Monday, February 28, 2011

Why a ThoughtWorks Curriculum?

I have talked a lot about the ThoughtWorks curriculum resource, but I wanted to give a little general rationale for what it is and why we built it. Certainly we could simply tap into the excellent resources at Vineyard Bible Institute or the Vineyard Leadership Institute and if you have access to either programme we would certainly encourage you to take advantage of it. But ThoughtWorks offers a little something more, in my opinion. Here are a few advantages to implementing ThoughtWorks in you congregations.

1) Made in Canada by Canadian Vineyard leaders

Each member of the ThoughtWorks team is both a leader in a Canadian Vineyard church and a representative for one of our four regions. We have a heart for the Canadian context and, we believe, a good understanding of what is important to developing and equipping Canadian Vineyard leaders. You know us, and you can easily call on us to tweak the material to fit your context.

2) Highlighting our National Successes

Because we are regional representatives we try our best to keep track of what is going on in our regions. More than that we have a mandate to highlight the best of what is going on in our regions in the hope that we can spread the wealth and equip more churches for Kingdom works. Because we keep in touch with each other we can also share what is going well in other regions, and spread the wealth nationally as well as regionally.

3) Developed For and By Leaders with a Passion for Equipping

We are not just folks who like to read - we read so that we can minister better. And what we want to do is pass on the best of what we are studying to you. Of course we love to hear about the things you are reading and finding helpful as well. Think of ThoughtWorks as a theological resource that can help you navigate a veritable mountain of material to find what might work best for you as you serve God in your own context. The courses we have developed represent areas that we have found to be essential to Vineyard ministries in the Canadian context.

4) Evolving and Basic

Lastly, ThoughtWorks curriculum is evolving. We still try to keep material as accessible as possible, but without sacrificing the depth that you will need to walk out your callings in the churches you love. Evolving yet basic is a good way to describe this curriculum. Basic because these are the building blocks for building strong disciples in keeping with our Lord's command: go into all the world and make disciples everywhere!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Kinda Overshadows Everything Else

Vineyards in Ontario, and beyond, have been mourning the loss of a valued leader this week. Tuesday Rob Hall was killed in a construction accident in Zambia. That this really happened is still sinking in. I keep reflecting on a time when Rob came up to me at one of our leaders gatherings, he wanted to apologize for something, I don't even remember what. But I do remember him sharing his heart over closing the Kitchener Vineyard. What I was struck with was his depth of character and his passion for people. From that moment on my respect and appreciation for this man of God just grew and grew. Judging by the heartfelt comments on the facebook page and blog set up in his honour many, many people experienced the same man of integrity and passion that I knew. Rob I miss you man.

At this time we can show our love and support by donating to a trust fund that has been set up for his wife Kate and their children. And we can pray for Kate and their children to experience the God of all comfort at this time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Taking Our Pulse - Survey

If you are part of a local Vineyard community then please go complete this survey before Monday.

It is that time again, these are the same questions put out to the Vineyards two years ago. The survey will take about 15 minutes to complete and will help Vineyard Resource Canada to get a sense of what beliefs and values are important for our movement as well as measure what we are doing well and what we need to continue working on. I hope you will consider participating.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Book of Note: Blue Parakeet

Our book club just finished reading this book. It is actually the required text for Biblical Foundations Year Four of the ThoughtWorks Curriculum. Scot McKnight, the author, is a New Testament scholar and professor at North Park University in Chicago. I've been following Scot's blog for a few years now as he is a great thinker and friendly critic of the emerging church movement. What is great about this book is that it is written for a non-academic audience, and it is quite readable. What I dislike about this book is that he leaves a lot of assumptions unexamined - such as a notion of tradition that he fails to adequately explain. Despite this, the value in the book is that Scot provides an alternative hermeneutic lens by which we can read scripture. In simple terms he shows what is possible when we take seriously scripture as story instead of a self-help book.

I really appreciate Scot's notion of the blue parakeet. He uses the illustration of an unusual bird that shows up so that we would pay closer attention. He complains, and rightly so, that we want a tame Bible, we want all the blue parakeets safely in their little cages so that they won't rock our world. But the Bible is what Metz would call a dangerous memory. It should be a revolutionary text that constantly challenges us to dig deeper into the heart of God. I think this is what frustrates me most about looking to the Bible for simple answers, by that I mean answers that don't shake our worldviews, instead of letting it upset us and spur us on towards love and good works. When we read Jesus saying "go" or realize the implications of Jesus' response to the woman caught in adultery it should challenge us. It should make us question what we want to cage up for the sake of our comfort. The Bible should be like Lewis' Aslan, not a tame lion. Or, as Scot tells it, like a blue parakeet set free to change our perspective.

McKnight also develops a methodology by which we can allow scripture to be living story in our midst. He insists that the fear that such an approach will lead to chaos is unfounded - rather that the culturally shaped readings (he wants us to be honest about the world we bring to the text when we read it) will allow us to preach the gospel effectively in our culture (p. 206). This shouldn't be confused with capitulating to culture and watering down the gospel - but finding ways to frame the gospel so that it can penetrate the culture more effectively. In fact I think that this is actually something evangelicals are good at.

Scot gives us a great entrance into a much needed conversation about how we read Scripture. While it does present some problems for more critical readers, like myself, I think what he does is accessible and well worth reflecting on. His encouragement to not settle for a tame Bible is so important for those of us longing for more of God's Kingdom (as opposed to our kingdoms).

3.5 out of 5 stars.
Frank Emanuel (Freedom Vineyard)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Regional Resource Library Idea

A few weeks ago I mentioned the excellent resource LibraryThing. As pastors and leaders there are a lot of great books, CDs, and DVDs that can benefit us - but sometimes you just can't afford to spend the cash. Don Rousu mentioned in a recent ThoughtWorks Skype (conference call) that resources like the CD collection of Christian History magazine can be a huge benefit to folks in our movement. So what I was thinking about creating is a community library.

The way it would work is that I'd create an OntarioThoughtWorks LibraryThing account and fill it full of the tangible resources that folks in our region are willing to pass around. Your responsibility would be to get it from who has it last - there are lots of fields in the LibraryThing database to make this easy. You simply look for the book, CD, etc. and see who has it (and how long they've had it) and request to have it next. You can also see any reviews that we have made on the material - I can also include links to articles on this blog that pertain to using that material. There are some seriously great possibilities here.

My experience of the generous people in our region is that you all love to share resources. I can't tell you how many folks have given me books at regional gatherings and the like. So this idea is just a more deliberate way to do this.

What do you think? Would this be something you would use? What I am thinking is that we could use a portion of the ThoughtWorks budget to make available a few regional copies of the ThoughtWorks curriculum books and videos. Let me know in the comments and at the regional gathering what you think.

I am looking forward to finding creative ways to equip and empower the Vineyard in our region!

Frank Emanuel, Freedom Vineyard

Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Clubs

Book Clubs are very popular these days. I am convinced that they foster social connections that folks long for, but they are also an excellent opportunity for equipping the saints. Over at Freedom Vineyard we have a club called Freedom Reads. We are on our fourth book together and we try to mix it up between lighter type books (The Shack, Blue Like Jazz) and entry level books on Christian faith (The Challenge of Jesus, Blue Parakeet). We let folks pick and choose what books to participate on, but we also have a faithful core who really enjoy studying together.

A great connection to the ThoughtWorks curriculum is that most of the modules have books attached to them. Currently our group is finishing up Scot McKnight's Blue Parakeet which happens to be Year Four of Biblical Foundations. Folks in our club have the option of completing the ThoughtWorks assignment for a certificate. Whether or not they do that, it is a practical way that we are implementing the ThoughtWorks curriculum into the life of our congregation.

Book clubs are really simple to put together. They almost run themselves. This is what we do.

1) Decide together on a book. Book clubs work best if folks have read the books. So the best way to get buy in is to choose together. Think of the ThoughtWorks curriculum as a springboard into a whole world of mentoring and discipling possibilities. Your regional ThoughtWorks representative would love to help you identify more books that might serve your community even better. You want something that will be enjoyable and challenging. A couple of our books have been disliked by some of the readers - but those are often then best studies (the Shack for instance had quite a polarized response but amazing conversations came out of our reading of it).

2) Break the book into reasonable portions. I usually set up a reading schedule for our group. You want enough material that you move through the book at a steady pace and have enough to work through when the group meets, but also you need to make it small enough that folks don't feel left behind or overwhelmed. We also decided that meeting every week was too much and try to meet about twice a month. Enjoy the process, often after a good discussion folks will want to revisit sections they've already read so they can see how other folks in the group saw something completely different in the text.

3) Be informal. We meet around a dining room table. We have coffee, tea and some munchables. A facilitator makes sure the conversation keeps moving, but often an open question like, "what did you like or dislike about this section?" is enough.

That's it.

Have you tried a book club? Here is a great opportunity to share your experiences, talk about what worked and what didn't work. If you have a different structure, let me know - that might make a great post for this blog.