Monday, June 29, 2009


I recently came upon this blog post at "The Forgotten Ways Blog." You can read the whole post here:

The part that caught my attention was his further explanation of communitas and liminality, concepts he develops in the book The Forgotten Ways and also addresses in his blog. A short definition of communitas is "the belonging which develops while being on a difficult mission with a community of friends." A short definition of liminality is "working from the margins as opposed to working from within the power structures."
This claim that communitas and liminality are normative for God’s people recently stirred up a bit of a storm in a recent speaking tour. Some people in the audience responded with real vehemence when Michael Frost and I proposed this way of understanding of Christian community. This negative response forced a deep reflection on the validity of these ideas but after much searching I have to say that I have not fundamentally changed my mind. On the contrary, this clash in conceptions in relation to the purpose of the church has forced me to conclude that for many of our critics, Christian community has become little more than a quiet and reflective soul-space (as in Alt Worship circles) or a spiritual buzz (as in Charismatic circles) for people trying to recuperate from an overly busy, consumerist, lifestyle. But is this really what the church is meant to be on about? Is this our grand purpose, to be a sort of refuge for recovering work addicts and experience junkies? A sort of spiritual hospital? I believe that the reason for the strong response in our critics is that they actually did ‘get the message’ about missional church but didn’t like it because, in this case, it called them out of a religion of quiet moments in quiet places and into liminality and engagement.
Lord, help us to take on the difficult missions into which You call us knowing that You are our strength and salvation.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Room for the Poor

Recently I had a great visit with Claudia Launhardt and her husband Nasser. They are doing some great work in the Downtown East Side (DTES) of Vancouver. In 2001 they purchased the Ivanhoe Hotel, a low income single room occupancy (SRO) building in the DTES. They are people of faith who have a great story to tell. It is evident that God is at work through them.
When the Launhardts bought the 125-room hotel, it was receiving up to 600 police visits a month. They worked hard to redeem it from its infamous reputation as the 'devil's playground.' They renovated extensively, replacing the roof, the elevator, and the heater. With the help of TWU [Trinity Western University] students, they also painted and recarpeted to make the place more appealing for residents. "We want people to feel at home here and take pride in where they live," Launhardt says.

Soon, the new owners found residents were as eager as they were to eliminate crack dealers and violent criminals from the hotel roster. "People came to us and said, 'Don't rent a room to this guy, he's dealing drugs,'" Launhardt says. Slowly, with prayer and prudent management, the hotel was purged of its undesirable tenants.*
Today, the Ivanhoe requires no government subsidies and pays for itself as it cares for some of the most vulnerable of Vancouver's residents. It is great to see people of faith making a difference. We need more brave followers of Jesus who will help transform the lives of the people of the DTES.

*"Room at the inn for Vancouver's poor," by Louise Rousseau,, reprinted from Trinity Western magazine,

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Today I am wrestling with what it means to be benevolent. Allow me to tell you of things I have seen. I have spent time in the Down Town East Side (DTES) of Vancouver. I have talked to people on the streets. I have seen the destructive power of addiction. I have seen how sick, addicted, mentally ill persons are exploited by pimps, drug dealers, gang members, and slum lords. I have seen "harm-reduction" that leads to safe-injection sites, attempts to decriminalize prostitution, soup kitchens, free hot-dogs on the streets, homeless shelters, and police services handing out free beauty supplies to exploited women.

I have seen many community service organizations and Christian ministries working in the DTES trying to make a difference. I have seen many people who have given their lives and much money, time and effort to making life better for people in the DTES. I have seen lobby groups that block the demolition of buildings to prevent the "hard to house" from being put out on the streets but allow the slum lords to continue to charge for rooms that are not fit for the mice that also live in the rooms. I have heard social agencies referred to as "poverty pimps" because the directors of these agencies earn a living as they serve the poor and perpetuate a system of government funding with little to show for it. I have seen many volunteers who are tired and calloused from years of serving with little hope of change and little appreciation from those they serve.

The positive stories of change and renewal of dignity are few. I must look for ways to bring the light of justice and God's Kingdom to these dark places. I must look for ways to truly do good to people without perpetuating injustices and without encouraging the bad choices that lead people to need benevolence.

In his novel, The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill speaks of the slave trade in Africa and those who tried to put an end to it by setting up a colony of former slaves in Sierra Leone. One of the characters has this to say about the efforts of well-intentioned Christian philanthropists.
"There is no profit in benevolence," Armstrong said. "None. The colony in Freetown is child's play, financed by the deep pockets of rich abolitionists who don't know a thing about Africa."
The DTES has certainly seen its share of people with deep pockets and no understanding of Vancouver. And yet, this does not negate the fact that lives have been saved and good has been done.

Deuteronomy 15:11 says, "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." Today, I am wrestling with how I can be "openhanded toward my brothers and toward the poor and needy in this land."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Poets and Truth

Sometimes we learn a lot from our detractors. Don Henley is an outspoken critic of those who call themselves Christian. In "Frail Grasp on the Big Picture" he and Glenn Frey lambast the "American way" and the "God is on our side" mentality that is so prevalent in both America and Canada. Has North American culture lost its way? Are we headed for a new "dark age?" Is there truth in the words of these prophets?

Frail Grasp on the Big Picture
Written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey; published by Pivet Songs/Red Cloud Music (BMI)
Well ain't it a shame 'bout our short little memory
We never seem to learn the lessons of history
We keep making the same mistakes - over and over and over and over again
And then we wonder why we're in the shape we're in

Good ol' boys down at the bar
Peanuts and politics
They think they know it all
They don't know much of nothin'
Even if one of 'em was to read a newspaper, cover to cover
That ain't what's going on
Journalism dead and gone

Frail grasp on the big picture
Light fading and the fog is getting thicker
Frail grasp on the big picture
Dark ages

And you, my love-drunk friend
All that red wine and candlelight
Soulful conversations that go on until the dawn
How many times can you tell your story
How many hangovers can you endure - just to get some snogging done
You're living in a hormone dream
You don't have the slightest notion what long-term love is all about
All your romantic liaisons don't deal with eternal questions like:
"Who left the cap off the freakin' toothpaste?" "Whose turn to take the garbage out?"

Frail grasp on the big picture
You keep on rubbing that, you're gonna get a blister
Frail grasp on the big picture
I've seen it all before

And we pray to our Lord, who we know is American
He reigns from on high
He speaks to us through middlemen
And He shepherds his flock
We sing out and we praise His name
He supports us in war
He presides over football games
And the right will prevail
All our troubles shall be resolved
We hold faith above all
Unless there's money or sex involved

Frail grasp on the big picture
Nobody's calling them for roughing up the kicker
It's a frail grasp on the big picture
Heaven help us

Frail grasp on the big picture
All waiting for that miracle elixir
Frail grasp on the big picture
I don't wonder anymore

Frail grasp on the big picture
You brought her here, so go ahead and kiss her
It's a frail grasp on the big picture

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Colum Cille

In honour of Saint Columba day (June 9):
O Lord, grant us that love which can never die, which will enkindle our lamps but not extinguish them, so that they may shine in us and bring light to others. Most dear Savior, enkindle our lamps that they may shine forever in your temple. May we receive unquenchable light from you so that our darkness will be illuminated and the darkness of the world will be made less. Amen. --Saint Columba

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Roof Tile Syndrome

Mark Buchanan, pastor of New Life Church in Duncan, BC, speaks of roof-tile syndrome.
Roof-tile Syndrome is when we are so caught up in the preaching of Jesus, we turn our backs to the needs of those still outside the building. We become barriers and not gateways. It's when we care more about keeping things intact than about restoring lives that are shattered. It's when we're more upset when stuff gets broken than excited when the broken are mended. It's when church gets reduced to the preaching of Jesus so that we fail to notice that we're seeing very little of the forgiveness and healing of Jesus. It is when we are so fearful about upsetting the religious folk (or homeowners) in our midst that we stop taking risks to get people to Jesus.
It's when my program, my office, my title, my privilege, my influence, my comfort takes precedence over others' needs.
It's when the church exists for itself; to hell with the rest of you.*
Are we willing to wreck the roof to bring the Kingdom of God to people? If this Jesus is the wild and untamed Lion of Judah who wants us to follow Him and bring others to Him, then our answer must be yes! Unfortunately, we sometimes let things get in the way of bringing justice and truth to people. We let our comfort or our leisure, or something else get in the way of helping people and bringing them to Jesus. I must ask myself, "What is the roof I am trying to protect?" "What is preventing me from providing for the needs of others?"

Today, I choose to wreck the roof.

*Mark Buchanan, “Wreck the Roof,”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Meditations on Clothing

Galatians 3:26-28 (NIV)
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

(Traditional, Arranged By: Emory Gordy, Jr. and Patty Loveless)
Two coats were before me, the old and the new
I asked my sweet Master, what must I do
The first coat was ugly, so tattered and torn
The other a new coat, had never been worn

I tell you the best thing I ever did do
I took off the old coat and put on the new
I tell you the best thing I ever did do
I took off the old coat and put on the new
[ Gospel Lyrics are found on ]

The first man was earthly, and raised from the ground
We bore on his image, the whole world around
The next was my Savior from Heaven so fair
He gave me this new coat you now see me wear

Now this coat, it suits me, it keeps me so warm
It's good in the winter and it's good in the storm
My Savior has blessed me with a garment so rare
He gave me this new coat you now see me wear


2 Corinthians 5:1-10 (NIV)
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.