\”Concepts create idols, only wonder grasps anything.\” – Gregory of Nyssa

Church Planting

An Open Letter To My Friends: Exposing the Elephant in the Room

Losing the Light

Silence.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” – James 1:19-20

Silence. It is a theme which has filled my life right now. Not the kind of silence where everything around me is quiet but rather the opposite. I have grown silent and for me, it is becoming stifling. It is difficult to write, to dream, to share my thoughts with others, and to speak in public spaces.

As a boy I can remember it being told to me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then you shouldn’t say anything at all.” In a lot of ways I can agree but at what point does it become unhealthy for a person? When is silence no longer good for me; even if I am struggling with the inner wrestlings of unease, frustration, anguish and that which is considered not good?

No; silence is not working out for me any longer. It is over taking me, drowning me in its deafening noise, and killing my spirit. I need to get it out. I need to expel it from my thoughts so that I might better defeat its grasps.

The things you read here may not always be right and they certainly may not always sound good. I just hope you can extend me some grace as I try to put this out so that I can possibly leave it behind.

Vision Casting and the Things of Dreams

For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words… For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.” – Ecclesiastes 5:3, 7

Not long after graduating from Alberta Bible College with my Bachelors Degree in Theology I began asking myself the question; what is my mission in ministry and how can I tie a number of our past projects around an actual vision? I found myself drawn to the story in Matthew 16:13-20 when Jesus and his disciples where passing through Caesarea Philippi.

Jesus, while passing by the shops in the streets, turns to his disciples and says, “Who do the people say that I am?” Their answers vary from a teacher, a moralist, a prophet, and a healer. But he then turns the question around to being very personal in nature as he says again to them, “Who do you say that I am?” What a fascinating and telling question for Jesus to ask! I imagine the surprise as his disciples are taken back by the question. Jesus doesn’t care so much what the people think of him. He wants to know what his followers think of him, and more I think to the point; what they personally think of him. Peter’s answer hits the nail right on the head, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Meditating on that crux in the question it seemed to me that Jesus’ words were transcendent over time. It wasn’t just a question for his followers in Caesarea Philippi. It is a question he continues to ask me and each one of us here today. Who do we say Jesus is? The expressions and answers which we give being worked out not only in our statements and words, but also the actions and lives we live out day to day.

This was a vision I could follow; this was a dream which took over my heart. Seeking expressions of Jesus as Lord in Life and Community. The birth of Expressions.

It was my hope that Expressions could be a community of groups which not only found and built bridges between our culture and the gospel through unique and dynamic ways but that it could also be a place where everyone could grow in leadership through the distinctive callings and gifts Christ’s Spirit placed in each of our lives. The movement of Expressions would not be confined by the traditional avenues of Sunday morning church practices alone but also find new ways to revealing the gospel and the Kingdom of God in all things and in all places.

I shared this vision with our home church community and with the elders. In discussion they seemed concerned over a few issues with Missional Theology but were intrigued and wanted to see more in the way of these groups taking shape.

Over the next two years I developed a number of groups including Re:Genesis, God at the Movies, Expressions of Compassion, Conversations in ESL, Mars Hill Adventure, Adorations, H2O: A Journey of Faith, and a number of community events such as the Grey Cup of Coffee Event and the Super Bowl of Chili. It’s not an exhaustive list of everything we did over the next few years as there were other events but, it is the staple of who we were. I loved every minute of it and felt as though I was living a dream!

Supporting these ministries solely on our own though, I soon realized that I could not keep up this pace while supporting my family and looking after my own personal health. I needed the support of other leadership and those who would dream, aid, advocate, be a voice, build along, and journey with me. So I again turned to the elders in our home community.

A bombshell was dropped. They explained they could not support us as we were seen as an “outside identity” and not really a part of the church.

Feeling Sold Into Slavery

Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver” – Gen. 37:26-28

An outside identity. I felt so alone and unwanted by the elders and leadership in the church. We had been a part of the church community for over 8 years and yet we were still considered an outside identity. Still, the words seemed foreign to me and stung deeply. I found it harder and harder to sit in the back during worship and hold back the tears from filling my eyes, and rolling down my checks. I couldn’t do it any longer and turning to Bonnie I said, “I can’t go back to that church anymore and simply sit in the seats while passing in tithes. There has to be something more.

I felt as though I was being sold into slavery by my brothers. We left. It hurt doing so as we have so many friends and spiritual family there. We still do. I just couldn’t seem to go anymore without the pain of those words cutting deeper and deeper into my heart. I only hope they can understand and find forgiveness.

Exposing the Elephant in the Room

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” – James 5:16

Over the last year and a half we have continued with a number of our groups in Expressions on our own while struggling to maintain a balance with health, time, and finances. In trying to support a number of our groups as well as our own needs; a few years back I took up a job in the local Home Depot. It wasn’t meant to be a long term job as I had hoped to find a place soon on staff in a church community and it wasn’t much in the way of financial support but, it helped with things and enabled me to continue with some of our groups in the house. It has been hard though as it leaves little time for personal health needs and times for rest or family gatherings.

In the last few months I have taken a few personal leadership classes as well as evaluational courses. They’ve been difficult. Not in the intellectual sense but rather because their forcing me to look internally at some things which are glaringly confronting me. They always seem to start with the question, “If you can sum up who you are in one brief sentence, who are you?” Searching for an answer this small voice I’ve been hearing over the last year creeps up inside of me:

  • You are a joke!
  • You are not a pastor nor will you ever be one.
  • You are useless and pathetic.
  • You are the running joke of the pastor community.
  • All the times that people have said that you are great at speaking, teaching, leading, ect… They are only being polite and don’t really mean it.

They are statements which leave me with the questions:

  • What is wrong with me?
  • Is it because I am in a wheelchair?
  • Is it because Bonnie and I do not have any or cannot bear any children?
  • Is it because I do not have enough education or a Seminary Masters Degree?

Call it burn out, a broken heart, or call it something else; I don’t know. What ever it is; it has robbed me of my self confidence entirely. The more I wrestle with this elephant which has invaded the space I call my personal identity; the more I realize that I am facing a deep depression within myself and I don’t know how to defeat it. This depression has slowly eroded my ability to dream and find hope for the future. I don’t know if I have any meaning in my life and if I am of any significance or for any purpose.

This must change…

Repentance and a Desire for Reconstitution

In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!

Psalm 31:1-2

This must change. I honestly do not know how, but I know it must.

We need to learn the difference between the convictions of the Holy Spirit and the accusations of Satan!” Those where the words Scott Weatherford spoke from the front of a church Bonnie and I had gone to after I felt a deep need to be in worship with a community we had not been a part of before. I’m not sure why the words stuck with me but I just seemed to keep playing them over and over in my head. Perhaps God was speaking to me.

Looking back I can realize that this voice that has been speaking to me seems far more accusational in nature then it does a convictional calling to walk in righteousness. I don’t think this excuses the impact of the failure in human leadership within my story and yet I realize my struggle is one which is internally a true battle not against flesh and blood, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) I only pray God might restore my strength, redeem my confidence, and reconstitute  the person he wants me to be in leadership and life.

Over the past few weeks I’ve felt called to commit to some personal steps. I don’t know where they might take me but, I’d like to share them with you.

  • I’ve begun reading through the Psalms. David was a man after God’s own heart and I pray for nothing less then that for myself.
  • I have a deep desire to find a home church which would encourage and help me grow not only spiritually but in leadership and ministry. This might redefine Expressions, and it may not. I leave that in God’s hands as it is in His Kingdom that I serve.
  • I have cut my hours back at work in the Home Depot. This will make things a little tighter in the budget but, I need the time to focus on my personal health and to search out where God may be leading me.

As I mentioned earlier, I realize that things must change and I’m not quite entirely sure how. I only hope that these steps might help and as I take them, Jesus might show me and guide me to the next steps in the journey he wants me to take. If I can borrow Thomas Merton’s prayer, “My Lord God, I have no idea where I’m going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.

I thank you all for your prayers and for the words you might share with me.


Living for Potential (Audio) – My Message at CCCF

Potentiality

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at Canyon Creek Christian Fellowship on Sunday January 2nd, 2011 about Living for Potential while focusing on Matthew 5:48. Although feeling a little rusty, here is what I shared…



To Save a Life – Youth Event

To Save a Life


Expressions Statement of Faith – Any Thoughts?

Statement of Faith

This is a first draft to Expressions Statement of Faith. I would love to hear any constructive feed back from my tribe and readers!

Purpose/Mission

The Purpose and Mission for all of our members is Seeking Expressions of Jesus as Lord in Life and Community (Matt. 16:13-20). This mission is accomplished as we take the gospel message of Jesus into the relevant and daily life experiences we encounter both individually and as a community (Matt. 28:16-20).

Beliefs and Statement of Faith

  • We believe in one God in three persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Eph. 4:4-6; John 4:24; John 10:30)
  • We believe God is the creator of all that there is seen and not seen, understood and mysterious, questioned and answered. (Gen. 1:1; Isa. 42:5; John 1:3; Acts 17:24;26)
  • We believe in one Lordship over all things, places, contexts, and people through Jesus Christ as the son of God. (Matt. 16:16; John 1:14; 10:30; 14:6-7; Col. 1:18)
  • We believe Jesus suffered and died for our sins as he was crucified on the cross, that three days afterwards he was resurrected in body, that he ascended into heaven, and that he lives eternally at God’s right side. (Mark 16:19; John 20:17; Acts 1:9; Rom. 4:24b-25)
  • We believe that all people can find redemption, forgiveness, and righteousness through holistically enacted faith in Jesus Christ. (John 3:16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 10:9-10; James 2:18)
  • We believe that the Bible is the whole and complete Word of God meant to equip, teach, and inspire all followers of its reading. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
  • We believe in the unity of one church under Christ Jesus through Biblical Christian practices. (John 17:20-21)
  • We believe that all followers of Jesus are blessed and gifted according to the good works Christ calls them too through his Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:4; Gal. 5:22-24)
  • We believe in the full immersion baptism of all who hold these beliefs to be true as a physical commitment and representation of God’s grace before all his followers. (Acts 2:38; 41; 16: 31-33; Galatians 3:27; 1 Peter 3:21)

Values

We each acknowledge ourselves being within our own unique contexts, experiences, history, and relationships but are united by Expressions Mission and Five Interlocking Values. As such we seek community by balancing a holistic practice of all said values within our faith and in everything we do.

Passionate SpiritualitySpiritual Reading (Scripture); Spiritual Speaking; Spiritual Breathing; and Spiritual Acting

Radical DiscipleshipInvitational Living; Incarnational Living; Infusional Living; Inspirational Living
(Please See (i)Living Covenant)

Authentic CommunityHospitality; Unconditional Acceptance; Intentionality; Relevant

Transformational MissionRecognize a Need; Collaborate; Acknowledge a Kingdom Relevance; Take Action

Holistic StewardshipPeople; Wealth/Materials; the Environment


Further Thoughts of Christian Plodding and the Dangers of Consumeristic Church

No Explanations Inside the Church

It seems in the past few years I have been confronted by a growing dichotomy which seems to be taking shape within our Christian Church. Set up between two frontlines the Missional and Emergent tribes seem to call for radical reformation while the more streamline and orthodox seem to take this as a personal attack claiming these thoughts as being a loss of accountability at best and at worst, borderline heresy. So which is it and where do we find God at work within it all? Most importantly… where does politics give way to Kingdom love?

Not that long ago a friend of mine quoted Kevin Deyoung from a blog post called ‘The Glory of Plodding’. He said, “What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. That’s my dream for the church — a multitude of faithful, risk taking plodders.” What an inspiring deliberation and yet I wonder; can you be a faithful, risk taking plodder without running the risk of cultural revolutionary reactions?

The Apostle Peter was a plodder too and while he stood before thousands of people he spoke from his heart, “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17) Much like Peter perhaps the plodders of our time have a dream in uncharted waters; and our visionaries are leading us towards a revolution – one which is counter cultural not counter Christological!

The dangers of consumeristic church are most definitely rooted in a lack of commitment and the spiritual cannibalistic practices of “what’s in it for me?” My fear is that this reality has become not just individualistic in practice but also corporately expressed through the ideological expectations of set ecclesiological mandates. Let’s face it, Christian accountability is something which is centered not on maintaining an existing ecclesiology but upon the commitment to the missionary plodding of sending all of Christ’s followers into the world united with an impassioned vision for God’s Kingdom drawing near to every fabric of life.

So what of love for God’s Kingdom? Richard Neuhaus once said, “It is easy to think that we love an abstract, spiritualized, de-historicized Church just as it is easy to love abstract, spiritualized, de-historicized people. In truth to love abstractions is not to love at all; it is but a sentimental attachment to our own whimsies.

In truth I can say I love God’s Kingdom but in so doing I am in love with God’s people; in all places, forms, traditions, and diversities. To not recognize the riches of this virtue brings heed to Jesus’ warning that, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.” (Matt. 11:17)

Does the dichotomy between Missional/Emergent and Main Stream Church demand revolutionary mentality? I do not know but, in the words of Martin Luther King I’ve been hearing a lot lately… “I have a dream today!” Maybe the church itself should spend some time dreaming too.


I Believe in the Enigma of Expressions

“Where were you when Crosby scored the golden goal?” That was the question I woke up to this past Monday morning as I sat there sipping my hot coffee and watching the Global Morning News. Like 85% of the rest of Canada I was sitting on the edge of my seat in front of the TV praying for a miracle!

As I watched the highlights one more time the theme song of “I Believe” crept into my thoughts and I began to wonder, just what is it that I believe in? Over the past few weeks Canada has been swept away in a spirit of national and global pride, of communal unity, and the celebration of gifted success in athleticism. But that belief also came in the form of unique and diverse accomplishments of greatness.

As a follower of Jesus I believe faith is united through the crux that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah and Lord over all of life and creation (John 3:16-17). But I also believe that this enigma is expressed through each individuals passions, gifts, and talents as they grow in relationship with Jesus (Matt. 16:15-19). I suppose that is where the story of Expressions Community begins and why I follow a mission of Seeking Expressions of Jesus as Lord in Life and Community.

This mission has led and continues to lead Bonnie and I through some amazing Expressions of Jesus such as our Re:Genesis group which offers support and inspiration to those who face challenges in life. Re:Genesis is meant to inspire people who face many challenges; and not necessarily just physical examples either but all trials in existence, to find a sense of new life and values which encourage us with purpose and significance in God’s calling.

God at the Movies has found Expressions of belief and truth in today’s parables and silver screens. I laughed as my friend Mike who is not a follower of Jesus (yet) began to grow in faith as he said to me, “Going to watch a movie and talk with my friends at Expressions just didn’t seem like going to church!” I couldn’t help but see the paraphrase in Jesus’ words to his disciples (Matt. 13:10-17).

Expressions has also led us to take on many transformational missions such as Conversations in ESL and Expressions of Compassion at the Mustard Seed each month. I am particularly looking forward to our Adventures in Mars Hill mission this April as we lead a group down to the Body, Soul, and Spirit Expo to share about a Kingdom which makes the unknown God known to those who are seeking the truth (Acts 17:23). We did this last September 2008 and were blown away by the miracles we experienced. We were touched after receiving a letter from Perry who we had developed a friendship with while at the Expo as she wrote, “You were the unplanned special gift that will hold a sacred place in my heart when I think of my Calgary trip. The light and radiance you two send out into the world is like a magnetic veil of pure unconditional love.”

The mysteries of belief are not always an easy road to travel as even Jesus said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matt. 7:14) I count myself blessed and privileged to be one of those who finds himself in the midst of expressing that enigma of belief.
Perhaps you are asking too “Who do I say Jesus is?”, “What is it that I believe?”, and “How do I express that belief?” Perhaps we can explore that enigma together and what it means to follow Jesus as Lord in Life and Community. Perhaps together we can find Expressions of Jesus – www.expressionscommunity.org.


Praying for Heart for Home in Haiti

Bonnie’s and my prayers are reaching out to our friends Ricot and Mandy Leon in Haiti after the earthquake yesturday. I pray for their safety, courage, and wisdom. Please Jesus let their faith be a light to the many in need there today. I ask that they might be strong in the face of disaster and that God might bring hope to their hearts, minds, and spirits!

Please visit: http://heartforhome.wordpress.com/


Gary Collins on Fundamentalism and Liberalism

Several months ago my pastor and friend Norm forwarded me a copy of Gary Collins newsletter which had an interesting comment regarding Emergent – Missional Churches and the tensions between Theological Liberalism and Fundamental Calvinism.

What do you think?

I have followed the emergent-emerging-missional church movement since its appearance only a few years ago. Initially its roots were evangelical but it has expanded in different directions ranging from hard-core Calvinism to a loose liberalism that appears to dismiss or redefine most basic tenets of Christian faith and biblical theology. There is a theological drift in many emergent circles, a lack of accountability, a hyper-criticism of traditional or seeker-sensitive megachurches, and sometimes an uncritical embrace of postmodern philosophies. But this is not true of all, despite the sometimes strong condemnation from a few traditional Christian leaders or professors. At its core, emergent churches, mostly with younger leaders and congregations, are working to reach a contemporary, mostly postmodern, generation for Christ. This is a generation of thirty-somethings and under who consider themselves spiritual and want to know about Jesus. But they are turned off by their perceptions of formal religion. They are described in books like UnChristian (by David Kinnaman), They Like Jesus but Not the Church (Dan Kimball), or I’m Fine with God…It’s Christians I Can’t Stand (Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz).

Along with therapeutic skills and Biblical knowledge, shouldn’t Christian counselors understand the cultural foundations of their counselees and the context in which their problems are embedded? Counselees under 35 or 40 have been raised in a generation saturated by the media, technologically sophisticated, skeptical of your expertise, interested in spirituality but resistant to anything that looks like formalized religion. Even so, they are open to spiritual issues. Counselors can and often do earn the respect and trust of these people but it helps if we are sensitive to their worldviews and able to understand that they may like our Jesus but not like our Christianity.


Visiting Mars Hill in Calgary: The Body, Soul, & Spirit Expo

Perhaps one of my favorite stories in Acts is of when Paul and Silas visit Athens and the home of the Olympics. Surrounded by their art, there architecture, culture, and the people who were in desperate need to seek a god to which was unknown to them; Paul brings a message of truth, of love, of acceptance, and makes an unknown god become a known God.

Even today his opening statement to the philosophers and teachers seems to reach through the fabric of time and speak to the people of Calgary and even the world as we know it.

“People of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed your many objects of worship, I found also an alter with this inscription, ‘To An Unknown God’.” – Acts 17:22-23

This coming Friday September 19th, 2008 through Sunday September 21st, 2008 the Body, Soul, and Spirit Expo will be coming to Calgary. As I picture the many people walking up and down the rows of different objects of worship and “temples to unknown gods” I cannot help but sense the calling of Jesus to follow in his footsteps as Paul did and live out the gospel message in the midst of these people.

That is why I would like to invite you to join us as we ‘Relax, Sit, & Pray’ with those who will be at the Body, Soul, and Spirit Expo that weekend. Come out with us as together we can Encounter, Experience, and find Expressions of Jesus in the midst of those who are seeking him most. Together we can bring the Way, the Truth, the Life, and a Light into a place where there once was darkness!!

“What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.” – Acts 17:23


Renewed Meanings and Practices in Places of “Ecclesia”

In some sense of the meaning I think as a people we are still exploring this idea of “What is the church?” Maybe not so much as to the collective interpretations of its Biblical roots in the Koine Greek context of “ecclesia” (“gathering of people”) but perhaps in the ways context, culture, and community dynamics shape and express its significance and purpose as they encounter the living gospel.

In some ways I think this becomes a transcendent question which we must always ask just as we must always be willing to listen to the transcendent question of Jesus who asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-20) . The church becomes a physical expression of both individual and communal belonging to the Lordship of Jesus, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and embedded into the DNA of Communal projection and incarnation! Some of you might recognize this statement as it is one of my favorite quotes however; even within the early forth century the church and Gregory of Nyssa recognized that, “Concepts create idols. Only wonder grasps anything.” (1 Cor. 13:9-12) It is these thoughts, these passions which tend to trigger my imagination in the wonderment of the ways the early Christians of the first and second century found church in the catacombs and market places; church in the synagogues and temples; church in the “living rooms” and “kitchens” of peoples homes! (Just some passages to ponder when reflecting on the “gathering of ecclesia” – Matt.13:2; 18:20; Mark 1:29-34; 2:2; John 10:22-24; Acts 10:23-27; 12:12)

Yes, ecclesia is a gathering of believers but it is also far more richer and deeper then that. It is an intermingling of believers engaging with non-believers with the intent of incarnationally being “little” Jesus’ in their community; and it is diverse in giftings, talents, spiritual and physical expressionisms. Ecclesia is the wonderment and amazement of seeing the story of God’s people living out his presence among us through our discipleship and relational following of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. To be a church in the midst of our community is to commit to the acknowledgement that, “They will know we are Christians by our ____________.” (Gal. 5:16-25) And not by our buildings, size, numbers, programs, and/or organizational/denominational/governmental status!

In answering the call to be a disciple of Jesus, I personally find the greatest meaning, purpose, and significance to “ecclesia” through the ways in which we enact as a community of believers the central core values which we find within our relationship’s to the “missio dei” (“character and essence of God”). Within MTC it is our five G’s and respectively in Bonnie’s and my heart as individual disciples; it is the five concentric values of Expressions.

As a church we become fully committed disciples to Jesus and our community through the embodiment of the 5 G’s. Yes, Expressions model has taken those values into a new context (a coffee shop) but in many ways I wanted you to see the relationship Expressions values has with MTC’s. As such I illustrated the 5 G’s below with the intent of crossing over there meanings and significance with that of the Expressions model.

Grace ——-> Authentic Community
Generosity —> Radical Stewardship
Groups ——> Transformational Mission
Growth ——> Holistic Living/Discipleship
Gifts ——–> Passionate Spirituality

When we met Tuesday, May 6th I briefly shared with you three identified areas to which Michael Frost describes the practices of “ecclesia” taking place. In brief they were the Home Place, the Work or Corporate Place, and the Third Place. All are valid and all find equal standing as quantifiable church gathering communities. In a diagram Frost articulates these areas using a pie chart which is divided into thirds. Hold on to this vision for a moment.

To also describe in brief, Alan Hirsch articulates the patterns of church being shaped through three distinctly different ideological perceptions. They are Bonded Set, Fuzzy Set, and Center Set Church dynamics. Most favorably he refers to the Centered Set church as one which remains missionally centered on its core values (i.e. – the 5 G’s and there relationship to mission) while extending outwards in all directions to reach all people within the community (both considered “in” the church and “outside” relationally). In appearance it seems chaotic however; with an anchored core God’s mission becomes gravitationally centripetal and is then always drawing people back to the central core value as an enactment of Lordship (i.e. – mission – to be disciples of Jesus). Illustratively he uses the picture of herding cats! You can’t tell them where to go but you can show them where the food is!

Personally, I noticed a distinct connection between both Frost’s and Hirsch’s ideas if you overlapped the two models. Frost’s Three Place settings became the chaotic landscape to which Hirsch’s Centered Set dynamics could be enacted and relationally connected. We can and should find/develop ecclesia in all three settings as it is defined through gathering and the core values and intention of being disciples of Jesus (i.e. – mission and the 5 G’s).

I realize this is a lot of “deep thinking” and I would love the opportunity to unpack it further with you personally if you would like. What I do want to try and address is the similarities Expressions model has with MTC as a church and perhaps, the different ways in which Bonnie and I dream of expressing them (pardon the pun). Is the Expressions model just a business? How can a Coffee shop be a church?

In the practical sense Expressions is hoped to be a non-profit organization shaped by a church board and centered on enacting its core values for the practices of ecclesia through Worship, Discipleship, and Mission. My hope is to find accountability and authority through starting its roots within our home here at MTC and sharing this vision with our friends and church family while we grow together.

With regards to its “charity” status; I have spoken at length with a number of government representatives about these ideas who have assured me that this is entirely possible provided the accounting and books are in accordance with such non-profit structures. Admittingly this is not my strong suite. As a side note I will refer you to the previously mentioned “non-profit” coffee shops I have already spoke about which are ‘FRWY’ (pronounced Free Way) in Hamilton, Ontario and ‘The Talkin’ Donkey’ in Vernon, B.C. In some sense, I implore you to check out FRWY’s website. If you really want to see how a coffee shop can be a church, I think they are an incredible example!

As for worship; the answer is yes! This is something which can be shaped by Expressions board as it grows however using FRWY’s example; they close the shop every Saturday and Sunday as they either hold functions, rent out to groups (non-profit or otherwise), and hold Worship services Sunday evenings! Creatively thinking I imagine we would do much the same things we do and can do in MTC such as Bible Study’s, Weddings, Baptism’s, missional out reach to the surrounding community through groups, and special events/holiday activities. Limitations to this creative thought patterns in expressions of discipleship both in MTC and Expressions becomes endless considering the nature of each individual’s personal encounter with the gospel and their relational bridges to those in the community. The challenge is in trying to stimulate those independent creative natures and develop their passions around them.

Differentially it becomes more difficult to answer. Yes, we will be supporting our ministry and facilitating our community through an environment which “sells” specialized coffee and possibly food throughout the week. We may be spatially smaller but when looking at FRWY that does not mean we must be especially small. FRWY used an old CIBC building and can facilitate probably up to 60-80 people. I’m not so sure this is necessarily different as I believe MTC can do this too however, it is hoped Expressions can reach out to the artistic crowds and as such be a host environment for those communities whether musical, poetic, or otherwise.

Can Expressions be a church? In short, my hope, my dream is YES IT CAN!!!


Aim Lower

My friend Janet at church this past Sunday shared an amazing video before describing her future trip to Africa and here hopes and dreams in children’s ministry. The intent was for how these principles apply to the children and youth dynamic. I however, could not help but pick up on the values these principles have with regards to missional focus, regardless of dynamics (or maybe it’s just the childish nature within me :) ).

Aim Lower

Quit simply it seems instinctively connected to that thought “We must lower the bar on professionalizing Church and raise the bar on Discipleship.”

Think Smaller

Typically we to often tend to measure the success of a church by the membership numbers which it sustains. Success becomes more of an over inflated under used corporate ego then it does a living out of the gospel’s missional focus to be Jesus within all contexts, cultures, and communal dynamics.

Thinking smaller means recognizing that it is the smaller acts of fulfilling needs which becomes an embodiment of the gospel message. Professionalism in the clerical sense is not a mandate but, the incarnational practices of the smaller groupings and individuals are what really allow the Holy Spirit to communicate that “the Kingdom of God is near”.

Give Up

Ideological principles of what the church is and what it should be have robbed the creative expressions to which the Holy Spirit has meant the Church to be. “Ecclesia” was never meant to be a franchised McChurch environment and was rather intended as a living expression to the embodiment and entity of Jesus being ever present both as Lord and communal sustainer.

Like most living organisms the church is rich with diversity and uniqueness in gifts, talents, and abilities. It breaths, moves, and grows within the different cultures, contexts, and communal dynamics to which it is introduced. By Giving Up the mandates of ideological principles and structures which do not hold the gospels truth at heart, we can embrace “new” ways which can effectively cross all barriers and articulate the Lordship of Jesus to all people.

Go Have a Cup of Coffee

This was perhaps a bias point in the video clip for me. I love being able to meet up with a friend or just someone new for a cup of coffee at a local shop! I think scripturally of Jesus’ call of the disciples as he collaborated with them where they were at. He went fishing, he went to their house parties, their dinner parties, and he walked and talked with them along the roads and market places.

Discipleship was a relational act of living with people not an initiation of rights and dogmatics. Go Have a Cup of Coffee is about relationally living with one another and engaging in a dialogue which constructively encountered the truth as a living entity.

Well anyways, here is the video:


Patterns of Ideology and the Christian Church: Conception

Several months ago I had the opportunity to attend a conference at the First Christian Reform Church here in Calgary. I was looking forward to attending as Brian McLaren was going to speak on his new book ‘Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope’. Following the evenings events however, I found myself completely intrigued by the first speakers thought patterns and allegories to contemporary life.

Bob Goudzwaard is professor emeritus, at the Free University in Amsterdam. He was elected to the Dutch Parliament in the 1970′s and served for a time in a Christian policy research institute in The Hague. He is the author of numerous books including ‘Capitalism and Progress: A Diagnosis of Western Society’ and ‘Hope in Troubled Times: A New Vision for Confronting Global Crises’. It was the latter of these two books which I picked up that evening in the hopes of getting deeper into his thoughts and principles.

‘Hope in Troubled’ Times was a fascinating book into the needs and concerns for Global action and is packed full with conceptual pictures leading to rich and dynamic dialogues. That said, Bob Goudzwaard spends a great deal of time unpacking the patterns in which ideological practices have influenced the way we approach the many issues which confront human values and social constructs. Although not directly stating it in his writing, I could not help but make the connections of ideological patterns and the Christian Church.

Before delving into these thoughts though I think it should be appropriate for me to give a bit of a disclaimer. I am by no means an expert on ideologies or the history of the Christian Church. In honesty, I do not consider myself to be highly schooled or educated in these matters either. Many of these thoughts to which I share here are more rather an exploration of my own personal nature and relationship with the church and the desire to be authentic in the discipleship of Jesus and his followers. Please do not consider them authoritative by any measure!

With this in mind here are Bob Goudzwaard’s six elements to Ideology with my reflections to the Christian Church:

Conception

The first phase of each full fledged modern ideology is conception. In the conception phase, the conviction develops that a radical change or intervention is required. Certain concepts and ideas demand different, perhaps more offensive, content. People begin to reflect on the end they wish to attain, and they weigh the strategic and tactical means needed for reaching the end. In the conception phase more and more people accept the idea that a specific concrete goal must be achieved at all costs…

… Using the distortion of reigning norms and values, the ideology recruits disciples, and the critical moment arrives for potentially successful action. The highly charged, explosive moment for setting the ideology in motion has crystallized.” 

It is hard to imagine the state of unrest which most Hebrew Israelites would have been experiencing several thousand years ago as Caesar and the Roman Empire brought “peace” to the world through there military occupation and rulership in Palestine. Seeing daily reminders of the cost to that peace through the crucifixion of thousands of their people would no doubt scream for social, political, and cultural reform. Most assuredly against Roman and Greek Hellenism.

It seems interesting that many of the conceptions of that reform took many different view points within Jewish beliefs and hopes. Despite the strong calling of worshiping one God the Pharisee’s believed a Messiah would come providing that social reform happened within the Jewish community itself to a state of perceived moral perfection. The Zealots wanted reform through the over throw of Roman occupation; typically through violent confrontation. While others, such as the Essenes chose to withdraw from society all together as they created social communities out in the dessert country side free from the influences of the outer world’s contact. I can imagine sitting in the living room floor or at the kitchen table of a first century Jewish home and listening to the debate along with any combination of these needs and desires for social revolt and reformation.

In my own thoughts I think of the groups today who similarly resemble these first century factions. Ideologically many in the Christian church today believe there is a need to return to a specific moral code. That code is often determined by a world view which pictures the past, particularly the 1950′s and 60′s as an ideal moral state for social progress. Ironically this seems similar to the Pharisee’s of the first century. Amish have tended to segregate themselves from the social world believing it to be corrupt and enslaved to consumerist patterns (perhaps in some ways being right) which also is similar to the Essenes.

In some ways I can’t help but wonder about the Missional and Emergent groups which in essence are also attempts to conceive a “Kingdom” or church which is culturally relevant and centered on God’s Missio Dei. My own draw is for this reform in a holistic pattern also. The missional stand point is for the need of the Christian church to find greater roots in the way Jesus first conceived the essence of God’s Kingdom here on earth and the way he found Lordship over the hearts and minds of those who would follow him.

Jesus’ conception of God’s Kingdom and the implications of its social, moral, political, and cultural reformations seem to be eternal in nature so as to be relevant in all spaces and time. With that in mind, how then do we protect missional and emerging practices of that kingdom from becoming ideological themselves or influenced by social, political, and/or cultural bias’s?


Identifying Marketing Strategies of Competition and the Incarnational Approaches of Expressions

As you may already know Expressions has been a long time dream for me and I have been spending a good deal of time focusing my energies on writing a business plan to implement hopefully within the next year. In truth, I am nervous as to my adequacy in carrying out this dream as much of my character is describable as “highly relational” and business is not necessarily something I have been schooled in or have a lot of experience in.

With this in mind I would like to share a portion of Expressions Marketing Strategy with you in the hopes you will offer comments and critique it’s positive and negative projections. I have offered links within it as to ideas and principles which I have borrowed from others as well as incorporated from my own philosophies and beliefs. Please keep in mind that this is in my eyes not just a business but a ministry also in the hopes of bringing a relevant and living gospel to the southeast communities of Calgary.

MARKETING STRATEGY – DESCRIPTION OF KEY COMPETITORS

The major coffee shop providers for the south east quadrant of Calgary are predominantly the franchised or corporate movements of Starbucks, Tim Horton’s, or Second Cup. Their locations are usually targeted to high traffic shopping locations found both on 130th Avenue and the Douglas Glen shopping mall. Auburn Bay is a developing community and with the hospital and surrounding industrial complex, Expressions does anticipate one or more of them to be a competing factor.

These competitors predominantly focus their marketing through three streams. They are Visual Presence, Convenience, and Fast Service. Visual presence targets customers through the simplicity of publicizing the marketed logo in accessible visual avenues located within close proximity to the store itself. Convenience offers the customer quick access to a product which is dependably similar to the other locations considered associates of the franchise or corporation. Finally, fast service provides the customer with the product in a quick fashion ideally through either the provided store front or a drive through window at a cheep price.

With the projection of most reports in customer growth, Tim Horton’s is expected to continue to grow in demand with the major focus being on convenience. Although offering a number of products their main drawing point and focus is on the sale of coffee. Other products include baked goods, snack products, and home style lunches. Due to franchise partnerships and the demands created by them their products have diversified greatly and in appearance it seems they will continue to develop into more of a restaurant then a coffee house focused on community development.

MARKETING STRATEGY – ANALYSIS OF COMPETITIVE POSITION

Expressions intends to use an (i)ncarnational model of marketing both in product services and community development. By this Expressions means to focus on four avenues to connecting with customers and the local community. They are Presence, Proximity, Powerlessness, and Proclamation.

The practice of Presence is in some ways similar to that of the competition in that it uses the marketing logo image in strategic avenues of visual accessibility to draw the customers in. However, Expressions presence can also be visualized through community involvements such as participating with other social gatherings which are externally located from its central location. Through the sale of coffee mugs the marketed presence can also be brought into the home. Other avenues of presence can come through the visual invitation of mail outs, posters, and local news letter postings, giving advertising to Expressions community events along with product offerings.

Proximity becomes Expressions desire to enter the lives of the local people where they currently are involved and create a gravitational connection to those movements and that of Expressions. By that we mean to shape our involvements around the needs and cultural placements of local practices. Coffee Products and small baked goods/snacks will be offered according to the tastes of the customers. Likewise, Expressions community involvements both internal and external will be highly influenced by the customers social needs, dreams, passions, and social involvements. In many ways the practice of proximity is unique to Expressions compared with its competition as the intent is to serve the customer holistically rather then the products.

The element of powerlessness is intended to again focus on the needs and service to the customer through relational contact. We would like Expressions, its environmental spaces, and community groups to be open and usable by all regardless to the buying of products, beliefs, or social positions. Expressions does not wish to put parameters on anyone who is entering the store front and instead intends to build relational fronts first while then exposing them to the benefits of products and community involvements. In essence, Expressions is placing the power into the hands of the customer while remaining powerless in its self propagating agendas holding faith to the customer bringing sustainability to its developments.

Finally proclamation brings voice to the growth and developments of the Expressions movement. Following the establishment of a physical presence, creating a gravitational proximity to the local community and customers, and remaining open and inviting through states of powerlessness; Expressions can pursue marketing through the practice of proclamation. By nature as customers encounter the benefits and find good value in Expressions products and social involvements they will then tell others about its services and community. This can happen not only through invitation but also through the witnessing of local social activist groups which are involved with Expressions.


Thoughts of Rebirth from the Tree of Life

I used to spend my summers out in Cilliwack with my grandfather. Actually, he was the caretaker for the local girl guides camp and what teenage boy could refuse going out and helping his grandfather in such an adventurous endeavor but to look after those who would stay in such beautiful places!!

Hollow TreeI can remember many times heading into Vancouver and hanging out in Stanley Park with my uncles and grandfather after a day in the fish markets. These are memories which will always stay with me for the rest of my life. One of these memories is climbing around and inside this hollow old tree! I still remember what blew my mind the most was to fathom that this tree actually was just a little seedling trying to grow on the shores of BC during the time that Jesus walked the earth!!! Did you know that?

Recently the provincial authorities have been discussing the need to bring the tree down. It’s not that they do not recognize its beauty or the many that have personal memories of great significance which are centered around this tree. It simply is becoming too dangerous for it to remain in such a public position. It has saddened many in the communityto see this and some have attempted to petition the government to maintain the tree as a national landmark.

When things die, it is a time for mourning and emotions always take us back to the memories of old. The sad state to this tree’s standing is not so much the case of BC’s government not being willing to spend the funds necessary to brace it. Truth is, it is already being held by a number of guide lines and support structures which the parks department has put in place. The sadness comes when we reflect on the community’s unwillingness to find the beauty in God’s plan for natural creative rebirth within nature!

Metaphorically I have heard many pastors reflect on the hollow nature of this tree as being reflective to the dangers of the individual following Jesus with an outer appearance at the neglect of a truthful heart. But, what does this look like in the sense of community and corporate placements? What does the metaphor look like when considering the gathering of the church?

I think in some senses it is dangerous to consider the ideologically accepted norm to be eternally sustainable. Beauty IS what is in the heart – the memories, the community and social movements, the moment (space & time) – in the truest sense… the SPIRIT! That is something that cannot be replaced however nor is it something which can be eternally prolonged. Things change and social dynamics die.

We have something else though to fall back on which is promised through Jesus. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:25). We have the promise of rebirth. We have the promise of… Resurrection!!!

What are some of the resurrection stories or metaphors to which you have in your life?


Expressions Vision for the Future

Expressions is projected to be a missional endeavor into the S.E. corner of Calgary, Alberta. Its intention is to create a community where people can explore self expression in creative, dynamic, and constructive ways; embody a holistic identity; empower one another in their dreams, passions, and gifts/talents; and engage the world by seeking to make a difference within local transformational endeavors.

It is not meant to be a church by traditional understanding but is hoped to be the simpler, more intended picture of what the church was meant to be in a biblical perspective. Plainly stated, it is a gathering of people; a diverse and socially inclusive community which develops a kinship through the shared experiences and expressions of acceptance, purpose, patience, generosity, advocacy, accountability, hospitality, culture, civility, spirituality, and proximity with one another.

The community of Expressions then becomes a missionally directed entity which seeks to develop Passionate Spirituality, Holistic Incarnational Living, Intentional Community, Transformational Discipleship, and Radical Stewardship. Much of this missional perspective can be expected to come from the creative and imaginative expressions to which the community itself brings into existence. Expressions simply provides a centralized space to which each member can use as a launching pad of sorts for their own missional expressions of the above values.

The purpose and power behind allowing creativity and imagination to shape these values is probably best articulated by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost in their book ‘The Shaping of Things to Come’; “This failure to make space for active creativity is a problem of organizational culture long before it is a problem of fact. Therefore it is a failure of leadership when imagination as a vital resource for mission and ministry is not truly valued… we need to cultivate imagination and creativity afresh in order to communicate meaningfully into the emergent cultural paradigm in the west.”

In essence this is what we hope for the average Expressions Community Member:

After seeing our sign on the side of the street one afternoon, he/she enters the Expressions atmosphere with the intent of finding a place to sit and enjoy a cup of espresso. He/She is greeted warmly by the staff and served promptly with great politeness at the serving counter.

After finding a comfortable chair and table he/she begins to take in the environment of Expressions. There is upbeat music playing softly in the background with the sweet smell of fresh coffee and perhaps a hint of incense in the air. There is a small open stage with sound equipment and a mounted flat screen T.V. on the side of it with video playing of natural scenery and wild animals. Beside the stage flickers a lighted fire place which was blowing warm air into the room.

To the left is a brightly colored wall with the words at the top saying “The use of the Mission Statement is dead and the Mantra has taken its place. The Mantra being Expressions of…” Then all around the wall were words such as Needs, Hope, Kindness, Hospitality, Friendship, Music, Talent, Environmentalism, Faith, Epiphany, and Health. Around these words were lots of pictures and posters articulating different groups which meet in Expressions and were socially active throughout the local community and the city of Calgary. There was contact info and in some cases, places to leave your name and information if you were interested in joining up with any of these groups.

It was also noticeable that the rest of the walls were filled with different art pieces with write ups beside them where local artists were selling pictures, art, and talents to those who entered Expressions. There was also book racks and book shelves with gift baskets, coffee mugs, cd’s, and books under all sorts of topics.

After a few minutes of sitting there sipping the hot espresso, he/she is approached by Erik or someone else who was in the shop and greeted with an introduction. Over the course of the next few minutes (maybe longer depending on the connection), a friendly relational conversation was shaped talking about what the Expressions Community was about and getting to know one another. Before leaving Erik (or whoever the other person is) hands him/her his card and invites the individual to return either for one of the evening events that was going on or for just another espresso and visit.

Over time it is hoped to build that relationship in the exploration and hope of that persons “expressions” becoming part of the community itself whether it was joining an existing group, or starting one of there own, or simply participating in the local events and presentations that happen in and with Expressions Coffee & Tea House.


Christmas at Expressions: Better Late then Never!

O.K. I know it is a little late. Between a new camera and my not knowing how to use it; it took a bit for me to figure out how to do this. Anyways, hope you enjoy the Christmas video!


Guy Kawasaki and The Art of the Start: A Fresh Look at Entrepreneurial Evangelism

O.K. O.K. I know at first it seems like an oxymoron. How can entrepreneurial endeavors have anything to do with evangelistic practices? Perhaps it is from a “secular” framework but I think we could learn a lot from some of the ideas Guy Kawasaki talks about in his book ‘The Art of the Start’! What do you think?

Here is a great video of Guy talking about some of the things he has learned over the past decade in business. Mac users BEWARE!!! Ha, ha!


Discussing Needs and Human Social Fabrics

Over the last month my friend Chris and I have been carrying on a dialogue regarding a number of issues related to group and social constructs within the Kingdom of God through the use of the Shapevine Community. It has been particularly in lightning for myself as I have been trying to picture these thought process in my own life and that of the Expressions Community.

Recently I have had the hope of continuing this dialogue here in Just Wondering… so that we might begin sharing this conversation with others who might like to join in and contribute to some of the thought patterns. Over the past few weeks I have found Chris to be full of wisdom and although I at times struggle to connect my own thoughts to the social processes we have discussed, I hope we have developed a friendship to which we each can learn from one another as we explore each others characters and passion to serve the community and Kingdom of God.

Bridging from the last post Chris left on Shapevine this is our continued conversation:

Here’s my best attempt at putting these things on paper. I teach this stuff, but always face-to-face, relying on body language to tell me when something I’m saying isn’t making sense. So, I’ll do my best here, and you can let me know if you have any questions.

What I’m hoping to share with you is a paradigm shift that I believe is fundamental to the “power-with” social structures presented in my writings on missional community and which I contrast to “power-over” social structures. These concepts may seem minor and ineffectual to you at first, and that’s okay. It took me 10 years from the first time I heard this stuff, until it completely “clicked” and when it did, let me tell you, my life has been turned upside down in the most wonderful ways that I could only explain as key to the work of incarnational ministry. I’m honored that you would allow me the space to offer this gift to you. It will take a lot of words for me to get it out there, so I understand if it takes you a while to respond and I once again thank you for bearing with me with this long-winded explanation. I hope you find it engaging!

***

One of my very wise friends once said to me that everywhere you go in the world, you will see people playing one of two games: The first game is called “Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong?” It’s a game that we all know. And as we all know- it’s a game that never ends well. The game is based on the idea that if you want to instill change in another person, for your benefit or theirs, you use tactics of punishment, reward, shame, duty, coercion, judgement, manipulation, and guilt to get the other person to think like you and submit to your wishes. We all know that’s not a very fun game. This game is also called the “power-over” game, because the person that overpowers the other is the winner.

The second game is also a game of power. But in the second game, the power distribution is cooperative/collaborative rather than competitive. It’s called “How Can We Enrich One Another’s Lives?” This game is based on the idea that it’s much more enjoyable and authentic to give and receive freely rather than from coercion. It’s also based on the idea that if we are able to collaborate in the midst of conflicts and get to the root of what we are needing in that moment, we can come up with ways to enrich everyone’s life without anyone getting the short straw.

To understand these two games, it’s necessary to understand three basic components that are at the core of our humanity:
• needs,
• strategies
(to meet needs), and
• emotions (which indicate needs).

I think that we can both agree that, as humans, God created us with some basic needs:

Physical needs such as:
air, food, movement/exercise, rest/sleep, sexual expression, safety, shelter, touch, and water.

Needs for meaning such as:
awareness, celebration of life, challenge, clarity, competence, consciousness, contribution, creativity, discovery, efficacy, effectiveness, growth, hope, learning, mourning, participation, purpose, self-expression, stimulation, to matter, understanding, honesty, authenticity, integrity, presence, play, joy, humor, peace, beauty, communion, ease, equality, harmony, inspiration, and order.

Needs for autonomy such as:
choice, freedom, independence, space, and spontaneity.

Interdependence needs such as:
connection, acceptance, affection, appreciation, belonging, cooperation, communication, closeness, community, companionship, compassion, consideration, consistency, empathy, inclusion, intimacy, love, mutuality, nurturing, respect/self-respect, safety, security, stability, support, to know and be known, to see and be seen, to understand and be understood, trust, and warmth.

And finally, our spiritual needs-
to be in relationship with God, and to contribute to other’s relationship with God.

Quite simply- when our needs are being met, we are thriving as human beings, fulfilling our basic nature as God created us. When our needs are not being met, we wither away and die.

***

Everything we do in every moment of our lives, is an attempt to meet a need within us or another person. Think about it, what have you ever done that wasn’t in some way trying to meet a need? Even in our most unproductive moments, we are often trying to meet a need for rest, relief, or safety.

The way that God created us is elegant and beautiful. Since he gave us needs, he designed our bodies with a technology that tells us the state of our needs at any given moment. And that technology is our emotions. Emotions are like the dashboard lights on a car that say “check engine.” They indicate the state of our need’s metness and unmetness and move us to respond.

There are a whole series of emotions that come up when our needs ARE met, such as:
affectionate, amazed, amused, blissful, calm, cheerful, contented, elated, enthusiastic, exhilarated, free, friendly, glad, grateful, happy, hopeful, inspired, interested, joyous, loving, moved, optimistic, peaceful, refreshed, relaxed, satisfied, serene, thankful, thrilled, warm, wonderful, etc… just to name a few.

There are another series of emotions that come up when our needs are NOT being met, such as:
afraid, aggravated, agitated, angry, annoyed, anxious, bored, broken, concerned, confused, depressed, detached, disappointed, discouraged, exhausted, fearful, frustrated, gloomy, heavy, horrible, hurt, jealous, lazy, lonely, mournful, panicky, passive, sleepy, uncomfortable, uneasy, upset, withdrawn, worried, etc… again- just to name a few.

The problem is that our emotions are vague at best, and we may decide to take actions that don’t meet the needs that are causing the emotion. For example, we feel lonely, because we have a need for connection, so we decide to turn on the TV and it seems to pacify the lonely feeling. Success! (or so we think) We then develop a habit of going to the TV whenever we feel lonely, only to wonder why we are more and more unfulfilled with each passing day and that lonely feeling becomes a constant, dull hum in the back of our minds which we can never entirely escape.

***

The key is to realize the difference between needs and strategies. Spending time with our best friend is not a need, but a strategy to meet the needs for connection, acceptance, affection, appreciation, etc… Smoking cigarettes is not a need, but a strategy that meets the need for comfort, while sacrificing the need for health. How we dress, how we talk, what friends we choose, what job we work at, what kind of car we drive, our political opinions, the books we read, lifestyle covenants, how we choose to invest our time and money, these are all strategies we come up with to meet needs. The power of distinguishing the two is that once we start to see our needs, and the needs of others, we can begin to find strategies that are purposely attempting to meet them, rather than arbitrarily pacifying emotions, or doing things because it’s “the right thing to do” or because we “have to” or “should” do something based on the demands or expectations of other people.

The realizations that I have made with needs, emotions, and strategies is significant in and of itself when it comes to being able to consciously thrive in the world, but there are further implications of this as well. When we realize that most of the world relates on a strategy-level, we might begin to realize that this results in not only our own unmet needs, but it is the cause of nearly all relational conflict. We approach people often by evaluating their strategies and determining if they are right or wrong. Then we face the decision of whether to confront their “wrongness” with our own “right” strategies. At that point, they have the choice to either submit or rebel. To submit, they would acknowledge that they are wrong and that you are right. To rebel, they would refuse to align with your strategies in favor of their own.

(As an illustration- Ask yourself if you really want your wife to do the dishes because it’s “the right thing to do”, and therefore do them out of obligation, or because she sees it as an opportunity to enrich your life and hers, and therefore does them with joy?)

***

Some additional thoughts to chew on:

Hearing a “please” or a “thank you” in every difficult message

Everything people say and do to another person can always be boiled down to a “please” or a “thank you.” Those pleases and thank yous are always connected to a need, and if we have the eyes to see it, we can connect to any action or word and see it as an opportunity given to us to enrich a life, or an appreciation for an opportunity taken that did enrich life. That is a world of a difference from the right/wrong game that approaches every word and deed as a chance to manipulate through reward and punishment.

Selfishness / Selflessness / Self-FULL-ness

One of the big misunderstandings of “needs consciousness” is that it is selfish. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Strategy consciousness is in fact the paradigm where we find the dualism of selfishness and self-lessness. Selfishness is the attempt for a win/lose situation and it is the same as rebelling. Self-lessness is also attempting for a win/lose situation and it is the same as submitting. In both selfishness and self-fullness, the goal is win/lose, but the outcome is always lose/lose because it sets up a “my needs vs your needs” schema, which denies the “winner” of the opportunity to enrich the “loser’s” life.

The alternative is “self-FULLness.” Self-fullness is to attempt a win/win and it is the same as humility. Not the self-deprecating type of humility that is promoted in many churches today, but true, biblical humility, which is simply a full acknowledgement of what we are: human. Not God, but human. No less, and no more. Needs are one of the most powerful characteristics of humanity, because every one of us has the same needs, and no matter how different our strategies all might be, at the root of it all is a human with human needs. Needs are cross-cultural, cross-gender, the same for children as for adults. The only people that don’t have needs are dead people.

The difference between us humans in regards to needs, are the metness or unmetness, and aliveness or dormancy of those needs. A child, for instance, still has a need for sexual expression, but that need is dormant within them. Someone who is struggling for survival, lost in the wilderness, has a need for play just like the rest of us, but at that moment, it is not what’s most alive for them. For some people, the need for a relationship with God is dormant, but it is still there, and sooner or later will rise to the surface.

With regards to truth

Another misunderstanding of needs-consciousness is that it is relativistic in regards to the truth. This also, could not be farther from reality. Both the right/wrongers and the needs-conscious people believe in truth. The right/wrong thinkers attempt to over-simplify truth into two broad categories of right/wrong, good/bad, etc… The need-conscious people want to know what needs were met or not met in a particular situation. They recognize that most things deemed “good” have negative consequences and most things deemed “bad” have at least some positive consequences, and they want to have full information, and not an over-simplified generalization of the truth.

Empowerment

My definition of power is “the ability to unleash resources to meet needs.” The more money we have, the more resources we have to meet needs for shelter, food, and certain forms of play and comfort. In this way, money is power. The more friends we have, the more resources we have for support, comfort, empathy, connection, etc… In this way, having friends is power. The more education we have, the more resources we have for understanding, empathy, contribution to others, etc…. In this way, education is power. Money, friends, education,…. these are all resources to meet needs. When people fix their eyes on one particular way of making money, and don’t see the vast world of opportunity, they don’t have much power. When people put all their relational needs on one person, they are limiting their relational resources and therefore, don’t have much power. The way to empower people is to simply help them become aware of the needs they are trying to meet. When they take their eyes off of those limited number of strategies and resources, and become aware of needs, they can then see that the world is full of vast resources to meet their needs, which then opens up worlds of opportunity that can make creative, win/win strategies more possible, thus giving us peace on earth (or at least that’s the idea).

***

In Summary

When we ask ourselves what’s wrong with a situation (like some of the situations you have described to me), we might rely on our gut to tell us, we might rely on the WWJD question or Bible verses taken out of context, we might rely on what will best avoid conflict with our spouse or friends, we might rely on what feels best in the moment, we might rely on what will make us most popular, the list goes on and on of ways that we come to know what to do with a wrong situation. And very seldom do all these voices ever agree, so be prepared for confusion.

When we ask ourselves what needs are and aren’t being met in a situation, all we need to do is get in touch with our needs, the needs of other people, and the needs of God and ask ourselves what needs are most alive for us all in the present moment, and if we can think of a better way to meet them if they’re not being met, and celebrate if they are!

So, whenever anything is troubling us, we can ask ourselves what’s wrong and how to make it right (if we want to be confused) or we can ask ourselves what needs aren’t being met (if we want to have the clarity to live authentically, effectively, and intimately with ourselves, others, and God.)

Well…. as much of a mouthful as that was, that’s just the tip of the iceberg! I tell you- I could write a book about this stuff. There really is a lot more. But I’m gonna stop there so I don’t overwhelm you with more than you can chew on.

Let me know what you think and if this resonates with you or not, and if you have any questions I’d be blessed to hear them!

Best regards,
Chris


Walking In a Good Friends Sandles

A good friend of mine recently posted a response on our ‘Expressions’ site related to his connection with Luke 10:1-12. I thought I would share it here too!

I just want to point out in my own experience and the way I grew up, I have seen too many Christians, including pastors who have miss-interrupt Luke 10:11 and have said something which does much harm than good. They have an attitude to think they are superior to the non-believer. That way they try to spread the Gospel and can only make people reject them more because of their own pride. They do not have enough understanding of the Gospel and they have no respect to people with other religion or people who ask questions.

When being asked about questions they do not understand and can not answer, they have a tendency to use hell to scare people or blame people of not having enough faith or make up some answer which can only fool little kids. Only in very little exceptional cases they are being honest to tell the truth that they do not totally understand the Gospel. When I look at these verses I can see the approach should be different.

1) The 72 people who are appointed are the people who know what they are doing. They not only know but they take action to give up their own personal interests to follow Jesus. They are the ones which are given power to perform miracles. And they are the ones who go without turning back. (They are not the “Christians” who use pride to cover up themselves, like to talk much but fail to have compassion and fail to have basic respect to non-believers.

I started to wonder why senior pastors like to hide in the church and talk but you never see them serve the people in need, like serving in seniors homes, muster seed, involved in cleaning the church building, reaching out to non-believers, Etc… When is the last time you were involved in those activities and seen any senior pastors from your church? Like you always see those Mormon young guys going door to door but you never see the pastors doing that…Same case in christen churches.

2) When the 72 entered the town, they don’t just talk their talk. They have compassion for people there. They help the people in need and perform miracle healings. They don’t just stay in the temple or church and do their talk. People are more likely to believe them because of their actions. They also take what ever people donate and live in what ever condition provided instead of lecturing people to give them their 10% and ask for money to build a big and fancy church building.

3) I found those words they said in verse 11 very unconstructive.

I also wonder if the 72 people are only allowed to say those things in verse 11 AFTER they perform those miracle healings. Honestly speaking, will you let 2 strangers stay in you home and provide them with food and hear some teaching which is new to you?
For me, following Jesus’ foot steps means trying to obey his teaching and do good works. It is about applying those teachings in everyday activities. Following those teachings when I have to make decisions. Asking myself what would Jesus want me to do in different cases rather than what should I do to maximize my personal gain. There are times which we don’t have to give anything up but there are also times we will have to give up our personal interests and put his interests first.

How can we make a difference in the world without first making a difference in ourselves first? Perhaps I should start with making a difference in improving myself and trying to serve people around me more. I don’t have a goal or agenda to change the world. I believe understanding and following Jesus’ teachings and being responsible for the things he put me in charge of is a life long assignment.


The Christian Church, Ideologies, and Some Random Thoughts

A friend of mine posted a great article the other day called ‘One of My Passions’. In a response I commented on his post yet the thoughts continued to role in my head. I realized that my comments might have generated a continuing dialogue so I thought I would post it here as well. Anyways, here it is:

Excellent points Brad! Jesus didn’t just meet the people within a religious liturgical frame work. Rather he met with them “face to face” in a context defined by a personal relationship. I love the beauty in which that relationship blossoms as an individual is willing to engage the word within their own lives and the meaning it brings to them!

Take for example the calling of Peter and Andrew to be disciples. What if Jesus said, “Come with me and I will make you great theologians.”? They probably would have laughed at him and walked away. Instead Jesus relationally engaged them by going fishing with them and then afterwards he says, “Come with me and I will make you fishers of men!”

Is the Bible enough? I agree that on one hand the embodiment (Incarnation) of the man we know as Jesus in the gospels comes from a relational, contextual, and deeply personal interaction which we have with him through the practice of holistic spirituality and God’s word. It is definitely something more then just the Bible. However, something which has been bothering me lately is the question of whether certain groups or individuals might take that too far. How do we avoid our faith from becoming a conceptualized ideology (ultimately leading to idolatry)?

I have been reading Bob Goudzwaard’s book ‘Hope in Troubled Times’ and he has been spelling out six phases which most ideologies go through. In short: Conception, actualization, (re)construction, domination, terror, and dissolution. His point is directed towards world crises situations such as human rights, environmentalism, ecological issues, and economy. However, my problem arose in that while reading it I began to get a picture of the church and its role as an ideology! Has the church become so enamored by its need for liturgical practices that it has conformed to the realities of a human ideology rather then the truly intended Kingdom of God? And if so, what can we offer as followers of Jesus which can replace that ideology? I need to spend some time blogging on this myself I think!

I need to be honest with you Brad. I realize your intentions with regards to the practices of the “average laymen” reading scripture but, I disagree with your summery. In some cases yes, we need to remain grounded with the historical implications of scripture interpretation however, many “new believers” have profound insights on its meanings and practices and we need to do whatever it takes to encourage the exploration and dialogue of those relationships (check out our core values at ‘Expressions’).

Let me tell you where I’m coming from before you end up judging me too quickly. Unfortunately, to often many people end up getting plugged into a church pew where they are generally indoctrinated with church “garbledy goop” and as a result draw fairly solid borders between that which is sacred (anything related to the church) and that which is deemed secular (my everyday job, family life, friends, and daily life practices). We can preach unity all we want but unfortunately this divide of sacred and secular continue to exist and in some cases grow wider. There is little engagement with God’s word because one, it has little to no relevance to my daily life and two, isn’t that your job? We need to bring the two closer together until we realize that the secular is the sacred and vis versa. I am hoping you don’t label me as a heretic after this!

Anyways, how do we do that? How can we practice the unity of the sacred and the secular? Missional theology and practice brother! But, I’m sure you will get lots of that on the Shapevine link I sent you. You might want to check this article out to:

http://www.allelon.org/articles/article.cfm?id=381

Beyond that, maybe you and I can meet up for a cup of coffee some time in the near future. Just give me a call and I hope this didn’t turn into to much of a book for you! Blessings!


Heart for Home Mission

Some good friends of ours posted a video of there last trip to Haiti in the last month. We watched it last weekend at ‘An Evening in Haiti’ where they shared there hopes for the future as Heart for Home Missions looks to be a long term missional presence there within the next year and a half. Our Hearts are with you Ricot & Mandy!!!


Missional Training Network: Cam Roxbrough and a Vision for the Future of Canada

I spent most of this afternoon in the basement of Gateway International Church where Cam Roxbrugh and a group of about forty of us sat and discussed a vision for the future development of a Missional Network Training center for the Calgary region. I say center meaning that of what its function and vision would be and not at all in the sense of a building or location. Actually, in truth, the location gathering point brings up an interesting memory as Gateway was not really wheelchair accessible so I ended up being carried down the stairs for the meeting. On one hand, I missed the prayer time before the meeting. However on the other hand, I spend a good portion of the time being carried down and up the stairs in deep internal prayer (“Lord, don’t let them drop me!”). All kidding a side, I am glad and feel very blessed that I still have friends who are willing to rip the roofs off of houses in order to get me in!

Cam’s vision for the next six months was quit exciting as he drew a diagram on the white board which was similar to Alan Hirsch’s five point radial illustration around the value of “Jesus is Lord” (Click Here). As we discussed each briefly we realized that we would need a great deal of more time to reflect on each position. That was the point! Once a month for six months we would gather to explore each value in an in depth and practical way. As per usual, I am jumping the gun and starting to hash through them already! Here are some first initial thoughts that have come to mind in my review:

Five Points in Missionality

Missionality

To large extent this was pictured as a center hub which was detailed as any and all conversational dialogue relating to its definition. Definement which itself, I think, is still being pieced together as we put it into practical action. What does it really mean to be missional?

I suppose in my own sense of the word it means to practically and contextually engage within the community you find yourself in with the intent of embodying the mind set, spiritual focus, and physical actions of Jesus. Whew! That seemed like a mouth full and in truth I sometimes find it difficult to put into practice. Let’s face it, when I am cut off on Deerfoot Trail by a lunatic who is trying to kill me my mind set usually goes out the window!

Missionality however seems to envision a reality founded in our journeying together towards a common reality. “The Kingdom of God is near.” We are close but, we are not there yet. I suppose you could say communally we are on a Mission. The mission of realizing the Kingdom presence which we have in each one of us and the realities it brings to the art of potentiality!

I suppose though the greatest question we need to look at is in asking, “What does it really mean to be a church within our specifically called communities?” “What does a functioning Missional community really look like?”

Passionate Spirituality

We pose the question within the context of our individual communities, “Do they experience the living presence of Jesus?” “Does the character and persona of Jesus exude from us as individuals? As groups? As communities?” These can be tough questions! Maybe not in our ability to answer then but, in the answers we have. I am sure in many cases we find connecting points where we can say “Yes, I think they do.” but, we might also find huge gaps where individuals or even groups just don’t seem capable of meshing together as one body in Christ.

Denominationalism is probably one of my favorite “Holy Discontents”. If we are so enamored with the unity Jesus embodied and the love which he shared in the acceptance of all, why do we struggle so hard in unifying as one community, one body? It seems to me that every time I tell some one that I am a follower of Jesus (a Christian) or I go to a large forum gathering of Christians the first question which is always asked of me is “What denomination are you?” Forgive me but, every time I hear that my first immediate response internally is “What does it matter?” Why are we always trying to box each other into neat little categories to which we can whip our hands clean of having any kind of personal and relational connection with each other?

Perhaps the question of “What is Spirituality?” is far more important to a person’s faith then “What church do you go too?”

Incarnational Living

in•car•na•tion \ˌin-(ˌ)kär-ˈnā-shən\ noun

(14th century)

1 a (1): the embodiment of a deity or spirit in some earthly form

(2) capitalized: the union of divinity with humanity in Jesus Christ

b: a concrete or actual form of a quality or concept; especially: a person showing a trait or typical character to a marked degree she is the incarnation of goodness

2: the act of incarnating: the state of being incarnate

3: a particular physical form or state: version in another incarnation he might be a first vice-president —Walter Teller TV and movie incarnations of the story

Merriam-Webster, Inc: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed. Springfield, Mass., U.S.A. : Merriam-Webster, 1996, c1993 

I don’t know about you but I have always felt like this was self explanatory! However, in my maturity I have come to see the value of incarnational living becoming less and less appreciated. More and more I see people limiting their beliefs and responsibilities to a “manageable” level. Manageable in that they have little to no communal responsibilities and faith has become more about themselves then about how they care and build relationships with one another. I won’t say much more then that right now but I will leave it with a favorite quote of mine from Kathleen Noris:

“One so often hears people say, ‘I just can’t handle it,’ when they reject a biblical image of God as Father, as Mother, as Lord or Judge; God as lover, as angry or jealous, God on a cross. I find this choice of words revealing, however real the pain they reflect: if we seek a God we can ‘handle’, that will be exactly what we get. A God we can manipulate, suspiciously like ourselves, the wideness of whose mercy we’ve cut down to size.”

Intentional Community

I suppose I find it difficult to know what it is that Cam meant by ‘Intentional Community’. What do you think it means to be an Intentional Community? On the one hand, I can see a need or a calling for the community to move outwards by intentionally building relationships with those who might be considered outside of it. Building into these relationships with the intention of witnessing the kingdom of God coming from within them and being made visible through the rebirth of communal practices.

On the other hand, intentional community can seem to point towards the strength we can find through communal social action. We intentionally act as a community towards bringing the Kingdom of God near through non-violent practices. I remember a comment made last weekend at the Global Citizenship Conference where it was said, “There are two remaining super powers in the world. The United States and the General Public.” Maybe it is true and maybe it’s not however, we can recognize a great power to which we have in acting as one community, one body!

Transformational Discipleship

Discipleship it seems as a traditional point was practiced with the intent on “winning them to our side”. The transformation was more about whether they were going to heaven then are they living a Christ centered life today. This kind of discipleship seems out of balance. Yes, the churches are filling up Sunday morning but a good number of the people there do not recognize how their attendance relates to what they do throughout the rest of the week.

Even more so, discipleship seems to be projected more as a question of “How much of the Bible do you know?” rather then “When was the last time you went and fed the power?”, “How is it that you show your neighbor that you love them?”, or “Where is it that you seek justice?” Perhaps, that is where we can find the discipleship of the future!

Radical Stewardship

Global Warming. Environmental Catastrophe. Extinction. Social Insecurities. Poverty. These are some of the words which I think of when I consider the lack of stewardship we still demonstrate towards God’s creative genius. Let’s face it, the world is full of beautiful things and yet we seem intent on destroying it all in the name of “My Rights!” My right to prosper over that of others. My right to self preservation over the life of others. My right to build into my own ego at the exclusion of everyone else. Does this seem “right”?

I think God calls us into a radical relationship which embodies social equities, environmental responsibilities, and holistic realities. I am sure it can be said that you can add to my list. What do you see in a “Radical Stewardship”?


Loving Jesus is the Core of Who We Are

Last Sunday Bonnie and I had the excitment to share our Expressions group with my three little cousins from northern Alberta. It was a small group this Sunday but that is ok. God still showed up! I video taped it so that my Uncle and Aunt would be able to see their expressions when they returned from San Antonio and their 20th Anniversary. I thought I would share it here too.


Expressions of Epiphany: Taking the First Steps

O.k. O.k. It has been awhile since I have had the chance to blog!!! In truth, I have a good reason! Actually, an excellent reason!! Expressions has been a dream Bonnie and I have had for some time and we are finally taking the first steps in making it a reality.

That is where my time has been going. I have been writing and developing a website for Expressions (Click Here) with the aid of my good friend David. As well as planning for the coming month and kickoff of our group starting this weekend. With that in mind, I am looking forward not only to the kick off this Sunday but also to hearing Brian McLaren speak at the First Christian Reformed Church here in Calgary on Saturday (Click Here for Details).

It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t mention the excitement of having been able to see the Blue Man Group a few weeks ago. Bonnie got us tickets for my birthday and we both agreed that it was possibly one of the best shows we have ever been too. I could also really see what Leonard Sweet meant when I heard him speak on the effective ways in which we as a church can communicate with one another as the Blue Man Group communicated with the audience.

This past weekend I spent sometime at my Dad’s “Holy Rollers” church. I guess I was rolling in my own way (Ha, ha – if you know what I mean). In honesty, it was a great time of seeing what it really means to experience the joy of the Spirit! It reminded me of a poem a friend gave me along time ago.

“When God puts us back together again; (with the aid of our willingness to cooperate); this great church will be marked by; the dignity and scholarship of the Anglicans, the order and sacraments of the Roman Catholics, the warm fellowship of the Methodists, the Presbyterian desire for good preaching, the Lutheran respect for sound theology. There will be the Baptist concern for individual salvation, the congregational respect for the rights of lay members, the Pentecostal reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Quaker appreciation for silence. We will find there the Mennonitesense of community, the social action of the Salvation Army, the social justice of the United, and the Reformed love of the Bible, all wrapped in Orthodox reverence before the Mystery of God.”


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