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Thank you for your encouragement and insight, Leon. We share your concern with how busy so many families feel these days and with how that busyness is impacting faith formation. We've developed one resource that parents and caregivers can use in a variety of places and settings, including as a conversation starter for car rides: Everyday Family Faith. If you've not seen it yet, let me encourage you to check it out. At the same time, Thrive will be leaning into this area of family / home-based faith formation to see how we can support efforts to encourage parents and caregivers in helping their children grow in their faith.    

Thanks for engaging with us on Sabbath, Larry. Sandy Swartzentruber wrote this particular post reflecting on how Sabbath is a gift of grace that counters the temptations toward knowing everything that comes with the hyperconnectivity of our current North American culture. So, it's really Sandy who deserves the thanks for this post. 

More broadly though, let me say that Faith Formation Ministries is really enjoying the conversations that are springing out of this focus on faith practices, like Sabbath. What you have outlined here resonates with a fair number of the conversations our team has been having. I really like how you are naming this invitation to love Sabbathing. Growing up, we talked about Sabbath more as a duty or obligation - and certainly not as affection or love for the Sabbath. That Heidelberg Catechism answer you quote has also been one that has caught my attention in recent years. Sabbath is a way of life, rather than a day. 

Thank you for getting this conversation started in this space, Angela! We certainly would benefit from extended and persistent attention to reconciliation in public conversation spaces in our denomination, especially when the process becomes heavy and difficult because of needing to examine our own weaknesses, indifference, and lack of faith.

My initial question is about hopes and expectations...does having a conversation about reconciliation in a forum like this shape what hopes or expectations we have for where this conversation might lead us or how vulnerable and personal we are willing to be?

Posted in: How Is It?

Chris Schoon on February 12, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I agree, Wendy, that there are few churches that have engaged a missional strategy that sees the integral nature of missions. Your suggestion to look at the deacons forum also points to a tendency in our denomination to think that mission is for a few specially gifted people in the church or for the church as an institution to engage in, but not for each individual to embrace as integral to discipleship and following Jesus Christ. I've heard from several outreach pastors (and experienced it myself when I was serving in that capacity) a response of "that's why we hired you" when members are asked to personally engage in mission.

For facilitating dialogue within this network, I would urge us to consider ways in which the structure of the network can facilitate dialogue for those interested in mission. I don't believe that a local mission/deacons section and a global mission section will help us move beyond the stereotypes. Even though as Steve noted we're not at a point yet where those old barriers/divisions between local and global (or word/deed, or church as institute/church as organism) are gone, I would hope that the way we facilitate and structure the dialogue in this space would help to move beyond those divisions.

My suggestion is that we have a section simply titled "mission" rather than global mission. We can have lots of different threads within this section to pursue and express different trends or issues that come up. That's my two-bits for now.

Posted in: How Is It?

Chris Schoon on February 17, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Allen, while waiting for a glocal section on the Network :) are there other ways that Home Missions is distributing the knowledge and experience capital from missional leaders and church planters into established churches, especially those asking questions about community engagement? In a breakfast gathering that Jerry D. and Peter H. led in Hamilton, ON this morning, they mentioned a cluster of pastors in the Seattle area that is bringing together seasoned pastors from established churches and several pastors/leaders of missional initiatives. Are there more of these types of clusters developing and being nurtured/cultivated by Home Missions? From what I heard this morning, this seems like one way that the experience capital you mentioned can flow between church planters and leaders in established churches.

Chris Schoon on October 23, 2013

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thanks, Greg. I fully agree that there is a place for pastors/clergy within our churches. However, my sense is that we often fail to first seriously ask what roles the people in the church ought to be. We are quite content to talk about the pastor's role, but hesitant to talk about the role of the "ordinary" member in the pew. As a result, I think we often fail to understand what the pastor is called to do: equip the body of Christ to do acts of service (Eph. 4). Similar things could be said about financial resources and buildings. Until we understand the calling of God on the people of God, we are limited in terms of how to understand the role of pastoral/ministry staff, buildings, and financial resources. Instead of cultivating, supplementing, or encouraging the body of Christ to minister (diakonia), they (and "the church") too easily are conceived as existing only for ministering to the body of Christ. We need permission to first ask what is the role (or the mission) of the people of God, apart from and before asking what the roles of pastors, buildings, and money are.  

The questions you are asking about Church Order expectations for what metrics validate a church as being a church (financial sustainability, sufficient number of people to provide Council leadership, ordained pastor/commissioned pastor, etc) are important ones. As our contexts change - and change more rapidly - we will need to learn how to be more nimble with our leadership structures and expectations than we have traditionally been. But I don't think that means we need to abandon our Reformed ecclesiology and embrace a Brethern model. Quite the contrary, I see ample room for the development of missional communities, multi-sites, and other models of cultivating and extending missional engagement that allow us to shift our focus off of the gifts (staff/buildings/money) God lavishes upon us and onto the people of God and what they are called to do. 


Chris Schoon on October 29, 2013

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hans & Greg,

your use of Woodward here is a helpful way to spring board into a leadership conversation. We may need to do some creative applications of the offices of elder and deacon to encourage a shift in emphasis from being focused primarily on decision making to a model that is geared more toward equipping others to become disciples of Jesus who make more disciples of Jesus.

Some assumptions come with these type of conversations: leaders serve the community of God's people by equipping them for ministry (diakonia) and that the Good News stretches from the beginning to the end of scripture - a God who creates and has created us to participate in cultivating life throughout creation all the way to the full flourishing of creation in Rev 22. So often we stop at the notion of being saved from our sins without asking what we have been saved into (new life in Jesus Christ). That new life is much richer and broader than we typically assume because God's salvation and reconciliation is much more expansive than we have understood. (Rom 8 - creation's groaning - and Col 1:15ff "reconcilling all things" comes to mind). 

Leadership that is bent toward equipping God's people for ministry as a community of disciples in all arenas of life looks a lot different than leadership that is focused primarily on decisions about sustainability of budget, staff, and buildings.

Chris Schoon on October 29, 2013

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I think you're onto something, Jon. The rate and volume of change in our cultural milieu ought to encourage us to continually ask questions about what kinds of leadership roles are needed in order for God's people to faithfully embody the Good News of Jesus Christ here and now. I think the OT prophets already offered a strong and at times blunt critique of Israel's fascination with the Temple-based identity (See Jeremiah 7 for one example) and in response called God's people to a much broader embodiment of the Gospel (Isaiah 58). Our contemporary distortion of God's gifts (staff, buildings, budgets) so that our joy is found in their abundance and our discernment of God's will is determined primarily (if not solely) by our assessment of their apparent abundance or their absence is not new. The challenge is can we see these gifts in the light of a passage like Ephesians 4 as resources that God blesses the body of Christ with in order to equip each member can do it's part?    

Chris Schoon on November 8, 2013

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I certainly resonate with this conversation as well. I wonder what role modelling or mentoring plays into the formation of our own pastoral identity. 

As I've engaged with another pastor in my city, we've shared a bit about how our vision for what church can look like was deeply shaped by one or two other pastors who served as mentors for us. My friend commented that he has come to realize that his expectation of what makes for a healthy size church (budget, # of members, scope of programs, ministry staff, etc) is quite closely related to what he saw modelled by one of his mentors. It seems to me that to a certain extent our understanding of the appropriate balance (or imbalance) of the pastoral-visionary roles will also be impacted by the way our mentors carried those roles.

For myself, I have a particular pastor who served as a mentor for quite some time. Though I don't connect often with him these days (we're living in different countries at the moment), I still keep an eye and an ear out to watch how he is leading within his community. It's not that I simply strive to replicate whatever he is doing, but that I am attentive to his approach to leadership.

One of the key things, I've learned from him is the idea of knowing my own gift mix, personality quirks, strengths, etc. and the need to build teams of people (both staff and lay leadership) that flourish in areas I don't. I reecognize that my gift/personality mix is weighted more toward the visionary, big-picture approach to leadership. I can do the detailed admin work and I can extend personal pastoral care, but I am not as strong in those areas. In that vein, one of the more significant I have needed to learn is that it's not healthy, effective, or beneficial for me to attempt to provide all things pastoral to our congregation myself. For the good of the people I am serving and for my own well-being in ministry, I need to make room and invite others into significant leadership capacities where they will be able to utlize their gifts in providing the full range or scope of "pastoral leadership" that the congregation needs.    

John & Joe, I recognize that both of you are expressing concern about my reference to Pope Francis and his recent exhortation. Let me invite you, if you are willing, to give some thought to the questions that I am raising in this post rather than simply critiquing the source that I used as a springboard.

From your perspectives, what are some tangible ways that our Reformed communities can celebrate with joy throughout the year? Our tradition has had a tendency to be characterized more by our concerns for what is not yet right than by our attention to celebrating what God has already done in and through Jesus Christ. But in Advent and Christmas, we seem to pull out all the stops in order to celebrate the joy of our salvation through church gatherings, worship services, etc. Practically speaking, what might it look like for our churches to be joyful throughout the year? From where you sit, how might a more joyful character among our churches impact our evangelistic witness among our neighbors, cities, etc.? 

Chris Schoon on December 12, 2013

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

John, I appreciate the idea of finding these celebration moments in worship that allow for testimony. We have a cultural context that thrives on storytelling, which creates a unique opportunity for us to celebrate the ways that our stories can tell part of God's story. Our elders and our youth discipleship team have been talking about "rites of passage" this year - where are those communal transition moments during which we can emphasize personal stories of God's grace at work among us. Profession of Faith would certainly be one of those. 

Thanks, Gary! I've found that occasionally writing a devotional to go along with a sermon series or a liturgical season helps me keep my sermons a bit more focused. I remember that I don't need to say everything that's in the text. :-) 

I like the "with" idea - and the four texts sound like a rich way to experience the longing in Advent. Have others in your church been reading Jethani's book along with the Advent series? 



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