Engaging God Everywhere

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Getting the message out there is one of the biggest challenges our church now faces.

I’m not talking about writing more books, generating more web activity, stimulating more communal outreach or seeking more media attention, I’m talking about planting the unique vision that God has given our church into the whole community.

Deeply.  So that it can really grow!

How can we help people engage God everywhere more: at work, in their families, with their friends, at leisure, in the theatre, via nature, through their bodies, when they eat and drink, when they enjoy art, read books, and do all of the things that make up their lives?

Last night I spent two hours meeting with two guys who are big into automotive restoration. On June 12 I’m preaching a vocational sermon on what they do; on how they image God’s strip it down, rebuild from the inside out, better than it was before heart. While the topic was fascinating, what I enjoyed most was the interaction, the conversation, the epiphany moments when they’d say one thing and I’d hear another.

Two days ago one of these guys sent me a text telling me how excited he was to learn about how God was at work through the automotive restoration process.

Sitting there last night, on an old Volkswagen van bench seat, in the corner of a garage, that’s exactly what happened.

As each of them would talk about what they did and why they did it, I made God connections; naming God’s presence at that moment when they first saw a wreck that could be made new, when they made that hard decision to cut into the body to make it better, when they ripped the guts out of the vehicle, when the dreamt about how amazing that car or truck could one day be, when the poured their life into the renewal process, using every bit of creative energy they had, letting it pour from their brains to their hands in a turbocharged kind of way, and then coming up with that new engine, body or component configuration, that new automotive finish, that new frame, level of horse power, way of handling, look, sound, smell and feel.

“Well that’s like when God showed the prophet Ezekiel those dry bones… that’s what resurrection is all about… that’s what God must feel when he makes things new…”

It was an amazing visit.

And it made me wonder if this is the way it needs to happen; getting the vision out there. One on one, personally entering into the lives of community members, meeting them at their work, in their homes, or at the gym, and naming God’s presence in their lives right there, on the spot, just in time, via a personal, intimate, intentional, Spirit led conversation.

This happens all the time for me. Last week in a coffee shop with a concerned father (“Well God must feel that for your daughter too… what would it mean to know God as he feels this with you?”), with a judge in his chambers (“I think your decision to give verbal judgments so that you can look people in the eye when you speak to them, and sometimes modify your judgment based on that relational moment, is like a God who incarnates, who looks at us when he judges.”), with a PhD scientist talking gut biome, a nurse talking technology, a Wal-Mart greeter, an athlete.

So what if New Hope Hillside spent the next two years investing in people who could do this for others; maybe staff members or key leaders or people who we don’t even know yet, individuals who would enter into the lives of others in these kinds of ways.

Who could incarnate.

I feel as though I can see it. A person called to name God at work in moms, others with vocational exegetical gifts, and still others who have the eyes and ears for the arts, community, sport and leisure.

While on one hand, this seems incredibly inefficient, on the other it seems perfect. I’ve got to think that those two hours with those two guys last night, engaging God in what they are most passionate about, on their turf, in their time, may have more and lasting impact than years of Sunday services, or church classes.

Every person in our community is unique. Would it take this kind of process, this kind of coming along side engagement to get the message across? Is lovingly engaging people where they are at the only way to get close enough to see and name what God uniquely wants them to see?

‘Ends of the Earth’ (sermon research crowd sourcing)

Next Sunday I’m going to preach on the Lord Huron song, Ends of the Earth, and I thought it might be fun to do a bit of sermon research crowd sourcing.

So, here are a few questions I’m asking about this tune;

  1. What basic human yearnings does this song give expression to? (i.e. what resonates with you?)
  2. Are there places where these same yearnings are expressed in the bible?
  3. How are the yearnings expressed in this song like our yearnings for God?

If you have any thoughts, post them as a comment below. Thanks.

A Science based (next) book

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I love how my next science-based book is coming together (Lord willing!)…

  1. Last night I woke up with the concluding chapter running through my head.
  2. Two days ago I was talking with a couple of pastors and the introduction presented itself.
  3. Three weeks ago I bumped into a scientist/orthopedic surgeon who agreed to help me with a chapter of the book (on the biomechanics of the knee).
  4. Four weeks ago I met with a gut biome researcher who wants to help me with a chapter on the gut (along with his Phd supervisor) and I was connected to another researcher at the university who works in the same field (and was recommended by another friend).
  5. Five weeks ago I sent a one page proposal for my book to my publisher and there’s some interest.
  6. Six weeks ago I saw a FB post introducing a new John Templeton Grant program. As the concept for a proposal came together I realized that this would be great research for a unique kind of faith/science book.
  7. Over the past three years I’ve preached several science based sermons that will now make up specific book chapters.
  8. Four years ago our church got its first John Templeton Grant which lead to preaching on the topics for three other chapters.
  9. Seven years ago I was invited to participate in Regent College’s John Templeton grant project and the vision to preach/engage God’s revelation via science was kindled in me. I wrote a sermon on wound healing back then and it will now form a chapter in this new book.
  10. Over the past ten years I have been accumulating many books, ideas, and quotes on how God reveals himself via the scientific text. But I wondered, who am I to write on this; there are more than enough scientists of faith to address the topic… until the idea for this new book came along, along with a very cool introduction and conclusion, all founded on three John Templeton grants, and several serendipitous meetings, and scientists that have been a part of our church community, and a publisher who’s willing to listen, and a God who has a ‘just right’ time for everything.

Image – Grey’s Anatomy

Faith in the face of the Fort McMurray Fire

Landscape_view_of_wildfire_near_Highway_63_in_south_Fort_McMurray_(cropped)I just left a CBC radio interview on the Fort McMurray fire. When the reporter asked about the role that faith is playing in these catastrophic circumstances, I said that I was seeing faith at work everywhere;

  • In the trust that dislodged individuals were showing as they accepted a bottle of water, some gasoline or a tow from total strangers while stuck in gridlocked exodus.
  • In the mostly calm obedience of every Fort Mac resident as they followed the directions of civic leaders and emergency response workers.
  • In the strength that so many unsettled souls embodied as they were willing to believe all of the tweets and Facebook posts saying, “We’re with you… you’re not alone…  we’ll help you through this!”
  • In the hope that many displaced residents are now placing in their insurance companies; trusting that their coverage will be good, and that their insurers will come through and make them whole again.
  • In people’s willingness to be physically taken in by others; to be sheltered, fed and protected by individuals, families, and even oil companies!
  • In the town of Fort McMurray’s trust in the promises of a province that is trusting in the promises of a federal government that is trusting in the hearts of all Canadian people, to be there over the long haul.

Through all of these supports – all of the compassion and love, the time and energy, the people and organizations willing to ‘love their neighbours as they love themselves’, and to ‘do unto others as they would have them do unto them’ – I’m seeing God at work.

Sure, God has been working through a few faith based institutions as well, but I think the biggest moves of God this past week have been made through everyday people, organizations and government agencies, all doing what they were meant to do; all bearing God’s image in all of these loving ways.

  • God cares about our basic needs – our thirst, hunger, need for gas, and a place to sleep – and he meets these needs. 
  • God intervenes, protects and gets us to safety. Through firefighters, who do all they can to shield us and selflessly run toward the flames, and through police officers who serve and protect us in the exodus and now watch over our vulnerable neighborhoods, God keeps us.
  • God has huge resources; When all of Canada steps in like it has, or Fort Mac residents benefit from all of the insurance premiums we’ve all paid, we are are reminded of God’s communal power, and the huge scope of his love!
  • God takes strangers in; the needy, the suffering, those without a home. 
  • God sees what’s happening; like how the world has been watching this past week.
  • God’s cares about people’s stories; like how reporters have been. God gets the news out about the needy, he knows what they’ve gone though, he names their pain and suffering, and records all of their tears.

So yeah, faith has been expressed and responded to in many beautiful ways this past week, mostly outside of the institution of the church. 

image – Wikimedia

A Sermon on Unemployment

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Here’s Sunday’s sermon on Unemployment.  Just in time it seems. On Friday a Global TV reporter asked me if we intentionally timed the sermon with the release of the national jobs report. If only we had that much foresight.  Then this morning I tweeted the sermon to Nick Purdon – a CBC reporter who just did a great piece on unemployed Albertans last night – and he retweeted it to all of his followers.