As-Salaam Aliakum. So often I think we hear these words today and the hairs on the back of our necks rise as images from Paris, Syria, and Iraq flash in our minds. Is this not a Muslim greeting?!
Wa-Aliakum Salaam. I hear it shared in response while I sit in the barber’s chair at my local neighborhood men’s barber shop. Mo has cut my hair for the last 6 years and we have developed an amazing relationship. We’ve spoke about his family, his kids and there schooling, his 5-year-old son (now 8 years old) who is dealing with Leukemia. I passed along comfort and gave financially to his family while I told him of my prayers for him when he went through a massive heart attack a little over a year ago. And yes, we have deep discussions about faith, Jesus, and the stories of scripture both in the Bible and the Qur’an. Mo is a devoted Muslim and highly intelligent while being a deeply peace giving spiritual man. Yet even then, when I hear those words shared between him and an incoming customer; I think in the back of my head of the extremely sharp edged and pointed scissors in his hands!
Peace Be Unto You! What does it mean to be a peace keeper in a world that doesn’t understand the language of peace?! Where we allow images of violence and hatred and bigotry to shape the policies and reactions of our nations and even neighborhoods?! When our own online activities of typed out words, posted banners, and shared videos profess a great divide between our brother and us… our sister… according to the way we dress, worship, or seek meaning and purpose… All while in the face to face we are preaching a message of loving our neighbor as ourselves and smiling while waving at them from the safety of our rolled up car window!
And Unto You Peace! Over and over the passed few weeks my brother John’s words have spoken to me, “People want to know what you are for; not what you are against!” I know they have been borrowed from others but, there is something about the power of relationship that just bring those words in a tone, a pitch, that seems so more commanding from a brother who has ate at the same table as me, prayed while weeping over personal struggles, given of themselves to bring blessing to my life, and forgiven me for wrongs that no one else has ever known!
The language of a person of peace seems not to have a linguistic barrier that restricts it from culture, religion, our nationality. The language of peace is built upon the power and significance of our relationships to the other; no matter how different. It is a language of communal embrace!
May this be my meditative prayer for peace in the world over the coming weeks ahead… “I have said these things to you, that in me you will have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
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.
It was a little over a year ago that I was introduced to the practice of keeping a Rule of Life by my fellow cohorts in the MREML Program I enrolled in at Rochester College. To be completely honest, I was hesitant to its practicality at first feeling it was a bit juvenile and institutional with the implications of the word “rule“. Over time though, it began to take on a different meaning in my life as I began to recognize it as a practice not so much about rules of institutional authority but rather more about the relational organic practices of covenant that begin to shape who I am and the person I am becoming.
In its meaning, a covenant is defined as a binding contract between two parties. It can be both personal and/or economical. I suppose it also can be communal in some contexts too. In any form however, it is always relational and transforming to those who are a part of them. In the context of my covenant with Rochester, I find that transformation in three ways.
As an image bearer of God I find the nature of my covenant being rooted in my relationship with the Trinity. As he is the first mover in defining my nature I must first look to his voice and presence as he speaks to the person I am meant to be. Any transformation that is or going to take place in my life should be rooted in the guidance of His nature and wisdom.
Secondly, the nature of a covenant in identity must also be intertwined into the relational community I am a part of. While this includes the fellow cohort of students I am a part of, it also extends into the locality of my relationships in my neighbourhood and my tribe. Transformation in the academia of Rochester is not just for the stretching context of personally acquired knowledge but rather the exercised practice of learning for the sake of transformed community practices.
Lastly, the embrace of an organic relational covenant brings transformation to the environment we are a part of. While finding new and renewed understandings of who we are through covenant we also see the environment we are a part of in a new and transformed way without ever leaving it. Marcel Proust stated, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” While the nature of our covenant transcends the distance of many states and countries even, each of us finds a shared transformational renewal in our own personal contexts of locality which can become inspirational to one another as we share our stories.
The authors of the book ‘Mighty Stories, Dangerous Rituals’ write that, “When we weave together the human and the divine, we are attentive to another story that is not completely our own, a narrative that has the power to transform.” While we begin to embrace the ritual, and tell the story of a Relational Organic Covenant to which we are a part of over the coming months, let us always remember that this covenant is not unto its own self a declaration of who we are personally, but also those who are in covenant with us!
“He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant.” (Psalm 105:8-11)
With that in mind, here is my Rochester Relational Covenant…
- Because we believe God became flesh and dwelt among us in Jesus and continues to make his home with us through the Holy Spirit:
We will care for our own bodies as we await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
We will care for one another as we share our lives, particularly by praying for one another.
We will care for creation
I am committed to alternating workouts throughout the week between the weight gym and wheeling the pathways while the weekends are elective.
I will be attentive to healthier food choice while maintaining a diet which treats food as fuel for purpose and not self gratification.
I will seek to model a holistic and healthy lifestyle both for my wife, my tribe (Expressions), and the community around me through the growth of my mental understanding, physical conditioning, and spiritual awareness.
I will read one chapter of scripture every day for the purpose of meditating in it through the rest of the day.
I will seek to apply my learning within the Rochester cohort and MRE to the growth of my tribe and The Edge.
I will seek to engage in my studies through reading, writing, and practice, to the best of my abilities with the intent of growing closer to God’s call upon my life.
I will practice daily morning prayer and throughout the day.
- Because we believe that God has reconciled the world to himself through Jesus and reconciles us together to God by the power of the Holy Spirit:
We will create hospitable spaces in our lives to welcome others as Christ has welcomed us.
We will work toward peace and reconciliation within the body of Christ so that our unity might be a testimony to God’s reconciling work.
We will welcome the hospitality of God extended to us by others as they share in peace with us.
I will continue to open my house as a sanctuary to the work of God in all those who enter it through Tribal Gatherings, suppers, leadership gatherings, and social events.
I will seek to meet with all the tribal leaders a part of The Edge at least once a month one on one either by phone, coffee/meal, or online.
I will continue to model and invite others to be a part of the discipling culture our tribe is a part of (I-Living) while continuing to develop a discipling culture within The Edge.
I will attend and be a part of all Edge leadership suppers, gatherings, and retreats while fostering the relationships we have.
I will meet with my ministry partner John every two weeks to learn from his modelling, wisdom, and instruction while dreaming and discerning on the future movement of our tribes.
I will be open to the invitations of my nieghbours to any community gathering point.
I will continue to publish my thoughts and writing in public spaces (blog, Face Book, Email) with the openness of engaging others in conversation around them.
- Because we believe God’s love has been revealed to us in the self-giving death of Jesus, and because that love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit:
We will cultivate practices of steadfast love in our own lives.
We will bear each other’s burdens, weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice, in order to participate in a trustworthy community.
We will find ways to make our neighborhoods places of God’s trustworthiness through self-giving love.
I will seek to be involved in at least two community or YYC projects per month for the purpose of creating a better neighbourhood.
I will seek to show love to my wife through dating often, meaningful gifts of beauty (yes, it might be sentimental but, the occasional rose goes a long way!! :) ), and making time to listen to her.
I will also seek to be a better husband through reading, council of friends, and podcasts/video.
I will love my tribe through being present in their lives while shaping my discussions with them solely through the language of encouragement and empowerment.
I will seek out every opportunity to engage my neighbours in conversation while being attentive to the opportunities to bless them within the context that they are in.
I will continue engaging the story of the Calgary Centre for Global Community & being involved in its activities.
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.
This morning I had the opportunity to speak at my good friend Justin Bills church, Canyon Creek Christian Fellowship. It was a great honour and since I haven’t actually preached in over 2 years, I felt stretched from the comfortability of my living room pulpit!! :)
Here is my message and slides. I pray God speaks to you as much as he has to me!!