Category Archives: Feature Story Extra

Give thanks continually … to the people you work with

by Rick Franklin

When was the last time someone went out of their way to thank you? Do you remember what they did? What they said? How you felt?

Check out the current issue of Faith Today for this story by Rick Franklin and more.

Last week I was in the Netherlands training ministry leaders. After the training finished, I caught up with some friends my wife and I have known for years. It was a wonderful reunion of deep friendship spent swapping stories of life and faith, growing older and seeing God’s faithfulness. A highlight of our visit was witnessing the 73rd commemoration of the Airborne landings on Ginkel Heath in Ede.

I doubt you’ve heard of it, but here we were with thousands of people young and old gathered in the Dutch countryside to commemorate and thank the hundreds of paratroopers, soldiers and resistance fighters from England, the United States, Poland and the Netherlands who fought and lost the Battle of Arnhem.

Yes, you read that correctly—the commemoration celebrated a lost battle, a military failure. But for the Dutch under German occupation, it signaled an important turning point and actually provided a reason for hope at a time when hope was in short supply. It indicated help was coming even if the first wave was unsuccessful. So the Dutch continue to celebrate and thank the soldiers today, 73 years after the doomed battle.

There’s an important leadership lesson for us here. In my article from the current edition of Faith Today, I highlight 5 critical skills church leaders should nurture—leading from a strong spiritual foundation, knowing where you’re headed, serving sacrificially, communicating clearly and thanking continually.

I’d like to expand on the point of thanking continually. First, we have a biblical example and mandate to thank. For example, Paul tells us to be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18; see also Eph. 5:20) and he expresses thanks to God often for his co-workers in ministry. In Philippians 1:3, Colossians 1:3-4, 1 Thessalonians 1:2 and other passages, Paul models explicitly and specifically thanking fellow believers for their part in ministry.

Second, on a practical level, expressing gratitude and thankfulness is powerful. We see this in the Dutch celebration of the Battle of Arnhem, as it continues to impact people today, 73 years later.

Showing appreciation motivates and enlivens. Thanking people empowers them and provides encouragement, which is often in short supply.

Think about when someone went out of their way to thank you for something you did. Maybe it was a kind word or leaving a note of thanks on your desk or giving you a small gift for going above and beyond what was expected. How’d you feel? In a word, it feels good.

But I bet it did more. My guess is it helped provide additional motivation to lean in, to step up, to go the extra mile.

That’s what gratitude does in the people we have the privilege of leading and serving. It breathes life into people to know they matter, hearing that their efforts and contributions are valued and appreciated.

So as a leader—an influencer—in your church (or in your home, workplace, neighbourhood, etc.), let me encourage you to frequently express gratitude by incorporating these few simple ideas to show your appreciation and thankfulness.

Simply say “thank you.” I’ve heard from many church volunteers, who shared they’ve never been thanked for serving. Thanks goes a long way especially for those who donate their time and talent at church. So say thanks often and see what happens!

Write a note to express appreciation. It can be a sticky note or in a beautiful card. What matters are the words of appreciation you choose and taking the time to personally express your gratitude.

Give a small gift. Often times it’s appropriate to give a gift to share appreciation and thanks. Think creatively and have fun. You can give flowers, food, something from your local Christian bookstore or anything that conveys gratitude.

Thank publicly. Take opportunities to recognize people’s efforts and contributions publicly. Even though some may shy away from the attention, folks deeply value being honoured and valued in a public way. It says, “I noticed what you did and greatly value you and what you’ve done.”

Thank in the midst of failure. One of the most powerful ways to express gratitude is in the midst of failure, as the Dutch did. It’s easy to recognize success. It’s more meaningful to find the good when someone fails.

In a word, be creative! There are thousands of different ways to say “thank you.” Just try to find ways of expressing your gratitude that are meaningful to the person you’re thanking. Not everyone is like you or likes to be thanked the same way you do. If you need some help, take a look at Gary Chapman and Paul White’s book, The Five Languages of Appreciation.

Thank often and you’ll breath life, encouragement and motivation into the people you lead and serve. Frequently express gratitude and appreciation and then watch the impact unfold! Who knows, maybe your influence will be far greater than you could imagine… influencing people 73 years later.

Dr. Rick Franklin is vice president, Arrow Leadership Ministries. For over 25 years, Arrow Leadership has developed thousands of Christian leaders around the world to be led more by Jesus, lead more Like Jesus and lead more people to Jesus. You can read the current issue of Faith Today online, but even better than that subscribe today to access one of our most popular subscription deals.

Behind the scenes with our “Helping Children After Divorce” story

Alex Newman, the writer of the Sep/Oct Faith Today’s story on helping children after a divorce, takes us behind the scenes of her own story and her research.

by Alex Newman

I’m an eternal optimist. After the initial alarm over the bad stats on kids of divorce, I decided to look at the percentage of kids who did well. What happened to make them thrive and overcome the odds? It’s something I’ve discussed with my friend Esme Fuller Thompson, a social work professor whose research is precisely in this area. Although I’d done a ton of reading already, she was especially helpful in directing me to studies I would never have come across, like the Israeli one that shows when a mom and the paternal grandparents stay close, the kids do better.

Read “Stability is the Key” in the latest Faith Today.

It’s all that research that is so challenging in writing a story like this, because it becomes almost impossible to condense it all into one article. I did my best but I’m afraid it only scratched the surface. Below all those studies are real people and real people can react in different ways and require different handling. So while there are some fundamental and foundational guidelines for helping your kids, there’s a lot of latitude depending on the child, the parents, the siblings, and so on.
Continue reading Behind the scenes with our “Helping Children After Divorce” story

A Canadian author tackles the life of David in upcoming novel: A FT mini-interview with Mark Buchanan

Readers of the Jul/Aug Faith Today were treated to a take on King David that we might not have read before. “You anoint my head with oil: What a Bronze Age warrior-king can teach us about friends and enemies,” is an inspiring essay that looks at the friendships in David’s life, and how they might help us with our own.

But Mark Buchanan (MB) is working on more than that angle of David’s life. Deeply immersed in the writing process for his upcoming novel based on the life of the warrior-King from the Bible, one of our fave Faith Today (FT) writers took a few minutes out of his writing schedule to tell us more about the book, and his creative process.

Mark Buchanan’s essay in the Jul/Aug issue of Faith Today examines the role of friendship in David’s life. Buchanan is working on a novel about the warrior-king’s life.

FT: Mark, tell us about the novel you’re working on about David. What do readers need to know?

MB: I explore David’s story and character from multiple perspectives of those who know him well – his wife Michal, his nephew and general Joab, his priest Abiathar, and so on. I weave these multiple viewpoints into an overarching narrative that traces David’s life from birth to death. And, of course, I salt the whole thing with snippets of Davidic psalms. I am hoping that the overall effect captures both the sweep and grandeur of the story and the depth and complexity of the man.

David’s central and lifelong quest revolves around his longing for the father’s love. That explains nearly everything about him – from his astonishing intimacy with God to his failures as a husband, to his aloofness and yet indulgence toward his own children, especially his sons. It explains his military feats and his domestic fiascos. So I’ve made that quest – to find the father’s love – the deep story of the novel.

FT: What have you learned about David and his story that surprised or moved you particularly?

MB: That David is no hero. He’s a flawed and conflicted man who keeps throwing himself on God. He’s a king who needs a King, a father who needs a Father.

FT: We tend to think of you as a non-fiction writer. What has writing fiction been like for you?

MB: Wonderful. Terrifying. Deeply satisfying. Tormentingly hard. And it is borderline insanity to try to tackle a story so loved and revered – there are so many ways to mess this up. So we’ll see…

FT: What is your hope for the book?

MB: That it invites those who know the story well to reimagine it and reengage it, and invites those who don’t know it at all to explore the source material.

FT: What is next? Or are you thinking of that yet?

MB: Another novel – about a pastor who is a kind of modern day David.

FT: Thanks Mark!

MB: And you as well. Thanks for indulging my obsession.

Mark Buchanan is associate professor of pastoral theology at Ambrose University in Calgary. He is author of several books including Your Church Is Too Safe: Why Following Christ Turns the World Upside-Down(Zondervan, 2012). Spiritual Rhythm: Being With Jesus Every Season of Your Soul (Zondervan, 2010) and the forthcoming David: A Novel (Watch for news of its release this Winter).

Faith Today loves to tell stories of the creative Christian arts in Canada today.  Subscribe now for a regular dose of inspiration. 

Six Habits to Enrich your marriage this Summer and beyond

The Jul/Aug Faith Today featured a story about Heart to Heart Marriage and Family Ministries, the new initiative by Ron and Ann Mainse to help build strong marriages. We asked Ron and Ann to write a guest blog on how to enrich your marriage. Thanks Ron and Ann!

 By Ron & Ann Mainse

We all know that good habits can help us feel better and live better…and that’s especially true in marriage!  Doing loving things every day can be like a daily dose of vitamins for a marriage, just what the doctor ordered for a long and healthy relationship.

Ron and Ann Mainse are co-leaders of Heart to Heart Marriage & Family Ministries. We welcome them as guest bloggers to Faith Today!

If you really think about it, you can probably come up with dozens of little habits that can help to strengthen your marriage, habits like picking up your shoes or replacing the toilet paper roll, but let’s just focus on some of the biggies…

Show gratitude.
Saying “I love you” goes without saying (meaning, it’s a given that you should say it regularly).  But what about regularly saying “thank you” …and meaning it!  That may seem insignificant, but when your spouse feels valued and appreciated on a regular basis, the groundwork is laid for deeper intimacy. I know it means a lot to me (Ann) when Ron thanks me for even the little things like doing the laundry and putting it away.  It may not seem like much, but it makes a big difference to me that he noticed.   And when I (Ron) come in the house tired, hot and sweaty after mowing the lawn, and Ann smiles and gives me a genuine, “Thanks, Honey, for doing that,” those words are like a cold cup of ice water for my soul.

Continue reading Six Habits to Enrich your marriage this Summer and beyond

Don’t read your Bible the way you’ve been taught: Scripture Union offers guidance this summer

It is Scripture Union’s 150th birthday, a milestone we cover in the Jul/Aug issue of Faith Today. We thought it would be fun to ask them to do what they do best for blog readers, help us read the Bible this summer. We asked Lawson Murray, Scripture Union president, to give us a nudge in the right direction.

By Lawson Murray

The key to reading your Bible is not to read it … at least not to read it the way you’ve been taught to read.

To help mark its 150th birthday, Scripture Union has published this book, full of Bible reading tips.

The way we normally read is based on three ingrained assumptions:

  • We’re the masters of what we read
  • Texts/content are subordinate to our intellect
  • We have the right to choose what to do or not do with what we learn.

When it comes to Bible reading these assumptions create tremendous obstacles because they place us in control when God should be in control (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9).

God must direct our reading. This happens when we learn to read the Bible on its own terms. We cannot, and should not, be the masters of what we read. Nor can we stand to one side exercising our cognition and intellect to evaluate or control the text in the light of our own best interests. Rather, the Bible must read us!
Continue reading Don’t read your Bible the way you’ve been taught: Scripture Union offers guidance this summer

Theological education is especially important here: An interview with Glen Taylor in The Gambia

Jul/Aug Faith Today profiles the work of Wycliffe College professor Glen Taylor, and the four year degree in Christian Studies he helped create in The Gambia, West Africa. We interviewed Taylor (GT) via email, while he is in The Gambia this summer to find out more.

Professor Glen Taylor and his class this summer in The Gambia.

FT: Glen, what have you learned from the Church in The Gambia?

GT: Probably the biggest lesson concerns the depth and vitality of faith in Jesus. More church folk here seem unquestionably faith-full than at home. It is almost like they have extra powers of perception to see the living God in everyday life. One reason for this is that many Christians (and others) make so little money that making ends meet is often a miracle in itself.

FT: What is the greatest need of the Church there?

GT: Probably resources and a greater sense of cooperation across denominations. Regarding resources, the Anglican bishop lamented to me that if capital was available the diocese could, for example, construct an office building to house its diocesan office, rent out space to others and be able to generate revenue. In other words, it takes money to make money. The lack of the former is exasperating to those who can imagine a different economic scenario. As it stands, money is short and church buildings and such seem only to get more dilapidated.
Continue reading Theological education is especially important here: An interview with Glen Taylor in The Gambia

Confessions of a kid who didn’t rebel

An interview with Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach, author of Faith Today‘s May/Jun cover story, “Help your kids embrace the faith: trading in picture-perfect faith for authentic experience.”

FT: Rebecca, you have a book coming out in the fall with Thomas Nelson called “Why I didn’t rebel.” How did this all come about?

RL: I wrote a blog post for my mom [writer Sheila Wray Gregoire] on the same topic. We had about a quarter of a million people in the first three weeks read it, and we had over a million people see it on Facebook. It was shared on pinterest. I was getting people sending me screenshots asking it if was me. When it blew up, I did all my interviews and made it into a book.

Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach is the writer of “Help your kids embrace the faith,” Faith Today’s May/Jun cover story.

FT: Why do you think your blog and ideas touched such a nerve?

RL: It’s a topic that touches everyone, right. Everyone knows a teenager or has a kid or has a family member like a grandchild or niece, just that kid at church that you take under your wing.

We’re also just really curious, and we’re all busybodies, that’s how humans are. So, when you hear “why I didn’t rebel,” you want to know. I did think about how I could word it in a way that made people interested.
Continue reading Confessions of a kid who didn’t rebel

Six things I wish I had learned in medical school

By Laura Lewis, MD

I wish I had learned…

That science can only describe the magnificence of life, not explain it. Despite learning about oocytes, spermatozoa, cell division and embryology, I failed to appreciate the complex blueprint of life, established in the early moments of conception.

During the course of her work as a frontline medical doctor, she saw the need for education, support and practical options for women and men facing unplanned pregnancies. In May of 2016, Dr. Lewis accepted the position of executive director of CAPSS.

That in the name of “choice” many women have no choice regarding their unplanned pregnancy.
I never appreciated that the scared, young woman sitting across from me in my doctor’s office also carried the fear and pressure of many others whose lives would be impacted by her decision. This fear is often laden with pressure, subtle and overt.

That many men and women live with great regret about their children lost to abortion.
As I began to work with our local pregnancy care centre, stories of deep and hidden sorrow began to emerge from post-abortive women and men. It made me question whether we have done an adequate job providing real choices. I know the answer without hesitation – we have not. True choice is when accurate information is provided on all options. True choice is made from a place of knowledge and confidence, not fear.

That despite our ability to treat a diseased heart, we have no cure for a broken one. 
We cannot fix a broken heart, but we should do all that we can to try and prevent it. I wish all women, men and families facing an unplanned pregnancy could hear the cries of regret from those who have walked before them. The physical, mental and emotional effects of abortion matter, whether it is 1% or 100% of patients affected.

That a microscope, while magnifying an image, can actually dull our focus.
A chromosome count cannot measure value. Prenatal testing cannot predict love or the impact and purpose of a life.

That when it comes to unplanned pregnancy, we often fail our patients. That is my word for it, failure. Our patients come to us for guidance, education and unbiased help during the chaos of an unplanned pregnancy. Yet, in our society and in medical circles, abortion provision, accessibility and availability are given a greater platform and emphasis than supportive alternatives such as adoption and pregnancy care support.

It is my hope there will be a change, in our society and in the medical profession. It is time for a new response to those facing an unplanned pregnancy, one where we look beyond the scientific process and we enter into a new conversation, one where all life is valued and protected.

Dr. Laura Lewis is a family physician and executive director of CAPSS (Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services). CAPSS is dedicated to establishing, equipping and encouraging local pregnancy care centres across Canada. Read Faith Today‘s recent Question & Answer interview with Dr. Lewis.

Gary Chapman on the history of The 5 Love Languages

By Gary Chapman

I have always liked wildflowers.  There is something exciting about scattering seed and waiting and watching to see what comes up.  However, through the years I have sometimes been disappointed when few seeds germinate.  My friend George, who has a “green thumb” told me, “It’s the soil.”  With a question mark in my eyes, I said, “I thought wildflowers grew every-where.”  “They do,” he replied, “but some flourish in one soil, but struggle in another.  It’s the soil,” he repeated.

As a marriage counselor, I discovered that the same principle is true in marriage.  Take love, for example.  I’ve seen husbands expend great energy and often lots of money to show their wives how much they love her.  Then, they step back to see their “love seeds” grow and produce a smile.  However, the wife doesn’t give any evidence that a seed has been planted.  The problem?  It’s the soil.

One wife considers flowers a huge expression of love, while another wife says, “Why did you spend money on flowers?  They will be dead in three days.”  Or, a wife may spend hours cleaning the house and is disappointed when her husband doesn’t even notice.  She was expecting accolades, but all she received was silence.

The reality is that what makes one person feel loved does not make another person feel loved.  We tend to think, “If I see it as an act of love, they will receive it as an act of love.”  That is a false assumption.  This explains why so many spouses are disappointed when they plant seeds of love that never germinate.
Continue reading Gary Chapman on the history of The 5 Love Languages

Why the Parent Cafe works so well

Ask most parents what they most need within their busy schedules, and they might say an occasional safe place to talk and share and be supported in what is one of the most difficult jobs in the world: being a good parent.

Here is an early poster for the Parent Cafe, welcoming harried parents to a night of learning and mutual support.

The May/Jun Faith Today features a story about an innovative and effective ministry to meet this need created by New Song Church in Port Perry, Ont., a congregation of the Anglican Network in Canada. In the spirit of full disclosure, that was the church where my husband served for the last five years. I was involved in the Parent Cafe ministry from the beginning, and I’m convinced this elegant idea can easily be transplanted into other congregations, especially in areas where there might not be visible social problems to help solve, but more hidden needs, like support and community for busy parents and families stretched in 100 directions.

The idea is simple: When parents get better, the whole family gets better. Parenting is one of the most difficult (and most rewarding!) things in the world and it’s easier and better when parents support each other and freely share their knowledge and experience.
Continue reading Why the Parent Cafe works so well