Saturday, June 24, 2006

Why?

Today, one of my fellow DTS-ers, Anne (from Alaska) asked me one of those questions that brings you up short.

We were hard at work in the first few days of the Outreach portion of our DTS at YWAM Okanagan. It was really hot, and we were all covered in sweat, dirt, and insect bites.

"Dude, can I ask you a totally personal question about something? You don't have to answer if you don't want to," Anne began. 

I could only laugh at her choice of words, and waited for the question. At 22 years of age, Anne was the youngest student in our group, and had already gained a reputation for asking very intelligent (and often uncomfortable) questions. In short, her "Spiritual B.S." radar was always in play.

Anne got serious immediately. "You and Wendy have been through a lot, in church situations. How do you keep doing the stuff? What keeps you going?"

Wow -- a huge question, especially in a dusty yard filled with junked autos and other household debris that we were removing (four industrial dumpsters filled and counting), and as we dodged the occasional black widow spider (three so far).

Not the kind of question you want to answer glibly or off-handedly.

We chatted about it for awhile, off and on, in between gathering up broken glass, finding auto parts and tools in the grass, tearing out dead bushes, removing stumps and old logs, and battling (squishing underfoot) the afore-mentioned black widow spiders.

It was one of those "why?" questions that lodges in your brain cells long after the original conversation. As I've continued to ponder Anne's question, here's some thoughts that have come to mind:
  1. While going through tough times at the hands of churches and leaders can really take a round out of you, whenever I read the "Hall of Faith" (Hebrews 11:36-38), or St. Paul's resume of pain (2 Corinthians 11:24-27), my own journey seems carefree by comparison.
  2. A few weeks earlier, one of our instructors, Roger Helland, gave us a new metaphor for "vision": a beachball (it keeps bobbing to the surface, no matter how hard you may try to hold it down). For Wendy & I, our vision/passion of ministering among the emerging generations just won't go away. Trust me, there have been times where we've wished that God's gifts and callings were negotiable! But as long as we call Jesus "Lord", we don't really have the option of opting out.
  3. Honestly, it's people like Anne that God uses to keep us "doing this stuff". They have often been wounded by church experiences, but they still possess a flicker of the flame of the Holy Spirit within. They are looking for like-minded people to journey with, and we consider it an honor to be a part of their stories.

    Younger people who are needing spiritual mothers and fathers
    (1 Corinthians 4:15). We just cannot ignore how many are leaving churches in frustration and/or disillusionment; we are simply unable to sit by and do nothing.

    People who have emailed us or taken us out for coffee to talk about their own post-charismatic journey; friends like those who gather in a pub to work through their disillusionment as they are detoxing from church, and dreaming of seeing the Body of Christ acting like, well, the Body of Christ.

    And last, but certainly not least:
  4. Where else could we go (John 6:66-69)? Who else could we turn to? What would we do with our lives if following Jesus didn't matter? If His Spirit were not inside us, prodding us to action and steadily moulding us into His likeness?
I hope that last one doesn't sound like a trite, religious bit of Christianese-inspired spiritual jargon. Because it's not. Not to me, anyway.

We follow Jesus, who instructed us to focus our absolute unmixed attention on two things: loving God and loving our neighbour (Mark 12:29-31). And ultimately, it is Jesus who enables us, calls us, and equips us to keep "doing the stuff", in spite of the bumps and bruises along the way.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Revived Church

Roger Helland, author of "The Revived Church", was perhaps the most encouraging and challenging speaker we've had in our DTS at YWAM Okanagan.

Roger spoke on "Gifts and Callings", and gave us the beach ball metaphor that I used in the previous post.

Wendy & I first met Roger many moons ago when we were all still pastors in the Vineyard movement. We've always respected him as a man of the Word and of the Spirit, who has provided rare balance in the "radical middle" (although it eventually cost him his pastorate).

So, it was awesome to meet an old friend from our Vineyard days, and to listen to his thoughtful and encouraging teaching for a week. Roger and I talked a bit about my Post-Charismatic project, which he'd read and liked, and he gave me a copy of The Revived Church to read.

 So far, there are few resources for those of us who are exporing/pursuing a charismissional expression of the Body (HT to Emerging Grace for creating the phrase "charismissional"). Roger's book gets my vote as an excellent place to start.
An interesting discovery was that Len Hjalmarson was one of the editorial readers of Roger's manuscript, much as Jamie Arpin-Ricci and Brother Maynard were for Post-Charismatic. Small world, eh?
On another YWAM note, the outreach phase began last weekend, which explains my posting-silence recently. We're mostly focused on local Kelowna ministries among the poor, the addicts, and disenfranchised. The team has become a fairly tight community, despite many cultural and language differences, and we're enjoying seeing God work among and through us.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Blog Fast

No, not speed blogging. Fasting. As in, the Biblical model. Although, to be more precise, it's probably more like blog lite than a complete fast.

As our YWAM field experience (outreach) phase of the Discipleship Training School picks up momentum, I'm finding that I just don't have as much time as I'd like for posting. We are anticipating stretching adventures in northern Canada with our team of Dutch, German, Swiss, American, Korean, Fijian, and Canadian DTS students.

So, while I won't be completely absent from this blog over July, it's highly likely that my posting will be somewhat sporadic until mid-August.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Dreams in the Dirt

"Dreams and Visions" is a topic that just keep popping up here, like the proverbial beach ball that can't be held under water. No matter how hard you try to hold a beach ball down, eventually it pops back up to the surface; it's irrepressible.

So it is with dreams and visions: no matter how many times people, circumstances -- and even ourselves -- try to shove them down or stuff them in a hole somewhere, they keep popping back out and shooting up to the surface.

Sometimes, dreams get buried because we feel as though, no matter how hard we try, we always get hurt and stymied in following what we thought were our God-given dreams and passions. Other times, we've been slapped down by those we respected, and learned from painful experience the truth of Proverbs 18:21:
"The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit."
Words can bring life and encouragement to us, but DANG, can they ever deal death and discouragement, too.

So, for some people, dreams have been buried in the ground. We have tried our best to walk away and live life "post-dreams". We have created philosophical justifications for burying our dreams and visions, and have done a pretty good job at convincing ourselves that we're somehow smarter, wiser, and better off without them.

But deep down, there is a beach ball trying to get back to the surface.

But then I think about the parable of the talents as found in Matthew 25:14-30. Here, we find that two servants, given five talents and two talents respectively, have invested them and been able to double their talents before their Master returns. And the Master commends them, and says that they will share in their "Master's joy".

The third servant, famously, hid his talents in the ground. His whiney, grovelling justification for this was that he was -- to paraphrase -- afraid of screwing up, afraid of failure, and afraid of trying.

The Master acts immediately and decisively: he throws the "wicked lazy servant" out of his kingdom. I don't think the problem was with the lack of return for the Master, it was that this servant gave up on using something that the Master had given him.

I know a lot of us have had our dreams, visions, and passions -- God-given though they may be -- trashed by others. We've been trying to follow what God put on our hearts, and we've been stomped on for it. We've been faced with, and perhaps given into, the temptation to bury our dreams in the dirt.

To quote St. Paul, "I urge you" not to let those adverse circumstances and people cause you to bury your dreams. Dig them up. Brush them off. See them with new eyes, perhaps. Remind yourself that you answer to God, not other people, for how you live.

And allow His Spirit to breath new life into those dreams. The Body of Christ needs Godly dreamers.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Charis-Missional?

Ever since writing the Post-Charismatic project on this website, I've been thinking from time to time that we should really come up with a term that better describes what post-charismatic people are positively moving towards.

In the interim, I've been saying "post-charismatic, but not post-Spirit" to differentiate myself from those former charismatics who have simply ditched anything even remotely charismatic. While I've been generally content to use the "but not post-Spirit" phrase, I still wanted something more pithy, more forward-focussed.

It's important, as people work through various issues of Detoxing from Church, that we not get stuck on defining ourselves based on where we've already been (and are leaving/deconstructing) -- hence my desire to find a better phrase than POST-charismatic. It says where we're coming from, but not where we're going TO in a healthier re-construction of what it means to be Christ's apprentices in the advancing Kingdom.

Emerging Grace may have just come up with the phrase I've been looking for, in a recent post entitled Missional Schmissional.

The phrase?

Charis-missional

Grace defines charismissional as "Spirit-led missional living".

Wow. I think I may have found my new phrase!