Oh I Wonder, Wonder…

I’ve been thinking a lot about church, the people that lead it, those who attend it, the programs we run, why we do what we do and why we struggle to simply row in a similar direction.

I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about the church – not the institution or organization, but US…’the church’. By that I mean all of us who believe that Jesus is the son of God. That his message is true. That he came to give us real life. And that he has called us to be his followers/disciples…his image bearers in this world.

And I wonder…

I wonder about our different approaches to Scripture and doctrine. How we can read the same words and yet be miles apart on what those words are saying?

I wonder how it is that we can have this insatiable thirst for reading Scripture, studying it to the nth degree…and yet we forget or choose not to ‘do’ Scripture.

I wonder why we think we have God all figured out when we can’t even figure ourselves out.

I wonder why us leaders of churches never ask the question: “Why do we do what we do on Sunday mornings and during the week?

I wonder how it is that we are the ones that answered Jesus’ invitation to ‘Come to me all you who are worn out…’, and yet us Christians are some of the most worn out people around?

I wonder how it is that we can think we have it all right, and yet the way we treat others in the world you’d swear we have it all wrong.

I wonder why those who are not followers seem to be attracted to Jesus and yet want nothing to do with his church. Come to think of it, I wonder why there are so many Christians who are so attracted to Jesus and yet want nothing to do with his church?

But what we don’t see is the ‘church within the church’. I think of it as the ‘silent church’. This has nothing to do with the institution or organization, it’s the followers of Jesus who meant what they said when they said ‘yes’ to Jesus’ invitation. They quietly go about their day-to-day lives, bringing the gospel through their actions and words to a hurting and bruised world.

They may not have taken all the Bible studies, nor attended every meeting or conference that’s offered, nor served in a leadership position. They have fallen in love with Jesus and they are the ones that are bringing real change to our world.

And so I wonder if the real church is the subversive one that is going about life doing little things with great love. They don’t have all the answers to our theological questions. They haven’t figured out who’s in and who’s not. They simply love God, love Jesus, are filled with his Spirit, and rather than trying to figure the church out, they are being the church.

Stunned, Shocked, Surprised…and Speechless!

This past February, two significant events occurred: one happened in our church, and the second occurred in my life. In our church we have this tradition we do every February called Just Because. It’s all about our Vineyard family loving on our Vineyard family…tangibly loving one another. It all started with our late Assistant Pastor, Rob Hall. Rob had a way about him where he just loved to do things spontaneously…and this was one of those things.

So for three or four weeks in February we take a glass vase or jar, place it on a table which is in the middle of our centre aisle, and ask folks to throw change or bills in…whatever they have on them. It’s not planned…ya just give…just because. At the end of the month we take all the cash and buy various gifts – some big and then some just to say ‘we love you, just because’. On either the last Sunday of February or the first one in March, we surprise people with the gifts throughout our service. It’s fun and a great encourager for those receiving. This Sunday, we did that and had a blast!

On February 5, it was my 10th anniversary as a pastor. Ten years when I walked away from a career I loved and into my calling. January and February have been tough months for me emotionally. I’m not really sure why my emotions have been all over the map, but they have been. My lows have been very low. I’ve wrestled with so many things to do with my calling and have had to face some tough realities about how I’ve walked out these ten years.

So this Sunday, we worshipped, gave out gifts, and I preached my heart out. At the midway point of my message at the second service I had turned around to read the scripture off the screen – so my back was to the congregation. I heard what sounded like someone coming into the sanctuary with a noisy stroller…and I just kept on reading this passage with all the passion I had. I turned around and there in front of me was my son Zac and his wife, Sara, with my daughter, Autumn with a food cart that had this huge cake on it. 

I was stunned, surprised, shocked, and utterly speechless. My brain went into high gear trying to figure out what was going on. I think I asked out loud what was going on, and from somewhere, I heard the words – ‘Just Because’. I looked at the cake and written were the words, “Happy 10th Anniversary”. I was at a loss for words and had no idea what to say or do.

And then the most surreal thing happened. Zac and Autumn took the mic and addressed everyone. In front of my congregation they honoured me for all the years that I worked away on my degree while working full time and being a dad. They hi-lighted my perseverance and how I never gave up, regardless of how difficult it was. How I have been an inspiration for them. My wife, April, then got up and shared with everyone the demands of pastoring and how she is proud of me for how I have handled the past ten years.

I was presented with letters and cards from children and adults, gifts, a photograph of April and me signed by everyone in the congregation, and a photo album of various photos (early married years, policing, and pastoring).

Yesterday was absolutely amazing for me. I serve an awesome group of people who passionately love Jesus…and love their pastor. Jesus is good to me, and he sure puts up with a lot from this guy. I’m so thankful it was a cake on a cart and not a pie in the face!

Oh yes…I did find out who was responsible for pulling this off without me catching so much as a whiff of what was happening. But that’s for another post…I promise!

The Winston School of Leadership

A couple of weeks ago I finished up a 2 part series on what the Bible has to say about handling money. I likened money to having a dog. Why a dog, you ask? Well, dogs are pack animals, meaning, they live in a pack. And of course every pack HAS a leader. Problem is, when dogs are brought into a human home as a pet, as far as they are concerned, this is their new pack and they are looking for the leader. If no one becomes that dog’s leader, the dog will assume that role. When that happens, it makes for a frustrating experience – both for the dog and the family.

I know this, because my family has such a dog. His name is Winston.

Winston is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. We bought Winston six years ago as a puppy…a very cute puppy I might add. Now don’t get me wrong…we are not newbies when it comes to dogs. I had one as a kid. Before Winston, we owned three other dogs, and the one before him was also a Corgi. So it’s not like we were the uninitiated – far from it!

A few months after purchasing him from the breeder, we brought him into our home and it became clear that he was not familiar with the word ‘compliant’. Words like ‘strong-willed’, ‘stubborn’, ‘just-plain-bad’ all come to mind. So with that we headed to a well known dog training facility for ten weeks of learning the basics. Every week was a mountain of stress for Winston and for me, but in the end, I passed!

In the weeks following up to this I soon discovered that I had mastered leading him, but April and our three children…well, let’s just say that Winston drew the line on who he was going to allow lead him.

Enter The Dog Whisperer. For those who are familiar with this television show, Cesar Milan (aka The Dog Whisperer) allows viewers to go with him into homes with ‘problem dogs’ – okay, problem owners. Seriously, there are dogs that he comes up against that I wouldn’t touch with a coat of armour on me. But he does it! Within the span of a few minutes, he has communicated by voice and body language that he is leader of the pack in that house. Now granted, there have been instances where the dog has sunk teeth into Cesar’s skin, but even those dogs eventually succumb to the leadership of Cesar.

So what does this have to do with the price of tea in China, you ask? Well…maybe nothing about tea, but everything about some of the qualities that must be found in a leader. Qualities like calmness, confidence, presence, gentleness, understanding and direction, are just some of what dogs look for in a leader. Come to think of it, those are similar to the qualities I look for in those who lead me. When leaders exhibit those attributes, I want to follow.

There are many times where Winston is just a pain in the butt.  But as I look back over these years with Winston as part of our family, I try to see him as my personal school of leadership training…well, sort of.  The one thing I do know is, as I learn to lead and Winston learns to follow, we seem to get along just fine!

Welcome to my Winston School of Leadership.