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.
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.
Do you have a bucket list for 2017? Author Ann Voskamp (our Jan/Feb Faith Today Interview) in her latest book The Broken Way: a daring path into the abundant life, suggests we think bigger than that. “What if,” she writes, “living the abundant life isn’t about having better stories to share but about living a story that lets others live better?”
I thought of Voskamp’s take on the popular bucket list idea — where you plot out and list off the adventures and accomplishments you want to achieve before you “kick the bucket” — when I read a Globe and Mail article called “Kicking the Bucket List” on Dec. 30.
The article shares the history of “bucket lists,” and how that name entered the lexicon of popular culture about a decade ago. It also names one of the big weaknesses of the bucket list: “When however it comes to those things we value not for themselves but as markers of success and status, one thing can easily substitute for another. You finally get the specific job — the new title of junior assistant associate undersecretary — that you have been coveting. Two months later, it means nothing to you…”
Anyone who has ever crossed an accomplishment or the obtaining of some desired object off their list knows that feeling all too well. We always want more. We are rarely satisfied.
With Voskamp’s rewriting of the bucket list to a kind of “give it” list however, satisfaction is almost always guaranteed. “More than any bucket list of merely exploring the world, you could live an empty bucket list of expending all for the world.” She asks, “Where are the people ready to do the hard and holy things?”
I spoke more with Voskamp about this in the upcoming Faith Today interview for Jan/Feb. You won’t want to miss it. Meanwhile, why not spend a few moments creating a “give-it” list? What gifts and resources can you share with your community, and the world, in 2017? What might be hard and holy — and I’m guessing ultimately very fulfilling — for you this year? What do you have to give? I’m sure that list is longer than you can imagine.
Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. Subscribe today to not miss the Voskamp interview, and have access to some of the best Christian print journalism in Canada.
“I’ve been in urban ministry for over twenty years.”
It’s odd to hear a statement like that come out of my own mouth. I startle myself and wonder when I became that person, simultaneously aware that I’ve barely scratched the surface of understanding what urban ministry is.
Patti Miller est pasteure principale récemment nommée à l’église Evangel Pentecostal Church de Montréal (www.evangel.qc.ca), la plus importante congrégation de langue anglaise au Québec. La signature de l’église est : Inside Out Church: Do good. Love each other. Reveal Jesus. [Une église entière : Faites le bien. Aimez-vous les uns les autres. Révélez Jésus.] C’est le thème principal de Patti depuis plusieurs années, elle qui a fait du ministère dans le secteur Jane-Finch du centre-ville de Toronto, ainsi qu’à Hamilton et maintenant, à Montréal. Elle a accordé une entrevue au magazine Faith Today sur les erreurs courantes commises dans le ministère urbain, les différences qu’elle voit à Montréal et les raisons pour lesquelles l’Église canadienne doit trouver « la plénitude de son cœur ».
Faith Today :Vous avez fait du ministère au centre-ville de Toronto, à Hamilton et depuis peu, vous êtes installée à Montréal. Dites-nous ce que vous avez appris au sujet du ministère urbain au Canada aujourd’hui.
Patti Miller : Je dirais que c’est désordonné. Les églises élaborent des programmes qui ne fonctionnent pas pour tout le monde. Beaucoup de gens qui vivent en ville et qui fréquentent une église urbaine sont en marge de la société, pour toutes sortes de raisons. Les programmes réguliers ne leur conviennent pas. Ils tombent un peu dans l’oubli et cela demande plus d’engagement. Vous devez quand même vous occuper des personnes, même si elles se trouvent dans des foules.
FT : Hamilton s’est acquise une certaine réputation pour ses églises qui travaillent ensemble. Comment voyez-vous cela opérer dans différents contextes ?
PM : On peut faire mieux. Oui, oui, oui. Je crois que nous devons vraiment passer des églises qui se font concurrence à des églises qui collaborent entre elles. Mais je dirais que cette collaboration doit reposer davantage sur les relations et être moins formelle. Ce n’est pas ce que j’ai vécu à Hamilton, car les églises savaient comment se réunir seulement pour faire une croisade ou tenir un événement ensemble. Ça tournait autour de la planification. Il y avait moins d’amitié, moins de « honorons-nous les uns les autres » et moins de pasteurs partageant des repas.
In an increasingly dangerous world, are short term missions worth the risk?
Danger and confusion were rampant for the early disciples. The Apostle Peter took refuge in Joppa away from the madding crowd in Jerusalem, only to have the Holy Spirit invade his prayers with a strange vision of an unholy banquet of snakes, reptiles and other unappetizing fare.
St. Peter’s decision to go on a short term mission to Cornelius’ house was a response to the Holy Spirit’s invitation. He was compelled to “go without hesitation,” and go he did, even though he didn’t understand exactly why.
Sound like a short term mission to you? Compelled to go, but you don’t know exactly why, nor do you feel prepared, and you feel a queasiness about what you will find there, what the people eat, will there be any danger?
With the first national study of its kind, Sam Reimer and I published our book, A Culture of Faith, on evangelical congregations in Canada.
The study asked pastors a series of questions about congregational vitality including those on priorities and purposes, programs, finances, health and well being of staff, among many others.
Here are some of the findings that we think will be important discussion points.
We discovered that religious participation continues to decline all across Canada with one exception: evangelical Protestants.
There are approximately 30,000 congregations in Canada and clearly 1/3 of them are affiliated with Evangelicals. And yet, only 10% of Canadians identify with Evangelicals. What we wanted to know is why are congregations so important to Evangelicals that they would invest so much time and money in them? What we learned is that Evangelicals have higher levels of participation than all other groups with congregational life focussed on worship and teaching. Many congregations are young, urban, and increasingly multicultural. Youth and children are very important and programs reflect this priority.
However, we also discovered that rural congregations are facing some difficult issues with lack of growth and demands on staff.
Clergy across the country are aging and it’s not clear how denominations will deal with the impending demand for staff. Coupled with declining enrolments in theological schools (seminaries and Bible colleges), this will be a very real challenge.
We also listened to youth pastors and children’s pastors express less satisfaction than lead pastors in ministry. Many appear to be frustrated working in areas that are out of their gifting or calling. Finally, since the economic downturn in 2008, many congregations reported lower levels of giving which places added pressure on them.
Our research offers pastors and church leaders an organizational analysis of Canadian evangelical congregations.
We hope it will be the basis for further discussion and perhaps theological reflection on the role of congregations in Canada.
In our study a large number of pastors indicated they are once again reflecting on their priorities and purposes and rethinking what it means to be missional in a changing Canada.
We are aware that congregations went through lengthy processes a couple of decades ago when vision and mission statement activities were much talked about. However, with ongoing social change especially in the past decade it may be time to review those statements again. We hope our research will facilitate the discussion.
Michael Wilkinson is Professor of Sociology at Trinity Western University, Director, Religion in Canada Institute and Co-ordinator, Canadian Pentecostal Research Network. Read Faith Today’s interview about A Culture of Faithhere.
Trinity Western University is back in the news in its continuing battle to establish a law school — with graduates recognized by law societies across the country.
Bob Kuhn, president of Trinity Western University (TWU) in Langley, B.C., spoke to Faith Today about freedom of religion, what TWU’s students think about the controversy rocking their school and the personal nature of the attacks and where he believes Canada is heading.
TWU’s proposal for a school of law, although approved by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, has ignited debate in Canada over topics like discrimination, a school’s right to have students sign a community covenant, and of course, religious freedom. The Council of Canadian Law Deans has spoken out against TWU’s plans for a law school.
FT: Were you surprised at the outcry from the law deans?