Category Archives: Guest Blogger

Praying doesn’t come easily. But it’s happening all around the world

By Brian Stiller

Prayer is tough when taken seriously. Praying doesn’t come easily. I can preach, organize, write, exhort, study, and create fairly easily, but praying is a discipline. For most, prayer is not our first choice—getting something done is, which presumes praying is not.

Subscribe to Faith Today before the end of April and receive Brian Stiller's latest book free.
Subscribe to Faith Today before the end of April and receive Brian Stiller’s latest book free. Join us for a webinar on April 20 when we interview Brian and tap into his global perspective on evangelicalism.

Yet people everywhere are gathering together for prayer: in homes, before the business day, online, and in parliamentary groupings. Towns, cities, and regions have annual prayer breakfasts. Prayer gatherings are different and varied, noisy and silent, bombastic and reflective.

The World Prayer Assembly is a confluence of streams finding their way to a delta of prayer. This one I was at was hosted by South Koreans—well known for their rigorous early-morning prayer gatherings—and by Indonesian prayer groups. It was a four-day pep rally on prayer. The music, dance, drama, and unabashed enthusiasm were all inspiring.

The genesis of today’s world prayer was in 1984 in Seoul. Vonnette Bright, who with her husband, Bill Bright, founded Campus Crusade for Christ, led the Lausanne Movement in its late-twentieth-century prayer gathering. Here they were joined by the Global Day of Prayer, a focus triggered by Graham Powers of South Africa.

The underlying mood of the World Prayer Assembly matched my boyhood camp meetings. Joy captured the moment, for what could be more satisfying for those assembled from the troubled spots of the world? Those often living under the heel of a religious or secular majority, who are despised at best and persecuted at worst, are gathered in praise and prayer. I applauded with thousands as six hundred Christians from China stood to be welcomed. Those from Indonesia know what it means to pray in a Muslim-dominated country, where on some of its islands, Christians have recently been killed and churches burned.
Continue reading Praying doesn’t come easily. But it’s happening all around the world

An Evangelical Ponders the Pope and the Patriarch and the Meeting in Cuba

by Patricia Paddey

When word came of a meeting between Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis in Cuba, a headline in the National Post wondered whether the event might hail the “End of the 1,000-year schism?” Accompanying photographs of the two church leaders, adorned respectively in Byzantine bling and papal finery attracted my attention, but I’m guessing the event barely registered on the radar of most Evangelicals.

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After all, what do they have to do with us?

It’s a question I’ve long considered. While vaguely aware that there is some relationship—between the Protestant denominations of which I’ve been a part my entire life, and the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic branches of the Christian Church—I confess that the connection only really became clear to me a few years ago, while researching a feature story on Eastern Orthodoxy for Faith Today.
Continue reading An Evangelical Ponders the Pope and the Patriarch and the Meeting in Cuba

An Evangelical Explores the Idea of Saints … and Discovers a Great One

by Patricia Paddey

“What has been will be again,
 what has been done will be done again;
 there is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9

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Joan of Arc is a saint everyone knows about. Patricia Paddey learned to appreciate her even more.

The person who penned these thoughtful words—said to have originated with “the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem”— certainly didn’t have the study of Church history in mind. But if everything old is indeed new again, then this verse hints at the truth that there are benefits to be had from digging into the past to study the lives of saints who have gone before us; lessons to be learned, examples to be followed, pitfalls to be avoided.

Evangelicals tend to be comfortable looking to the lives of biblical figures, reformation heroes and Protestant missionaries. But what about the lives of those saints who came after the Bible, but who predated the Reformation, those who might be venerated as Saints—with a capital “S”—in some quarters? It’s easy to fall into a trap of thinking that they don’t belong to us, and that their stories therefore have little to offer.

But I was reminded recently of just how powerful such stories can be when I studied the life of Joan of Arc, a fifteenth century peasant girl, who at the age of only about 17 would set out on what she believed was a mission from God to command an army, liberate her country from English occupiers and change the course of her nation’s history. At 19, she was unjustly condemned in an ecclesiastical trial and executed for heresy. Twenty-five years later the results of that trial were annulled, and a few hundred years after that, in 1920, she was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.
Continue reading An Evangelical Explores the Idea of Saints … and Discovers a Great One

When Easy Answers Don’t Help a Marriage

by Sheila Wray Gregoire

I’ve been a blogger since 2008, and my blog, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, has grown quite large. I’ve been writing books at the same time, but my main ministry is that blog. And I rank really high in Google search engines for horrible marriage crisis stuff: “my husband uses porn,” “effects of porn,” “my husband texts other women,” “my husband is lazy and won’t get a job.”

Sheila Wray Gregoire's new book goes beyond pat answers
Sheila Wray Gregoire’s new book goes beyond pat answers

I wish my posts on “I love my husband!” ranked higher, but they don’t.

So everyday I get an influx of over 10,000 people in marital crisis. And quite often they end up at my blog because other Christians have hurt them with bad advice. What they’ve been told is exactly the wrong thing to do. Is he spending all day playing video games? “Just submit and he’ll become a spiritual leader!” Is he being verbally abusive towards the children? “Win him without words!” Is he using porn too much? “Just have sex!”

Or even this one: Unhappy in your marriage? “Just pray more!”

Submit. Don’t speak up. Just pray. All of that advice tells women, “don’t actually confront the problem.”

Sure, prayer is doing something. But what if, through prayer, God shows you that you have to draw boundaries? That you need to stand up for justice and godliness? Sometimes, some church cultures  don’t have an answer for women that supports them in learning how to speak up when it’s appropriate. Instead, we often direct women not to tackle a problem head on, but to go around it, in the hopes that someone else–our husband, God, who?–will change it for us.
Continue reading When Easy Answers Don’t Help a Marriage

Digging Deeper Into Ministry Wellness Project

The May/Jun Faith Today featured The Wycliffe Wellness Project, a research project to discover what brings wellness to clergy and others engaged in ministry. You can read the article here. We decided to have an update from Wanda Malcolm (WM) lead researcher and professor of pastoral psychology at Wycliffe College in Toronto. We asked her what she has been learning so far.Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 9.12.55 AM

FT: What has surprised you the most so far in your wellness project findings?

WM: I am most surprised that what started out to be a research project has become a self-assessment tool. This is because we have developed a confidential Feedback Summary which shows them, from a fresh perspective, what they personally find most satisfying and most stressful about ministry life from a fresh perspective. The feedback conversations we are having with participants are very rich, both in giving them insights into potential changes they might want to make, and in helping us to understand what we are learning about the ups and downs of ministry life from the perspective of those in ministry.

FT: What is the one thing you wish churches did better in terms of actively caring for their clergy?

WM: Remember that far more of what our pastors do is invisible than visible to the average church-goer. Because of this invisibility, we may not realize that they often have to juggle competing demands on their time; many of which are important but unpredictable (like funerals and hospitalizations). If we can support them to get regular Sabbath rest and opportunities for refreshment and re-creation, they will enjoy their ministry more, and in turn be better enabled to minister to us.

FT: What kind of folks are you looking for to participate in the study?

WM: We are interested in speaking to people who are engaged in ministry life; those who are at the beginning of their ministry life right on through to those who are semi-retired or retired but still actively involved in supportive roles within the ministries they gave themselves to vocationally. While this started out as a study exclusively about clergy life, we have broadened our interest to include those who are engaged in the kinds of ministries that take place outside the church walls or that run alongside formal clergy roles within the walls of the church; youth ministers, family life ministers, chaplains and spiritual care providers, parish nurses, and those who work with the homeless or near homeless or are involved in not-for-profit ministries outside the church walls.

FT: What are the top four things those in ministry could do, right now, to better care for themselves?

WM: If I were sitting with an individual who asked me this question, I would tell them…

  1. Participate in the study! We are confident that doing so will be an affirmation of what you already know – that ministry life has ups and downs – and both joy and stress are bound up in those ups and down. Beyond the affirmation, participating in the study will help you gain clarity about your own experience, and may well help you identify some potential avenues of change.
  2. Pay attention to those things (in and outside of ministry) that replenish your energy and enthusiasm, and make sure you are engaging in them on a regular basis. Cultivate the understanding that you aren’t just doing this for your own wellbeing, but also for the sake of your family, friends, and those you minister to. This is because we can give of ourselves more wholeheartedly and wisely when we are drawing from a plentiful reserve than when we are trying to give from an empty reservoir!
  3. Establish and maintain friendships with trustworthy colleagues (even if you can only get together infrequently) who know you and have earned the privilege of speaking into your life when they see signs that you might be getting derailed by stress. The same would go for listening to your spouse when he or she says that you are showing signs of being stressed. Do this even if you don’t like the way they tell you! Consider the possibility that because they know you well, they will see early warning signs long before your parishioners or colleagues will.
  4. Cultivate prayerful attention to the way you go about the activities of ministry life, and the way you engage with those you minister to. Learn to notice how your task focus and interpersonal style shift when the balance tilts, and the inevitable pressures of ministry life exceed its life-giving capacity for you.

FT: Thank you Wanda!

Find out more about the project here. And subscribe to Faith Today here!

Four Months After a Short-Term Mission Trip

By Miriam Cleough

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Miriam Cleough participated in a short-term mission trip to Cambodia. Her eyes and her heart were opened wide.

Four months have passed since I was priviledged to go on a mission trip with Samaritan’s Purse to Cambodia. Our hodge podge team from across Canada met for the first time in the Vancouver Airport. I felt nervous, but I could overcome anything because I had my “baby sister” with me. She encouraged me to come along and promised she’d be there to support me, and that she did.

We experienced highs and lows, ups and downs. It was like being on an emotional roller coaster — but in an oven. On the highest broil setting.

Heat aside, I met some of the most welcoming, loving, humble and unassuming people in Cambodia. They had little, they expected nothing and they gave from the bottom of their hearts. Appreciation and gratitude flowed from their gestures and the smiles on their faces. Language no longer proved to be a barrier, we understood each other. We had connected and been brought together, because of a necessity of life…clean water.

So here I sit, four months later. I’m not cursing the Internet….much. I have the ability to plug my laptop into whichever outlet I want. The humidity is high, not nearly touching what it was in Cambodia, but I still decide to turn on the air conditioner.
Continue reading Four Months After a Short-Term Mission Trip

10 Ways to Get Your Kid Unhooked This Summer (From Technology of course)

 

Unhooking from tech is a bit of a theme this summer for Faith Today. Our July/Aug issue features a how-to article on just that topic. Now, our guest blogger offers 10 solid tips for loosening technology’s hold on your child during the warm, summer months.

By Gregory Jantz

The author with his family...in the great outdoors.
The author with his family…in the great outdoors.

It is summer vacation and your kids have a lot of free time at home. Keeping them occupied can be a daunting task, but it is important to not throw them in front of a TV. The unhealthy relationship children can develop with technology is a mounting epidemic with uncharted consequences.

Here are 10 ways to balance your children’s technology use:

  1. Talk to your family about tech pros and cons

While your children will likely be resistant to a conversation that suggests limiting their tech usage, you are best served bringing it up within the context of your tech usage as a family.

Explain to them that as grateful as you are for all the ways technology helps improve your lives, you want to look closely at your tech usage to be sure there is a healthy balance of activities.

As a family, brainstorm a list of pros and cons. Discuss all the ways technology helps improve your lives—like providing information, connecting you with friends, and providing services of convenience. Also talk about all the ways it can threaten your quality of life—like distracting from homework, making you tired, taking time away from family and friends.

  1. Encourage and support hobbies/sports

The more you get your kids involved and active, the less time they have to be bored. The less time they have to be bored, the less time they have to spend on their cell phone or playing video games. Sports teams/clubs offer your children many benefits in all aspects of their lives. One of the most important benefits is providing them with an opportunity to create real relationships —in person, and not through their cell phone screens.

  1. Schedule weekly outdoor activities

It is important to schedule time for your kids to be outdoors, whether this be planting a garden, or going on a hike in the park. Playing outside is important for your child’s development, both physically and mentally. It also gives them an appreciation for nature and stimulates their curiosity.

  1. Make a point to have tech-free family meals

There are tremendous benefits of having family meals—especially the opportunity to communicate with one another. It is a time to engage, reflect, learn, and connect. But this type of meaningful communication cannot happen when everyone has their phones out texting. Make it a point to remove the phones from the dinner table—friends and work can wait.

  1. Keep tech out of the bedroom

If you haven’t already, prohibit the use of technology in your kids’ bedrooms. This means no TV, no computer, and no smartphone. They won’t be happy about this, but explain to them that this will give them an opportunity to use their bedroom as it’s intended—to rest and recharge.

  1. Say no to new tech toys

Parents inevitably feel the pressure to give their kids the latest and greatest of everything, particularly the newest tech devices. Resist at all cost! Your child does not need a new smartphone every time a new version comes out.
Continue reading 10 Ways to Get Your Kid Unhooked This Summer (From Technology of course)

A Good Day for Religious Freedom in Canada

EFC lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos and EFC President Bruce Clemenger.
EFC lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos and EFC President Bruce Clemenger.

As we prepare for the next EFC webinar on June 11 on religious freedom, we revisit some recent developments in Canada.

 by Albertos Polizogopoulos

January 28 was a great day for religious freedom and the freedom of religious individuals to associate together in community.

Justice Jamie Campbell of the Nova Scotia Superior Court issued his decision in Trinity Western University’s application to judicially review the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society’s decision not to admit Trinity Western University graduates to the practice of law in Nova Scotia.

In his 140 page decision, Justice Campbell set out the reasons for his decision, which concluded that the NSBS attempted to regulate Trinity Western University’s policies and practices, that the NSBS did not have the authority to do so and that even if it had had the authority to do so, it did not exercise that authority in a way that reasonably considered liberty, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

Throughout his decision, Justice Campbell demonstrated his appreciation of not only the relevant law, but the importance of the issues at play and how those issues affect evangelical Christians. He recognized that in this case, the NSBS is bound by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms while Trinity Western University is protected by it. He clearly concluded that although Trinity Western University’s Community Covenant may be offensive to some, that it was not unlawful, noting that Trinity Western University had never been found to be in violation of applicable human rights legislation. In discussing Evangelical Christians’ desire to study law at a faith-based law school Justice Campbell stated:

[Evangelical Christians’] religious faith governs every aspect of their lives. When they study law, whether at a Christian law school or elsewhere, they are studying law first as Christians. Part of their religious faith involves being in the company of other Christians, not only for the purpose of worship. They gain spiritual strength from communing in that way. They seek out opportunities to do that. Being part of institutions that are defined as Christian in character is not an insignificant part of who they are.
Continue reading A Good Day for Religious Freedom in Canada

The Shudder of the Miracle: Art as Conversion and Conversation

By Carolyn Weber

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Author Carolyn Weber explores art as Christian expression.

I participated in the David Festival in Port Perry, Ontario this past weekend, teaching a workshop on one of my favourite genres, the spiritual memoir. The David Festival describes itself as “A Celebration of Christian Worship through the Arts.” It is named for David in reference to his aim to praise God through his talents as a regular man, flawed and faithful, who was both shepherd and king. Here is a link to the festival, with a description of its wonderful events.

What is art? Such an age-old question! I think one way of understanding the import and impact of art is as a way of seeing things anew so as to participate in God’s redemptive plan for a broken world. God’s very first act in terms of how we understand our beginnings is the act of creation. As mimetic beings, “mimesis” having its roots in the Greek “to imitate,” we, too, seek to create.

As creatures made in His image, we also seek to make in His image. It is part of our being, an imprint of the divine in us, and integral to our dignity. At any moment, we can choose to create or destroy. This is the devil’s self-imposed prison: that he can only destroy, not create. For even destruction can be redeemed when in God’s hands, and when, by extension, used in the creative imagination of the artist of good faith.

In his Biographia Literaria, the Romantic philosopher, critic and poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously identified two levels or faculties in the human imagination – the primary and the secondary – each as an echo of the divine and yet differing in degree:

The primary Imagination I hold to be the living power and prime agent of all human perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM. (Ch. XII)
Continue reading The Shudder of the Miracle: Art as Conversion and Conversation

A Call To Canadian Women: Time To Engage

By Margaret Gibb

I was back on Canadian soil after spending two weeks with World Vision in Uganda and Tanzania. What I learned about the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its life-altering affects on women and children forever altered my life.  How could I ever get back to normality after seeing a very different world – a world with almost insurmountable challenges? photo_gallery_header

Our meetings with community workers, single moms, grandmothers raising their grandchildren, and teenagers being Mom and Dad in child-headed households, gave me a clear picture of life in a developing country. Women were at the forefront of fighting to survive with their small gardens and meager ways to earn money.

Illiteracy and lack of education was a deep concern. Like all mothers, they wanted their children to have better lives. Education was the answer.   But how, when school fees were beyond their means?
Continue reading A Call To Canadian Women: Time To Engage