Friday, September 20, 2013

To reach a postmodern world recover tradition and liturgy?

“The postmodern church could do nothing better than be ancient, that the most powerful way to reach a postmodern world is by recovering tradition, and that the most effective means of discipleships is found in liturgy.”  
(James K A Smith, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? Talking Derrida, Lyotard and Foucault to church)

I have heard this claim many times.  It feels like there might be some truth to this.  However I have do have a couple of questions.

Is there any evidence that recovering tradition is a powerful way to reach the postmodern world?
In the many times I heard this bold claim I have not actually heard or seen evidence that recovering tradition has suddenly caused the postmodern world to become radical disciples of Jesus.  Certainly there are many who grew up in the church and were later estranged from the modern church who found renewal and a deep connection with God in the rediscovery of traditions.  But how many are actually being reached?  How many people who did not believe in Jesus are being reached?  Are there any statics showing that churches who have recovered tradition and liturgy are better are reaching the world?  To say “the most powerful way to reach a postmodern world” is a bold claim.  I would like some evidence to back it up.

What tradition or liturgy?
What tradition or liturgy are we talking about?  Catholic (Celtic, Italian), Orthodox (Greek, Russian), Mennonite (Swiss, Russian), Lutheran, or Anglican…?  There seems to be is a certain amount of picking and choosing when we “recover” tradition.  But can you really and truly do justice to a tradition if you are picking and choosing?

Is there any evidence that liturgy is “the most effective means of discipleship? 
In discussions about liturgy people can have rose coloured glasses when looking at the past.  Somehow there is this idea that the church went horribly wrong with modernism and if we can just get back to before modernism (pre-modern) then everything will be good.  Really?  A quick review of church history will let us know very rapidly there were saints and sinners in every age and time of the church (including the modern age).   It also is very clear that the pre-modern church was not a spotless wonder.  A couple of examples.  Constantine is viewed as one of the greatest blunders of the church, joining church and state together.  I agree this is a great blunder.  But Constantine was well before modernism.  He was in 300 AD.  Much of the liturgy and tradition we claim is going to save us was formed after this great blunder.  Another great blemish on Christianity is the crusades.  How could those claiming to follow Jesus engage in such a brutal and sinful thing?  The crusades were pre-modern as well.
These pre-modern churches were using the tradition and liturgy we are to recover to reach our world and make disciples.  So can we truly state that they were the “most effective” in creating disciples?

Is there any evidence that churches that have strong liturgy are more effective in creating disciples then churches that do not have liturgy?  
However discipleship is being defined can we show that on average a church that uses liturgy is truly better at forming disciples then a church that does not?

Simply put these bold claims need some substance to back it up not just feelings or intuition.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

EMMC – Mennonite

Low German, great food, and good last name (like Klassen or Schroeder) this is what it means to be Mennonite.  However there is another way to understand Mennonite.  After all the majority of people who refer to themselves as Mennonite do not speak low German (and none ancestors do either), eat farmer sausage, or have a name like Klassen.  In fact they live in Asia or Africa.
What is a Mennonite?

  1. Believers Church.  Only those who have decided to follow Jesus are truly part of the church.  Mennonites do not baptise infants because that cannot decide to follow Jesus.
  2. Separation of church and state.  The government has no business telling us what to believe.  The church does not use the government to force people to obey the bible.
  3. Discipleship.  Christians are those who follow Jesus.  We are saved by grace through faith which leads us to doing good works.
  4. Peace church.  The command to love God and others (including enemies) seems to lead to the conclusion that we should not use violence against others.  What does this actually mean is often discussed.
  5. Priesthood of all believers.  Every believer has direct access to God.  Every believer is a minister, bringing God to others.  Ordination, bible school, holding a certain position (deacon, elder, pastor) does not give a person special access to God.  We are all priests.  

The Anabaptist Vision written by Harold Bender strongly influenced these points.  And yes all these points are debated and argued in the Mennonite community.  But I think we are not abandoning any of these positions, more like trying to figure out how to apply them to the world right now.

Monday, September 09, 2013

EMMC – Evangelical

Evangelical Mennonite Mission Church.  Who are we?  Evangelical

There is a lot of debate or confusion about what “evangelical” means.

Tony Campolo states “there is little argument that the word evangelical conjures up an image of Christians who are anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-environmentalist, pro-war, pro-capital punishment, and conservative Republican.”  (page XI, Red Letter revolution, Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo)

This seems a bit harsh, unfair and not a very good picture of evangelical.  This is not what we mean when we define ourselves as evangelical.

Wikipedia ( defines evangelical by four convictions which I think are helpful and good.

  1. Conversion.  There is a call for people to be “born again” (this comes out John 3).  A decision needs to be made.  A decision that is to bring a radical change into a person’s life
  2. Authority of the Bible.  The Bible is viewed as the authority for life and faith.  
  3. Jesus.  The birth, life, death and resurrection are central.  
  4. Makes a difference in life.  These are not simply beliefs that we are to hold in our heads rather they are supposed to deeply influence every part of our life (including politics)

Now linking ourselves to evangelical is interesting.  As Mennonites we would hold to the authority of the Bible, Jesus and discipleship very strongly.  In fact in some circles it is argued that as Mennonites we hold to these things more strongly than the average evangelical.

So I believe that when we said we are Evangelical this refers to the personal decision to follow Jesus.  A person is not a Christian because they were born into a Christian home or in a Christian nation or because they did so many good things.  To be a Christian is to be a follower of Jesus.  To follow Jesus means we had to make a decision to follow him.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Last week update - Travis

Travis Harms (a young adult from my church) is doing his internship in northern Manitoba this summer.  He is asking for people to pray for him. 
This past week I have been visiting Cormorant a couple times and I have been making trips to the mall every so often to visit some folks I know that work in at a music store there. I made my last visit into Cormorant on Tuesday and it was a sad but good day for me. I felt very strongly that in order to be fully loving the people I meet they needed to hear the gospel. Otherwise, if I didn't share the greatest message in the world that would not be love even if they do not always respond or show interest. The locals here say that folks plain and simple need the gospel. That is what late missionary Cliff McComb did and he made a lasting impact.

So I shared the story of the thief on the cross with my friend Isaiah. Dennis shared the same story at our Sunday service at family camp, The thief did not take communion, get baptized or do anything else when he was on the cross except recognize that he was a sinner, he needed saving and Jesus was the Savior. And he was assured, "today you will be with me in paradise". That is all we need for faith. It is simple and in my opinion the story of the thief on the cross is a good way to share the gospel with folks in the North.

Family Camp went really well, there were many folks that came out and we had some very good discussions around the campfire. We also made bannock on the good!! On Sunday we had a service at our campsite and there were many folks there from Cormorant. Some that walk with God and others that do not. I was encouraged to see some of them there and I pray that they will come back to walk with God.

I really do not want to leave the folks in Cormorant because some of them are really lonely and there are things in their lives that are unfortunate and I want to be there for them. So it was with a heavy heart that I left yesterday. But God is still their shepherd as He is mine and He is still watching over them and loves them more than I do.

As I have sought to share the gospel with some folks here I believe that I have learned the simplicity of the gospel better than I did before. The problem is sin, we have it and we need to repent of it. In a recent sermon I listened to, the teacher was saying that the reason that some cannot understand the things of God is because of sin in our lives. We need to repent of sin first and then we will be able to understand the things of God. The gospel is an offensive message but it also crosses any culture and praise God for that.

One day Frank and Jack Ducharme, two folks from the church, took me fishing on Reed Lake. It was a treat and we caught many fish and big fish.

I am returning to the southern lands tomorrow and as much as I do not wish to say goodbye I also am excited to return to school. Pray for a good trip down and for the seeds planted in the North to grow and that God's work in the North will come to completion.

-Travis Harms

Update 9 - Chris and Cheryl

Chris and Cheryl (and their family) are serving in the Dominican Republic for the summer.

Hi again. Well we are going into our last week here. A week from Tuesday we head home. We are excited about going home but also are not looking forward to leaving. We have met a lot of people and made many new friends during our time here. It will be hard to leave these friends but it will be good to see our friends at home again.
On Sunday during the evening service there was a child dedication for a 3 year old boy. At the baby/child dedications here the parents are asked to get two witnesses to stand with them during the dedication and sign the register. When the mother was asked for her witnesses she did not have any so she asked the pastors wife and me to be the witnesses for her. It is very humbling to be asked to participate in such a way. It is always very good when parents stand up and declare before God and their piers that will do their best to raise their children in a manner that is pleasing to God. This is one step along the way in raising Godly children and I felt very blessed to be able to participate in such a way.  
My classes have been going well and we are the point were we have time for review to clear up any questions that the students might have. We have a few pieces of equipment that we will need to get put back together as well. I have only planned to have classes on Monday and Tuesday next week which leaves Wednesday as an extra day in case we need some extra time to put things back together. Also we will need a couple of days to clean up some things and get packed up for our trip back to Canada. Please pray that we will be able to tie up all loose ends and leave here with nothing unfinished.
This week has been a hard one for me (Cheryl). Knowing that we are nearing, quickly, the end of our time here is a reality that I don’t want to face. I like it here. In spite of the heat and humidity that is a constant companion, the extra burdens of just day-to-day life, the extra care that needs to be taken with Jennifer (illness is always a threat here, in a very different and serious way than in Canada), the different culture here with not only the villagers, but also the foreigners that come to visit here, I still want to be here.
This morning in worship at church (Sunday, August 25, 2013) we sang “I Surrender All”. As we were singing, that’s what I did. I surrendered all. I’ve been thinking about moving back home to comfortable Canada, my comfy house, my neighbours down the street, friends and family, and, I surrendered that all. Gave it to God to do with what He wills. That’s where we are going back to on September 3rd, but after that, I really believe, that, sooner rather than later we’ll be hoppin’ a plane back here; to do whatever God has in mind for us to do.
So, that’s where I’m at. I’m content, knowing that God is in control. All I need to do is surrender, and wait. His timing is always best. For the next week and two days I will enjoy our time left here, and do my best to love like Jesus loves!
Jacolyn and Jennifer had a pretty good week. They are both feeling good for a change. Jennifer did slip and fall on a concrete side walk and got some nasty scrapes on her arm and her knees which need to be bandaged properly here due to the different types of "bugs" and infections that we do not have at home and our bodies have not got immunity to. It is nothing to be terribly concerned about but we need to keep a close eye on such injuries and be active in keeping them clean.
Jacolyn has been busy this week with the feeding program and cleaning up material for the sewing class. She has also been sewing some towels for the hair dressing class, running errands for the Pastor couple here and various other odd jobs that just didn't get done when they should have.
Thanks again for your support in prayer and please continue to pray for us as we face new challenges with wrapping things up here and as we prepare to travel back to Canada.

   God Bless
Chris, Cheryl, Jacolyn and Jennifer Peters. 

Further update: Jennifer has been feeling very sick.