One size fits all?

January 30, 2009 by

one size fits all?A while back Joe and Jeremy who were the main producers on this documentary (at least when they were in BC), came and visited us at the open house in Vancouver, BC. They spent some time interviewing Kristin and I who started this church, and low and behold we made it into the documentary. I literally have 15 seconds of fame at the very beginning so don’t blink, but Cato had a good chunk of time later on and has a a web short included as well on the website.

At the end of the day I love what they did. The video was well done for the limited resources they have and I was able to hear more about the other churches in Canada who were attempting to do something fresh and new in cooperation with God concerning the church.

Thanks to Jordon who reminded me to post on this and let me recommend that you get a copy and watch it with your community. It’s very helpful for those of you looking for some insight on the movement of the church in Canada.

A list of showings in Ontario are here. Perhaps we will begin some here in Vancouver.


Soul Graffiti by Mark Scandrette

December 31, 2008 by

soul graffiti Although I am hoping to begin reviewing some books I have already read this upcoming year (sounds like a good resolution) I just finished Mark Scandrette’s book Soul Graffiti. I met Mark in 2007 at Soularize in the Bahamas and had a good chat about his life in San Francisco and some of the comparisons between their city and ours in Vancouver. I found our conversation very helpful, and reading this book reminded me of that cool conversation (seen here).

I would say that his book, appears to be a collection of writings of Mark in his journey working with Reimagine, and SEVEN. Each chapter tells a great story, with a series of good reflection questions and experiments that you can actually practice. I hope to utilize this book in the future as a study with our community in Vancouver.

It is hard to define this book, but i would say it focuses on a number of different experiments, stories and anecdotes of different peoples lives (90% in San Francisco) and how some people have responded in those instances. It is powerful to read real life instances and the actions people took in response to the action and the examples Mark gives of Jesus saying or doing similar things.

If you are planting an organic community in an urban city I believe you will find this book helpful. I give it a 3.5/5 on my CP scale just because I have read a few better books for church planting purposes and because it repeats itself a little, but at the end of the day if you read this book and truly attempt to do the things in the experiments you will be challenged and changed.

The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle

December 31, 2008 by

My wife asked me while I was reading this book if I have read many female voices in the whole emergent discussion, and I had to say that I had not. It’s not because I have avoided reading women, it is just that there are not many voices out there that are being heard. It’s not that they have been suppressed; instead they simply are not any.

Reading Phyllis Tickle was a treat. Not only is she brilliant, to the point and able to bring in some fresh understanding to the emerging church conversation, but she brings a compassion to the conversation that is not always present, or encouraged. I sensed as I read this book that she cared deeply for the direction of the christian church in western society and wanted this book to her voice toward that end.

The book starts out as a history lesson on 3 (or more considering events prior to Jesus arrival) “Great’s” in Christian life. Described as rummage sales, Phyllis speaks of The Great Reformation (1500), The Great Schism (1000), and Gregory the Great. She then begins to describe how our time’s “great” had emerged and this is where I truly began to be impacted. Her understanding of technology, the war, and the role of women as a result of the WWI and II, and technology was really helpful in realizing how we have come to the cultural point we are at now.

She then describes (with the help of a good diagram) how Christianity is presently moving within denominationalism from a bounded set (rules/ beliefs describing each denomination) to a centred set (a few or more core beliefs and practices that describe the church that we can all agree on and follow together no matter which denominational background a person comes from). And this is where I find myself and the people that make up the open house. We are all attempting to move in a direction toward Jesus, shaking off the fences and moving toward a well of practices and beliefs that we are “for” rather than those that we are “against.”

As a church planter, this book will come in really helpful as you swim through waters of centred sets, with people that want to be “for” something and not “against.” I give it a CP of 4.5/5 and believe it should be read in light of a few other books such as the “New kind of Christian” trilogy, Exiles, Forgotten ways and my personal favourite Search to belong.

Thanks to readernaut, I am going to put it on my list of books to read again in 2009.

Competence and Excellence as Christ followers

November 19, 2008 by

For those of you who are in ministry either as a lay person or full-time, I have a question to ask of you.  In my profession, we speak often of developing and achieving competence and excellence.  We speak of clinical expertise and what it takes to become an expert.  I know many of you are passionate about your respective ministries.  You demonstrate this with blogging, attending seminars and summits, reading, reading and more reading, thinking, reflecting and striving each day to become better and better at what you do.  My questions are these:  

1.  Do you think it’s important to strive for excellence in your vocation?

2.  If so, how do you do this?  How do you define or describe competence or excellence?  

3. IIB has become a hotbed for book reviews?  Why is it so important to read, to study, to reflect?

4. For those who have been in ministry for many years, at what point in your careers did you feel competent in what you were doing?

5. When you think of “experts” in the field of ministry/church planting/pastoral ministries, what descriptors would you use to describe them as experts?

Reason I’m asking is I’m at a point in my career where I’ve got some decisions to make.  Your responses will help me navigate through these decisions.  I recently attended a Symposium on my work in Montreal which discussed these issues but I would love to hear from all of you about whether excellence has a place for us as Christ followers.  What does the Bible have to say about this issue?

Wide Open Spaces by Jim Palmer

November 18, 2008 by

wide open spaces A few days ago Anna and I watched a CNN presentation called Escape from Jonestown, which is about a cult lead by Rev. Jim Jones that lead 900 people into Guyana to a “promised” land that led to their eventual deaths, as everyone was poisoned with cyanide. Story highlights included:

# In 1978, 909 Americans were led to mass murder-suicide by the Rev. Jim Jones
# One-third of the dead at Jonestown were children; only 33 people survived
# Jones led followers to their deaths after his gunmen killed congressman, others
# Sources: Jonestown camp received monthly shipments of cyanide in 1976

Anyway, it was during this special that a few of the people that escaped this tragedy shared their experiences and what went on during those years. Many of them shared that it was their spirituality that led them out there, but now they avoid any sentiment of organized religion. They are still very spiritual people, but they do not think their spirituality could sustain any more from institutions.

I remember when Anna and I heard this, Anna and I looked at each other said, “I totally understand what their saying.” I mean I have never encountered anything remotely close to that, but of course they wouldn’t want to be anywhere near an institution in terms of religion.

And this is where I pick up this book by Jim Palmer called Wide Open Spaces. A book, without the tragedy of death, carries in it the death of Jim Palmer’s connection to organized religion. I noticed this in his last book, Divine Nobodies, this consistent abandonment of organized religion for more organic structures of church and experience with God. But what seems to always preface these ideas, is a bad experience of church. For the Jonestown people I totally understand how they could never (hopefully not never) trust the church again, and I am noticing this same trend come out of US emergent writers mouths over and over again. There is something seriously devastating that has happened in many churches in the States that has seemed to effect a lot of people. Maybe it was the church, maybe it was a person in the church, maybe it was something that happened to the person personally while going to a church, but either way the organized church gets the blame for it and I guess it leads to lots of books about it.

With that said I am finding these books not very helpful in my journey as a church planter and although I get where these people are coming from, and it helps to know that people have been hurt, I find that these books are getting way too much credit, and there should be a movement of more positive reasons for organic church. You see I am all for different forms of organic church and not because I had a bad experience, but on the contrary because I have learned a lot about my Canadian Culture and my own ways of learning that have driven me to create a form of church that is contemporary to its neighbourhood.

So in the end I give this book my CP rating of 1.5/5. It’s maybe helpful if you have had a tough church experience in the United States, but if you are a church planter (and specifically in Canada) I don’t think you will be able to get through it… I sure had trouble.

Note: For a positive read on organic church, please read anything by Joseph Myers, and specifically Organic Community or my favourite, Search to Belong.

a church for exiles

October 28, 2008 by

I had a great conversation with Anna the other night about church planting. I’m starting to see two waves (understandings) of church planting rise to the surface in my life, and maybe I am being to reductionist in my thinking, but bare with me (and my constant use of parenthesis) as I am sure there a lot of spin offs on this idea.

What we talked about has some to do with my previous post. But these thoughts are more about how we can affirm those who don’t necessarily connect with a formal church body, but in fact are active as a church community with their friends around them than some churches. My last post stemmed out of the consistent profile of Vancouverites that avoid commitment, specifically Christians (in churches), due to a lack of wanting to invest in people, a community, and are effectually selfish in their activities. I would be lying if I didn’t have some of my own tendencies in this area, but I digress.

What I am seeing is that there are those who due to deep friendships and connections, gather at various times to live life, share a meal, pray for each other and teach each other toward good works that are actually done together. I think of the road to Emmaus, where Jesus encounters these two men grieving Jesus death, but upon realizing that Jesus was alive they became alive (in their own sense) and created a community around this truth/ person of Jesus.

I thought of how I might plant a church different if I was to do it again (and of course because I am such a random guy, how could I ever do it the same way twice) and I thought about connecting with a number of good missional type friends of mine (with history) and all moving to a specific area of Canada, living life and shaping church around our friendship that is not only active in growing together, but becomes such a powerful alternative community that our attractiveness in the way we live life draws people into this Jesus way of life.

This understanding of church “happening” is actually quite exciting, but my pessimism suggests that this type of planted community is actually quite rare (at least in Canada). And if it occurs, it happens in the small groups, not in the church as a whole (and I think this has problems within itself). I think of my own friends I first experienced God with and how we are all so close in friendship, and in our relationship with God, but actually live in remote places from each other (Toronto, Calgary, Australia, Vancouver) and so we end up quite spread out. We still desire community and a true connection with God, but we have to start from scratch, and establish history all over again (if that is really possible). We have to form new friendships, start or join an existing community (church or otherwise) and with that comes much more messiness and uncertainty. And this is where I find myself.

I long for church planting experience #1, but I am placed in #2. In #2 we are now spread out, in a new city, with new people, and no history (yet). I have been sent out to start a church for exiles.

I’m not sure how to define exiles, especially when you feel like one and defining yourself is one of the hardest things to do (it’s like someone asking me what it’s like to be Canadian; not sure, I just am!), but I guess I think of it like being removed from all that was comfortable to a place that is different in all possible ways.

So then, my role as a church planter is about gathering exiles. Exiled Christians that are similar to me, looking to connect and exiled non-Christians that are drawn to the hope that Jesus brings to transforming their life and the community around them. It is my hope that the Christian exiles want to connect as I have noticed many of them are quite happy with being out of the “church” community for a while. And for the exile non-church people, there are a lot more obstacles to getting connected.

So in essence, I have been asked to start a church community amongst an exiled people. Gathering people that don’t know me or the person they are sitting beside takes a lot of effort. It takes humility and effort to take the time to create a history and story together. Sometimes we won’t can’t go through the growing pains to get there.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to quit, start over and aim for church planting type #1. But that entails a whole lot of assumptions. The truth is, we are not in that place and are amongst an exiled community and I believe that type #2 church planting is going to be the true test of perseverance for those of us that call ourselves church planters (in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary or Australia), and wherever you find yourself.

Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell

October 15, 2008 by

jesus wants to save christiansRob Bell and Don Golden release a very important book for the church. The reason I say it is a very important book is because this book sums up much of where Rob Bell is coming from in his theology. There are a lot of people that I run into who question why I might follow a lot of what Rob Bell teaches or read a lot of his influences (brueggemann, wright, mclaren, rohr, etc.), they can be very cynical and I think this book gives a great overview of Bell’s ideas on the “new exodus” way of reading the bible and after reading it I think more people may be less cynical and consider this view of the bible as something to consider.

Rob also takes time to develop a way of seeing the bible that allows for more practical information later, when he brings in a number of stats concerning the current state of affairs in our world. It is amazing to me how Rob brings to light so many of the regular day to day activities that we take part in and how some of them are part of destructive systems in our empire, but we are quite blind to them.

To summarize then, I would say that basically the book is a walk from Egypt (the empire that enslaved) to Sinai (the covanent God made with Israel), to Jerusalem (which then became its own empire under Solomon) to Babylon (when the Israelites were exiled). And then everything flows from that as we engage the prophets, Jesus and the Eucharist. I will leave it at that and say that its a 4.5/5 on my CP rating and that it reads almost like poetry. Well done Rob.

Scot Mcknight has a great review here, if you care to read it.

Re-thinking Gratitude

October 2, 2008 by

A few months ago, I read something that has changed the way I think about gratitude and thanksgiving. Before it was rather passive, a nice thing to do from time to time – at least once a year while we eat a big meal. But even then my gratitude seems to focus on the intangible, or relationship but rarely “things”.

Brian McLaren in his book “Everything Must Change” says this on page 212 – “Catholic philosopher Josepf Pieper remarks that happiness is indeed to be had from things, but only things that are contemplated or appreciated. The pursuit of more things – to the point of “gaining the world” –  distracts one from contemplating or appreciating what one already has, and therefore guarantees that one lacks happiness. So in this regard, gratitude becomes an act of defiant contemplation, expressing rebellion against the thousands of advertisements a year that tell you to want what you don’t have, and not appreciate what you already have.

So in the next couple of weeks may I suggest that you take a few minutes to write down (or doodle pictures of) “things” that you have, and as you list them, contemplate them and appreciate them. Think to yours self as you use these “things” that 1. they’re good enough, 2. that you don’t need to replace it, 3. and that you’re glad you can ignore every commercial that encourages you to buy another one of these “things”.

with gratitude,


here comes everybody

September 25, 2008 by

Jonny Baker is blogging through Clay Shirkey’s new book. I think I’ll hold off and read the full review before I pick up my own copy. I posted video of his recently.

new blog

September 22, 2008 by

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I’ve moved my blog to a new site. You can find it at

Make sure to update your feeds, as the old site will no longer be updated. Thanks for reading.