Monday, January 31, 2011

Thoughtworks Curriculum - Working for You

This is a new series looking at the various Thoughtworks offerings in terms of curriculum you can run in your congregations. What is exciting is that there are many ways this material can be run, what we present on the Thoughtworks website is simply a guide to running the material as either a mentoring exercise with someone you are equipping to lead or with a small group who simply want to know more about the Christian life.


Kingdom Encounters - Year One
Preparing a Message

A few years back Don Rousu sent me this teaching, I think it was on tapes even! He does a great presentation and the one big message is that every good sermon should be centered around one clear thought. Sounds simple but unfortunately it is not what is typically heard from pulpits around the world. And unfortunately I'm certain I've added to the chaos that is contemporary preaching.

Preaching is a serious part of Christian worship. This kicks off the Kingdom Encounters material because for many people it is the proclamation of the Kingdom that becomes the first clear encounter they have with God. Not that the message is somehow divine - but it can create the place of encounter with God. Paul underscores the historical importance of preaching when he asks "how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?" (Romans 10:14c) The context of this passage is that the preaching of God's Good News (aka the word of Christ in the NRSV) enables people to believe and be saved! If this is so important than I am convinced it is worth spending time learning how to do it better.

About a dozen or so years ago I found myself in a classroom training to be a professional corporate trainer. I actually had a teaching background (college) and years of preaching/teaching experience. But as the classes unfolded I found myself wishing I had sat in that chair years earlier. It was so helpful that I've since developed a Preaching and Teaching workshop that I have had the privilege of delivering for Vineyards in Ottawa, Pembroke and Sarnia. I'm sold on the need to develop this skill and I'm also sold on the idea that almost everyone can preach and teach competently.

The course that Don has put together includes a text, Design for Preaching, H. Grady Davis; Don's course notes which you can use to structure your mentoring time; and, as always, a final assignment which can be completed for a Thoughtworks certificate (contact your regional Thoughtworks representative for details on how this works.)

If you have folks wanting to lead small groups, preach in worship gatherings or just understand more about the role of preaching in Christian worship - this is a great course to start with. Maybe you, as a teaching pastor, want to know how to hone your craft and clearly articulate the goodness of our God, this is the course to start with.

May signs and wonders follow our preaching of Christ's word!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Upcoming Webinar

Preaching that Sticks

Join us for a webinar on February 15

Reserve your webinar seat now at: CLICK

If we've been pastors for any length of time we've probably spoken millions of words - that's our job (or at least a major part of it). Most of the time we live in the hope that our many words are actually making a difference. Sometimes that hope becomes a little more tenuous when in the middle of preparing our next message we realize that we can't remember our last.

Is it possible to have preaching that is remembered, understood and even instrumental in bringing about real life change? In this webinar we will try to unpack some of the key essentials in making that a reality by answering questions like these:

  • Whose message are we preaching?

  • Who are we preaching to?

  • Are we talking with or talking at?

  • Are we expecting too little?

  • Are we making room for encounter?

Panelist: Gary Best
Webinar start times:
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 GMT
This message was sent by: Vineyard Resource Canada, PO Box 333, St. Stephen, NB E3L 1H8, Canada

Monday, January 24, 2011

Developing Biblical Literacy

I have to make a confession here. While I love to read and study Scripture - in the midst of the busyness of being a husband, father, pastor, student and teacher it is not easy to keep any sort of regular devotional reading schedule. Over the years I've used many different tools, and for seasons they are great. But like many of the busy people who come to our churches - these practices can fall off when another, seemingly more urgent, task arises. I have asked my friend Andy to write a post on running Bible studies - he is brilliant with these, and frankly I think we need to re-imagine how we can introduce more Bible study into our congregational life - but what I'm wanting to do today is reflect on our commitment to Scripture as "the people of the Book" (as our Muslim friends call us).

Because I know that my relationship with Scripture is somewhat feast and famine. It is very important for me to make sure that the Bible is a central part of the worship life of the congregation I pastor. This does two things for me. First it means that I am, as primary teaching pastor, responsible to at the very least be in the Word as part of my preparation for regular teaching. The second thing is that it means that our community sees the value of Scripture modeled on a weekly basis. Let me explore both of those ideas just a bit.

Quite a few years back in our community, Freedom Vineyard, we decided to find a place in our worship for public reading of Scripture. We actually turned to a lectionary. A lectionary is basically a Scripture reading/worship schedule for the whole year. Our intention was to re-learn the gospels. Many of us had started to realize that bouncing around Paul's letters with our favourite sermon topics was not stretching us. Around that time I was taking a course on Mark's gospel and started to realize that the majority of the Christians we knew, myself included, were great with snippets of scripture but often quoted things that did not always ring true when carefully read as part of a whole book or narrative. We also started to recognize that Paul's context was in a church that regularly and publicly (in worship that is) read gospels. When we adopted lectionary readings it was mainly so that we would be reading the gospels as a regular part of our worship times. For me as a pastor this meant reflecting deeply, wrestling even, with the gospel reading for that week's message. But because we were following a schedule - and missing the other days of the week - it also meant for me that I was not just responsible for learning what that little bit of gospel meant, but what it meant in a continuing story that is woven daily through our worship lives. For a long time I simply incorporated the lectional readings into my devotional life. But, as I confessed before, devotional trends come and go for me. So having a set reading/teaching schedule means that in preparing for a service I always read what comes before and after the gospel text - so that I know what is happening in the story so that I might have a better sense of what is going on in the text.

Corporately it has a similar effect. My congregation is used to thinking about the gospel reading in the context of what is going on in the narrative around it. I've noticed that there is little tolerance in our group for the common technique of proof texting, that is when we gather up a number of verses to support whatever idea we are presenting. Because we meet as a small group, when someone tries to throw in a verse I've seen folks question the speaker about what the verses before or after do to their basic argument. While that sort of thing can make us uncomfortable - as a pastor I was excited to see that their biblical literacy was growing. A typical teaching in our group sticks pretty close to the source texts, rather than relying on favourite passages taken out of context.

How we interact with Scripture as teachers sets the expectations for the people who attend our bodies. As evangelicals we often claim to have a high, meaning it is very important to us, view of Scripture. But how can we claim this and yet never think about how we treat Scripture in our worship/teaching times? It is a good check, every now and then, to ask if we are letting Scripture shape and change us or if we are simply manipulating Scripture to serve our perceived pastoral needs? Hard questions, but important if we want to truly be "the people of the Book."

Frank Emanuel (Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book Club: Naturally Supernatural

Watch for an upcoming post on running book clubs next month. But I wanted to invite anyone around to join us in our latest book club where we will be reading Gary Best's Naturally Supernatural together. There are bulk rates on the books so if you want in let me know as soon as possible. For those interested in completing the ThoughtWorks diploma for God Thoughts Year One, that option will be made available to you.

Our schedule is:
Feb. 7 - Chapters 1 & 2
Feb. 28 - Chapters 3 & 4
March 21 - Chapters 5 & 6

Hope you can join us, meetings happen at my place (Frank & Sharon's place, Centrepointe (Ottawa)) from 8PM until 9:30ish.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blogs that get you Thinking

Ok, let's take it a bit closer to home this time. Well sort of.

Anchorhold is the personal blog of Colin Benner. I still remember the first time we met Colin and Denise, they ended up in our living room praying over us with Colin praying while playing my classical guitar. It was a lovely moment, a memory I have cherished for years. We really got to know the Benner's when they were pastoring Amicus Vineyard in Kanata. Colin and Denise both served on the Ontario Regional Leadership Team as well as the National Missions development group for the Vineyard. It isn't much of a surprise that they are once again pastoring in another part of the world - Azerbaijan. I love these guys. Colin is a deep thinker and his personal blog is worth reading. To me it is like a window into the devotional life of a friend who truly models faithfulness.

I would be remiss if I didn't plug my own personal blog. Freedomlog has been around since 2005. It has been a vehicle for my reflections on God, faith, being a dad, studying theology, pastoring Freedom Vineyard, building relationships, playing games, basically the whole gamut of my life. I get visitors from all over the world, and every now and then a great little conversation will spark up. I like to push the boundaries of living out faith, so sometimes the material can be a bit edgy - you might want to start with my new reader warning.

There are a lot of great blogs out there, what are some of your favourites?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mentoring and Healing of the Inner Man

We asked Don and Ruth to share a bit about Kingdom Encounters year 4: Mentoring and Healing of the Inner Man which is material they have developed and worked with for many years. Enjoy!

=======================

What lies behind this training? The development of this course grew out of our personal history. It began with facing a lot of inner pain and a personal cry to find healing in our own lives. Through a long and painful process, the Lord Himself led us by the Word and Spirit to face our own sins and to forgive the sins of those who had hurt us. He told us, through the scriptures, that he would redeem our pain by comforting others with the same comfort that we ourselves had received from God (II Cor: 1:3, 4). And He has. As we found some freedom and healing for ourselves, we began to share with others what we have discovered in Christ.

It was in the late 70's and early 80's when we our church went through renewal that God began bringing to us scores of young adults who were addicted and relationally dysfunctional. It became apparent that the wounds of the wounded would soon overwhelm us and bring wounding and dysfunction to the rest of the church! Out of desperation, we began to cry out to the Lord to help us bring healing and restoration to the broken in a consistent and intelligent way. He proved faithful to answer those cries.

The first part of the answer came through an electrician whom we had hired to upgrade the lighting fixtures in our church’s worship space. Over a period of three days, he recounted how he had taken his severely depressed and totally dysfunctional mate to a counselling centre in Denver, Colorado. He reported that she not only made a full recovery, but that she was 200% better than she had ever been! When we asked for more information, he lent us a book that led us into the work of Dr. Charles R. Solomon and his Exchanged Life seminars. These teachings, which were brilliant diagrammatic illustrations of the insights of Watchman Nee, focused primarily on issues of the lies of rejection which are broken by the liberating revelation and power of our true identity in Jesus Christ. God had already used the teachings of Watchman Nee to open our eyes to many biblical truth, but Solomon’s illustrations provided a way to effectively communicate those insights to others. “If you can see it, you can understand it.”

As we began to share these insights with our counsellees, we saw people make great strides towards wholeness, but then they would either plateau or regress. We sensed something was still missing and that we needed more help, so we cried to the Lord once again. Within a few months, he brought us into relationship with John Sandford of Elijah House ministries. Their teaching fit like a hand in a glove with what we were already doing, and we began to apply these further insights in our counselling ministry. Once again, we saw people who were stuck at a primary level of healing make new and dramatic breakthroughs! This phase of the ministry focused primarily on father and mother wounds and the bitter root judgments and vows that arise from those relationships. As we led people in forgiving parents, renouncing judgments and vows, and confessing personal sin, deep and significant healing came to nearly everyone with whom we prayed. This included people suffering from severe depression, dysfunctional relationships, fear and shame-based personalities, acute gender identity confusion, performance orientation, various patterns of addiction, and the like.

After several years of gaining experience in the counselling office, we got some vision for equipping others to do what we were doing. Over a period of about 10 years, with the addition of our own experience and insights, we developed the current set of training materials, including lectures, diagrams, history forms, and audio recordings that our students could use to begin applying this healing ministry to others. We have offered the training in about 45 hours of class time held over three weekends in November, January, and March. All of the training materials are now freely available online at no cost to the student.

Although not all who have taken the course have gone on to counsel others in the same way we have, all of the graduates share a solid, biblical understanding of what spiritual freedom and maturity looks like and it has produced a culture of discipleship and healing within our church community. You can’t put a price on that! It has had a profound effect, not only on how our students pray for the sick during ministry times, but also on the effectiveness of their prayers.

Don and Ruth Rousu, Harvest Vineyard, Edmonton

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Society of Vineyard Scholars Annual Gathering

I mentioned this upcoming event earlier. The line up is set and it looks great. Again I wish I could attend and if they post papers somewhere online I'll link them up here when I find them. Take a look at the schedule and consider attending. I'm hoping that next year I have enough of my thesis written to justify presenting a paper there.

========

Greetings from the Society of Vineyard Scholars!

We are just one month away from By The Renewal Of Your Mind: Imagining, Describing, and Enacting the Kingdom of God, the 2011 Society of Vineyard Scholars annual conference in Seattle, and we at SVS HQ are thrilled about the way that things are coming together.

The full program for the 2011 Society of Vineyard Scholars Annual Conference is available online now. Featuring more than forty papers in fourteen parallel session from scholars in the Vineyard, as well as three world-class plenary speakers, a spiritual pedagogy workshop, and plenty of time for worship, prayer, prophetic ministry, and just hanging out, this is going to be a highlight of the year for all who attend.

Click here to download the conference program.

Three Days Left To Get $99 Conference-Rate Hotel Rooms

SVS has acquired a special conference rate of $99 on hotel rooms at the Marriott Courtyard Downtown Seattle--Lake Union. These rates apply for Thursday February 3rd, Friday February 4th and, as available, for Wednesday February 2nd. These rates are only locked in until January 6th, so reserve today! These rooms can be booked by calling 206.213.0100 and reserving under the group "Vineyard Scholars." If you have any questions about or problems with your booking, call Geraldine, the very helpful Marriott manager responsible for our group block at 415-229-9470.

Don't Forget To Register!

To register for the SVS conference, there are two steps: first, purchase a conference registration and second, ensure that you have a current SVS membership. Both are required for participation in the conference. This is very important, as these policies will be strictly enforced during the conference. There will be a $5 surcharge for all who register for the conference on-site, so do yourself a favor...register online today! All details about how to register for the conference can be found on the conference website, under the heading "Registering For The SVS Annual Conference."

As always, if you have any further questions, please email the SVS.

We are looking forward to seeing you in Seattle in February!

Sincerely,

Caleb J. D. Maskell
Steering Committee
Society of Vineyard Scholars

Magnificat: A Retreat for all Creatures (Feb. 11-13, Guelph Vineyard)

This just came to my inbox, it looks awesome. I had a chance to stay with Rik and Cathy Berry last year - awesome folks. I would encourage any who can to attend. If you do go and can write up a bit of a review for this blog please let me know.

========

We call this worship experience the “Magnificat” after Mary’s song, “My soul magnifies the Lord...” As the artists gather together art is created in confluence, where one person’s inspiration feeds another. Drama or poetry might begin, a musician would pick up the theme, a visual artist would give color, the dancer might flow into this... We create together and God speaks through the art.

Any creative person (artists, poets, musicians, dancers) regardless of their skill level. We do want the professional artists to be there, but we also want to give life to the less recognized creatives.

Vineyard fellowships have offered “creatives” some opportunity within worship services, but often music is the only real player. We believe this retreat can help to open new perspectives on how a full artistic expression of worship can benefit the entire congregation. Artists can bring breakthroughs!

This retreat would be great for all the creatives in our region. It will be a chance to receive prophetic insight, prayer and encouragement from someone who is already walking this path. Our hope is that this gathering will lead to an ongoing support network within the region of those who have similar gifting.

Creatives have often been misunderstood, and are in need of healing and encouragement on the way towards releasing more fully what God has given you.

We will gather over a weekend to find new inspiration and strength from God for what lies ahead by creating art together.

You will experience a measure of healing and a restoration of calling.

Over the time together each person will receive prophetic insight through prayer and words of encouragement to set them in motion. There are a few sessions where these opportunities occur but especially on the first night as Rik Berry (Vally Gate Vineyard, Kentville, NS) leads the opening session.

You will have a chance to experience worship through a confluence of the arts.

The retreat is held at Guelph Bible Conference Centre at 485 Waterloo Ave. in Guelph. The grounds of the Centre are filled with mature trees—a beautiful setting! All accommodations and meals are included.

We begin Friday (Feb. 11, 2011) evening and end after lunch on Sunday (Feb. 13, 2011).

The cost is partly dependent on the number of participants. Our goal is to keep the total cost at $200. The deadline for registering is January 10th, 2011. (Yes, it’s an early deadline, but we need to have our numbers lining up or we will have to postpone the retreat to another time).

The retreat is hosted by Guelph Vineyard. To register or obtain further details, please contact Lisa Cosier.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Study Resources: LibraryThing

One of the values John Wimber tried to instill in the Vineyard is that of being lifelong learners. Often in the busyness of pastoral life it is hard to make sure we keep learning. There is actually a great joy in learning and studying that many of us forget in the day-to-day work of living. Learning is one important way that we can keep our ministry fresh and exciting. It requires an openness to new things that gives room for God to be God and show up in ways we never expected. Learning should be seen as an adventure not simply a must do task. But every adventure requires some good equipment to be successful. In this series I want to highlight some of the resources that folks have found helpful in being life long learners.

Books are a big part of learning. But there are a lot of books out there. Personally I have a lot of books, but that is because I am expected to know my field of study (20th century evangelical theologies) very well. Keeping track of all those books is one thing, but remembering which ones were great and where they walked off too is even better. I really love LibaryThing. It is cheap ($25 gets you a lifetime membership and they have free accounts for up to 100 books), friendly and flexible. My own library is available to me anytime I want. I buy a lot of used books so a quick web search makes sure I no longer end up with multiple copies of books (yes this was a problem for me). It also lets you rate books, create citations, find out what other people say about books, note who you loaned the book to, write and read reviews, etc. It also has a community, so you can find people with similar book interests and chat with them. I am also a big fan of the Early Reviewers club - cause who doesn't like free books! One other feature that I want to mention is that LibraryThing also helps facilitate sharing of books between members.

If you are looking for a way to keep track of your books then I highly recommend this tool.