Thursday, February 21, 2013

2013 Vineyard Prayer Summit and Worship Symposium

I've been encouraged / given permission to mention an annual event of interest to Vineyard people that is soon to transpire.

Once again we are gathering Vineyard people from across Canada for the 9th annual Vineyard Prayer Summit in Edmonton, AB, on March 1 & 2.

The Prayer Summit is two full days (morning, afternoon, and evening sessions) where we corporately spend time in the presence of God in worship and prayer.  During this event, we have no agenda other than to seek His face and respond to His voice.

One of the primary scripture texts that drives the vision for the Prayer Summit is John 15.  In verses 4-5 we read, 
"Abide in me as I abide in you.  Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing."  (emphasis mine)
We long to be the kind of disciples of Jesus that bear much Kingdom fruit.  Jesus tells us that the key to bearing the kind of fruit God cares about is intimacy with him.  "Abide in me."  The Prayer Summit is about fostering this intimate and interactive relationship with God, that we may love him deeper, hear his voice with greater clarity, and be fruitful as we actively pursue that 'not our will but His be done.'

Much more happens at these events, but I hope that overly brief summary of the vision is helpful.

In addition to the Summit, this year we are adding the pre-Summit Worship Symposium for worship and creative community people. 

Since the Summit is a major worship event, we want to provide opportunity to bless and encourage our worship people with supportive relationships and opportunities to be equipped from others. Our good friend Dan Wilt will be helping to facilitate this event.

During the Symposium we will be discussing together:

Lighting The Fire Of Worship Leadership – Again.In this session, we're going to address how our hearts can rise or fall in passion to lead worship – and how we can keep stoking the fires over the long haul. 
The Power Of The Pastoring Worship LeaderA worship leader who pastors their congregation and their team is a skilled leader. In this session, we'll talk about the secrets of effective pastoring of the large group and our team.
Do What Is In Your Heart ToWhat is it, that when you do it, you both give energy and receive inspiration? What does that have to do with worship, and why should your creative passions get some airtime? Dreams will be shared, so come prepared.
Electronic and hard copy information and registration was sent to every Vineyard church in Canada. In case that info didn't make it to you--

For more info on the Vineyard Prayer Summit and registration forms click here.

For more info on the Worship Symposium before the Summit and registration forms click here.

If you're not planning on attending this year, I'd highly encourage you to join many other Vineyard people from across Canada and attend next year!

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Nathan from Edmonton

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sophisticated and Popular Theology

I just finished Mark Saucy's The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus: In 20th Century Theology. There is a small section on evangelicals outlining significant shifts in our thinking about eschatology. He mentions the Vineyard (p.304ff) as a new location of theological thinking on the subject of the Kingdom as Already/Not Yet. His comments are dated, he lists Jack Deere and Wayne Grudem as Vineyard theologians, Grudem is not very pro-Vineyard and I've not heard anything from/about Deere in ages. What got me thinking, and this was brought up in a conversation on Facebook as well, is where Saucy laments that the Vineyard's theology happens in a "popular context and [lacks] theological sophistication in general." (p.306). Is this still true? Is this actually a bad thing? I want to explore those two questions here and invite you to weigh in with your thoughts.

Is Saucy Still Right About Vineyard Theology?

When Doug Erickson brought this up he and I wondered if Saucy's complaint was answered sufficiently by the works of  Peter Davids, Derek Morphew, Alexander Venter, J. P. Moreland, and a host of up and coming Society of Vineyard Scholars theologians who are starting to publish. Saucy's book came out in 1997, about three years before I started formal theological training. During my studies I've watched Pentecostal scholarship blossom into maturity and I'm convinced we are seeing that happen in the Vineyard as well. I think Doug is right that it is time for our systematic theologians to step up, but the Biblical foundation for our eschatologically rooted theology is quite well established. And with the renewed efforts to ensure that our theological base is understood by the local church, I think we are in good shape.

What about Popular Theology?

Here is where I would take Saucy to task. All evangelical theologies have their basis in the popular context. That is because we are pragmatically oriented towards our priorities concerning evangelism. This is both an advantage and a problem for evangelicals. The advantage is that theology works its way up from the roots rather than down from the structures. That means there is a greater buy in for evangelical theologies because they emerge not from sustained thought in ivory towers but in real life application in the lives of pastors and congregants. On the problematic side, however, this means that theologies emerge more often through personalities than through careful exegesis and theological reflection. This is why it is important to recognize the work of our Biblical scholars in understanding what is happening kingdomwise in our local churches. I'm convinced that the local context is indispensable, but also that it necessitates the effort to bring sophisticated theological reflection into dialogue with local church activity.

The reality is that God rarely waits for us to get it all right before God moves in the lives of people. But that doesn't mean God doesn't want us to keep digging, reflecting and gaining a better understanding of what it means to be a people of the Already/Not Yet Kingdom. If nothing else it will help us to correct the imbalances that creep into our interpretations of our experiences which only limit our ability to see the greatness of all God calls us into. It also keeps us humble before God.

So what do you think? How have you been impacted by Vineyard theology? What has been your experience in popular settings? What has been your experience with our theologians?

Frank Emanuel - Ontario Region

Monday, February 11, 2013

weekend in Pinawa

I spent the weekend in Pinawa, Manitoba on the edge of a frozen lake with about 50 Vineyard leaders from across Canada.  We gathered at Wilderness Edge Retreat and Conference Centre, a venue built in the 60s to house scientists for Atomic Energy of Canada.  I will not make any bad jokes here about the similarities between nuclear scientists and Vineyard leaders, so if you want to pause and take a moment to compose a few yourself, go ahead.  It is impossible to summarise everything that went on there, but here are a few of the highlights according to me. 

Arriving in Winnipeg airport on Friday night
1.  The chocolate chip banana cake with butter cream cheese icing and the taco salad.  The food in the dining hall was good, hearty, and plentiful, and every mealtime we were always presented with a wide variety.  This, in many ways, was representative of our group.  The breadth and depth of experience, personality, passion, knowledge, strength, and skill that these people generously offered up was quite amazing.  While some offerings made my palate come alive more than others, there was no lack of good stuff to chew on and enjoy. The conversations over meal times were as much a part of the connecting, exchanging, and encouraging as any of the more formal meetings.  Discussing theological nuances over nachos was as memorable and important as confessing our shortcomings to each other over bread and grape juice (they ran out of wine by the time we got to the serving table).  I came away full of hope, fat with inspiration, and bursting with a renewed sense of camaraderie.

2.  Family stories.  These two themes, family and story, seemed to come up again and again during the course of the weekend.  I was reminded that we are all one big family: together we laugh at our crazy uncle and his antics, we graciously accept the pink slippers our aunt knits for us every year, we smile and shake our heads at the troublemaker cousins who will invariably break something, we love to sit by our grandpa's side and listen to stories from another time and place, we look forward to munching on our mother's homemade cinnamon buns (the best in the world!), we listen patiently to a sister who likes to talk and talk and talk, and we are glad to have an older brother who comes along just at the right time to help us retrieve something that is out of our reach.  We spent a fair amount of time hearing each other's stories, formally and informally, and by the time we got around to discussing a renewed vision statement on Saturday night, the love we had for each other coated every word of discussion, question, and disagreement.  It became obvious that we in the Vineyard do not want to be identified by a vision statement or statement of faith, but by our love for each other.  Nevertheless, work on a written statement continues as we seek to find a way to communicate our spiritual ethos precisely, succinctly, and effectively.

3.  Travel troubles.  The weekend seemed plagued by travel woes.  Over half of the group from the Atlantic region never made it due to a nasty storm that swept through Toronto and other parts of the East.  Many of the Ontario folks were delayed by a day.  Others experienced equipment failure and connection problems both coming and going which caused significant delays as well.  The effect of all this was tangible.  The schedule was rearranged somewhat to accommodate late arrivals and we were sad that so many voices were not present.  Every time someone arrived and walked into a meeting already in progress, we briefly stopped and cheered!  Because we are all spread across a vast country and don't see each other that often, our gatherings together are precious.  This weekend it seemed even more important not to take these connections for granted.  Many people spent a lot of time in airports and some were fortunate to be waiting together.  One of those delays meant that I got to eat onion rings and drink a diet Coke with some of my favourite people whom I hardly ever get to see.  We exchanged stories about how we met the love of our life, talked about the challenges of our everyday work, and imagined how hopes and dreams could be realised.   

There is more I could say, especially about the renewed interest in being good neighbours (literally), of love being our only motivator (never seeing people as a project), learning to be authentic in all we do, becoming mindful about how and why we develop certain patterns of leadership, and embracing change as we learn to love and lead more like Jesus.  Perhaps another time.  Right now, I have to finish the laundry and get some reading done for class tomorrow.   Perhaps others that were there want to add to my musings.

Matte from Montreal

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Mission of God

I read a lot of stuff from the missional movement (mostly from the Gospel for our Culture missional theology stream). This kind of missional writing has spoken to a lot of Canadian pastors and leaders who are wrestling with what church can be like in today's post-modern urban settings. I like the emphasis on God as active and purposeful in our world and that we are invited into God's mission of going into the world with Good News. I also like that emphasis on Good News as not being formula or reducible to a proposition. Mission becomes identity for us as church. In choosing to follow God we go into all the world and demonstrate in word and deed God's redemptive work. It is quite thrilling actually. 

The thing about mission is that it is easy to get stoked about it in theory - but a lot harder when we realize that it isn't about instant results. Mission isn't even really about results on our end, but about committing ourselves to a way of life that demonstrates (again in word and deed) the goodness of our God. So when the results (on God's end) are pouring out it is easy to give ourselves to mission. But it is those moments when we feel the reality of the not yet Kingdom that we need to wrestle with. It is when we realize that mission means committing to people, who sometimes take a long time to get the mission themselves, that we will struggle the most with our commitment to God. I'm not talking about losing our salvation, but rather the zeal with which our spirituality takes precedence over other concerns in our lives. It is in these moments that we need to reflect on Jesus' demonstration of missional life.

One of the things that has impoverished our spirituality is when we read the gospels as disconnected snippets with no context for the time frames in which they are situated. The gospel writers do a brilliant job of conveying the complexities of Jesus life and ministry. But often we blur what happens in the early years of his ministry with those that happen much later on. When we forget to read the gospels as whole stories we can miss that the results didn't always pour out the way we would like to think. When we forget to see the other people in the gospels we can miss just how patient Jesus was with even his closest disciples as they repeatedly failed to get the mission of God. The gospels actually give us a glimpse into the life that God has invited us into.

In our community we have a baptismal practice of having the candidates and their sponsors get together the night before and read the entire gospel of Mark together. I've had sponsors tell me they've never done that before and how it really opened their eyes up to the bigger picture that the gospel stories tell. The gospels are the foundation of our faith. Not the individual stories taken out of context, but the whole thing - the good, the bad, and the downright hard. When we make the foundation of our faith lives anything less then we are bound to be disappointed, and we are bound to find the not yet moments hard.

I love the now moments of the Kingdom. I love the times when I've been present to see God heal and save people. I think most of us reading this know that joy. But the thing is I've learned to also love the not yet moments. Those are the moments when our faith is most real. Those are the moments when we see what really matters inside us. Those are the moments when our faithfulness is revealed, and in our faithless moments they are the times when God's patient grace builds in us a stronger commitment to the mission, to the life we are called to live.

How about you? How do you live in the not yet moments? Do you find your faith dries up, your interest in church and spirituality lessen? Or do you find those moments times of God shaping your character? Do you find those not yet moments deepening your spirituality to match the longing you have for God? I hope you do. If you don't then remember the patient grace of God, recognize that you are in good company - but also that God's patient grace demonstrated in Jesus' life was what turned his disciples into apostles, those sent out by God into the mission.

Frank Emanuel, Ontario Region