All posts by FT Staff

John Bowen goes very personal with his review of Andy Crouch book

By John P. Bowen

No book is read in a vacuum. You may kid yourself that you are “getting away from it all” to be quiet and simply read. But the “all” never retreats very far. And if the book is any good, it will follow you back into the “all” anyway. And there, the book and your life will find each and will tangle and fight and perhaps love, and nothing will ever be the same again.

This happened to me recently when I was part-way through reading Andy Crouch’s newest book, Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press 2016) for a group I belong to.

Author John Bowen’s recent health crisis brought a keen awareness of his weakness and God’s strength.

I had been diagnosed with stable angina, which degenerated a few weeks later into unstable angina. I was told to stay home for a week, until the cardiologist could arrange for an angiogram. The angiogram, on a Monday morning, revealed four major blood vessels in trouble, one of them 85% blocked, and an appointment was made for quadruple bypass surgery at 9 am two days later.

And then began the wrestling of Crouch’s words and my life. At the worst, it was as though his words began to curl off the page and meld into thin indestructible lines, tying down my life and making me horizontal for the better part of a week.

You know the kind of thing: an unbreakable plastic name band, tubes filling my body with various liquids, lines of nylon thread holding edges of flesh together, lines of metal staples like tiny telegraph poles bridging bloody gashes, oxygen tubes poking up my nose, a catheter to drain urine, a heart monitor with five coloured wires, and thin blue electrical wires poking out of my chest “just in case.” I knew how Gulliver must have felt when the Lilliputians tied him down with their silken cords.
Continue reading John Bowen goes very personal with his review of Andy Crouch book

The Shack: Sometimes Ramshackle, But With a Solid Foundation

Movie Review by Bruce Soderholm

It was pretty much inevitable that a version of The Shack, the bestselling novel by Canadian-born author William Paul Young, would find its way to the big screen.

Any book boasting worldwide sales numbering close to 20 million has, in the lingo of the publishing and film industry, a huge platform – a large base of people likely to want to see the film. That said, the motivation to bring this project to screen is much less about its money-earning capacity than the passion of its supporters. The fruit of that labour debuts this weekend in theatres across North America.

What follows is a review of the film intended to assess its merits as a film and not, as much as possible, to be an assessment of its theology or its utility as an outreach tool.

Continue reading The Shack: Sometimes Ramshackle, But With a Solid Foundation

The difference crokinole can make to everyone: Can churches do better with our seniors?

Our writer, Lisa Hall-Wilson, takes us behind the scenes of her article, “Can churches do better with our seniors?” including extra material and the background story behind the pivotal “Mr. Brown,” the senior who had such an impact on the spiritual life of the writer as a young woman. Read on…

By Lisa Hall-Wilson

As a writer, often when I write these types of articles I search for a way to put myself in the shoes of the people I’m writing about. My desire was to really give seniors a voice through this piece. One of the things that I struggle with is feeling like I belong in Church. I know I have a unique place within God’s Kingdom, but the local church…not so much always. Over the years, I’ve attended a few different churches and denominations and this feeling has followed me from city to city.

Read this full story on churches and seniors at www.faithtoday.ca Or better yet…subscribe and receive your own copy of Canada’s Christian magazine.

At the very beginning of the article, I mention an intergenerational crokinole tournament that took place when I was in youth group. That’s where I met my prayer partner Mr. Brown. I was saved at 17 and my family did not attend church, so the whole church culture was completely foreign to me. It was my first year in the youth group that I participated in the annual youth and seniors crokinole tournament.

Almost every Sunday, when he wasn’t out working in the fields, Mr. Brown would make sure to connect with me and ask how I was. He sent cards and small gifts all the way through university and attended my wedding. I don’t think he ever knew how much those small gestures meant to a kid who never quite seemed to fit in.

I thought it might be interesting, like the extra features on a DVD, to read some of the interviews I did with the people from Cannington Baptist (I’m not sure that church is even open still) for this piece. In researching any article, I talk to many more people than I am able to quote. Here’s what the pastor and some of the youth (now married with children) had to say about that annual crokinole tournament.

I tracked down Pastor Mark Lowrie in Owen Sound, Ont., just a few days before his retirement. I asked him and his wife Margaret about why the seniors and youth integrated so well.

How did that annual crokinole tournament between the seniors and youth get started?

Margaret and I were leading the young people and I think we just thought this would be a good idea. Probably Margaret’s idea more than mine. The seniors loved it. I’ve seen it done since then. Probably read about it somewhere.

Do you think there’s value in connecting the age groups in church ministry? Have we lost something by segregating the age groups?

I think it’s invaluable to connect the seniors with young people and vice versa. I think there’s way too much segregation in our churches. We slot everyone into their age group and there’s very little mixing except maybe in worship services, and then many divide that up…We do too much dividing up and not enough bringing together.

Our youth guy had cards made up with the teens [pictures] and he partnered each teen with a senior who prayed for them for that year. I was recently looking at the Bible of a senior, and in her Bible was still that teen’s card she had prayed for and the process had discontinued for at least five years.

Michelle Raynor and Megan Elford were two of the 20 or so youth who attended the youth group and the crokinole tournament at Cannington Baptist. I asked them if the tournament helped them get to know the seniors better?

Michelle: Yes! It was a highlight for sure! I think it built relationships within our church…I sincerely did enjoy those evenings. The friendly competition it made it fun to meet the others and help us relate on Sunday mornings.

Megan: Yes, I remember that too! I really believe in intergenerational ministry, but it’s something we don’t see happening as often anymore. It was always an encouragement to know that we had all of these “Grammas and Grampas” that cared about what we were doing and prayed year after year for us. My mom attributed many of the blessings we [my siblings] experienced to the prayers of those surrogate grandparents. I think it probably was a good thing for the seniors too, in that they had a chance to connect with each of the teenagers and with what was going on in our lives.

Lisa Hall-Wilson is an award-winning freelance writer for the Canadian faith-based market, who sometimes writes for Faith Today. Subscribe now to keep stories like these coming, and help ensure print Christian journalism stays alive and well in Canada. 

How a Canadian church can easily stay in the good books of the CRA

Faith Today dove into the question of “what if?” a church loses their charitable status in the Jan/Feb issue of the magazine. John Pellowe is chief executive officer of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, and is interviewed in that story. We asked him to go even deeper on this subject, and share what churches most commonly do wrong, and how they can get it right.

By John Pellowe

It is always an unfortunate and disruptive event when a charity has its registered status revoked by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Fortunately, the situations which result in revocation are virtually always avoidable.

Faith Today asks why churches might lose their charitable status, and what they can do about it in our latest issue.

Some stats

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) statistics show that in any given year about 500 to 700 charities will have their registered status revoked for “failure to file” their T3010. Most commonly, this is caused when charities don’t file, even when reminded by CRA reminders to do so. Less commonly, revocation is due to an incomplete filing that is not fixed as requested by CRA. A much smaller number of revocations, several hundred in number, happen for other reasons, including failing a CRA audit. Preventing these situations requires a bit of diligence on a charity’s leadership’s part, but staying compliant isn’t hard.

#1 prevention tip

To avoid the main revocation issue, boards should set a standard item on the agenda of a board meeting about four months after fiscal year end to approve the T3010 for submission to CRA. Board approval is not required, but this is one way to ensure that the T3010 is not overlooked. If it isn’t ready, there will still be enough time to complete and submit it. It must be in CRA’s hands by six months after the charity’s year end.
Continue reading How a Canadian church can easily stay in the good books of the CRA

When people leave a church to go to another. And you are left behind.

Here at the Faith Today blog, we wanted to draw your attention to The circulation of the saints story in our Jan/Feb issue. The subtitle to that story is “When people leave a church and you are left behind.”  This is likely a scenario that has impacted most Faith Today readers.

Rod Wilson, the writer of that story, shares the experiences of three Canadians in this blog post: a lay leader, a senior pastor and a church member. Read on to hear more personal responses to saints circulating between churches….

by Rod Wilson

I had the opportunity recently to receive written communiques from three different people. One was a lay leader in a church where people had left in significant numbers:

Among the many things I’ve been told is that ‘The church is not really doing it for us anymore and we already have enough friends.’ So I wonder about the consumer mindset, seemingly so rampant, that seems to be set on finding ‘what’s right for me’ rather than living out a covenant commitment to a church community as it seeks to live out Christian discipleship in the good times and the hard times.

Read Rod Wilson’s article on the circulation of the saints in the Jan/Feb Faith Today, available now.

Another was a senior pastor in a church that was experiencing a slow bleed where people left over a period of time:
Continue reading When people leave a church to go to another. And you are left behind.

Christians and mental health: we should be good at helping others

By Beth Hiemstra

When I had a routine 18-week ultrasound for my second child, I was not prepared to hear that she had a serious genetic anomaly, and that her life expectancy would be short, if she survived birth.  One of the things that sustained me through the grief and stress that followed was the love of God shown through His people.

Ann Voskamp’s interview is in the Jan/Feb Faith Today.

Friends and our church family were there for us. The comfort of knowing that I was not alone and that I was loved, helped me cope during those difficult weeks and months. Some of the hardest times were the “words of comfort” by those who told me this was all for the best or that God told them my child would live.

From what I experienced, I learned how to show love through being present, by receiving love and support from God’s people. When I’m with friends who are experiencing anxiety or depression, I try to remember these lessons. At times, I slip into problem-solving mode, and that’s almost never helpful.

January 25  is Bell Let’s Talk day, a day to raise awareness and understanding of mental health issues.
Continue reading Christians and mental health: we should be good at helping others

Tom Harpur’s life demonstrates how religion in Canada has changed

By Stephen J. Bedard

Tom Harpur was one of the most popular Canadian religion writers over the last half-century. He died recently at the age of 87, after many decades of writing about religion in Canada.

Not many Canadians have had such a major public platform to speak to religious issues: Harpur was the religion editor for the Toronto Star for 12 years, wrote a column on ethics and spirituality for over 30 years, and perhaps had his greatest influence through the 22 books he published.

Tom Harpur was a Canadian Christian author whose views were often controversial with Evangelicals.

In many ways he was a reflection of Canada’s changing religious culture.

Harpur was born in 1929 to an evangelical family. He described his father as a “fundamentalist street preacher.” Harpur’s family of origin instilled an interest in religion, but there was also a reaction to the conservative nature of his family.

Harpur studied at both Oxford University in England and Wycliffe College in Toronto. After graduating he served as an Anglican priest at St. Margaret’s-in-the-Pines, West Hill, Ont. (1957-1964). After concluding his pastoral ministry, he taught New Testament at Wycliffe College in Toronto (1964-1971). Wycliffe is an evangelical seminary within the Anglican Church of Canada.
Continue reading Tom Harpur’s life demonstrates how religion in Canada has changed

What’s up with Jan/Feb Faith Today?

The Jan/Feb issue of Faith Today didn’t start out to be a church-themed issue, but that is where we ended up.

And why should that surprise us?

Subscribe to Faith Today and stay connected and informed about the Church and trends in Canada.

For most Canadian Christians, church is a vital part of our lives. It’s where we find community with other believers. It’s where we teach and are taught, love and are loved, forgive and are forgiven, among many other beautiful and challenging things. It’s where we worship God and where we are restored.

Church is also under no small pressure these days, as our cover story written by Canadian scholar and author  Lee Beach says. “If it were true that at one time the Church occupied a place near the centre of Canadian culture, this is no longer the case,” he writes.

Yet, being “Church in exile” or on the margins also gives us a chance to reform, and do things differently and better than ever.

“Exile is forcing the Church to re-engage with its biblical identity as a missional people called by God to go into the world to bring a message of hope, and embody that hope,” says Beach.

What do you think of that?
Continue reading What’s up with Jan/Feb Faith Today?

Our favourite Faith Today stories in 2016

As a fun end-of-year exercise, we editors put our heads together and chose some of our favourite Faith Today stories from 2016. “Favourite” meaning they resonated with readers for some reason. Or favourite could mean that we just simply loved the end results of the writer’s hard work, or thought an interview subject said some really important things we all need to hear.

We started out the year with a love letter to the Church. See you in 2017!

So, here’s our list (in no particular order, and just for fun).

Artful Discipleship: how the arts can help in spiritual formation. We love this Carolyn Arends piece with the honour it gives to the arts, and of course, with its connection to our first ever, wildly popular colour it yourself Faith Today cover. This was so much fun to pull together and it was awesome to see readers respond and send in coloured covers from all across Canada.
Continue reading Our favourite Faith Today stories in 2016

Kim’s Convenience Creator Reflects on his background as a theology student

Ins Choi is a Wycliffe College graduate and the creator behind the hit CBC show Kim’s Convenience.

Ins Choi (IC) is an actor and a playwright, who has been called “Canadian Theatre’s breakout star.” His award-winning play “Kim’s Convenience” has been adapted for television and is a new hit for CBC.

But in the halls of Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto, Choi is remembered in part for his creative take on reading assignments for his theology classes. Choi graduated with a Master of Theological Studies from  Wycliffe, an evangelical Anglican theological college affiliated with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Wycliffe’s magazine Insight interviewed Choi recently about what a theological education meant to his development as an artist.

Here at the Faith Today blog, we thought it would be fun to reprint the interview with the creative mind behind the television show that many Canadians are loving.

You come from a long line of pastors. Is that where Wycliffe enters the story? Were you going to be a pastor as well?

IC: My father’s older brother was a pastor, his youngest sister, my grandfather, five cousins are pastors. It’s a pretty pastoral family. 

I wrote a play called “Subway stations of the Cross.” In that play, which is really more of a spoken word piece, with song, I talk about what made me, me. And in that story is this back and forth relationship with pastoral ministry –  a call to be a pastor professionally and at the same time my call to be an artist, to be a writer, a performer, an actor. It’s a long story and it’s the content of that show. I struggled with both. After I went to York for acting I went to Wycliffe, I began an MDIV but I transferred out of it and ended up with an MTS. I did this while being a children’s pastor at a church for about five or six years. I was at Wycliffe for about four years, semi-part time as I was trying to juggle an acting schedule and trying to get gigs at the same time.

Did studying theology make you a better artist?

IC: It made me a better writer. That was a discipline I didn’t have, the craft of writing. I was never that academic in high school, but being at Wycliffe I was forced to read a lot, and try to be clearer about what I read, and what my thoughts were about what I read. It was that scholarly activity, which is reading and reflection and trying to be precise with words.
Continue reading Kim’s Convenience Creator Reflects on his background as a theology student