Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Making Thoughtworks Work

One of the things that Thoughtworks does well is organize and deliver weekend intensives. These are training opportunities, hosted by a local Vineyard, open to anyone. Over the years we have run them on everything many different topics, and we can do them for you. It is my hope that as you read material on this blog or work through the Thoughtworks curriculum that you discover things that you believe your congregation can benefit from. That's where we can help. Simply contact your regional Thoughtworks representative and figure out an option that works for you. Often the reason we have not is because we haven't asked.

To facilitate getting training out as cost effectively as possible, we also need you to let us know your passions. Have you done an excellent teaching on marriage counseling? Why not write up a blurb for this blog - that way when folks read it they can be inspired to bring that wisdom to their own congregations as well. The more we know about the passions in our region the better we will be able to let the whole region, and even country, benefit. The same goes for needs, if we know that there is a problem with biblical literacy, we can help connect you with resources that will work for your congregation. Building on the positive experience of the National Webinars, we do not need to be locked into traditional modes of training either. We are here to serve the churches in our movement, ensuring that we build on a strong foundation.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blogs that get you Thinking

About once a month we would like to feature a few blogs* and other websites that get you thinking. This month I wanted to draw our attention to a couple of East Coast blogs with Vineyard connections.

The Naked Pastor is none other than David Hayward. David and Lisa were the pastors of Rothesay Vineyard(NB) from 1995 until 2010. I met David at a Post-modern Hermeneutics* workshop at Dominion Hill. I recognized right away David was a sharp thinker. Over the years I've come to appreciate his blog the NakedPastor. He posts articles, comics and pictures often probing deeply into our unexamined preconceptions about God, church and life. David often has very lively debates in the comments, although they can get fiery at times as well. I make a point of surfing over to his blog at least once a week. Whether you agree with him or not, David Hayward is really good at making you think.

Another great East Coast blog comes from PEI. Cracked Virtue is the personal blog of Vineyard pastor Brian Metzger (Charlottetown Community Church). I also met Brian at the same Post-modern Hermeneutics workshop as David. He has quite a different personality than David, but again a keen thinker and a great guy. Brian does more of a commentary style blog, sharing his thoughts on everything from how he's feeling personally to what is going on in churches today.

EDIT: Brian has moved his blog here.

If you know blogs and websites that get you thinking why not write up a little context blurb and email them to me. (church(at) I'll try to put up a few new links the third Monday of each month.

*Blogs, like this one, are websites where a person or group of people journal in a public way. The better blogs also allow you to interact with the content through comments.
*Hermeneutics is just the fancy word theologians use for interpreting stuff. Post-modern in the case of the workshop was used to name the present state of culture in which deep suspicions toward the Bible, or any religious text for that matter, is considered 'normal'.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Bit on Blogs

Blogs have been around for quite a while. They can be a wonderful format for fostering discussion. I have a new series about to start here on the Ontario Regional Thoughtworks Blog called Blogs that Make you Think. Every month we will highlight a few blogs that are worth visiting, beginning with some Canadian Vineyard blogs. Blogging is not like other formats you might be used to (although there are many examples of people trying to make blogs that function like traditional web pages). It is not like a web page in that a blog does present some sort of article, but then it allows you to interact with that article by commenting. But it is also not like a forum (or a newsgroup for those who have been around the internet a long time) where the conversations are continuous threads generated by an ongoing discussion - although the conversations in the comments can sometimes turn into veritable forums. The difference is that the blog post is what generates the comments.

Blog posts are an interesting form of writing too. Often they are constructed in a stream of consciousness fashion. Much as I'm doing in this post. There is usually a central idea and the blog forms a sort of sermon, if you will, around that idea. As such, blog posts are often not fully cooked ideas - they are meant to express someone's thinking on an area they are interested in. I do this all the time on my personal blog. Where the posts come out of what has absorbed my attention that day. Also it is important to note that opinions in a blog post reflect an individual - which is why on this blog we have a policy of noting who the post comes from at the end of the post. My hope is that you will find less and less posts with my name on them and more from folks around the region. This distinction is important because the posts on this blog do not represent the Vineyard or even Thoughtworks - but represent the individuals who offer them up as part of an ongoing conversation. Although they do represent the value of a rich and diverse conversation amongst people trying to express faithfulness to God's Kingdom.

Comments is where blogging becomes a rich form of conversation. Once a post is out there, then it spurs others to also reflect on that idea. Over time a certain ethos will develop, that is a set of ideas that are of importance to the bloggers and those who read the blog. We set out an explicit ethos that we are trying to create in our initial post. Over time blogs will attract followers who become the most frequent commentators, but most blogs are open to anyone commenting. For those interested, we have set up comments to require some sort of identification - the reason is that this cuts down on the amount of spam comments and it also promotes a more civil discussion. There are always ways to comment anonymously. We also monitor comments for spam, which is an advertisement pretending to be a comment. In terms of what people comment on, I always find it surprising. But that is be beauty of the blog. Conversations can spring up and go well beyond the initial post.

I hope this little introduction is helpful. The first post in our new series is scheduled to come out Monday. I trust that you are all enjoying the holiday season and finding opportunities to place Christmas as the center of your festivities.

Merry Christmas all.

Frank Emanuel - Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa

Monday, December 20, 2010

Book of Note: Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions?

Refuge Vineyard (Cambridge) planter Brad Culver pointed me to this book by Gerald R. McDermott. Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions? Jesus, Revelation and Religious Traditions sounds quite daunting. It is actually a very accessible read and one of the more useful books in my library. McDermott tackles the problem of religious pluralism (our cultural reality) and provides a real workable and soundly evangelical means by which we can live our faith in the world today. That is a big claim, so let me unpack it.

The two dominant responses to pluralism are to appeal to a same but different view of religions or to demonize other religions. I know that most of us struggle for something in the middle, but it is hard to not find yourself at one end or the other. The "all roads lead to the same place" view is quite common amongst classically liberal theologies (e.g. Paul Knitter's No Other Name?) and usually makes us evangelicals run the other way. What this approach ignores is that the scandal of particularity, that is the technical term for the belief that there is something unique about what Jesus has done, is of huge importance to Christian orthodoxy. But when we insist on the scandal then we often do it in a way that says all religions, except maybe Judaism, are rooted in lies. So in that way of thinking there is nothing we can learn from world religions except maybe how to argue against them. And even though I hold to the scandal of particularity, I find neither of these responses adequate. That is where McDermott comes in.

McDermott tackles a cluster of issues around the way evangelicals view other religions. He looks at the notions of revelation, and rightly suggests that it is naive to think that God is without a witness there. In fact he would encourage us to look for the ways that the Father is already speaking within other religions. Much like the story of St. Patrick and the Celts - Patrick found that God was already at work drawing the Celts to Jesus (such as the four leaf clover, another excellent book on the subject of God's witness in world religions is Don Richardson's Eternity in their Hearts). However, there is a problem with just trying to find the ways a world religion is like Christianity. If all we are doing is trying to convert the religion of the other then there can be no learning. McDermott does something fascinating with this core idea - he makes it the basis of an attitude towards other religions. This attitude has two important parts:

1) Unlike the approach where we lay down what makes us distinct as Christians, McDermott asks us to come into the conversation (with other religions) as who we are. His position is that if we come to the conversation what we bring is our Christian religion, and that it is as valuable as any other contribution. But it also means that we need to take the claims of our religion seriously, including the scandal of particularity. That is why we look for those things that we can recognize, so that we can understand the other - but, I would suggest, also so that we can better understand ourselves. Part of the integrity of this aspect of the attitude is that we recognize we are still growing in our own knowledge and understanding of God.

2) Which means, unlike the demonization approach, we truly value the contributions of world religions. In fact, from the confidence of our identity we can even open ourselves up to the possibility of God speaking through our conversations with practitioners of other world religions. The shift is that we look first to what God might be doing before we simply assume that the person in another religion is not also trying their best to understand God's plan for themselves. It does not mean that we do not look for moments to share what we love about Christianity - but it does mean that we also get to hear what others love about their religions. This opens all kinds of doors for inter-religious conversations and even cooperation toward making this world a better place.

I have found this approach very helpful in the relationships I have with other world religions. In a recent conversation with a Muslim friend of mine he commented about how he enjoyed talking about religious things with me. And we've had some deep conversations. I think we've both been enriched by the experience. And he is just one of the people from other world religions that God has graced my life with. Would I love to see him become a Christian? Actually yes I would, but I have a confidence that God is at work drawing him and in that I see the work of Jesus who already draws women and men to the Father. (In fact that is the only way they ever come.) So I trust, pray, and share - but I also find myself enriched, challenged and I think prayed for. And this is good.

Also I often recommend this book for new students. Academic study of theology today is not possible without encountering other religions. It also necessitates the opening of ourselves to new ideas and new ways of talking about God. McDermott will be challenging to some of these students, but I trust that they will see that he gives them (and us) tools to navigate the religious pluralism of our day with integrity as evangelicals.

5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Have you Participated in a Webinar?

The Webinars that Vineyard Resource Canada has been putting on are excellent. I try to be part of as many as I can, but it is not always possible for me to participate at the time of the event. If you've participated in past webinars and would like to write a short report, that would be really helpful for this blog. What we'd be looking for is simple:

What was the topic and how does that topic interest you?
What were the key points brought up in the presentation/discussion?
Did you find the presentation/discussion helpful?

Let me know if there is one you would like to do. Also it is fine to get more than one perspective on a webinar.

I would encourage you to sign up even if you cannot attend, their is a download offered which only comes to those who have registered for the event.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Why Theology?

Bert Waggoner, National Director of Vineyard USA, has a very thoughtful post on why he feels theology is important. It is worth reading. Why is theology important to you? If you do not feel it is important, why?

Looking forward to having this conversation with you all.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Upcoming Webinar

Centered Set: Take Two

Join us for a Webinar on January 11

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:CLICK HERE

During our webinar in the past week it was immediately clear to me that we wouldn't begin to mine the depths of this topic sufficiently in one setting to do it any justice. As a result we are going to offer a followup webinar on this topic in January. What do I think that we need to further explore (topics of which we have hardly scratched the surface)?

• If salvation is seen as a process, what markers are there to demonstrate movement toward Jesus?
• Is it necessary to define movement toward Jesus over time? What place is there for community discernment on this issue?
• Practically how is leadership impacted by a centered set paradigm?
• How do these things work themselves out in a larger church context?

You of course have other questions as well. For those who want to participate, I propose that you email us your question(s) by the end of December 22. We'll choose the most representative questions and address them together. We'll have the microphones opened up through the whole time so that we can go back and forth on each issue as long as it takes to get further clarity.

You can download the webinar later, even if you can't attend the live event, but only if you register now. (You will receive an email the day after the webinar with a link to download the file at your convenience).

Webinar start times:
10:00 AM PDT
11:00 AM MDT
12:00 PM CDT
1:00 PM EDT
2:00 PM ADT
6:00 PM GMT
This message was sent by: Vineyard Resource Canada, PO Box 333, St. Stephen, NB E3L 1H8, Canada

Monday, December 6, 2010

Worship Training Resource

We asked Dan Wilt to pitch his work training worship leaders. Worship is often the first place people learn theology - it is so very important for us as a movement to pay attention to the quality of our worship. Much as we all love just getting lost in God's presence (what's not to love!) we must also recognize we are training our people in the things of God. Dan's work draws deep from the breadth of Christianity. He encourages us to go deep too - not just deeper in love with God, but deeper into a life of godly devotion that surrenders completely to all God has for us in this world. Here is how we can connect to what Dan is doing. This is one resource you are not going to want to miss. is today's foremost online worship development resource available. Featuring hundreds of free media resources, including On-Demand courses, retreats, training seminars and more, you will explore worship through an ancient-future lens, connecting with resources from many streams of the church. You can even do online study for university credit.

No worship leader should be without a free account - grow with thousands of others from over 50+ countries and denominations on the site.

Start your free account:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Scheduled Content

I have been busy lining up content for this blog. I should have something new every week, and I've scheduled this content to come out on Mondays at 8AM (I am good up until mid-January with more content on the way!). A great Monday ritual would be to check here and see what is new.

You can also subscribe to this blog via the link at the bottom or follow it through social networking through the tools on the right.

If there is a feature you can't find, let me know. I want this blog to be a very friendly and helpful experience for us all. If there is a type of article you find helpful then click that link at the bottom of the article and I will try to line up more of the same. Together we can make this blog a very useful resource for our work as servants to the Kingdom.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Upcoming Webinar

Centered Set: What Did We Get Ourselves Into?

Join us for a webinar on December 7
Reserve your webinar seat now at: CLICK HERE

It's a familiar concept for us in the Vineyard movement. It is supposed to describe how we function as a community. Have we fully considered the radical implications of this perspective, particularly now as we are more serious about really engaging with the communities in which we live, work and play?

• Are centered and bounded sets mutually exclusive?
• Is this just for "Baptists in transition" or for everyone?
• Why does this "feel" like compromise?

We will explore this together along with a panel of practitioners.

You can download the webinar later, even if you can't attend the live event, but only if you register now. (You will receive an email the day after the webinar with a link to download the file at your convenience).

Panelists: Gary Best and others tba
Title: Centered Set: What Did We Get Ourselves Into?
Date: Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Time: 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM PT
11:00 AM - 12:30 PM MT
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM CT
1:00 PM - 2:30 PM ET
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM AT
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM GT
This message was sent by: Vineyard Resource Canada, PO Box 333, St. Stephen, NB E3L 1H8, Canada

Theology Pubs

This summer I presented a few Thoughtworks workshops at the National Gathering in Penticton, BC. We had such a good crowd for the Theology Pub/Post-modern Hermeneutics workshop that we had to run two groups (sample theology pubs)! The format was simple, I presented a bit on the model of theology pubs and then we did it on the topic of post-modern hermeneutics. Some of the feedback on the theology pub format was really good - and my experiences with running theology pubs in Ottawa has convinced me that it is a way of creating space for those who want to really reflect on their faith and the challenging issues we face trying to faithfully live out our faith in the world today. So, I'm going to share a blog version of the presentation I ran in Penticton. I know there are other approaches to theology pubs so I'm hoping to get some of the other leaders who have been running them in Ontario to share their ideas on the topic as well.

The first thing I addressed was the venue. Although it is trendy to call them theology pubs it isn't the pub that makes them special. In fact a lot of bars that call themselves pubs are not really good environments for a theology pub. What you want is a coffee shop, quiet pub, or restaurant where you can seat everyone together comfortably and carry on a conversation. From experience it takes a bit of work to find a good location - we had added challenges with accommodating a couple wheelchairs. A few other important aspects of the venue need to be considered. First this is about a public conversation. There is something about bringing it into a public space that allows participation that you wouldn't get say in a church building or in a private space. It also allows listeners on to jump in. Another consideration is size. Because we run theology pubs on edge topics relevant to our community - we can have fairly big turnouts for a pub setting. It is worthwhile thinking this through before you get to the venue and find that you can't really have a proper conversation with the group you attracted. In Penticton I figured we might run into this problem so I had asked Mark Taverner, a pastor I knew ran theology pubs in Langley, to be ready to take half the group.

Then I spent some time on the philosophy of theology pubs, what they are all about. The most important aspect for us is having a good conversation. I define a good conversation as thoughtfully engaging the topic with an eye on the implications of our faith life towards that topic. At Freedom we intentionally take on topics that we are wrestling with as a church community. By bringing these things into conversation we are creating a community that works through issues together. It makes church function more like a family, and even when there isn't consensus on an issue, at least folks feel like they've had a part in shaping the churches response to the challenges of the day.

I have already looked a bit at why a public conversation is important. But another aspect is that the mode of a theology pub is a bit different than we usually do training in the church. The technical name is a Socratic conversation, which really just means that together you explore an issue by asking questions in a group. It isn't about getting to the one right answer, but allowing the answers and questions to be explored. This doesn't mean it never lands on answers - but it requires a lot more patience than we might be used to. Which is the third point - listening. I think Wimber had a brilliant insight in his healing prayer model when he talked about listening to the person and at the same time listening to God. I find that this works really well in theology pubs. Conversations are about hearing the different views and questions. We usually invite someone into the conversation who we know has a different perspective on it than we do, this enriches the conversation. It is important that we don't see theology pubs as debates. But we also need to recognize that we are people who hear and respond to God. So we listen in two directions. But the nuance I like to insist on is not to try and hear what God's answer is - cause often we get that confused with what we want God's answer to be - but rather, in light of this what would God want me to do? How would God want me to respond? Just that little shift is an amazing change to the conversation. Overwhelmingly I find people who want to explore deep issues, but us evangelicals haven't made ourselves very good conversation partners. (I am also convinced that Jesus' brilliant way of responding to folks came from his ability to actually hear what they were saying, something to think about as we read the gospels.)

In terms of content, the world is a complicated place. Historically the evangelical churches (in particular) have had an amazing capacity to experiment and find fresh expressions of the gospel that speak into the culture. What I think we are called to today is to rise up to the challenge of culture once again. We don't shy away from tough subjects in our theology pubs. I know Mark did his first one on hell, great subject. We need to recognize that most people are wrestling with the ideas we once thought were settled - and that this is not a bad thing. At Freedom we've taken on everything from the Eucharist to homosexuality. And they have been wonderful conversations. What I would encourage is that you don't just come in with your already established opinions. Either do some research into the subject and the various perspectives on the subject, or find someone who has been working in this area. I often invite someone from one of the universities to participate. They don't lecture, they are just there as another person in the conversation. There are folks out there who would love to come and be part of such a conversation, often we tell them we'll buy them a pint for coming - but most enjoyed themselves so much we had to fight to pick up their pub tab!

Really the only person you need though is a facilitator. The facilitator does not need to be an expert on the topic. But they do need to cultivate a few skills. First they need to know the goals of the theology pub, conversation not debate, etc. Second they should prepare a few starting questions that can get the conversation rolling. Our experience is that this is important to get things going, but usually we have to decide to stop it because the conversation takes on a life of its own when it gets rolling. Third, they need to steer the conversation clear of becoming a debate. What I loved about the workshop I ran in Penticton was that there were a variety of opinions on how we read scripture in a post-modern day - but it didn't devolve into an argument. At one point, as the facilitator, I realized two people were saying almost the same thing but with different language. I simply introduced a new term and helped each side see how it captured what they were trying to say. The new term was helpful because they hadn't attached themselves to it as the way to say what they were saying.

Hope this was helpful, I would love to hear of your experiences with theology pubs. What works, what doesn't, and what could be done differently.

Frank Emanuel (Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Society of Vineyard Scholars

Recently on my personal blog I talked about the importance of presenting papers at academic conferences. And this morning a reminder came into my inbox about the near deadline to submit papers to the Society of Vineyard Scholars. Much as I'd love to participate, I have prior commitments this year. But that should not stop you from considering it. The call is open to all who believe in the mission of the society.

Within the current call for papers, I super interested in the topic 'Doctrine of Justification' as this doctrine has been subject of a lot of conversations I've been part of around the Vineyard in Canada in the last couple of years. There seems to be a growing concern that while substitutionary atonement is an important understanding of Jesus' death and resurrection, it is not the only one and that we might have lost some of the richness of resurrection theology by focusing on just one aspect of God's work through Christ. Last year folks had posted articles from the conference, I'll be sure to put a link up here for all that come up from this years meeting.

One last note, if you are from the Ontario region and plan on attending (alas I cannot this year) then please consider writing a review for this blog.

Frank Emanuel (Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Resource: The Song Share Project

The Canadian Vineyard is a wonderfully active place. The Worship Development team has set up an amazing site for sharing and developing new worship songs. It is called the Vineyard Song Share Project. As Prosper of Aquitaine (390-455) noted, lex orendi, lex credendi, that is how we worship shapes what we believe, therefore, it is so important that we intentionally develop worship that reflects the theology that has been life to our movement. Worship has always been a central value in our movement and the Song Share Project lets us all have a hand in shaping worship that will bless the Church and, more importantly, bring glory to God.

Frank Emanuel (Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa)

Friday, November 26, 2010

New Thoughtworks Blog

Thoughtworks is a Development Group of the Vineyard Church in Canada. Our purpose is to equip churches to faithfully love God with both heart and mind. While our resources focus on thoughtful engagement with Christian theology, history, and practice, our ultimate passion is to see Christians strengthened in their faith so that they can participate with God's redemptive works throughout the whole world.

How does it work?

Through the Thoughtworks website you will find curriculum and other resources developed by our national task force to serve our churches. Thoughtworks also works with each region to organize workshops and training opportunities to help you equip the saints. Regionally a representative helps get the resources into your hands. These resources focus on four important areas of theological mentoring: God Thoughts, what we call foundational theology; Biblical Foundations, recognizing the authoritative role scripture plays in our movement this material fosters a deep relationship with the Bible; Kingdom Encounters, because whole people are a whole lot better than the alternative!; and, Future Church, where we focus on how we continue to build effective ministries in a changing culture.

So why the blog?

In order to better facilitate resourcing the Ontario region, this blog was set up as a central point of contact for those interested in mentoring and discipleship from a Canadian Vineyard perspective. Here we will feature articles to get you thinking and keep you connected.

Look for articles:
  • on approaches to mentoring and discipling

  • reviews and discussions of books and tools that Vineyard folk have found helpful

  • on upcoming regional training opportunities that you can get involved in

  • reports from past events that folks in our Region have attended

  • articles on theological work that is relevant to Ontario regional Vineyards
As with any good blog you will be able to comment and interact. Comments will be monitored by regional Thoughtworks representatives. Announcements will not have commenting enabled, but should always include contact details for further inquiry.

OK, so is there a catch?

Actually yes there is. We are looking for content. This blog belongs to the regional Vineyards in Ontario. If you hang out with us then you are invited to participate. Send your blog posts to the Ontario Regional Thoughtworks Coordinator.* He's a really nice guy named Frank.

We are looking forward to many fruitful conversations and seeing more of what God has for our region, our churches and our world.

* Article submissions must match one of the above listed categories. Please include a note about your affiliation with the Vineyard - you do not need to be a member of a Vineyard church, but you do need to be known to a Vineyard church. We reserve the right to edit your article, but we will make sure any changes meet with your approval before we post.