This past weekend was awesome as leaders from Vancouver, Vernon, Calgary, and Virden all came together as part of The Edge Movement. Together we shared stories of God’s presence and work in our tribes, visions and hopes we have had, and we spent time praying and encouraging for one another. We also explored the Covenant Vision that unites us as a movement which seeks To Live is Christ with the greatest of intentionality!!
However, not all of us were able to make it to the gathering and although it doesn’t cover it all, we have an audio recording of John as he shares our covenant in being The Edge. I will be writing about this in the coming weeks but, here is the audio from this past Edge Leadership retreat!!
I thought I’d begin this post with a bit of a story in my life.
I grew up in the church. Probably not the one you’re expecting. While not overly religious, my parents baptized me as an infant in the Catholic community they were a part of back in Hamilton Ontario. It would only be a few years later that my parents would divorce and my mother and I would move from Fort McMurray down to Calgary.
While divorce was not looked well upon in the Catholic denomination, particularly in the late ’70’s and ’80’s, my mother became involved with the Anglican Church cathedrals in downtown Calgary. There were many a choir practices to which she’d bring me I would spend my time as an adventuresome 4-5 year old exploring the “articulated tunnels” and the dark “catacombs” of these “long lost” church temples and cathedrals!! My imagination for the amazing stories that took place in these “ancient” buildings had no bounds!!
As I entered my school years, my mother enrolled me into the Catholic school system; while be accepted because of my catholic baptism, I could never understand why the would never allow me to participate in catholic sacraments during Mass simply because I was a part of an Anglican church and never participated in their First Communion cataclysm classes. It was all a bit prejudicial to me and I left the system the moment my mother gave me the option to go to public school in Junior High.
It was here that I really only found meaning in the church through youth groups and church camp retreats where my friends and I could hike, bike, tell ghost stories around the fire, and yes… sneak into the girls side of the camp late at night when we could slip out of the cabin unnoticed. :)
Of course, life does not always go the way we expect it to some times and my life dramatically changed in the mid ’90’s; April 23rd, 1994 to be precise. I was 15 and I was involved in a major car wreck. I will leave the details for another time but will say that on this day my life dramatically changed. My mother passed away and although having other family members around me, I would eventually end up living life on my own through a long hospital stay, a brief single apartment, and a group home experience before entering adulthood and my own living spaces. But this is a story about church.
The years following my accident I really was not involved in the church. There was no point. My friends had long left, as the person I was no longer was the same person I became; and my family had passed away and those left were at a distance while not really holding me to any accountability to such a belief or community. It wouldn’t be until several years later that while delving deep into the Martial Art philosophies I began to question the nature of this God I was raised to believe in and told stories about.
My girl friend at the time (later to be my wife ;) ), invited me to her church, a Four Square Full Gospel community in NE Calgary. A much different encounter with the church I grew up with as I’d roll my eyes to the old lady in the seats standing up and “prophesying” AGAIN to the falling apart of the church and of course the speaking “in tongues” until she became slain in the Spirit. I’d rock to the contemporary and upbeat music which was far different from the choir led hymnals of old, and of course I’d try to keep from jumping or falling out of my chair whenever Arnie would let out one of his yelps while giving his hour long or more sermons. It was here that Bonnie and I would get married.
Moving south, we found it easier to find a home in the local North American Baptist Church of our community in McKenzie Town. It was here that I in the most sincerest way was “born again”. There is a lot that could be said theologically about this term but it was a reality in my experience where the only way I can describe it is by saying that God became alive to me here and my faith was no longer just about social community and relational friendships but rather about a relationship I had with the God who created me. Through many intimate coffees with my good friend Humphrey and the shared meals with our small group, I was led into my theological studies at a local college called Alberta Bible College. It was here that Bonnie and I were baptized while giving testimonies in front of the congregation and Norm pouring water over our heads.
Drinking deeply from the theological waters of this college campus I began an introduction to the Churches of Christ and Christian Independent community. There was more then just deep intellectual conversations in classrooms and hallways of this institution; there was the amazing epiphanies I had while reconnecting to the deeper meanings of communion that I so misunderstood as a child in the liturgical expressions of Catholicism and Anglicanism; and there was also the tears and raised voices of debate as we discussed the implications of wrongful institutionalized beliefs about baptism and whether Bonnie and I were “damned for the fires of hell” because we were not fully immersed. I couldn’t help but see the parallels to my old feelings of rejection to the sacraments in the Catholic Church as a boy. It’s ironic when you consider Thomas Campbell’s original rejection of the Catholic’s sacramental practices around the Lord’s Table! ;)
Of course, this journey and story would not be complete without mentioning the visits I would make to my fathers Pentecostal community, Victory Church and the many conversations and debates we would get into on the theological understandings of healing. Even today I see the rather scared and damaging effects that journey has had on my dad and his wife. I’m thankful that even though that experience left them spiritual empty and abandoned, we are still here with them and as we listen, pray, and serve; we might be able to bring a restoration in time.
Today I serve in a House Church Movement supported by the Evangelical Missionary Churches of Canada and while I deeply struggle with the idea of denominational ties, I am greatly thankful to be a part of this community! While I do not think it is theologically “all correct”, I truly believe God is working through their endeavors to pursue His Kingdom at there utmost.
Why do I tell you this tail?! While it is riddled with holes, incomplete details, and of course still unfinished, I must confess that I have never been able to grasp the concept of the church being found in one singular denominational declaration or building institution. Church has always been a narrative journey for me and even more so, defined by the many memories and experiences of people, family and friends, who embody its impacts and works in my life and those around me.
I’m going to do something perhaps very dangerous here and say while I could leave you many quotes from Keifert’s and Mark’s writings, I think we will find those in many other posts and I’m sure I will use them in future also. I’d much rather leave you with a thought from my heart as to how we might define the church…
The church is not instituted into a singular doctrine, decree, or denomination – I think we’d all agree to this, if not at least in statement. I might even push Mark and say it is not solely in the pluralism and diversity of narrative experience. The church is the inner working of the Trinity through space and time while in relational polarity between humanities narrative exploration of his nature and the commonalities of ritual expressionism. I’m thinking to explain this more might take another few “300 word” posts! ;)
I could of course be completely wrong here and ultimately rewriting this whole post, hopefully before Thursday. But I felt led to share this while writing today and I’m putting my trust in His guidance. I hope this story meets you all well. Peace be with you!
Future Steps Towards The Edge – Pt. #5 – Conclusion – Pilgrims and Fellow Sojourners in the Missio Dei
Michael Horton wrote once that,
“There is a significant origin and end point to history, within which we ourselves are cast members. It is a courtroom drama in which we are either false or true witnesses, “in Adam” or “in Christ,” justified or condemned, alive or dead.
Neither masters nor tourists, we become pilgrims.
Unlike masters, pilgrims have not arrived and they do not presume to inaugurate their own kingdoms of glory. They don’t have all the answers and they are not exactly sure what their destination city will be like; they are driven by a promise and by God’s fulfillment of his promise along the way. Yet unlike tourists, they are on their way to a settled place and every point along the way is a landmark toward that destination.”
Sojourning with the tribes of The Edge has without a doubt brought great joy in my life and as Horton points out, shown me “landmarks toward that destination” we endeavor to journey towards together. Bevans and Schroeder say that, “Christians are incorporated into the divine life and experience a foretaste of the world’s destiny of full communion with God, with one another and with all of creation.” It is my hope we too will also experience this uniting communion together, so as to become all that which God wishes us to become.
My hope is in sharing this that we will see these challenges not as critiques or divisions, but as opportunities to greater engage in the mission of God as he has called upon us as one unified movement. I know that together I dream of the day that we are all Living the Life of Jesus Within the Lives of Others to The Edge and beyond this world!!
 Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004) Pg. #299.
Further Steps Towards The Edge – Pt. #4 – Creating an External Vision for Dreaming Dreams and Seeing Visions
“I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day this [movement] will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:” to be Living the Life of Jesus Within the Lives of Others! Ok, so I took some creative freedoms in sharing Martin Luther King’s famous words. There is such an inspiring force to them though as we contemplate the significance of dreams and visions in the mission of God. The apostle Peter knew that too, as he quoted the prophet Joel, “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.”
God’s mission is bigger then just any one movement. The old saying is true that, “It is not so much that God’s Church has a mission as much as it is that God’s mission has a church.” We cannot limit the vision of The Edge or the dreams we might have of its future solely to the internal voice of self-reason. Lesslie Newbigin writes that, “the Spirit who thus bears witness in the life of the Church to the purpose of the Father is not confined within the limits of the Church. It is the clear teaching of the Acts of the Apostles, as it is the experience of missionaries, that the Spirit goes, so to speak, ahead of the church.”
The challenge brought to The Edge is a willingness for all of our leadership to seek inspiration not solely from its internal practices of The Edge and our Cultural Discipling Rhythms, but from those outside of its identity who might be of like-mindedness. While maintaining the cultural discipling rhythms of Investing, Involving, and Inspiring, we can find inspiration and wisdom from other missionally focused movements that might strengthen, build, and equip our own covenantal practices and understandings of them. Holding our own beliefs and practices in open form to the greater community of missional groups, not only creates a communicative dialogue between movements that would shape our own, but also open doors of collaboration and the ability for us to shape other movements around us. This is not dismissing the solidarity of our own cultural rhythms in discipleship but rather transcending them to the greater movement of the mission of God as a whole.
In the practicalities of this we need to explore the questions of what are the other missional movements around us that resonate with our own? How might we begin a dialogue with them towards mutual collaboration? Are we willing to let them speak into our cultural rhythms in the pursuit of “dreaming dreams and seeing visions”? What practices of accountability would we expect upon our leadership in participation?
 Kouzes, James M., and Barry Z. Posner. The Leadership Challenge. 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002) Pg. #145.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ac 2:17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004) Pg. #297.
Further Steps Towards The Edge – Pt. #3 – Creating a Central Unity for a Culture of Rhythms in Discipling
Over the last several months Desmond Tutu’s words from his book ‘No Future Without Forgiveness’ has been resonating in my thoughts. He said, “‘My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life. We say, ‘A person is a person through other persons.’ It is not, ‘I think therefore I am.’ It says rather: ‘I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.’” It is a natural rhythm of breathing in and out the life presence of Jesus as we find a sort of organic communal covenant relationship with him that begins our discipling practices and says we belong both to him and to each other.
So what are the rhythms that we practice to which announce our belonging to The Edge Movement? There seems to be three spheres of discipleship that naturally form in our culture. While each may find different expressions between the tribes, The Edge focuses around the converging practices of Investing, Involving, and Inspiring the lives of its members. It is difficult to state a defining place of beginning in such a process as each sphere coexists with the other and yet each element of the three begins a radical transformation of the disciple and the community to become more entwined in the reflective life of Jesus.
The challenge brought forth to The Edge is to recognize the interdependence we have on one another in following these rhythms. Each needs to be dynamically broadened in depth and understanding and each must be communicatively interlinked within the entire movement itself and between all the tribes. We must recognize and see them in practice through the entire network and not limited to just a limited few or solely in the leadership. How might we as collaborative leaders develop these rhythms further? How might we develop interlinking ligaments that foster stronger relationships between each tribe and between the tribal leaders?
The importance of tribal harmony is detrimental to the transmission and communicative contextualization of our discipling cultural rhythms. In Bevans and Schroeder’s words, “Like a complex fugue or polyphonic motet, God’s unity is constituted by diversity and God’s diversity is rooted in unity of will and purpose; the church is the church inasmuch as it has been included in that harmony.” As leaders in The Edge, we must make the effort to not only find a listening ear to that which God is doing in our own tribe, but also find interlinking relationships with other leaders in the movement to hear the harmony in which God is creating with the surrounding tribes. If we only are listening to our individual tribal identities and practices at the exclusion of the others, we could very easily lose track of the communal rhythm and become nothing but “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” in the midst of a struggling symphony. As God’s mission began in love for the other (John 3:16), so must ours, as we love those who we are a part of.
 Tutu, Desmond. No Future Without Forgiveness. (New York: Doubleday, 1999) Kindle Location 431.
 Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004) Pg. #298.
  The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Cor. 13:1). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
“We are not so much individuals, as our Western culture in particular would have it, but, as images of God, deeply social and communal in nature. The perfect communication and self-giving that is God’s very self is the church’s deepest reality, since Christians have undergone theosis and participate in the divine nature.” Stephan Bevans and Roger Schroeder articulate the deep need we have to base our existence and mission in the roots of relationship. It’s not just a passion; it’s in our very nature to want discipleship on a personal and intimate level as apposed to simply being a Sunday event. We don’t want to just know about Jesus, we want to know Jesus!
After spending years with his disciples, Jesus turned to them and asked, “Who do the people say that I am?” Speculatively they answer, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Jesus, wanting to know if they really knew him then asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter, perhaps hesitant at first, states, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It is an epiphany brought only through the relational presence of living life with Jesus and the revelation of God’s Word through the daily work of the Holy Spirit.
This is the nature of The Edge’s mission – Living the Life of Jesus Within the Lives of Others. It propels us from the transformational life of simple discipleship to the apostolic life of serving the other for the greater sharing of God’s glory and Kingdom. To be a part of The Edge is to embrace this identity and mission as central to the purpose of all other endeavors.
We cannot take this mission lightly however and we must be intentional about our covenant to its calling. It is not just an individual binding of independent relationship but a communal covenant shared between ourselves and the others in the movement. As Christopher Wright shares the significance to God’s act of redemption and it’s role in the believer through the model of the exodus story, “The exodus was not a movement from slavery to freedom, but from slavery to covenant. Redemption was for relationship with the redeemer, to serve his interests and his purposes in the world.” Our participation in God’s mission is not to be out of self-propitiation or communal or personal freedom, but in the giving of ourselves to the work and pursuit of fulfilling the vision communally set before us as a Kingdom citizen.
The Edge’s mission comes with the promise of great reward and benefit through supported discipleship but also with the apostolic commissioning and responsibility to invest, be involved, and inspire our fellow brothers and sisters in the greater movement. This is the challenge left not just to the greater leadership, but all who are in covenant as tribal leaders. To do otherwise is to question whether we are truly part of the movement we call The Edge or just solely part of our own smaller independent endeavors.
Our first steps towards the future of the Edge is to explore an understanding of how we personally and communally are willing to commit and covenant to this vision as a singular movement who is Living the Life of Jesus Within the Lives of Others through Investing, Involving, and Inspiring practices. Secondarily we need to explore how this vision is then shared, expressed, and embodied, by the tribes we lead.
 Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004) Pg. #298.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Mt 16:13-20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
In a great text titled ‘Transforming Mission’, David Bosch identifies that, “The best theologian, is not the one who can give a complete logical account of his subject, but the one who ‘assembles more of Truth’s image and shadow’ and thus moves beyond the confines of ‘pure’ rationality. True rationality thus also includes experience.” The Edge has truly embraced this reality as we have moved far beyond the traditional and institutional church while experiencing and taking part in a story far bigger then ourselves. Yet if The Edge is going to maintain its existence and part in the mission of God, it must find understanding in the callings placed upon it as a distinct movement itself.
The mission to which The Edge is called is understood only when we first understand the organizational existence and identity we have in reflecting the image of God over the past and present. While exploring that story in the first two series’s of posts, we have come to recognize three distinct callings placed upon our movement to further develop our growth and shape in pursuing the mission of God. In this series of posts I hope to pursue these callings further while bringing the challenge forward to radicalize our story even more in becoming God’s instruments for taking steps towards The Edge as a discipling movement.
 Bosch, David Jacobus. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1991) Pg. #361.