Category Archives: Editors Extra

Why we Force our Kids, Almost Without Fail, to go to Church

12279089MidResby Karen Stiller

Last Sunday morning, my lovely 17-year old daughter told me she was going to the gym instead of church. I told her she wasn’t. She told me she was. I repeated she wasn’t. Then she said, “I have no choice in this!”

And I said that was right. She has no choice in this.

I know that in millions of dark, incredibly messy teenaged bedrooms around the world, this scene is played out every Sunday morning. I also know that in some homes, it ends differently.

I’m not judging anybody, especially not another parent of another teenager. But in our house, we force our kids to go to church almost every Sunday.

It really boils down to two simple things:

1. We believe it is the best thing for them.

2. We believe they do not always know themselves what is the best thing for them.

Continue reading Why we Force our Kids, Almost Without Fail, to go to Church

Urbana, Refugees, James Bond, Poverty and more. Here Comes Nov/Dec Faith Today

by Karen Stiller

We’ve just hit “send” on the Nov/Dec issue of Faith Today. It’s a great one, if we do say so ourselves (and on behalf of all the writers whose hard work it showcases, and all the Canadian stories it tells).

Coming soon!
Coming soon!

Off it goes to the printers after last week’s marathon sessions of proofing: poring over each page to make sure there are no errors; checking placement and quality of images to make sure they are crisp and colourful, and all the other double and triple checking that goes into making sure there are no “stupid mistakes.”

Which is not to say we have never made any stupid mistakes. We have. And we will again. But it always feels great to wrap up an issue and know that soon our readers will hold it in their hands.

Here’s some of what’s coming your way: We’ve affectionately dubbed this issue “The Urbana Issue” because that student mission conference is coming up in December. Although it’s held in the States, it’s co-hosted by Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship Canada. About 2,500 Canadian students will head down to it in the break between Christmas and New Year’s. And it always features Canadian speakers and presenters.

Faith Today offers a guide to Canadians to make the  most of the conference, and interviews Steve Colby, one of the key-notes and a great thinker on what mission looks like today. I called Gordon T. Smith, president of Ambrose, when I saw he was presenting at Urbana. He told me he loves to go, and that Urbana really respects the Canadian voice. We think that is true too. And we’re happy to add to that voice in this issue.

Our cover story will challenge how you think about fighting poverty, and our Christmas gift catalogue guide will help you put some of that thinking into action. We have more great features like an Ebola update, and a “how-to” for churches who want to help with the refugee crisis but need a little guidance.

And there’s more. Regular contributor John G. Stackhouse Jr. moves outside of the norm of what he normally writes, and unpacks Jesus and James Bond. That sure caught our attention when he sent it in. We think you’ll like it.

If you don’t subscribe, but want to, now’s a great time to grab one of Stackhouse’s most popular books at the same time. We are in the last days of that subscription special. Click here to claim it until Oct. 31.

Then…you will love our next offer, which begins Nov. 1. You will be able to buy three Faith Today gift subscriptions for the price of one. This is a fast, easy way to start crossing people off your Christmas list, and give them a gift that we are confident they will love. No stupid mistakes!

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. Subscribe now.

Announcing Faith Today’s “Send a Student to Urbana” Contest Winner

Urbana 2015 is North America’s largest student missions conference, hosted by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. And this year Faith Today is sending a Canadian student.

In June Faith Today ran a contest, asking students to tell us why they wanted to attend Urbana 2015. We offered to pay for the winning student’s registration fee, and that person would share social media posts from Urbana.

Our winner is Jeanie Qiu, who grew up in Calgary and now attends the University of Alberta. Back home in Calgary, she attends South Gate Alliance Church, and when she’s in Edmonton, she attends South Edmonton Alliance Church. We are so happy to be able to help make Urbana 2015 a reality for Jeanie.

Jeanie Qiu is the winner of Faith Today's "Send a Student to Urbana" Contest. Congratulations Jeanie!
Jeanie Qiu is the winner of Faith Today’s “Send a Student to Urbana” Contest. Congratulations Jeanie!

Here’s a question-and-answer with Jeanie, for Faith Today readers to learn a bit more about her:

Why do you want to attend Urbana?

Ever since I was really young, I knew that I wanted to be a nurse and that I wanted to work overseas one day. As I grew older, God affirmed my calling to be a nurse as well as my passion for global missions work. When I first heard about Urbana a few years ago, I was instantly interested in the idea of attending a global missions conference as I knew it would provide me with people and resources that would inspire and educate me in regards to how I could be involved in missions. Several months ago, I heard about the conference again after a few friends of mine from my new church in Edmonton told me they were going to attend Urbana 2015 and suggested I pray about going as well.

 What are you studying in school right now?

I’m currently heading into the second year of my bachelor of science in nursing degree at the University of Alberta.

The tag line for Urbana 2015 is “Find Your Life.” In what ways do you hope Urbana will help you discover God’s calling for your life?

When I was contemplating whether to apply for this contest or not, I remember praying that if God wanted me to go to Urbana and if His calling for my life is still to work in missions, that He provide me the means to go or simply reaffirm that calling. This contest has been a direct answer to those prayers, and I know that through Urbana God will work in my heart and continue speaking to me about where he wants me to serve in the future.

 Name one person in the missions field, past or present, who inspires you.

The pastor of the church I attend in Calgary, Pastor Perry, and his family were mission workers in Russia for several years. I’ve definitely been inspired by his sharing and testimonies, as well as his continued faithfulness in loving and serving God and others.

What do you hope to share with Faith Today readers about your Urbana experience?

I hope that I can share my experiences of Urbana including how God speaks to me, what I learn from others, and how this conference changes me and helps me grow. Hopefully my experiences will encourage Faith Today readers to learn more about the missions work that is being done around the world and perhaps by mission workers sent by their own churches, and to be encouraged by God’s work or even inspired to become involved in missions.

And finally, how did you hear of the Faith Today Urbana contest?

 I heard of the Faith Today Urbana contest through the pastor of the church I attend, who posted about it on our fellowship’s Facebook group.

At Faith Today, we are thrilled that Jeanie can now attend Urbana. We will be supporting her in prayer and eagerly awaiting her social media posts. Watch the Nov/Dec Faith Today for a primer to Urbana. You’ll be hearing more about Urbana 2015 in the months ahead.

 

What to look forward to in the Sep/Oct Faith Today!

We are in the final stages of putting the Sep/Oct issue of Faith Today to bed. That means a flurry of emails and activity between editors, copy-editor, design guru and writers as we tweak, trim and “ooh and ahh” over what the cover looks like, one of our most eye-catching yet we think.

The Sep/Oct issue of Faith Today will be packed with great stories, including an account of a mission trip to Cambodia.
The Sep/Oct issue of Faith Today will be packed with great stories, including an account of a mission trip to Cambodia.

But it’s inside the cover that we (and you!) find what matters the most of course. And we think you are really going to enjoy this stimulating and challenging issue of Canada’s Christian magazine. Here are a few things to look forward to:

John G. Stackhouse Jr., lately of Regent College, now of Crandall University in Moncton, provides our cover, “In search of adequacy: meeting the challenges of our time with intellectual rigour.” This is an article for everyone: pastor, lay person, professor. Here’s a sneak peek:

Just as we generally put our trust in our family doctors, while still feeling free to look up medical information online and chat with our friends about their hospital stays, so we ought to have confidence that our pastors are equally reliable experts. Yes, pastors aren’t infallible, and they might need to refer us to theological specialists from time to time, but for the usual run of intellectual challenges to our faith we ought to find our pastors to be adequately expert. Are they?

Writer Julia Cheung of Vancouver takes us downtown to that city’s infamous east side, to explore what ministry is really like in Canada’s poorest postal code. Here’s a glimpse:

Coming, praying, hoping. That is the way most of these workers and volunteers approach their ministry here. It is the way of Christ, the way of one friendship at a time, happening through the city. Where politics and controversies continually float above your head, the quietly obedient stride on.

Are you up on the latest from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and how the recent recommendations could impact ministry in Canada? Seasoned senior writer Debra Fieguth provides some answers:

Before reconciliation can fully be realized, however, there needs to be a whole lot of truth. During its hearings across Canada, the commission received more than 6,750 statements from survivors, family members and others. Just listening to the stories of residential school survivors was draining for many. “You almost want to shut down emotionally and say ‘I can’t hear this anymore,’ ” says Willard Metzger, executive director of the Mennonite Church in Canada.

And editor Karen Stiller takes us to Cambodia with her, with an inside view of what a short-term mission trip can be like. If you’ve ever been on one, some moments in this story will feel familiar:

We have been told to dig through this hill. It simply needs to be a trench through the hill wide enough for a person to stand in it. In the history of mission trips all over the world, never have two people been more badly matched to a task. She starts to dig up high. I dig down low. We have no idea what we are doing.

So, there you have it. Just a sampling of what is to come in Sep/Oct. If you haven’t subscribed for a print version, do it today so you don’t miss a thing.

Heading to Urbana

by Karen Stiller

In 1993 my husband Brent and I travelled to Urbana, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s student mission conference that happens in the snowy days between Christmas and New Year’s every three years.

Worshippers gather together at Urbana (www.urbana.org)
Worshippers gather together at Urbana (www.urbana.org)

Back then, it was still held at Urbana-Champaign. We went to represent Regent College, where I worked as admissions officer and my husband studied. We stood  in the huge hall where exhibitors provided information to eager students contemplating what God was calling them to in their young lives.

I remember the halls packed with worshippers. I remember the best worship music I had yet heard in my Christian life, and I remember being blown away by Ravi Zacharias, one of the many excellent speakers.
Continue reading Heading to Urbana

The Joy of a Webinar

by Karen Stiller

As “host” of the two EFC webinars we have done so far, one on euthanasia and one on religious freedom in Canada, I have to say, they are surprisingly enjoyable to do. Surprising in their enjoyment because they are also a little bit nerve-wracking. The fear of being tongue-tied or stumped, or wandering down a rabbit trail is there in the background.  Or hiccuping loudly into your microphone. But so far, so good.Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 10.46.30 AM

The webinars blend nicely with Faith Today, as these issues are ones regularly covered by Canada’s Christian magazine. Produced by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada — publisher of Faith Today — the webinars so far have been interview style with Bruce Clemenger, president of the EFC, answering questions and sharing his insights on these two crucial topics for Canadians.  Then, listeners send in their questions live and Bruce answers them on the spot. That’s where things get really interesting.

Even if we try to anticipate what questions will come in, we have been surprised each time. The really interesting part, and maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise, is how practical the questions are.

They are “rubber hitting the road” queries as Canadians of faith try to figure out how to live in a changing country. And it’s fascinating to “pick the brain” as they say, of Clemenger, who I realize each time has got to be one of Canada’s best informed and insightful evangelical leaders. He knows his stuff. And the webinars are a great opportunity to share that knowledge.

Next up on the webinar schedule? Rick Hiemstra, director of research for the EFC, will explore the changing face of the Canadian Church.  What does it mean for leaders and those who attend regularly? What will our churches look like in 20 years with the current reality of ageing members and rising rates of immigration?

To Inspire Your Summer Reading

She will never get through them all, but this is Karen Stiller’s summer reading pile, gathered from one awesome yard sale!

For avid readers, there is just something about the summer. Some little hint of permission to read thick, juicy paperbacks that smack of vacation time. Maybe it’s extra time available to read a theological work that builds your spirit, even if you’re reading it on a chaise lounge. Or, better yet, maybe it’s both. Maybe your summer reading includes play and pray?

We asked some of our Faith Today family and EFC colleagues to let us peek at their reading lists. Maybe it will inspire your own reading this summer?

Aileen van Ginkel is vice president, ministry services at the EFC. Here’s her ambitious (and a little bit intimidating) list:

Leading in Disorienting Times, by Gary Nelson and Peter Dickens
The Courage to Teachby Parker Palmer
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere

Craig Mcartney writes the Inspiring Ideas and Note Worthy sections of Faith Today. Here’s what he is planning to read this summer:

Bible (obviously) [we love that he said ‘obviously!’]
Happy Happy Happy  by Phil Robertson  from Duck Dynasty)
Life, God, and other Small topics  by Eric Mattaxas
The Mission of God’s People by Christopher Wright
Letters and papers from prison a collection of Dietrich Bonhoeffer writings
And various books on riflery and precision shooting

Patricia Paddey is a senior writer for Faith Today.

Here’s what’s on her bedside table awaiting her attention:

Learning To Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor
The Excalibur Parchment by Barrie Doyle (Our book club’s next selection)
Making The Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World by John Stackhouse
The Imitation of Christ -by Thomas A. Kempis
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
A Writer’s Space by Eric Maisel
Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster

Robert White is a writer for Faith Today, and takes cool pictures. Here is his summer reading pile:

IMG_20150613_133126

Rick Hiemstra is director, research and media relations for the EFC

“I’m always trying to understand what is going on in the church and in culture. I like to read books that others have already digested, and come with their recommendation. These four came recommended to me by people I respect for their insight. (Looks pretty gloomy just reading all the titles together, doesn’t it? As I read I’ll just take comfort in the fact that Christ “upholds the universe by the word of his power.)”

What Is the Mission of the Church? By Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert

Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul’s Letters, by Clinton Arnold

Towards Juristocracy: The Origins and Consequences of the New Constitutionalism by Ran Hirschl

Charisma: The Gift of Grace, and How It Has Been Taken Away From Us by Philip Rieff

Bill Fledderus is a senior editor with Faith Today. He shares his summer reading picks:

This summer I am preparing to teach a course at Redeemer University College that I haven’t taught before, so I will be reading over books such as Inside Reporting, Newswriter’s Handbook, The Elements of News Writing and News Writing. Guess what the course is about!

For fun, I hope to re-read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, a historical fantasy set in early 1800s England. I stumbled on this lengthy novel as an audiobook at the library a few years ago, and look forward to reading the paper version. It’s slow-moving in spots, but it offers a fascinating otherworldly experience with remarkable period detail, memorable characters and a compelling alternative mythology.

As a gift I recently received the novel Lila by Marilynne Robinson, the acclaimed Christian literary author. It’s the third of three novels set in the fictional town of Gilead, Iowa, and undoubtedly beautiful and thought provoking.

Lastly, I am also trying to keep up with some of the books my sons like to read, and so I am currently in the middle of Book 8 of the Ranger’s Apprentice series by Australian novelist John Flanagan. These semi-medieval adventures continue for at least three more books, and then there is the related Brotherband Chronicles, so I don’t think I will be free of Will, Halt, Horace and friends for a while.

We hope that you will include Faith Today as part of your summer reading! Let us know what you plan to read over the next few months.

Practice Won’t Make you Perfect. But it Will Help Your Writing

Faith Today senior editor Bill Fledderus was a keynote speaker at the recent Write Canada conference held in Toronto. In this excerpt from his speech, he offers advice to writers on the importance of practice and how Christians measure success.

Faith Today senior editor Bill Fledderus says to practice, practice, practice, and don't give up if writing is your goal.
Faith Today senior editor Bill Fledderus says to practice, practice, practice, and don’t give up if writing is your goal.

Practice, of course, is another way to develop your writing gifts. Maybe the challenge for you is to consider becoming more disciplined about writing practice.

I wonder if you have heard of the author Malcolm Gladwell? He’s an essayist, a Canadian who writes for the magazine The New Yorker.

He has written five bestsellers reflecting on research in the social sciences, including a book called Outliers where he popularized the 10,000-hours theory. That’s the theory that 10,000 hours are needed to develop expertise and success in a specific skill – about 20 hours of work a week for 10 years, or full-time work for five years.

In his book Gladwell uses examples such as the Beatles, who performed that much in Hamburg, Germany, in the early 1960s, and of Bill Gates, who spent at least 10,000 hours programming computers starting at age 13.

The theory here is that, just like a musician or an athlete needs to practise, so too should a writer. It’s kind of depressing if you think that writing even, say, two hours every weekday would take you 20 years to become a master.

But the numbers are highly debatable, and certainly not a guaranteed formula that applies to everyone. What they illustrate, the importance of regular practice, is a reminder all of us can use.

In the writing classes I teach at Redeemer University College, it’s one of the first things I emphasize, that writing students need to set aside specific times in their schedule each week to write – and stick to them, even when they don’t feel like it or have other pressures on their time.

So, how’s your writing schedule? Are you able to block off regular time? Are you able to negotiate with the people you live with so they accept certain times as ones when you are unavailable?

Finally, whatever your writing gift, remember to always thank God for it. One of my favourite Bible verses is 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Even as you keep developing your gift, your writing may never be a priceless ceramic Ming vase. Maybe it will just be a clay pot, something that looks more like a failed art assignment by a Grade Two student.

But do you think there is anything so bad that God can’t use it?

Think of all the failures in the Bible whom God used, people like King David who committed adultery and murder. Like Jonah – God called him to deliver important words to a particular audience, the people of Ninevah, but he fled instead, just like the steward of the Matthew 25 parable who buried his gold. Or Peter, who denied Jesus three times.

As Christians, we know God has promised to reward even a leaky clay cup of cold water given in an attempt to live Christianly. Some of that reward might come in this life, but we can rest assured of it upon Christ’s return.

So ultimately we don’t write, or we shouldn’t write, because we think we are great or because we want other people to think we are successful stewards. We aren’t trying to get onto some list of writers on Wikipedia or the Guinness Book of World Records or win some particular literary award. We are trying to remember to honour the one who gives us all good things, including our writing gifts, by unwrapping those gifts and using them well.

It’s easy to feel jealous as a writer or that our own work is not valuable in comparison to that of others. But remember the Matthew 25 parable of the stewards, remember how they are given different amounts to start “according to ability,” but the response of their master, when he returns and rewards them, is exactly the same for both the five-talent steward and the two-talent steward.

The Word Guild or the mainstream publishing industry world may give prizes to some of us and not others, but as Christians we know that the master’s response is really all that matters.

So develop your gift to the best of your unique ability. And write so our heavenly Father will say, “Well done,” as the master says in Matthew 25. Or maybe we can edit that to read, “Well said, well written.”

If you love to write, or love to read, you might be interested in our free trial subscription of Faith Today. You receive two issues free, and then decide if it’s for you! Click here to find out more. Or subscribe before the end of June to receive a free copy of World Visions’ best-selling resource yet, Shifting Stats.

How to Read Well

Faith Today senior editor Bill Fledderus was a keynote speaker at the recent Write Canada conference held in Toronto. In this excerpt from his speech, he offers advice on reading well.

Faith Today senior editor Bill Fledderus reads to learn.
Faith Today senior editor Bill Fledderus reads to learn.

Samuel Johnson, the great English dictionary writer of the 1700s, once wrote: “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading; in order to write, a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”

Productive reading is strategic. It involves making a plan of what to read and then learning from what you read.

I’ve heard it said that good quality writing deserves to be read three times: the first for enjoyment, the second for analysis and the third a more sophisticated level of enjoyment that admires both the writer’s successes and how they are achieved.

So maybe your challenge, as you seek to develop your writing gift, is to be more intentional about your reading, to be sure you mix in reading from other centuries, other genres, other countries, translated works from other languages, how-to books on particular kinds of writing, and to make sure you reflect on what you read and write down those reflections.

Often we have misguided prejudices against certain types of reading. “Poetry,” you might say, “I’ve tried it and it’s not for me.”

My comeback here is that there are so many kinds of poetry, if you look hard enough (and it’s not really hard anymore thanks to Google), you are bound to find a kind of poetry you can appreciate.

It can be an uncomfortable challenge to change our reading habits. But reading to become a better thinker and writer, to help develop our gifts, means reading in a wide variety of genres and forms, regularly reading stuff that challenges us instead of just reading what is comfortable and entertaining and confirms our own habits and values.

The positive side to reading outside our comfort zone is that it can improve our thinking and your writing. If the greatest crime in writing is boring your readers, then the best counter advice is to incorporate unexpected writing elements from other genres.

Through my work as a journalism editor and university lecturer, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation of  genres that weren’t my first choice.

My first love when it came to reading (as a teenager) was sci-fi and fantasy fiction. I’m not sure I would ever have woken up to the joy of poetry if I hadn’t been introduced to it in university and then later needed to work through a lot of it in order to teach it. If I hadn’t spent so many years working in journalism, I don’t think my skills for writing or editing in other genres would be as effective, either.

Working in these “second-choice” genres has made me realize the narrowness of my first love and made me a better writer and reader, and they’ll do the same for you.

Reading to be a better thinker and writer also means reading as a student, to figure out what a writer is doing and more importantly how she does it. It requires reading things more than once, something that our society suggests is a waste of time and to be avoided at all costs.

Reading from a Christian perspective will lead you to recognize  Kingdom values and, more frequently, their absence in the world around you. Maybe the result on your writing will be a nudge to incorporate issues of injustice, whether that be writing letters to the editor or straightforward journalism, or perhaps integrating justice concerns into your fiction and poetry, as Jesus did with his parables.

I am no stellar example of reading and writing widely and including Kingdom values, and so I bring this challenge to you humbly, as an invitation, not with a wagging finger.

When I was a teenager, I was a textbook example of undisciplined, narrow reading. The Bible was probably the only book published before my birth that I knew somewhat well. It wasn’t until university that I raised my aim higher than finishing all the sci-fi and fantasy books available in my local library. Growing up schooled in works of great literature, and in how to read intentionally with the objective of learning, was not my experience.

But I have found that it’s never too late to start!

The latest Faith Today features “Why Christian Classics Matter.” Read it here online. Every issue has a book reviews section that can give you some great leads on worthwhile reading.

How Sweet Christian Community is, Even Short-term

by Karen Stiller

There is so much to write about from my just-finished trip to Cambodia. I was gone for almost two weeks — and on planes for almost two days on the way back — with Samaritan’s Purse, accompanying a Water for Kids Trip.

Members of the team from across Canada and across generations pray with school staff in Cambodia
Members of the team from across Canada and across generations pray with school staff in Cambodia

I will be working on a story for Faith Today about the trip and the work we did building filters to provide clean water to school children in rural Cambodia. My task in the next few days is to sit down with my journal and a highlighter and discover the story that is there, already forming in my now worn-out red notebook. I will listen to the interviews I recorded on my iPhone on jiggly bus rides and under the most intense sun I have ever stood under. I’ll flip through my pictures yet again, marvelling at how beautiful the children were, and how ready and open to make friends.

But what I am thinking about today, two days home, is how sweet it is to be in Christian community. We experienced the warmth of fellowship on a few levels. We were a cross-Canadian/trans-denominational/intergenerational  group. We came from Nova Scotia to B.C., and spanned the years from 18 to early 60s. We made friends quickly, as we tentatively shared our stories in the departure lounge in B.C., waiting to board a flight to Shanghai. It seemed like a nice group then, and then things just got better.

We built, explored, worshipped, laughed, cried, sweated, shared, taught, learned, sang, prayed and ate a lot of rice together. And then sweated some more. And then ate some more rice. And sweated.

It was amazing to see the Church in Cambodia and join in worship and devotional times with Samaritan’s Purse local staff and with local churches.

It was wonderful to experience once again the magic of a short, intense trip in creating deep community. Yes, it is short-lived community, but short lives are good lives too.

Sometimes you do just need to add water and stir to make something rich and delicious.  I had this great big sense, once again, of being part of a great big Church. How sweet it is.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor with Faith Today. Watch for the story of the Cambodia trip in an upcoming issue.