into "church". Frost works to describe what missional looks like as an ethos. It's a way of thinking that permeates everything you do in life...not just the way you run church. He does this by writing what he calls "...a small guidebook - a list of indicators which will highlight when the missional paradigm hasn't been fully adopted."

He then proceeds to look at how missonal thinking looks impacts areas and ideas like evangelism, membership, the pursuit of holiness, living incarnationally in the world today, and bringing peace to those around us. Frost tells great stories and gives clear examples of what "missional" looks and thinks like, as well as many of the ways this type of living and thinking challenge the ways we currently "do" church.

For me, the most powerful chapter was the one called, "Triumphant Humiliation: The Cross as a missional paradigm for holiness." Far too often we have seen the cross as the message of God's forgiveness and missed the point that it is the method of discipleship. Jesus calls us to follow Him, to take up our cross. In the process of embracing the pain and humiliation that entails, the Spirit's strips away all that keeps us from growing in Christ-likeness.

This is a great book. One that moves beyond the ideology of "missional" and the attempt to program it into what we are already doing to help paint a picture of the missional ethos.

Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How much does "security" cost?

One of the things that frustrates me about the current presidential elections is that with the exception of Ron Paul, no one is saying what I find to be unbelievably obvious. US Military spending is exploiting the poor in the US as well as shooting the economy (and the national debt) in the foot. I'm not saying we don't need a military in the US, or that they should be hampered in the work that they do. I am saying that we need to look at the numbers and be honest...for all the money spent are we really any safer? That's why I liked this article...and the link at the end.

We need to think.

Recently I met with a congressional office to deliver postcards from Mennonites calling for cuts to the military budget. The staffer listened politely and then said, “Well, you know that’s not exactly how people up here [on Capitol Hill] see things.”

There are plenty of practical reasons why the military budget can and should be cut, which analysts across the political spectrum now point out. Over the past decade, the Pentagon’s base budget — not counting war spending — has nearly doubled, taking valuable resources away from other priorities. There are vast amounts of wasteful spending at the Pentagon, which cannot even pass an audit. Weapons systems regularly overrun their budgeted cost, sometimes by billions of dollars. A University of Massachusetts study showed that federal spending on education, health care and clean energy all produce more jobs per dollar than does military spending.

Behind the facts and figures lie some challenging questions that are rarely addressed. How much spending on “security” is ever going to be enough? Do weapons keep us safe or sometimes put us in greater danger? What about the impact on others around the world? Are they safer because of U.S. military might?
Read the whole article here.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Stephen Prothero writes...

"When I turn on the television and see “family values” conservatives jumping to Cain’s defense within hours of the first charges surfacing, or Penn State students rioting over the decision of their university’s Board of Trustees to fire Paterno, I have to ask myself, “What has happened to this supposedly Christian nation"?

I know that in the United States defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty. But I am not talking about the law here. I am talking about where our hearts incline, and whether they incline in a Christian direction."

Your thoughts...?

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Close Enough to Hear God Breathe: The Great Story of Divine Intimacy

Full disclosure. I didn't want to like this book. I've read several books that seek to remind us of how special we are to God. I see their place, but they also frustrate me. Usually as I read them I feel as if the author is trying to bring God down to us instead of reminding us of His greatness and power. They seem to forget that it is all about Him; it is His world, His story that we are living out for His purposes and His glory. Far too often these warm and fuzzy books tend to keep the spotlight on us instead of on God. So I didn't want to like Greg Paul's book.

But I had no choice in the matter. Paul structures his book around the major themes of Scripture (Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation). Within that structure he beautifully tells stories from his own life, using them to provide constant reflections on the intimate relationship we have with God our Father. His personal stories resonated with my own experience as a parent. Even though the focus was how much God loves us, the flow of the book never once let me forget the greatness of God and the power of His grace.

In short, this book was nothing I expected it to be and everything that I hoped it could be. It's an easy read that communicates the powerful truth that we are loved by God, but it does it in a way that leaves us standing in awe of God instead of dwelling on ourselves. I highly recommend it.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson".

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A question worth asking...

"I think that would be an interesting conversation and one that Christians should want..."

I agree.

Your thoughts...?

David Fitch has written a very interesting blog post here. He writes
Here’s a bold claim: the church should put aside all other declarations when it comes to engaging the LGBTQ issues of our day, and start by gathering around the affirmation “We Are Broken.”... Arriving at this posture, I suggest, is the starting point for the engagement of this issue. Of course it is the posture that must be re-inhabited by the community of Jesus Christ whenever she is confronted by any fork in the road that comes when a church body is confronted with a new and or conflictual issue in culture. This posture, labeled by the words “We Are Broken,” is always the starting point for the process of discernment in Christ. We come together under the common agreement “We are Broken” and then invite others to join in as we seek the way forward for healing, redemption and new creation.
You can read the whole post at Reclaiming the Mission. I like what he is saying, but am curious if others have thoughts or counter-points to Fitch's ideas. Leave a comment below and help me work through this in my own head. Thanks.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Have you ruined your life...?

“The person who never makes a mistake and always manages to obey the rules is often a compassionless person, because he sees people for whom the wheels have fallen off and he wonders what’s wrong with them, but the person who feels that he has ruined his life often has more capacity for humility and compassion.” (Brian McLaren)

Taken from a great article about a book that I highly recommend.

Article is here.

Book is here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Death Interrupted...

"We can see that the closer we are to God the less we want to throw stones at other people."

-- Shane Claiborne

Read a great article by Shane here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Everyone is posting something today, 10 years after 9/11. My heart breaks for those who lost loved ones on that day. As a pastor I walk through loss with people on a regular should never be trivialized. It's one of the reasons I long for the return of Jesus, when He makes all things new, when death dies, and life fully comes. So today I pray for all who ache due to what they lost on 9/11. But I thought Will Willimon's comments in Christianity Today poignantly share something that the church lost (or lost sight of) that day. Something less tangible than the life of a loved one, but something very profound. He writes...

On 9/11 I thought, For the most powerful, militarized nation in the world also to think of itself as an innocent victim is deadly. It was a rare prophetic moment for me, considering Presidents Bush and Obama have spent billions asking the military to rectify the crime of a small band of lawless individuals, destroying a couple of nations who had little to do with it, in the costliest, longest series of wars in the history of the United States.

The silence of most Christians and the giddy enthusiasm of a few, as well as the ubiquity of flags and patriotic extravaganzas in allegedly evangelical churches, says to me that American Christians may look back upon our response to 9/11 as our greatest Christological defeat. It was shattering to admit that we had lost the theological means to distinguish between the United States and the kingdom of God. The criminals who perpetrated 9/11 and the flag-waving boosters of our almost exclusively martial response were of one mind: that the nonviolent way of Jesus is stupid. All of us preachers share the shame; when our people felt very vulnerable, they reached for the flag, not the Cross.

September 11 has changed me. I’m going to preach as never before about Christ crucified as the answer to the question of what’s wrong with the world. I have also resolved to relentlessly reiterate from the pulpit that the worst day in history was not a Tuesday in New York, but a Friday in Jerusalem when a consortium of clergy and politicians colluded to run the world on our own terms by crucifying God’s own Son.

9/11 reminds us that the world is broken. And the only way that it will ever be transformed is by the life giving gospel of Jesus.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The U-Turn Church: New Direction for Health and Growth

The U-Turn Church: New Direction for Health and Growth

I recently was given a review copy of Kevin Harney and Bob Bouwer’s book, The U-Turn Church: New Direction for Health and Growth. I am always interested to look at books which speak of church renewal and health, especially ones where the authors are pastors who have worked in churches needing renewal.

Both Harney and Bouwer have been a part of exciting things in their churches, and it was encouraging to read how God has worked in their contexts. The book was filled with all the usual advice, get a crystal clear vision, make sure you focus on Biblical principles rather than personal preferences, take risks, unleash leaders. The ideas are not new, they just have different examples flowing from the experiences of the authors in their church settings.

As a pastor of a small rural church I found myself thinking that this book might be better suited to pastors of larger churches, and that’s probably true. But there was one section that I found very valuable - the power of prayer. The authors share some of their own personal stories and strategies for increasing and deepening prayer in their churches. There were practical applications, as well as a sense that no matter what you do, ultimately it is God who turns churches around. With this foundation for my reading of the book I was able to see it less as a formula or pattern, and more as a living testimony to the fact that God still uses the church to reach the world.

In my younger days I was always looking for that one book that would have the secret to developing a vibrant and vital church. As I have spent time in pastoring and in prayer, I have realized that the key is to deepen my relationship with Christ and to invite others to do the same. This book allowed me to celebrate God’s work in these two churches, as well as calling me to deepen my relationship with Jesus.

So if you’re looking for a won’t find it. If you want to hear how God has worked and be encouraged that He can work in your congregation as well...then this book is worth the read.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

A good reminder...

"How shameful to think that perhaps pagans, people with no faith in Christ,may be better than we and nearer to God’s reign.

Remember how Christ received a pagan centurion and told him, “I’ll go and cure your servant”? The centurion, full of humility and confidence, said, “No, Lord. I am not worthy that you go there. Just say a word and my servant will be cured.” Christ marveled, says the gospel, and he said, “Truly, I have not found such faith in Israel.” (Matthew 8:5–13; Luke 7:2–10.)

I say: Christ will also say of this church: outside the limits of Catholicism perhaps there is more faith, more holiness.

So we must not extinguish the Spirit. The Spirit is not the monopoly of a movement, even of a Christian movement, of a hierarchy, or priesthood, or religious congregation. The Spirit is free, and he wants men and women, wherever they are, to realize their vocation to find Christ, who became flesh to save all human flesh. Yes, to save all, dear brothers and sisters.

I know that some people come to the cathedral who have even lost the faith or are non-Christians. Let them be welcome. And if this message is saying something to them, I ask them to reflect in their inner consciousness, for, like Christ, I can tell them: the kingdom of God is not far from you, God’s kingdom is within your heart. Seek it, and you will find it."

--Oscar Romero, taken from The Violence of Love.

Friday, July 08, 2011

More on how the internet is shaping our thinking...

Just a little follow up to yesterday's post. I think this is something very important to think about. Dissent is a gift. It forces us to look at things from another's perspective. I'd love to hear your thoughts below...

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The world according to Google...

Here's a short article that should get you thinking...

We humans are masters at reinforcing the things we believe and the bias that we hold by structuring our lives and relationships in ways that support them, most of the time without even realizing it. Now it seems that Google is trying to help us with that.

Thanks. Just what I needed. A computer that tells me what I want to hear. God help us all.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The world cannot know...

I have great respect for the Anabaptist tradition within Christianity. It has influenced me in many many ways. Here's a great quote from an awesome article...
The world cannot know the unsurpassable worth of human life without a people who consistently work to protect it - in the fetus, in the convict, in the immigrant, in the soldier, and in the enemy.
Read the whole article here. Read the comments too.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Very Practical Read...

Recently I received a copy of the book you see to your left - Small Groups with Purpose, by Steve Gladen. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. Steve is the small groups pastor at Saddleback. He lives in a whole different "pastoral world" than me. They have over 3500 small groups in their church. That means that for every person I have in the pew on a Sunday morning, Steve oversees 17.5 small groups. But I have found that I really enjoyed and benefitted from reading this book. Steve doesn't present the "tried and true program" that will work for each and every church, but instead tells the story of what he has learned as they have wrestled with helping a church grow smaller as it grows larger.

He begins with focusing in on what exactly it is that we are to be looking for in a healthy and balanced small group. His blend of personal experiences and biblical focus makes this a strong section of the book. Some of his ideas supported what I have seen to be true in our context. Others challenged my thinking and helped me to move out of the rut that I have fallen into after 12 years of pastoral ministry.

The next section of the book is immensely practical as Steve begins to describe important steps in the development of a small group structure that would work in a church of any size. As I read these chapters I found myself could our church really do this? I had to laugh when I hit the next five chapters labeled "Step by Step - How can I do this?" Once again, I appreciated the practical principles that could be applied to any church setting, everything from assessing the spiritual health of groups to identifying and training leaders to developing an organizational infrastructure that supports what the groups are trying to accomplish.

Personally, the most valuable section of the book was the one dealing with how these ideas impact overall church strategy. These chapters helped me to formulate ideas on how to be a church of small groups, rather than a church with a small group ministry. They also gave me insight into what Steve calls their "Campaign Strategy". I'm not going to give details because you need to read the book, but this one concept alone was worth reading the whole book.

Overall, as I said, I was pleasantly surprised. I found this book easy to read and extremely helpful for what I do on a day to day basis in my role as pastor.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Just finished reading the 541 page biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer written by Eric Metaxas. What a great and timely read. Here are my three favorite quotes as some food for thought...

"Where God tears great gaps we should not try to fill them with human words." (349)

"Just as time-lapse photography makes visible, in an ever more compressed and penetrating form, movements that would otherwise not be thus grasped by our vision, so the war makes manifest in particularly drastic and unshrouded form that which for years has become ever more dreadfully clear to us as the essence of the “world.” It is not war that first brings death, not war that first invents the pains and torments of human bodies and souls, not war that first unleashes lies, injustice, and violence. It is not war that first makes our existence so utterly precarious and renders human beings powerless, forcing them to watch their desires and plans being thwarted and destroyed by more “exalted powers.” But war makes all of this, which existed already apart from it and before it, vast and unavoidable to us who would gladly prefer to overlook it all." (373)

"No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence.

Whether we are young or old makes no difference. What are twenty or thirty or fifty years in the sight of God? And which of us knows how near he or she may already be to the goal? That life only really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only prologue before the curtain goes up - that is for young and old alike to think about. Why are we so afraid when we think about death? Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God’s Word. Death is not bitter, if we have not become bitter ourselves. Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in Him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gently it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace.

How do we know that dying is so dreadful? Who knows whether, in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world?

Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death." (531)

The link to this book on or to