Beginning D.Min studies

There will be a new thing happening in my life soon.  I’m enrolled in a D.Min. program (part-time) at Acadia Divinity College, Nova Scotia, Canada.  I had been thinking about doing further studies in theology/ministry for a while now and decided to apply; and I was just accepted this summer.  Yippee!

I already have a list of required readings to get done before my first course begins in October.  There are three courses each year for three years: two weeks in the summer, and one week in the fall; plus a dissertation in the final 4th year.  Apart from ministry/work, family, and the addition of P.T. studies, I don’t know how much blogging I’ll be able to do.  But at this point, I’m really looking forward to beginning my D.Min. program.

Tyndale Seminary Online Reading Room

Tyndale Seminary Online Reading Room webpage has links to numerous biblical-theological resources that conveniently links to google books.  You’ll find links to Karl Barth, Bonhoeffer, Lesslie Newbigin, Moltmann, plus more.

Christian Book Distributors (CBD) has come out with two new sets:

Leaving church #7: Let’s be the missional church in the world!

This is the final post in the series on Leaving Church: Intro 1, Intro 2, Part 1, Pt 2, Pt 3, Pt 4, Pt 5, Pt 6, Pt 7.

Why the missional church conversation? It seems to be a conversation that mostly involves the North American church rather than the universal church around the world.  I think the reason why this whole conversation has emerged within the last decade is because we have finally begun to notice that the North American church is no longer really working for many of the younger generations.  They are no longer seen in our churches. People have been leaving the church. Thus, the need for this conversation is a symptom of a bigger problem–and the problem is clear.  We have not been the evangelizing church that we have been called to be.   Furthermore, as a result, attendance in many churches, or at least our traditional and mainline churches, have been rapidly declining, even though our population has grown. We are now getting desperate.

The purpose in the missional church conversation is to discover a new ecclesiology for mission. In the old paradigm of mission, mission used to revolve around the institutional church, which is an ecclesioentric model.  The newer paradigm of mission revolves around God’s mission, missio Dei, and must now be theocentric.  In my readings, I’ve learned that this shift away from an ecclesiocentric to a theocentric model of mission has signalled a big change in the way we think about doing God’s mission in the world.  This is a reflection of a much bigger change in society.  Our North American society no longer values the institutional church like it once did.  It is no longer the central point in our cities, towns and villages and has not been for a long time.  In fact, churches have moved off the grid of significant institutions.  Therefore, our expressions of spirituality have also moved off the grid and have been made more personal and private.  Therefore, the way we do ministry and outreach should be from the world rather than from the church.

Who needs to be in this conversation? We already know that a huge shift has already happened and most progressive evangelical churches, e.g., seeker-sensitive, megachurches, have already began realigning themselves to a new paradigm.  However, many of our traditional-mainline churches have not yet seen the light and we are still debating whether Christians should be doing evangelism.  We are still operating under the old paradigm of an inward-looking ecclesiocentric model of church.

Let’s be missional! We can no longer afford to wait for the world to come to the church.  It just won’t happen.  It is we, the church, that must be the salt and light of the world; and we must go into the world rather than wait for the world to come to the church. The funny things is that our language and grammar still revolves around people going to, coming into, a place called church. We must think of ourselves as people going out into the world to do God’s work in the power of the Holy Spirit. The institutional church does not initiate or generate the work of God.  It is God’s Holy Spirit who operates in the lives of people and Christ’s followers to do God’s work in the world.

Some books on the missional church

Craig Van Gelder. The Ministry of the Missional Church: A Community Led by the Spirit (Baker, 2007)

Craig Van Gelder, editor. The Missional Church and Leadership Formation: Helping Congregations Develop Leadership Capacity (Eerdmans, 2009)

I’ve recently finished reading two books on the missional church.   These two books have been my foundational readings about the missional church.

  1. Craig Van Gelder. The Ministry of the Missional Church: A Community Led by the Spirit (Baker, 2007).
  2. Craig Van Gelder, editor. The Missional Church and Leadership Formation: Helping Congregations Develop Leadership Capacity (Eerdmans, 2009).

I am now re-reading the foundational book: Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (Eerdmans, 1998), edited by Darrell Guder, who is another key author.

Another important author in the mission church conversation is Alan Roxburgh.

And if you’re interested, here’s a good list of books on the missional church.

I will give my personal opinion on the missional church movement in a post coming up.

Leaving church #6: looking for “authentic” Christian community

Leaving Church series: Intro 1, Intro 2, Part 1, Pt 2, Pt 3, Pt 4, Pt 5, Pt 6, Pt 7.

In the past, wherever I have attended church, I have noticed visitors who come and go.  They come to check out the church and the people, perhaps return for a few visits, and then never come back.  What’s going on?

When unchurched or de-churched people visit a church, they are privately, and even, subconsciously assessing whether an authentic community is present.  People want to be a part of a community where they can fit in. If they can’t find this, they will look elsewhere.  This is why there are so many Christians today who are un-churched or are de-churched.

Perhaps they would rather stay at home and find personal and private ways to express their Christian faith and spirituality; but deep inside, most people long to be part of an authentic community.  People need other people to journey together in some manner.  The sad thing is that most churches lack a conducive environment that allows for a creation of authentic community.  When people do visit a church to check it out, if in their self-assessment there is not much potential for him/her to experience authentic community for themselves, it’s not likely they will return. Even if the worship music, Christian education, or the coffee before/after the service are excellent, it will still not be enough to keep them attending church.   These things are great to have going in a church, but they are not what attracts people to commune together.  It is authentic community that human beings are drawn to.

We talk about community but what is this thing we call “authentic community”?  To me, authentic community is:

  • having real friendships where you have things and interests in common;
  • a feeling of being a part of something bigger than who you are;
  • a feeling of being accepted for who you are;
  • a feeling of having a common belief and mission or purpose that they can personally contribute to.

Ten medical aid workers murdered: Is Taliban “evil”?

An entire team of ten Christian medical aid workers were senselessly murdered in Afghanistan by the Taliban including: six Americans, one Briton and one German, and two Afghans. They were registered with the Afghan government under the name International Aid Mission (IAM) and were there to provide medical aid–not to proselytize.  IAM is a well-known organization has been known as a Christian organization since 1966.

Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention gives his inculpatory assessment of the Taliban saying:

“… we’re facing an obdurate and thorough-going evil… It shows the true implacable evil of this death cult that has taken room within Islam.”  on CBN News

Land’s denunciation of the Taliban being evil reminds me of President Reagan’s assessment of Communist Russia as “the evil empire.”  Most people have become so politically sensitive that they’re afraid of using such verbal invectives.  Obviously, Land is not.

ABC; Washington Post;
Websites on persecution of Christians: Voice of the Martyrs and Int`l Christian Concern.

Leaving Church #5: Non-transparent use of money

Leaving Church series: Intro 1, Intro 2, Part 1, Pt 2, Pt 3, Pt 4, Pt 5, Pt 6, Pt 7.

In some churches, pastors seem to constantly talk about money.  Sometimes, we pastors can over-spiritualize tithing.  We don’t want to talk about giving money to the church so we prefer talking about giving to God, and to the work of God’s kingdom.  Personally, I think I’d be embarrassed if I had to publicly announce that their tithes were partly going to pay for my pastor’s salary.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not even talking about unfaithful stewardship or misuse of church funds. I do believe in tithing. As a family, we do try to tithe as best we can.  I believe 100% in doing the work of God’s kingdom and fulfilling God’s mission on earth to the best of our abilities.

In the past, I have personally become dissatisfied about how some churches continually talk about the importance of tithing–and it conveniently happens just prior to offering time.  They continually stress the idea of bringing up to God’s storehouse (from Malachi), and that the bible shows  how tithes and offerings have a direct correlation to God’s blessings on your life.  I would assert that there’s an indirect correlation.  Anyways , the time some spend talking about this just prior to offering time is almost the same length of a full-length sermon of some churches.  When does our over-spiritualizing of tithing reach the point of spiritual abuse? When doubts arise, some will begin asking questions:

Is the money really being used for the work of God’s mission in God’s kingdom?  Or is a part of it being used to build their own kingdom, or used for their own personal benefit?  Where is my hard-earned money really going to?

I ask this question because I have wondered about this myself.  If people don’t have answers when doubt and questions arise (and they will), they will feel disillusioned, and eventually leave. Why not?  I did.  Why is it that some churches expect their people to give while assuming they are also gullible? Are we parishioners that gullible?