It’s 11 PM ET and I’m sitting in a hotel lobby in Harrisburg, PA reflecting on the week thus far at the 2015 Mennonite World Conference. It’s been another full day and I should probably be more tired than I feel, but I’ve been sleeping poorly all week so I’m not even going to bother trying until after midnight. I think my body is still on Mountain Time. What better time, then, to try to scramble a few thoughts together on the MWC experience so far? Read more
Posts from the ‘Mission’ Category
The official news showed up where all things show up these days: on my Facebook feed. Right there next to cheesy inspirational slogans and idiotic videos and family photos and passive-aggressive politicking…
It is with profound sadness and regret that the Bethany College Board of Directors announces that the conclusion of the 2014-2015 year will mark the end of the ministry of Bethany College in its current iteration.
It wasn’t a surprise to me—I had seen this sad news coming for quite a while, had been talking with my twin brother (the academic dean) about it for months—but I was surprised at the way my heart sank when I read the announcement. Surprised by how surprised I was to see the words on the screen. December 10, 2014. The day the news came that another small Canadian Bible school—an institution that has been around since 1927—would be closing its doors. Read more
It seemed like every time I ventured into the wonderful world of social media today, I was greeted by a new salvo from one side or the other of World Vision’s recent yes-we-do, wait, no-we-don’t position on whether or how they will hire gay Christians to work in their organization, with all the predictable bleating and threatening and pulling of support (in response to both decisions) echoing around the corners of evangelical Christian-dom. It was all very sad and pathetic, and mostly it just made me embarrassed to be a Christian.
This past weekend, we were privileged to have Cheryl Bear from the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation community in northern British Columbia as a special guest here in Lethbridge at both our Mennonite Church Alberta Annual Assembly on Friday and Saturday, and at our morning worship service on Sunday. The timing of the event was significant here in Alberta, as the Truth and Reconciliation’s final national event will be taking place in Edmonton this week (Mar 27-30). Cheryl is gifted musician and storyteller, and it was delightful to both hear from and get to know her over these short few days.
It happened again the other day. That predictable conversation that begins with, “So what do you do?”, traverses through the awkward terrain where it is discovered that I belong to that most bizarre and incomprehensible of categories—“pastor”—thus placing myself outside the boundaries of ordinary humanity, and ends, inevitably, with a tortured query about what kind of creature, exactly, a Mennonite might be. I can almost write the script by now: “You’re a what?” “Why would you want to do that?” “Don’t Mennonites drive horses and buggies and wear only black?” “How many kinds of Mennonites are there?” “You’re a what?! Add a few variations here and there, for colour and variety. Rinse and repeat. Read more
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:14)
I remember sitting in church listening to missionary reports as a kid. I remember all kinds of stories and images of people and places that my young small town prairie self could barely get his head around. It all sounded so exotic. Barely comprehensible, even. I remember reading stories from one of our missionaries in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Stories of snakes and crude village huts and people who looked and sounded nothing like any people I had ever seen or heard—people with strange and (probably evil) beliefs that we were, thankfully, sending (white) people to correct. I doubt any of these missionary presentations and stories passed by without some reference to the passage in Romans quoted above. Read more
That may be true for you, but how can you say that it is true for everyone else when there are so many different understandings of truth out there
This is, of course, among the most common questions out there in postmodern-dom and, more specifically, in the context of the religious/ethnic/cultural diversity that is becoming the new normal in Canada and the West in general. Christians are becoming increasingly aware that there is much that is good and true and beautiful in a wide variety of worldviews and practices. We are also alert to the painful reality that the Christian worldview has all too frequently been aligned with the interests of colonialism and other less overt modes of cultural imperialism. It can be a tricky thing, this business of expressing one’s convictions about the particularity of truth amidst all of diversity and historical error and the baggage that comes along with it. Read more
Over the past two thousand or so years the Christian church has consistently, in its worship, its leadership structures, its pedagogy, and its general ethos, deviated from the spirit and intent of the community Christ envisioned. Rather than becoming a community of believers gifted and called to participate together in the ongoing task of becoming disciples of Jesus in life and worship, the church has become an institution maintained by professionals. There have been exceptions along the way, to be sure, and of course God has seen fit to work with and through the church with all of its errors, but the general trend throughout most of church history has been to move away from multivoiced communities of active participants toward monovoiced institutions filled with passive consumers. It is time for this trend to change. This is the provocative thesis of Sian and Stuart Murray Williams in their book The Power of All: Building a Multivoiced Church. Read more
A few weeks ago, someone who has been worshiping at a Mennonite church for nearly a year, and who had no prior exposure to or experience with Mennonites, remarked to me that, while they had deeply appreciated their time with the community, it seemed to them that Mennonites were basically people who did lots of good stuff and liked to do things together. It is a common enough sentiment. Many expressions of Anabaptist faith can come to seem like little more than an ethical system designed to produce Christ-like behaviour and character with little, if any attention, paid to the indwelling presence of Christ and the ongoing power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Read more
I just sent off a review of Elmer Thiessens’s The Ethics of Evangelism and find myself with proselytizing on the brain. Despite the fact that I was largely persuaded by Thiessen’s argument that ethical proselytizing is not only possible but, in a qualified sense, obligatory, I’m still a bit suspicious of the word “proselytize.” I don’t quite know why. Perhaps I don’t like the way it is often used or the images it conjures up of eager missionaries eager to add another convert to their checklist. Perhaps the word has somehow picked up the connotation of objectifying and people and treating them as means rather than ends (to borrow Kantian language). Perhaps I just don’t like the way the word sounds. I don’t know. Read more
A number of conversations and experiences over the last few days have me thinking about the Bible and how we use it. Maybe “lamenting” would be a more appropriate word. The Bible is, regrettably, a book that has throughout history proved eminently usable and abusable. Read more
One of the questions I have come to dread over the years is the “so what do you do for a living?” question. It’s not that I am ashamed to be a pastor, it’s simply that very often the discovery that I am “religious” can be something of a conversation-stopper. Pastors are strange creatures, to be sure, and many people seem unclear about what to do when encountering one outside of their natural habitats (i.e., a church). At the very least, disclosing that I am a pastor often makes the conversation instantly stranger, as people either a) hastily and awkwardly change the topic; b) begin to laboriously and not altogether coherently demonstrate how they are religious too; c) explain why they don’t go to church anymore; or d) stop talking altogether. Read more
God’s self-giving goodness and his determined commitment to rescue and redeem his creation were demonstrated two thousand years ago on a Roman cross. This is the guiding conviction that animates Mark Baker and Joel Green’s exploration of the meaning and scope of the atonement in the second edition of Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament and Contemporary Contexts. Read more
Do we love God for who he is or for what he can do for us? This is one of the central themes that runs throughout Skye Jethani’s recent book, With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God. This book examines some of the ways in which we tend to relate to God, diagnosing some problematic and unhelpful tendencies, and arguing for a mature commitment to live and walk with God for his own sake, rather than for the advantages we can secure or as a strategy for coping with the fear and unpredictability of life. Read more
For the past five years, a number of people in our community have participated in a Canadian Foodgrains Bank growing project. The way it works is a quarter section of land (160 acres) is set aside, seed, fertilizer, labour, machinery, and irrigation costs, etc are donated by a variety of people and organizations, and all of the proceeds from the harvest are given to the Foodgrains Bank for international relief (I’ve written a bit more about the good work that this organization does before here and here). With the 4:1 matching grant from the Canadian government, this one project has been able to raise nearly $2 million over the last four years!
Well, yesterday was harvest day for the Coaldale-Lethbridge Growing Project, so I headed out to the field to join the festivities and snap some photos. Read more
Well, the lazy days of summer just roll on... After a great few days camping in BC with my brother and his family, yesterday afternoon was spent participating in a local golf tournament/fundraiser for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. My father is one of the coordinators for the local growing project here, and when he asked my brother and I if we wanted to go golfing to support a good cause, we could hardly say no (despite the fact that we are both truly abysmal golfers!).
I’ve been thinking a fair amount about narratives recently, for personal and professional reasons. On a personal level, I suppose major transitions in life always afford the opportunity to re-evaluate things—where have I come from, where am I going, what are my reasons, what have I learned, how will it affect what may or may not lie ahead, what changes should I make, how is God guiding, shaping, and using my story, etc, etc. These are normal things to consider whenever we close one chapter and begin another. Read more
One of the highlights of any trip back to Regent College is the opportunity to snoop around their excellent bookstore. It’s always difficult to avoid spending much more money than I have, but I often emerge with a handful of good books to keep me going for a while. This year, one of titles I came away with was Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann’s For the Life of the World. Read more