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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. 

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? 



Thank you for drawing attention to the mundane moments, Drew. I've often heard self-control (in the fruit of the Spirit passage) described as being able to resist temptation, which is certainly true. But I wonder if we're missing out on the real substance of self-control when we only talk about it as restraint - or not doing something. Your post depicts a more engaged view of self-control, with an emphasis on what we commit ourselves to doing, not just what we avoid. I think what you are describing lends to a more active and deliberate, rather than a passive and reactive, discipleship.   

Thank you for your comment, Harry. You are right: there are lots of Christian denominations and, at least on the surface, the presence of so many denominations could suggest that unity is next to impossible. But before I would say that unity is impossible, I would want to talk about what we are using to measure our unity.

In Hamilton, Ontario, where I am currently pastoring, our congregation participates as a covenant partner in the TrueCity movement. (You can read about TrueCity here.) There are currently sixteen core churches involved in the movement from multiple denominations, including Baptist, Assemblies of God, and Christian Reformed. We certainly disagree on multiple points of theology (women in office being one of those areas) and we have different approaches to preaching, different emphases in preaching, and reach different demographic groups in our city, we also experience a great deal of unity with each other.

Our unity as TrueCity churches does not depend on conformity with each other in any of these areas. Rather, our unity in Christ Jesus - the foundational reality that we are saved by God's grace in Jesus Christ - makes room for a great deal of diversity between us in how we respond to that God news. In our unity we collaborate together in serving this city of Hamilton. And in our unity, we also spend time talking with each other about our different perspectives on a whole host of topics, including how we read scripture, how we respond to persons in same-sex relationships, and what discipleship looks like in each of our congregations. Unity is possible even when we have different denominational orientations. 

I am also struck by your comment that praying for unity implies that there is already disunity. More than disunity, I see and hear a certain level of distrust within our denomination. I am convinced that distrust (whether of leadership's priorities, of each other's motivations, or of each other other's decisions) leads to disunity. Though I would be hesitant to suggest that we are experiencing complete disunity right now, I would suggest that encouraging us to pray for unity is important considering the distrust and skepticism that is apparent within our conversations.     

Thank you for this reminder about faithfulness, Doug. You are right: We also need to pray that we would be faithful. 

I fully agree with you that we can and often do idolize unity, particularly when doing so can give the appearance that "Everything is fine. There are no problems here." As with all idolatry, that type of unhealthy unity ends up celebrating events, institutions, and relationships that have no more depth or substance than a desert mirage.

I wonder, though, if the potential of embracing a false unity can get in the way of us praying for and working toward a more robust experience of our unity as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. 

At the same time, I also see a danger around the pursuit of faithfulness as well. We can idolize our determination to be faithful just as easily as our pursuit of unity. We can use our convictions as walls that isolate ourselves from the rest of the body of Christ. Under the flag of being faithful, we can separate ourselves from others to the point that the only voices we listen to, the only people we associate with, and the only ones we are willing to covenant with are those who reinforce our particular understandings.

Though the desire to be faithful is right and good, we can pursue that desire with such attention to where we disagree that we lose sight of our unity in Jesus Christ. We describe faithfulness with such a tight boundary that we no longer see each other brothers and sisters in Christ.

That is not to say ditch all have boundaries. Quite to the contrary, the creeds and confessions serve as boundary markers helping us understand parameters for faithfulness and unity outlined in scripture. I am, however, suggesting that we can dig our own definition of faithfulness so deeply in one particular spot that we lose the capacity to celebrate the acres of common ground that we have in Jesus Christ. 

So, yes. I would agree: let's pray that in seeking unity we might not ignore faithfulness; and I would add, that in striving for faithfulness we might not lose sight of the unity we already share in Christ.    


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.

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?

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. 

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