Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sermon: Pentecost 2A

Where was Sarah? That’s what I want to know. Where was Isaac’s mom when Abraham took their son up the mountain?

Did Abraham even consult his wife before taking their son - their miracle child - to Mount Moriah, to stab him until he bled to death, before throwing his body in to the fire to be roasted and then eaten. After all, that’s what a sacrifice was; a holy barbecue where the sacrificial victim was served as dinner.

Did Sarah even know what Abraham was up to?

Many people, including some of the biblical writers say that God...(whole thing here)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sermon: Trinity Sunday

I’m guessing that the folks who put the lectionary together chose the first reading from Genesis because of a certain word.

You probably read this passage so often that you might have passed right over it. I know I did the first 1000 times I read this passage.

But when I read this passage with Trinitarian eyes, I can’t help but lock in on the fact that God speaks of God’s self in first person plural.

“Let US make humankind in OUR image...” God says. And this is not a typo. It’s in the original Hebrew. It’s like the lectionary folks wanted to remind us that God is a tiny community - and always has been, right from the beginning, if God can ever be said to have a beginning.

Maybe I’m...(whole thing here)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Review: Small Groups With Purpose

Steve Gladen, pastor of Small Group Ministry at the Saddleback Church, has written a thorough look at small group ministry. I’ve always admired Saddleback’s small group ministry and I’m glad that Gladen has provided a design on how they’ve built and maintained this effective ministry.

Gladen’s book is practical, realistic, and useful. He doesn’t engage in fanciful theologizing (although his model is biblically and theologically grounded), but offers a blueprint for effective small group ministry.

Clearly, Gladen has drunk the Rick Warren Kool-aid. Which makes sense given his context. In fact, one the most helpful parts of this book is how he uses the Saddleback ministry model and mission statement as a way of building his small group strategy. Which probably why his small groups have been so effective.

This is a book that I wish I had when Good Shepherd was launching its ChristCare Small Group ministry, as supplementary material. Gladen provides insights that ChristCare does not.

If I were starting small group ministry over again, I’d definitely still use ChristCare Small Group Ministry, but would also use insights from Gladen.

(NB: Book has been provided courtesy of the author and Graf-Martin Communications Inc. Available now at your favourite bookseller)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Book Review: The Irresistible Church

I’m suspicious of formulas. Having spent the first part of my ministry looking for the “magic pill” that will make my church grow, which, by extension would make my ministry “successful,” I’ve encountered tons of books written by pastors of large churches offering strategies and tactics that will bring both bigger numbers and greater faithfulness to my congregation.

And I’ve found myself so frustrated by my lack of “results” that when a book that promises massive growth to my church in a few easy steps, some red flags pop up.

Wayne Cordeiro’s new book “The Irresistible Church” is a book that raised some of these rouge banners. In fact, his promise is that, using his model of church, your congregation will be irresistible to heaven, not just people. If you follow his blueprints, then God can’t help but bless your church.

His premise was where he lost me. While he has some good (but not particularly new) ideas, I was most troubled by the notion that God is simply waiting for Christians to do the “right” things before God will bless them. That we need to catch God’s attention by engaging in certain practices and behaviours.

Are we blessed because we are faithful? Or are we faithful because we are blessed? If we do all the right things would we not receive a “reward” rather than a “blessing”?

It’s not that Corderio is offering anything wrong or bad for the church, he has some wonderfully practical ideas. But by framing his method in a way that puts people in control of the human-divine relationship, he creates not a gospel church, but one of human activity.

This book was useful in that it provided some good ideas, but I had trouble getting past his original premise.

(NB: Book has been provided courtesy of the author and Graf-Martin Communications Inc. Available now at your favourite bookseller)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sermon: Day of Pentecost

What I find troubling about the Christian church is that we too often seem to be facing in the wrong direction. We look backwards in history rather than forward in hope. We look to the past for inspiration rather than to the future with expectation.

This is especially true when we talk about our beliefs. We trip over ourselves trying to prove that what we believe is the same thing as what people believed 2000 years ago, or even longer.

We say that God is unchanging, which may be true, but we don’t know the whole of who God is. So we take our thoughts about God, freeze them in time, and present them as if by their very nature, their un-embodied truths will speak to all people in every time and every place.

It’s as if we think that the glory days of the church were “back then” when the faith was fresh and the Spirit spoke with awesome clarity. It’s as if we believe that today’s expression of church is a pale imitation of what God has done in previous generations.

I hear this all the time. People wax poetic about the primitive church, and how the early Christians were filled with fiery zeal, upon which we have...(whole thing here)