Category Archives: Feature Story Extra

An Interview with the authors of “Theology Matters” study

The recent study “Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy” grabbed the attention of mainline media in Canada. The study showed that mainline churches that grow in Canada tend to be theologically  more conservative, led by pastors who engage more regularly in personal religious practices, and attended by Canadians who also engage more regularly in such practices.

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The Jan/Feb issue of Faith Today digs into the study and asks questions we haven’t seen asked anywhere else — such as how mainline denominational leaders are responding to a study that shows church growth is found in the opposite direction theologically in which their denominations tend to be moving. We felt like readers might want even more than is in the article, so our FT team went back to two of the study’s authors (David Haskell and Kevin Flatt) and asked more questions. Here is our interview…
Continue reading An Interview with the authors of “Theology Matters” study

Resources on Ministry With Seniors

If we can give our readers something extra, we love to! Here is an extended list of recommended books and videos related to “Can Churches Do Better With Our Seniors?” a Jan/Feb feature story by Lisa Hall-Wilson

By Bill Fledderus

The United Methodist Church, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., has an Office on Aging and Older Adult Ministries headed by Dr. Will Randolph. It offers a free quarterly newsletter and good blog posts about recommended resources, caregiving, worship and other related topics at www.aging-umc.org. Don’t miss the blog posts “What Shall I Read First?” and “What Shall I Read Second?

Amy Hanson of Council Bluffs, Iowa, is author of Baby Boomers and Beyond: Tapping the Ministry Talents and Passions of Adults Over 50 (Jossey-Bass, 2010). See her list of recommended resources and more at www.amyhanson.org. Don’t miss her free 16-page PDF from 2007 “Churches Responding to the Age Wave: Top Innovations in Older Adult Ministry.”

A Vision for the Aging Church: Renewing Ministry for and by Seniors (IVP Academic, 2011) is a book by James M. Houston and Michael Parker that challenges the church to embrace and honour the contributions that can be made by its older members while more effectively ministering to their needs. Dr. Houston is an emeritus professor of spiritual theology at Regent College in Vancouver. Continue reading Resources on Ministry With Seniors

‘Tis the Season for Charity Gift Catalogues

Here’s an expanded alphabetical list including the ten listed in our Nov/Dec 2016 print edition. You won’t want to miss them this Christmas! Simply click a headline to visit that charity’s online gift catalogue.

CANADIAN BAPTIST MINISTRIESCatalog cbm_cover_2016

Gifts range from $20 for school supplies to a child impacted by HIV/AIDS to $300 to sponsor an acre of a growing project.

CAUSE CANADAcause

Gifts range from $10 for soccer balls in Sierra Leone, to $14,000 for the purchase of one rice mill for a village. Midwife training sessions to support maternal newborn child health programs in Guatemala and Honduras are $40. Sponsor a special needs Guatemalan child for $40 a month, through our kids program.

COMPASSION CANADACatalog Compassion

From $10 for a mosquito net to $3,000 for rain water harvesting system. Continue reading ‘Tis the Season for Charity Gift Catalogues

What does it mean to be the Church in exile?

By Rachel Baarda

(Watch for more on this topic in the Jan/Feb Faith Today!)

Less than a week before the U.S. presidential election, the presidents of EFC affiliate institutions met in Mississauga for the annual Presidents Day gathering. One of the speakers was Dr. Lee Beach, author of The Church in Exile: Living in Hope After Christendom (Intervarsity Press, 2015). He asked, “As believers, how do we maintain our cultural identity in exile?” In the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election, this topic seems more timely than ever.untitled

Beach said that today, Canadian Christians live in a place where our story is no longer known. More surprisingly, we’re losing sight of our identity as confessing Christians. A friend of Beach’s young son saw a nativity scene, and he asked what it was. Beach contrasted this with his own childhood biblical knowledge: even before becoming a Christian, he knew some Bible stories, such as Jonah and the whale.

With so few Canadians knowing the Christian story, we are starting to lose sense of who we are. Beach drew on the example of the Israelites in the Babylonian exile. They, too, faced challenges preserving their identities in exile:

  • The Babylonians were celebrating Marduk’s victory over Yahweh. The Israelites had to decide whether they believed that Yahweh would actually be with them.
  • The Israelites had to rediscover their identity in the midst of exile.
  • They had to rediscover a community distinctively opposed to the ways of the other nation.

Beach pointed out that in an era when faith is increasingly privatized, it’s harder to be encouraged in our faith. Christian faith is seen as antagonistic to our culture, so we have to find pathways through the marginalization of our own beliefs.
Continue reading What does it mean to be the Church in exile?

How is God at work in Vancouver?

By Jonathan Bird

[Editor’s note: this is an advance peek at an important article we’ll be formally publishing in our Nov/Dec issue.]

Vancouver is rightly celebrated for being one of the most liveable urban regions in the world. Yet Vancouver’s very success has contributed to profound spiritual confusion and social dysfunction among its residents.ray-bakke-jonathan-bird

The gospel has always fallen on rocky ground here in “Lotus Land,” where religion is a four letter word and spirituality is merely an optional accessory for a self-fashioned life in the cultural convergence zone between West and East.

But fashioning a life here is immensely difficult. In this city of immigrants, where elementary schools have ESL rates as high as 65 per cent and the majority of residents move every five years, civic leaders consider loneliness and the lack of social cohesion to be more devastating than the fast-rising cost of housing.

Or at least they did until recently. The century-old joke that land speculation is the favourite blood sport of Vancouverites isn’t funny anymore. With offshore investors driving the composite benchmark price of all housing types in the metro area to $845,000 in April ($1.4 million for a detached house), even secular newspaper columnists are openly wondering if the “resort municipality” of Vancouver is “losing its soul” as it empties of families and young people.
Continue reading How is God at work in Vancouver?

Why we did a story on Christians who swear

I felt a little bit like a little old lady (sorry little old ladies!). I sat in the front row of a Christian writers conference in the States, beside my friend Patricia Paddey. One of the speakers swore a bit of a blue streak from the podium. To make her point. To make us laugh. To shock us.

Get the latest issue to get the latest on Christian swearing. Does it matter?
Get the latest issue to get the latest on Christian swearing. Does it matter?

It did all of those things, of course, as  a well-placed cuss word can.

But it got us talking later about the looseness of language we hear more and more amongst our brothers and sisters in Christ. It seems to be more okay today than before to swear. We may have actually “tut tutted” a bit as we chatted about it.

When I became serious about my faith in university, I set about to clean up my language. I’m a good Maritimer and we are good at swearing and come up with new ways to do it all the time (sorry Maritimers!).
Continue reading Why we did a story on Christians who swear

La lutte de l’Université Trinity Western pour la liberté de religion s’intensifie

anglais/English

Les experts disent que c’est une cause importante − pour tout le monde

Par Allison Barron

Jessie Legaree est diplômée de la Trinity Western University (TWU),  avec un baccalauréat et une maîtrise. Ayant fréquenté la faculté de droit à l’Université de Toronto, elle fait présentement un stage à Abbotsford, Colombie-Britannique.

Et elle voit son alma mater traverser une série d’appels et de contre-appels pour obtenir le droit d’avoir sa propre faculté de droit.

Legaree dit que ses études à TWU ont favorisé sa croissance académique et spirituelle, en plus d’améliorer ses futures compétences d’avocate en instillant en elle un amour pour toutes les personnes et un désir de servir autrui. Elle appuie l’idée d’une faculté de droit reconnue à travers le Canada.

« Une éducation juridique chrétienne supporte un plus grand appel qui enracine la défense dans le service, et je ne peux imaginer meilleures assises pour les futurs avocats, » explique-t-elle.

Mais cet avenir pourrait ne pas être possible avec l’action en justice sans précédent que TWU doit subir dans quelques provinces.

Continue reading La lutte de l’Université Trinity Western pour la liberté de religion s’intensifie

What counts as a flourishing congregation in Canada?

by Joel Thiessen

What counts as a flourishing congregation in Canada? What are the indicators of a flourishing congregation?

FlouishingCI LogoWhat would you say? Membership, baptism, conversion, or attendance figures? How “well” churchgoers love others? Good leadership? Strong community presence?

These are common and anticipated questions that our research team receives as we launch the new Flourishing Congregations Institute at Ambrose University.  In reality, flourishing is a combination of all of the above, plus a series of other variables.

Our team recently facilitated two expert panel gatherings with nearly 20 church and denominational leaders of flourishing Catholic, mainline and conservative Protestant congregations in Calgary. Soon we will travel coast to coast, speaking with 50-75 additional leaders of flourishing congregations – and later in the study we will conduct in-depth case studies of some congregations, followed by a national survey with leaders and members of flourishing congregations.

In our initial explorations we ask leaders this open-ended question: “What comes to mind with the phrase “flourishing congregation”?” We also summarize and then solicit their response to five traits that emerge in the literature on healthy and vibrant churches: a clear self-identity; strong and committed leadership; a culture that desires growth (numeric as well as spiritual); a hospitable community;band vibrant spiritual life (see our earlier article in Faith Today)
Continue reading What counts as a flourishing congregation in Canada?

An American and Canadian Evangelical Dialogue over our story: “Are American and Canadian Evangelicals Really That Different?”

At Faith Today, we thought we would carry on the conversation about American and Canadian Evangelicals generated by our May/Jun cover story. So here we present the reaction of an American Evangelical to that story, and the response from our writer Sam Reimer. 

by Dr. George Yancey

I want to thank Sam Reimer for his comparison of U.S. and Canadian Evangelicals. Such insight should be shared by Christians on both sides of the border.

Our blog writers are responding to the May/Jun cover story. Have you read it yet?
Our blog writers are responding to the May/Jun cover story. Have you read it yet?

It is encouraging to learn that we have so much in common with our northern brothers and sisters. It does make sense that theological similarity would unite us, given the social factors that have created the evangelical subculture that spans between the two countries.

Allow me to add another similarity that may not have been clear from the article. We Evangelicals in the U.S. are also astounded at the political success of Donald Trump. At least this is the case for those who take their faith seriously [as evidenced by church attendance]. For example, in the Missouri primary Cruz beat Trump 50 percent to 33 percent among Evangelicals who attend church at least weekly. On the other hand, among Evangelicals who attend church only a few times a year, Trump beat Cruz 48 percent to 29 percent.

So please do not accept the myth that Evangelicals in the U.S. are big supporters of Trump.
Continue reading An American and Canadian Evangelical Dialogue over our story: “Are American and Canadian Evangelicals Really That Different?”

Writing the difficult story of Gospel for Asia

by Karen Stiller

We first began to hear about the troubles facing Gospel for Asia through our readers.

We received several letters from Faith Today subscribers concerned that we were running advertisements from a charity facing serious questions about staff relations and financial issues.

A pile of Gospel for Asia research for the story "Tangled and Troubled Times at Gospel for Asia."
A pile of Gospel for Asia research for the story “Tangled and Troubled Times at Gospel for Asia.”

Of course, Faith Today has a clear “we don’t necessarily agree with all our advertisers” stance, but that answer only goes so far.

We started to dig and discovered that one of the world’s largest Christian charities was indeed coming under serious fire. We had a decision on our hands. Do we do this story? Or do we let it play out for even more time? Or do we ignore it altogether?

We chose to dig in.

We certainly weighed the seriousness of trudging into a story full of contradictory statements, unproved or not-yet-proven allegations, and named the potential risk and sadness of adding to the societal skepticism of Christians acting wrong with people and with money.

But of course, we aren’t given the task of making each other look good. It is our job to bring truth to light as best we can. Not to sensationalize or diminish. Not to make things bigger, nor to make things smaller than they really are.

So, I read, dug, listened, asked, confirmed, fact-checked, worried, asked more questions, worried some more. And then wrote.

Both sides checked in with me with concern at different times in the course of this story, wanting to make sure that I really got it, that I understood what was at stake. I think they wanted to know they were safe and that they were believed. The best answer I could give them, and I believe this to be sadly true, is that no one is going to like this story.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. Sign up for a free trial subscription, and receive the May/Jun Faith Today featuring “Tangled and Troubled Times at Gospel for Asia.”