Tag Archives: Crandall University

Every hour counts: a call to create beauty and other great things well

Prof. John G. Stackhouse, Jr. delivered the following message in the academic chapel of Crandall University this September. We thought Faith Today readers, who know Stackhouse from his books and our pages, would appreciate this encouragement to use our time right to create lasting beauty and recognize the “daily-ness” of life.

“The lif so short, the craft so long to lerne.” In his famous poem “The Parliament of Fowls,” Geoffrey Chaucer quotes the ancient Greek sage Hippocrates to tell us something not only about literature, but about life. Life is indeed short when one considers how long it takes to learn how to—

How to what?

Prof. John G. Stackhouse, Jr., a columnist in Faith Today, shares a vision for using our time very well.

How to do anything truly important and worthwhile. To compose a poem, yes, which is what Chaucer initially means. But also to do anything else in life that is of lasting significance.

To build a bridge that will stand strong and look beautiful for generations. To run a business—a business that provides useful and dignified work as it contributes something beneficial to the world. To form and maintain a marriage—a relationship of mutual care and perpetual stability within which children can grow up secure, confident, and wholesome.

Ryan Holiday in a recent book (Perennial Seller) provides some examples of what it takes to produce something special:

  • The Sistine Chapel took four years to paint. Four years. The planning and the building took even longer.

To be sure, that was back in the Renaissance. We move much faster nowadays, right?

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Why John G. Stackhouse Jr. Wants us to Think Differently

We’re interviewing Stackhouse! And we’re offering one of his most popular books as a subscription bonus during Sep/Oct. John G. Stackhouse Jr. is an author and professor, and a popular Faith Today columnist. Stackhouse recently moved from Regent College in Vancouver to Crandall University in Moncton to join the faculty as professor of religious studies and dean of faculty development. And, he writes the provocative cover story for the Sep/Oct Faith Today. It felt like a good time for a Q and A with this award-winning scholar and public communicator. 

"Let’s ask each other, 'What do you think about that?' and then, 'What do you think God wants us to think and do about that?' Conversations would change pretty quickly, wouldn’t they?" asks John G. Stackhouse Jr.
“Let’s ask each other, ‘What do you think about that?’ and then,
‘What do you think God wants us to think and do about that?’ Conversations would change pretty quickly, wouldn’t they?” asks John G. Stackhouse Jr.

FT: You’ve recently made a big move, from Vancouver and Regent to Crandall and Moncton. Can you tell us how you are settling in? And what you are most looking forward to in your new role there?

JS: By North American standards, at least, I’ve made a few “cross-cultural” moves before: from northern Ontario to West Texas as a teen; from Chicago to rural Iowa as a newly-minted PhD; from Winnipeg to Vancouver and from the University of Manitoba to Regent College in mid-career; and now to the Maritimes and Crandall University. I love teaching students at any level—from first-year beginners to doctoral students—and I am delighted to find a third job in a row that lets me range beyond the customary disciplinary limitations of the academy. (Normally, you must be a theologian OR a historian OR a philosopher OR an ethicist.)

What will be new for me at Crandall, however, is the role of Dean of Faculty Development, which I see in a “player-coach” model. I love helping new scholars get grounded and oriented and encouraging mid-career professors to focus on their strengths and thus increase both their enthusiasm and their effectiveness.

FT: Your passion for the “intellectual health” of the Canadian evangelical church comes out loud and clear in the Sep/Oct cover story. What are your top recommendations for individuals and churches stemming from that story?

JS: First, we have got to read more, and read better. We receive dozens of messages every day, some of them helpful while many are inimical to Christian commitment. Clever people are behind many of those messages, and we need to be informed and trained to filter them properly. Only a course of regular and rigorous reading—books,magazines, and websites—and, yes, podcasts and online courses of high quality—can help us keep our feet and maintain a path of faithfulness in such a media storm.
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Don’t Be Horrified At Christian Conflict

By John G. Stackhouse Jr.

“Our steady resolve not to learn anything very much different from what we currently think we know shows up in families, churches, and other societies as the horrified repression of all conflict.” -John Stackhouse

“Necessity is the mother of invention” is a nice way of saying, “We don’t generally bother to think new things until circumstances compel us to do so.”

Organizations die that aim only at being “five per cent better than last year.” Teams get beat by running the same plays that worked well last season. Generals lose wars, as the saying goes, by skillfully fighting the last one. Why are we not more creative?

Creativity comes in response to a challenge, not to a cloudless day at the beach. Innovation arises out of the threat of competition or obsolescence, not out of a board meeting filled with mutual congratulations on another job adequately done.

The great English preacher John Stott used to testify occasionally to his “struggle to think Christianly” about the issues facing his congregation and his nation – and, indeed, of global Christianity. Such intellectual wrestlings were provoked by what Stott called “PIM” – namely, “pain in the mind.”

It was a phrase beloved of certain English evangelical intellectuals in the mid-20th century (Lesslie Newbigin liked it too), who were constantly working to get their minds around Scripture and tradition and reason and revelation and church and world. Thinking new thoughts was, even for these brilliant leaders, often not so much joyful artistry as sorrowful discipline (Hebrews 12:11).

How much more pleasant it is to avoid pain, including “pain in the mind.” How much more comfortable and comforting it is to encounter a new thought or a novel practice and dismiss it out of hand. How much time do we spend instead visiting websites, listening to podcasts, watching programs, viewing videos, and reading books and magazines that only reinforce what we already think?

Our steady resolve not to learn anything very much different from what we currently think we know shows up in families, churches, and other societies as the horrified repression of all conflict. Indeed, in some Christian traditions the presence of conflict is simply equated with the presence of the devil. Christians, after all, are supposed to be unified, and conflict in its essence is disunity.
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The Madcap World Of Creativity in Canadian Christian Organizations

By John G. Stackhouse Jr.

john_stackhouse

Let me introduce you to Sharon. She is a change agent, a questioner, a critic. She asks “why” a lot, and suggests alternatives to almost everything we do – even things we have done the same way for years. She’s usually polite, but sometimes she’s uncomfortably direct, even a bit sharp and impatient.

And Sharon is persistent. If she doesn’t get a satisfactory answer, she sometimes drops the matter temporarily, but you can be sure she will ask again the next time the subject comes up. She’s clearly talented and achieves at a high level. But she certainly does disturb the space around her.

We’ve decided, for the good of the group – you know, the sense of unity, co-operation, common vision, camaraderie – Sharon has to go. She will be terminated this Friday with the quickest and quietest exit we can engineer.

Now let me introduce you to Greg. Frankly, Greg is a charming failure. He’s always ready to say hello, eager to engage in small talk and quick with a smile. He works long hours and listens well to everyone. He promises to make amends when mistakes or shortcomings are pointed out to him, and he never directly challenges anyone.

His work, however, is actually pretty bad. He consistently fails to meet targets. He has alienated many of the people who work most closely with him because of his incompetence. The job is clearly too big for him, although he never acknowledges it is, and instead always seems to have an excuse at hand.

We’ve decided, for the good of the group – you know, the sense of unity, co-operation, common vision, camaraderie – we’ll keep putting up with Greg. We’ll work around him, put some of his responsibilities on others, and set lower, more reachable goals for him.

Some organizations prize innovative thinking, “creative disruption,” straight talk and a quest for excellence. Others value mutual reinforcement of the status quo, avoidance of conflict, soothing euphemisms and a quest for “comfortableness.” Why does it seem that the latter culture is far more common among Christian organizations than the former?
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