Tag Archives: John Stackhouse

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?

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

What to look forward to in the Sep/Oct Faith Today!

We are in the final stages of putting the Sep/Oct issue of Faith Today to bed. That means a flurry of emails and activity between editors, copy-editor, design guru and writers as we tweak, trim and “ooh and ahh” over what the cover looks like, one of our most eye-catching yet we think.

The Sep/Oct issue of Faith Today will be packed with great stories, including an account of a mission trip to Cambodia.
The Sep/Oct issue of Faith Today will be packed with great stories, including an account of a mission trip to Cambodia.

But it’s inside the cover that we (and you!) find what matters the most of course. And we think you are really going to enjoy this stimulating and challenging issue of Canada’s Christian magazine. Here are a few things to look forward to:

John G. Stackhouse Jr., lately of Regent College, now of Crandall University in Moncton, provides our cover, “In search of adequacy: meeting the challenges of our time with intellectual rigour.” This is an article for everyone: pastor, lay person, professor. Here’s a sneak peek:

Just as we generally put our trust in our family doctors, while still feeling free to look up medical information online and chat with our friends about their hospital stays, so we ought to have confidence that our pastors are equally reliable experts. Yes, pastors aren’t infallible, and they might need to refer us to theological specialists from time to time, but for the usual run of intellectual challenges to our faith we ought to find our pastors to be adequately expert. Are they?

Writer Julia Cheung of Vancouver takes us downtown to that city’s infamous east side, to explore what ministry is really like in Canada’s poorest postal code. Here’s a glimpse:

Coming, praying, hoping. That is the way most of these workers and volunteers approach their ministry here. It is the way of Christ, the way of one friendship at a time, happening through the city. Where politics and controversies continually float above your head, the quietly obedient stride on.

Are you up on the latest from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and how the recent recommendations could impact ministry in Canada? Seasoned senior writer Debra Fieguth provides some answers:

Before reconciliation can fully be realized, however, there needs to be a whole lot of truth. During its hearings across Canada, the commission received more than 6,750 statements from survivors, family members and others. Just listening to the stories of residential school survivors was draining for many. “You almost want to shut down emotionally and say ‘I can’t hear this anymore,’ ” says Willard Metzger, executive director of the Mennonite Church in Canada.

And editor Karen Stiller takes us to Cambodia with her, with an inside view of what a short-term mission trip can be like. If you’ve ever been on one, some moments in this story will feel familiar:

We have been told to dig through this hill. It simply needs to be a trench through the hill wide enough for a person to stand in it. In the history of mission trips all over the world, never have two people been more badly matched to a task. She starts to dig up high. I dig down low. We have no idea what we are doing.

So, there you have it. Just a sampling of what is to come in Sep/Oct. If you haven’t subscribed for a print version, do it today so you don’t miss a thing.

2014: A Good Year for Faith Today and Christian Journalism

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We’re not saying we’re going to win. We just think our writers our winners!

Yes, the Oscars have rolled up the red carpet, but for Canadian Christian publications, it’s awards season. No statues of golden men await, but responding to the calls for entries for the Canadian Church Press awards, as well as the Write Canada awards, does give us the opportunity to dig through the past year’s magazines and find what we think was the best of the best.

We are just finalizing our choices, but so far, we’re narrowing in on selections like Arthur Boer’s excellent cover story on reclaiming our lives from being so very busy and questioning the clobbering our spirits can take from so much technology. “What happens to you and me, to our hearts, to our own compassion, when we live in a nonstop, 24/7 world of demands and more demands? When we are bombarded with messages that we need to multitask and get more done? The rapid pace of our lives is one of the most pressing spiritual challenges to Christian life today,” writes Boers.

Then, there was Mark Buchanan’s thoughtful essay with the intriguing title: “I’ve been meaning to tell you this: Confessions of an ex-pastor.”  Here’s a sample of what Mark wrote: “And then it became startlingly clear. The church hadn’t failed me. I had failed the church. I had not fully lived up to my calling. So these five confessions are exactly that – admissions of failure, cathartic for me, and perhaps helpful for you.” We’re considering entering that piece for its crisp creative design as well.

An article that told the story of soldiers dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder might make our short list : “This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide – more than 800,000 slaughtered in one of the ugliest bruises on our world’s heart. Back in 1994, many of us couldn’t even bear to watch an entire story about it on The National. It could give you a nightmare and leave a bad taste in your mouth for days to come. Imagine being there.”

Continue reading 2014: A Good Year for Faith Today and Christian Journalism

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.

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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?
Continue reading The Madcap World Of Creativity in Canadian Christian Organizations