Our thoughts and our actions are not the main game…the story we believe we are living in… that is the most important thing…

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Our church at sunrise

I’ve moved my family all the way around the world to try to develop a model of church that frees every one of it’s members into mission.

I’m still processing a book I’ve just read called Imagining the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith. It is challenging.

Smith starts by pulling apart any notion I might have had that my teaching was going to produce the outcome I am hoping for. He writes:

We don’t think our way through to action; much of our action is not the outcome of rational deliberation and conscious choice.Much of our action is not “pushed” by ideas or conclusions; rather, it grows out of our character and is in a sense “pulled” out of us by our attraction to a telos.

That word telos is one that he uses regularly and its one that I am seeing more and more clearly is actually the central question of what it means to move a church into mission.

Telos is the word where we get “telescope” from and it means “the long view”, the “purpose” or the “end” to which we are working. Smith’s central assertion is one that I am increasingly coming to see the truth of… There are lots of systems out there that define purpose for us, and the central question for me to move a church into mission isn’t the mission, or the “means” but the “end”.

People (including me) need a very tangible picture of what the Kingdom of God is, and that picture needs to be more attractive than the other pictures that the world invites them to work towards (primarily money, sex or power).

No matter how much we dress it up, the world’s agenda is re-enforced everywhere we look, and the real reason the church isn’t moving into mission is that most of us are working towards financial security, relationships or influence rather than the Kingdom of God.

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Becoming Mature

Originally posted 2011-04-26 20:29:12. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Poatina Morning tea devotion given today

Had a really pretty special time in South Africa…we have been invested in S Africa for 3 years now and the task this time was to leave this team at a point where they didn’t need someone from the outside to be there. We did a 2 week training block, now they are having this week off and then 4 weeks with Claire B and Steffi . Their job is to stand with them and support them. They’ve got Kids Clubs running strongly. Want to get daytrips on a regular footing and to have a team structure in place.
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Ordination, while indeed symbolic, truly does matter, at least to me.

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Being prayed for by the elders of the Church, Tim from the District Office, David from Taylor Seminary and Marty from Fusion.

It has been an unusually long time since I wrote a Faith Reflection.

This has largely been because I have been deeply engaged with what I have been doing over the last few weeks, but also because it has taken a bit of processing to come to terms with it.

You see, in addition to running our first one week Foundations course at the church and leading the church to run three Open Crowd festivals simultaneously across the city, and engaging with an annual planning retreat, I got ordained.

Since I started as a Pastor three years ago, I knew ordination was going to be something that needed to happen. It certainly was not something I had ever seriously thought about before starting at the church, and it was not something that naturally fitted my picture of myself.

Ordination is a recognition by both our local church and also by the denomination that I have been called to ministry in the church, and in particular to “called to a preaching or theological ministry.” At one level ordination is largely symbolic and doesn’t change my job at all.

In the lead up to the ordination service I really didn’t have much emotional space to process what was going to happen.  I was quite surprised how big an impact the moment actually had on me.

That morning Leeanne had given me a plaque with the words of Matthew 6:33 painted in a black script on a white background. It was the verse that we had engraved on our wedding rings in 1994 and it was the verse that had been our point of orientation since that special moment. On the back of the plaque, Leeanne wrote:

I am up for the adventure… wherever it takes us. Let’s keep trying to live out this verse.

I am proud of my wife. She is one of the bravest people I know. Trying to “seek first the Kingdom of God” has not been simple for either of us. As regular readers of Faith Reflections would be aware, we served with international mission organization, Fusion, for 21 years, and had expected to be doing that for the rest of our lives.

The fact Leeanne wrote those words on the plaque on the day I was being ordained in a church in Canada, is a testament to how much she truly has been “up for the adventure.” Continue reading

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Peace on Earth

Originally posted 2010-12-24 09:28:51. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Merry Christmas?

I do love this time of year.. there is a sense of anticipation in the air at our house as the kids try not to speculate too publicly about what presents they might get.

There is also that sense of pre-Christmas madness as we host the Christmas lunch for the first time and somehow the house needs to move towards some semblance of order.

The more I connect with others, and the more I am aware of my friends in other countries however there is a stark reminder that Christmas isn’t the same for everyone.

In fact, the idealism of Christmas sentiment seems out of place in the context of the challenges so many people will be facing tomorrow.

One of the best doses of Christmas reality comes in the form of U2’s Peace on Earth.

The song begins:

Heaven on Earth, we need it now

I’m sick of all of this hanging around

Sick of sorrow, sick of the pain

I’m sick of hearing again and again

That there’s gonna be peace on Earth

Can you identify with those words?

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Put down your guns

Originally posted 2010-08-18 19:00:02. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Fighting for everyone to win

While I am on holidays I thought I would do a series of posts about a strategy for dealing with conflict.

Conflict isn’t a bad thing, in fact I would like to suggest that it’s not possible to have real community without it. However most of us find conflict difficult and experience it as a fight to get someone else to see the world the way we do.

Carl Jung said:

“The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed. It is just these intense conflicts and their conflagration which are needed to produce valuable and lasting results.”

My dad once said “You will never change somebodies opinion by giving another opinion”. That little statement has stayed with me and I have come to see how true it is.

The starting point to having effective conflict is about what you aim for.

If your goal is to win and the other party to lose, then your conflict will feel like a fight to the death (even if it’s about something stupid).

Stephen Covey in his book, ‘7 Habits of highly effective people says we need to think ‘win-win’:

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It’s better in the dark

Originally posted 2011-02-11 22:36:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Letting go of my torches

This week I have been reflecting a bit on the wrestle of faith.

I realised this week there is part of me that expects the faith journey to get easier, somehow to get to a point where trust is an easy thing.

So often I feel like I am on a knife-edge between hope and despair, on one side seeing the remarkable hand of God in every aspect of my life, and on the other seeing pain, chaos and failure. Continue reading

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Building Bridges

Originally posted 2013-06-18 20:02:25. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

On Sunday I had the privelige of speaking at our home church in Edmonton. Our Pastor, O.J., asked me to speak about Acts 10 and 11, which was a lots of fun. If you would like to listen, you can get the mp3 file here. The theme of the sermon was building bridges.

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As I engage with where I have come from, I find that I can relax a bit about where I am going.

Putting flags in the sand has been a gift in this moment for me.

Putting flags in the sand has been a gift in this moment for me.

I’ve been grateful for “flags in the sand” this week.

Next weekend I will be ordained as a minister in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and this “moment” has been a cause for significant reflection for me.

As I approach ordination I have found myself feeling a bit lost.

The plan, in 2012, was to come to Canada for one year so that I could complete the residential requirements of my Masters of Theological Studies. Things changed.

I think God knows how I work.

He knew this moment would be a complex one for me.

It is not so much about ordination itself, but about the fact that with the Masters done, and now Ordination done, there isn’t another major personal goal on the horizon… and I think that is why I have felt a bit lost.

Without those major external goals, I have to find my bearings in a different way… and my feelings are not a good guide for me. This week I wrote a list of the things I feel powerless about and it was a long list.

I find myself wanting an external change to help set my personal bearings.

There is something confronting that happens when your external world is not setting your internal agenda… you have to face yourself. I am reminded of the passage from Lamentations which I first discovered in my early 20’s:

it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him
Lamentations 3:26-28 (NIV)

There is something actually very important about sitting in silence and having your identity challenged. In this place, I find myself seeing a lot of places where I can grow.

I am also finding myself going back and reading things that have been important for me in the past, and as I do I discover important insights that help me now. Continue reading

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Kingdom D.N.A.: The Affect

Originally posted 2010-06-25 19:00:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Kingdom is attractive

When a small group of people are committed to Christ, committed to each other and committed to their communities something happens.

The normal approach to ministry or social work is to look for people with a problem that you can help them solve. Inherently you come from a point of view that says “I’m ok but you’re not ok”.

Kingdom D.N.A. is different. Continue reading

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His compassions really do not fail, they are new every morning, every week and every New Year

Originally posted 2011-12-31 18:39:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I wrote todays date in my journal this morning and for the last time I wrote 2011.

I love a new year.

For me a new year is like a practical form of grace. The old things are now in the past, the future lies ahead.

I actually think God designed the rhythm of days, weeks, months and years as kind of a structural grace.

One of the most helpful books I had to read for the Arrow Leadership course was “Getting things done” by David Allen. One of the ideas he puts forward is that for most of us we have too many “open loops” in our heads. Open loops are the unfinished things in our heads.

I started to discover the importance of the Sabbath to my sanity early on in my ministry. The weekly day off is a circuit breaker that lets me finish one week and start another.

The Christmas/New Year period is kind of like an annual Sabbath for me, where I take time out to reflect on the past year and prepare for the next one. Continue reading

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If you want to be a leader you are potentially dangerous. Forget the title and do the real work

Originally posted 2011-11-29 21:05:51. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

As a 21 year old I remember the dawning realization that I could be a leader and how excited I was at the prospect. I wanted to be a leader.

I have met a number of people like me, people who wanted to be leaders. I’ve also met people who wanted to be writers; people who wanted to be youth workers; people who wanted to be radio announcers; people who wanted to be teachers and people who had idealized pictures of Christian communities they would start.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:

He who loves community, destroys community; he who loves the bretheren, builds community.

Bonhoeffer is pointing out that the person who loves the idea of community will never be a community builder, because communities are made up of people and people are much more than any idea you might have. The only way to build community is to love people, not love community.

As well as Christian community, Bonhoeffer’s principle can be translated to relate to leadership, writing, youthwork, radio, teaching and almost any other role, including that of a parent.

Someone who is focused on a role is inherently focused on themselves, and, as Bonhoeffer points out, is potentially dangerous.

As I’ve seen this principle in operation, I’ve learned to trust leaders who spend a lot of time talking about the future and a lot about how significant current events are in light of that future.

I have also learned that if a leader talks about themselves regularly, then chances are there is identity needs being met in the quest for leadership and they are probably not leaders in actuality.

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Gravity and Grace

Originally posted 2011-11-08 08:05:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

It looks like we will have a bit more space at this Arrow Residential which I really appreciate. In the midst of catching up with the people who are here, I’m also hoping to get more work done on my book which needs to be completed in a month.

Last night George Savvides came and spoke about leadership which I really appreciated. George is one of the people I admire because he is able to talk from personal experience about leading in the midst of very complex situations.

George spent a little bit of time talking about the gravitational field of self absorption or the vortex of vanity, two ways he has learned to talk about sin in the corporate world without using the religious language. He spoke about how the battle with self interest is a daily one and referenced the Lord of the Rings and the temptation to reach for power rather than the mission God has called you to.
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Live Simply

Originally posted 2010-09-16 20:00:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

It doesn’t have to be complicated

Bruce Dutton is one of Fusion’s bible teachers. He has studied Biblical hebrew and often seems to have a “right word” for me either when I am chatting to him one on one, or when he is giving a devotion or delivering training.

Bruce does a regular devotion at Poatina morning teas, and at the moment he is working through Richard Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline”.

Yesterday he focussed on the discipline of simplicity and I found myself both encouraged and challenged so I pulled the book out and thought I would share some of the gems with you today.

The heart of the discipline of simplicity is that there is only one thing that matters.

The world will want to set our agenda for us, usually with one of the big three: money, sex or power. It’s amazing how many corrupted versions of Christianity are a simply a path to one of those three things.

Foster quotes Jesus in Matthew 6:33 when he says the key to living a simple life is to “seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well”.

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Are you enlightened, a romantic or an existentialist? Take your pick, and you’d still be wrong!

Originally posted 2011-11-26 16:00:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I’ve been listening to a range of lectures by N.T. Wright and lots of times I have found he has brought deep and new insight to my view of the bible and how I approach it.

You can find the podcasts here: http://www.blogger.com/feeds/7177871033466698832/posts/default

I actually typed out part of one address because it was so important in being able to stand back and have a look at where I might have accidently slipped into seeing things in an unhelpful way..

He unpacks the three great movements of thought since the reformation and how they have shaped the churches theology. That might not sound interesting, but I wonder whether you can see yourself in any of the three movements?

Since the reformation three great cultural movements have occured, none of them owing much directly to the bible or the gospel, but all of them providing a new spin for how we hear reformation language, and indeed Pauline language.
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All I want is a couple days off

Originally posted 2010-08-15 19:00:22. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Taking a break

How do you go with taking a break?

Sometimes it feels like the world is divided into two groups: those who don’t know how to rest and those who don’t know how to work.

For many of us who find ourselves in the latter group we have become quite skilled at rationalising why it is that we need to work as hard as we do.

The biblical principal of Sabbath has come to mean lots of things to lots of people but it turns out to be quite simple.

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