Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Cheers!

Christmas is an interesting and exciting time of the year that allows us to take a foggy look into the cluttered soul of Canadian culture. Largely, we live our lives day-in and day-out in the constant pursuit of more things; more vacation days, more energy consumed, more events experienced. It is of little wonder then that, when we celebrate a holiday – such as Christmas – that holiday becomes somewhat of a hyperbole of how we already live.

And so, in my own mad rush to get out of the office, through security, and into a climate too cold for human survival, I give you my all-too-quick commentary on Christmas drink, food, tradition, consumption, and Jesus.

Attitudes towards Christmas food and drink are often at odds with each other. On one hand, we rightly applaud the many volunteers of the Operation Red Nose campaign for keeping the eggnog and rum off the road. On the other hand, we sing songs that include phrases like “Oh, bring us a figgy pudding…and a cup of good cheer/We won’t go until we get some, so bring some out here.” In other words, nobody is planning to leave the party until they’ve had their fill of “Christmas cheer,” which, in all likelihood, is referring to a cup of Christmas beer, as opposed to a cup full of Christmas good times.

On the topic of alcohol, while many churches and pastors condemn the over-indulgence of holiday spirits, it is also not uncommon for these same people to eat until they could actually fill out that big jolly red suit. While gym memberships and bottle recyclers make a fortune in January, excess of both food and drink are explicitly condemned throughout Christian Scripture. In the church, well-mixed hops get the evil-eye and the roasted turkey gets a feast. Why is this?

Most feasts, by the way, are meant to be shared with our families and loved ones. Yet the extra hours and stress spent at work, so that we can somehow manage to pay the over-inflated Christmas prices, are, at best, taken out on our families in the form of fighting, dysfunction, and all around Grinchyness. Unfortunately, for our homes and families, the turkey isn’t the only one to be feathered and skinned by our rush for consumption during the holiday season.

Some of our traditions, though currently fueled by our culture’s materialism and greed, originated out of motivations that are hard to criticize. One legend holds that St. Nicholas Bishop of Myra, of whom we get the modern-day Santa Claus Bishop of the North Pole, paid the dowries of young girls who were in danger of being sold into slavery and prostitution. Of course, this issue is an ever present reality that continues to need the immediate attention of modern day saints and sinners alike.

I suspect that St. Nick might have been on to something here; I suspect that maybe he had learned to live a life that was slow enough, observant enough, and uncluttered enough to engage in the hurt and need around him on a regular basis. I suspect that, for him, the celebration of Christmas wasn’t characterized by the rest of his life, rather the rest of his life was characterized by the reality of Christmas; Emanuel, God with us.

Singer, songwriter, and author Michael Card says it this way, “The celebration of the birth of Jesus should be ever new, however; the scenery of Christmas has become too familiar and comfortable. It blocks our view into the depth of the stark mystery of it all…Perhaps the reason so many of us find it difficult to celebrate the birthday of Jesus is that we have confined the celebration, in many ways, to a single day… and, at that, a day that’s become more cluttered than any other day of the year, a day that better represents the noise and business of all our other days.”

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Books: Indian Creek Chronicles

A number of years ago while on a winter climbing trip in Joshua Tree, CA, Candace and I met and befriended a lone-traveler/climber from somewhere in the southeast. Georgia maybe. His deep drawl and funny words attracted us to him and we soon found ourselves climbing, eating, hiking, and remembering together. Eventually, as we each told our stories, we learned that he was on a quest into the wild with hopes of "finding himself." The inspiration for his trip came out of three things: 1) confusion about life, 2) a book titled Wild at Heart, and 3) a different book titled Indian Creek Chronicles.

At the time, I had just finished reading Donald Miller's book, Through Painted Deserts, and, having the book with me, we traded. He, for my Donald Miller book, and I for his Indian Creek Chronicles.


Today, after years of this book sitting and collecting dust on my book shelf, I finished the last page. Pete Fromm, the author and main character, recounts his 7-months living alone - in a tent - through a winter in the Idaho mountains guarding salmon eggs, sipping mountain whiskey, diverting disaster, experiencing the thrills of hunt and survival, and coming face-to-face with the realities of life alone in the mountains.

This tale of adventure in the mountains should be a must read for anyone who loves the mountains and for those others who have not grown weary of the classic "coming of age" story. I'm sorry I hadn't read it sooner.

To our friend from the southeast, I hope you made it through the pass and found what you were looking for.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Canadiana: Why I Love Canada

Earlier this year, I was asked by a newspaper editor if I would provide a short list of things I like about Canada that would then run in a Canada Day special edition. I sent over my "top 9" list which was quickly hacked down to maybe three or four. I thought I'd publish the full nine here....Enjoy.

In no particular order, I give you:

#9 – I love watching and cheering for our Canadian hockey team at the World Junior’s every New Year. These guys eat, drink, and bleed maple syrup.

#8 – With Toronto and Vancouver being the 1st and 3rd most ethnically diverse large cities in the world, I have grown to love the great diversity of culture, language, and cuisine that lie within our borders (and restaurants).

#7 – My win percentage in this seasons Roll-Up the Rim contest clocked in perfectly at 100%.

#6 – My friends Ashley Barker and Ryan Thomas, who serve in the Canadian Forces, represent the thousands of young Canadians devoting their life to the good and well-being of our country both at home and abroad. We salute you.

#5 – I am proud to be able to name every single one of Canada’s provincial capitals: Victoria, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg maybe, and umm, can you get back to me? Well at least I know more about Canada than those ignorant Yanks!

#4 – The Charter of Rights and Freedoms which gives freedom by limiting freedom, opens doors to freedom of thought, speech, belief, and lifestyle. Canada should be proud of its ability to display its unity amidst the cultural-mosaic of diversity by BCers eating poutine, prairie people riding downhill mountain bikes, Torontonians noticing the rest of the country, churches being known for what they are for and not for what they are against, and Newfies using Screech to power carbon-neutral vehicles.

#3 – A toque, plaid button-up shirt, long-johns, a pair of Sorrels, a good hockey hair-cut, and a case of Molson constitute formal wear for any occasion. This will also be what eventually destroys Canada.

#2 – Canada’s legislative moto: “Peace, order, and good government.” Two out of three ain’t bad, eh?

#1 – Don Cherry’s Rock’em, Sock’em Hockey.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Memories:: Utah

I noticed a friends Facebook status earlier this evening; "Just got back from Utah...EPIC" making me remember some of the time I've spent living in and exploring the Utah desert. For some reason, I absolutely love spending time in America's desert landscapes and could easily see myself living there one day. Anyhow, thanks for the status update Mike, it definitely made me remember well! Enjoy this photo from Moab.

Friday, November 06, 2009

God is Green

Of all the stereotypes that have formed around what it means to be an environmentalist, the one stereotype that I would like to see most closely related with environmental consciousness would be “Christian.” And while the granola-eating, organic, tree-hugging activists with questionable hygiene and bad styles living out on the fringes of society should be applauded for their care of creation, my hope is that one day it is Christians who are most known for their environmental concern.

In the Christian church we often hear about Jesus’ Great Commission to go out into the world preaching the Gospel, baptizing people, and teaching them to obey Scripture. At the very beginning of the Bible, the book that we claim to obey and organize our lives around, comes the First Commission where Creator God commands that we care for and tend the earth. Interestingly, we Christians have been up in arms for years over the creation/evolution debate dumping time, energy, and resources into defending our claim for a Creator God while largely ignoring to care for His creation like He asked. Further, many bridges could be built and many walls broken down when we recognize that, though there is disagreement on the origins of our blue planet, there is wide scale agreement that we must care for it.

Scripture is clear that creation was made for God (Col. 1), by God (Genesis 1-2), and still belongs to God (Psalm 24). Additionally, Romans 1 tells us that God’s glory is revealed to Christian and non-Christian alike through creation, which includes the beauty of Mt. Baker at first light, the quiet gurgling of Clayburn Creek in the summer, and the prominent Cheam range as you drive east on Highway 1. One prominent dead theologian said it this way, “God writes the Gospel, not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” Clearly, Christians should be known for their care of creation.

Thankfully, Christians around the world are beginning to respond to Creator God’s call to tend and care for a planet under siege to pollution, depleting resources, unsustainable development, and gross imbalances of food and water supplies. Every personal, community, and corporate action towards a greener lifestyle does count and is significant no matter how small the action may appear. This call towards an increasingly “green” lifestyle does not, however, come without cost. It will cost your time. It will cost your comfort. It will cost your convenience. It will cost your conscious. It might even cost you some green. The question being, is it worth it?

I think it is.

The Christian church must respond to this call. Environmental concern in not just a popular fad like tie-dye t-shirts or blogging, it is a biblical mandate that can not be ignored. For Christians, we begin by humbly repenting for our part in creation degradation and then actively pursue how to reduce harm, reduce waste, and begin to restore what has been lost. This may mean that churches don’t supply Styrofoam cups for the horrible church coffee that is consumed every Sunday morning or that car pooling and energy efficient structures and methods are in place. Maybe it means that the best parking spots are reserved for hybrid vehicles, that church grounds have community gardens, or that bike locks, lockers, and showers are provided to encourage people to bike, blade, run, or skateboard to church. Creative solutions to creation care will be as unique to the church and individual as anything else. Not everyone or every church can do everything, but everyone doing something will add up. The God we serve is green, why shouldn’t we be also?

Friday, October 30, 2009

We Are Mountain People

Mountains are fantastic examples of the power and mystery of nature, and the routes we climb on them are expressions of all that is best in the human spirit. Mountains and routes are only animated by our interaction with them, however, and it is the people we share the mountains with - the relationships we have with them - that are ultimately the most important.
- Michael Kennedy from the forward to Extreme Alpinism by Mark Twight

Thank-you my friends.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Marketing Ideas: How do ideas spread?

Following is a list of questions that I pulled out of a marketing book that I read some years ago. The Anatomy of Buzz by Emanuel Rosen looks at how information spreads best and quickest. Here are a few thoughts to work through before reading the questions.

Identifying Network Hubs
"Whether you spread an idea, a product, or a service, you always have a choice. You can broadcast or you can connect. Broadcasting involves massive mailings or buying media time and packaging your message so that it can be transmitted simultaneously to all nodes in the network. Connecting involves starting a dialogue with certain individuals in the network that you are trying to influence." -Emanuel Rosen

How do we identify these certain people?
1. Let network hubs identify themselves. These are people who come to us for something they want more then anything else: information. Network hubs feed on information.
2. Identify Categories of Network Hubs. The way to look for a category is to look for people who, by virtue of their position, have a higher then average number of ties with people in the networks you are trying to reach.
3. Spotting Network Hubs in the Field. It's easy to find these hubs when you are apart of a community. In fact, when you are apart of a community don’t really have to search.

Seeding Ideas
Successful seeding is an active process. It goes beyond the Field of Dreams cliché "If you build it, they will come." Rather than waiting passively for people to come to you, you go out and plant seeds all around the forest.

1. Look Beyond the Usual Suspects. Think broadly. Who are the people outside of our normal networks that could be 'seeded' with new ideas about young adults?
2. Put Information/Product In Their Hands. What piece of young adult product can we put in people's hand that will 'germinate itself' into other people's hands?
3. Listen For Silence. Successful seeding requires that we pay attention to dead networks and go further in order to reach them.
4. What seeding efforts are we doing right now? What should we be doing in the near future?

Questions to Ask Your Teams
1. From who do our newcomers typically learn about youth/young adults?

2. What do people say when they recommend youth/young adults?

3. How fast does information about youth/young adults spread compared with other churches/young adults groups/organizations?

4. Who are our network hubs? Are there any mega-hubs? Which are social hubs and which are expert hubs? Are there any categories of people who might become network hubs for youth/young adults?

5. Where does information about young adults hit a roadblock? Do our hub people know what the heck is happening?

6. Which are the most important sources of information that our youth/young adults rely on to know who we are/what we are about?

7. What other kinds of information spread through the same networks?

8. Who are our inactive markets that our youth/young adults are not reaching? Are we listening for silence where we are not known?

9. Do we offer a quality event, program, and community?

10. Do we underpromise and overdeliver?

11. Does youth/young adults enhance the lives of the people come?

12. Contagious products and ideas draw attention to themselves; how well does youth/young adults draw attention to itself?

13. Do we offer anything new? Buzz reflects excitement and excitement does not build around old ideas and predictable approaches.

14. Are we operating in a spirit of truth, honesty, and directness?

15. What are we willing to do to accelerate the contagiousness and word-of-mouth spread about youth/young adults?

16. What do students/young adults tell their friends about us? About other churches/youth groups/young adults?

17. What is the general church culture saying about young adult and youth ministry right now?

18. How receptive and responsive are we to our student and young adult concerns, comments, suggestions? How easy is it for people to talk to us?

19. Can we limit access to youth/young adults to create buzz? Scarcity build interest.

20. What sneak previews do we want to give to grade 12's for young adults and grade 8's to youth?

21. What can we do that will surprise people?

22. How outrageous can we be?

23. Who and how can we take people 'behind the scenes'?

24. What is the story and drama that we need to keep telling about our communities?

25. What events can we stage to get people talking about youth/young adults?

26. What kind of "pass it on" promotional material and mechanisms do we have?

27. How visible is youth/young adults to youth and young adults?

28. Are our youth talking to each other? The more that they interact, the more involved they will become with youth/young adults and the more likely they will tell other people. Can we find ways to help them talk to each other, socialize, and exchange comments?

29. Is there anything that we can do that makes youth/young adults more useful as more people use it? Example: email is more useful when more people use it; myspace is more useful when more people use myspace. People will spread the word more readily if they perceive some sort of personal benefit.

30. Is there anyway that we can offer any type of 'referrals reward program'?

31. Can our ads be clever enough to create buzz on their own?

32. How well can our youth/young adults articulate who we are and what we are about?

33. Are we supplying our networks with a constant flow of innovations that people can actually talk about?

34. Are we keeping people involved? If people join us but never think about it again, we can't expect them to talk about it too much. However, if we involve them, engage them, make it interesting for them, they will talk. Involvement translates to action, which in turn translates to buzz.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Anti-Bush Rally: George Bush in Saskatoon

Yesterday, while catching a city bus from the Saskatoon ‘international” airport to downtown, I happened upon a large, loud, and angry crowd corralled by police and barricades. This crowd, made up of mostly young scenester kids, goth kids, and a few old school revolutionaries, where there in protest of George W. Bush’s speaking engagement here in Saskatoon. This crowd had all the elements of a revolution: social misfits, music of the people, accusations, and the alternative media to tell the story of David-vs-Goliath injustices that “the people of the world face.” The speakers/presenters/agitators played on the naivety and emotion of the teenaged crowd whose chants of “shame on you” were as monotonous as the speakers themselves. Additionally, this crowd was ripe with marijuana activists that would have made Tim Felger proud to be Canadian.

The other crowd, the hundreds of suit-and-tie people with their long wool jackets and trendy scarves, slowly filed into the building while smirking at the young protesters from the safety of their police line bunker. These – the obviously affluent or lucky – had tickets to see one of our times’ most controversial leaders live and in-person. This crowd seemed unfazed by the bullhorns and guilt-trips and, as one suit I interviewed stated, “We couldn’t give a sh!t about what some 18 year-old with fingergloves and a bullhorn cares about.” As ticket holders looked down their noses at protestors, it became glaringly evident that the seeds of this revolution will not be won or barely even advanced on the street.

Anyhow, the strangest thing was the protestors calling for justice. They – alleging Bush to be a war criminal – were demanding justice for his alleged crimes. Whether Bush should be tried for war crimes or not is a different story, but what was interesting here was watching drug dealer’s (at least the ones who offered to me) chant that justice be held for criminals. It reminded me of a story one man told about having a plank in an eye. It seems that hypocrites can be found in many places…


A funny moment that emerged out of the event came when a man in his late-50’s placed a twenty-foot pole down the back of his jacket with a small sign on the top. The sign read, “Terrorist. Torturer. Moron.” As this man was walking around with a twenty foot sign coming out of the back of his jacket, he walked under a tree and became tangled in the branches. With sign man stuck in the tree I fumbled with my phone to get a picture before he escaped. Moron? At very least, it was ironic.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Who is my neighbor anyways?

Today I found myself at a conference hosted by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada which is a Canadian lobby group that petitions politicians for things like the conservative definition of marriage, human trafficking, the sanctity of all human life, and other moral hot buttons. The speakers did a fantastic job at presenting - through stats, numbers, and case studies - the cultural realities facing Canadians today and are doing an amazing work on the Hill.

However, what I wanted to talk about is the audiences response to a presenters question, "Who is your neighbor?" The more and longer I listened to peoples responses, the more and more I became agitated and, eventually, flat out angry. People had some real compelling and biblical arguments to support their claim and justification as to why they had no need to know their actual neighbor. Responses like, my real neighbors are my co-workers, the people at my gym, and that weird high school buddy who keeps calling for decades and decades. Though these people are people who need Jesus and who should see the Gospel at work in our lives, conference attenders kept leaning on the Good Samaritan crutch to tell us why they didn't know their actual next door neighbor. Too busy. Long tiring commutes. Language barriers. Religious and political differences. A bad smell. Excuses.

I don't think that Jesus meant for us to forsake our actual neighbors nor does he give us excuse to do so. He does, however, expand our context of who our neighbors are and calls us to a life of self-sacrifice for God's glory and our neighbors good. As I sat there listening to the feel good excuses, I thought of the many people in my building of widely diverse backgrounds, worldviews, language groups, and experience who God has brought into the proximity of my life simply because we are neighbors. I thank Jesus for the people I live around and pray for them regularly realizing that many of the excuses offered today can play havoc on my responsibility to be a good neighbor. However, when we take the responsibility to be a good neighbor seriously, I guarantee that the excuses will be overcome.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fraser Valley Bouldering: Hope

The bouldering in Hope, BC is, and continues to be one of my absolute favourite fall bouldering spots. With the diversity of areas and stone, there is sure to be something to suite even the most critical of boulders. Of all the areas, the Hunter Creek bouldering is where I find myself most often. Flat sandy landings in an open forest cluttered with fine grain granite boulders keeps me scrubbing and climbing nearly all year long. The boulders themselves are covered in holds and range from low-ball traverses to high-ball fright fests that’ll make you wish you’d spent a little more time learning how to pull on classic Squamish-like slopers. Early developers Marco and Nate along with a handful of others took care to pick many of the plum lines like the conditions-dependant Goldfinger (V10) and the stunning Tube Socket (V9).

Hard bouldering is not all that New Hunter has to offer though. There are clean and classic circuits for everyone from beginner to rockstar to enjoy in a peaceful quiet setting away from the circus that is Squamish. There are also many many many unclimbed or rarely climbed lines that need to see more ascents and – if FA’s are your game – bring your cleaning tools! Just don’t be too eager to spray about your new super-burly-vee-hard-whatever as the problem may have been climbed just last year before mossing over again through the winter. Either way, the bouldering at Hunter is amazing!

Mountain Project
lists a fraction of the problems at Hunter Creek but serves as a starting point for anyone looking to explore. Also, Marco Lefebvre recently published a short spot check with tons of info in Squamish Climbing Magazine, check out his work here. Finally, early summer 2010 will see the release of the Hunter Creek Mini-Select guidebook. Here are a few stand-outs as you wander through the forest:

V0 - The Frayed Edge of Sanity is a tallish and fun slab wandering up the Goldfinger boulder just left of the slickery and overhung Ecocide Arete (V10).

V1 – The Hoover Traverse put up by you-know-who is Hunter Creek’s Any Rock Will Do but much better! Don’t miss this fun warm-up climb.

V1/2 – Pale Face
which is the tall-but-not-too-tall blank face that you are sure to walk past. Reach dependant for the grade, this classic climb is a great introduction to highball bouldering with a flat landing and mellow topout.

V2 – Precious Metals is one of the first lines you will see walking into the forest. Start with two blocky holds at about 7 feet on the Goldfinger boulder and boulder strait up and over or, for some extra value, hit the lip and continue up and left to the peak. Classic!

V3 – Split Tip is a low slappy arĂȘte and maybe high in the grade. Good fun.

V4 – Grendal’s Mother a scary highball put up by Andrew Itkonen a number of years ago. This problem sees few repeats with many backing off at their mental crux!

V4 – Miniblade, also known as The Mark of Zorro, was named for its eerie similarity to the Old Hope testpiece Blade of Lightning (V10). Miniblade is a classic trailside slopper problem with a troubled past.

V5 – Slight of Hand
is found close to the creek and moves off fingery sidepulls to an airy mantle. Great movement!

Sleight of Hand -V5 from Trevor Edwards on Vimeo.

V7 – Autobot
is a recent addition to the forest with both Marco and Ryan projecting and then climbing within days of each other. Very good problem!

V9 – Tube Socket is a Nate Woods classic which should be tried by those capable. A stand-up start to the problem in the V5 range is a fantastic problem in its own right.

V10 – Goldfinger, without its original and critical hold, is looking for a repeat with a new sequence. Any takers?

Directions and Beta to Hunter Creek:
Take Hwy. 1 East to Hunter Creek Exit.
As you come off the highway, turn right and then, instead of turning left to the Hunter Creek rest area, turn right and follow the service road for about 0.7kms.

Turn left onto a gravel forest service road called Lorenzetta/Hunter Creek FSR. and drive up the short hill to an obvious pull out on the right. Park here. WARNING: Vehicles with low clearance should be cautious.

From your parking spot, head up the road on foot for about 1 minute before spotting a faint trail to your left. There is a small cluster of fun boulders here. Keep following the trail to find more boulders all the way towards the talus field.

Special Notes:

1. DO NOT cross any fences and DO NOT go down to the creek as it is private land. The land owners are cool with respectful boulderers in the bouldering area but DO NOT want people to cross down to the creek.
2. Bears, cougars, and horses are known to be in the area.
3. If you (re)scrub something out there, let others know so that it gets some traffic and stays clean.
4. Do your part to make the area a better area for everyone.
5. Spring and summer, watch for stinging nettles. If you run into any, don't touch it!
6. If you’d like a tour of the area, feel free to ask!
7. **JANUARY 2010 UPDATE** Access Issues!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Emerging Adulthood

Christianity Today, in an interview with sociologist Christian Smith author of Souls in Transition, highlights some interesting thoughts for anyone who cares about the spiritual health of the emerging adults generation. Below are a couple of quotes that come out of the interview.

Again, we are sociologists, not church consultants. But in terms of the implications of our work for churches, the two key words are engagement and relationships. It can't just be programs or classes or handing them over to the youth pastor. Real change happens in relationships, and that takes active engagement.

But I would caution that emerging adults are smart about when they are being marketed to. So if the emergent church doesn't offer something genuinely different from what emerging adults have too much of already, they're not going to give it two seconds of attention.

Also, for those involved in University campus ministry, there are some interesting observations. Go check it out.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Team Leadership: Inspiring Staff and Volunteers

Part of my job as a pastor is to build ministry teams that are motivated, hopeful, and strategically pushing towards a clear and compelling picture of the future. These teams, made up of paid and unpaid staff, must be led by leaders who, though uncertain about exact outcomes, know how to encourage and lead their teams forward into an unknown and uncharted future. Inevitably, any pursuit into the unknown will provide set-backs and discouragement that, depending on the key-leaders ability to rally the troops, could either stall all forward movement or inspire creative and compelling solutions. Further, because most Kingdom-problems are community-problems, most Kingdom-solutions have community-solutions. As Christian leaders then, it is likely that we will find the majority of our leadership time sitting around coffee tables with our teams looking for these community-solutions. Follows are four things I have learned about inspiring my teams to hope and purposeful action.

1. No BS.

People know when the ship is sinking, crap in the fan usually ends up on the walls, and sugar coated razor-blades are always tough to swallow. There is no disguise that staff and volunteers will not see through eventually. Team leaders who try to divert their teams’ attention away from the cold hard realities are the leaders who end up losing credibility, build shallow solutions for deep problems, and who often end up discouraged and confused as to why the vision seems so unattainable. Teams that operate in their prime are known for clarity of analysis and interpretation, courage to move forward against impossible odds, and who have a face like Clint Eastwood in an arm-wrestle with Chuck Norris. Teams can only move forward if they know the reality of the situation they face; this means that part of the role of team leader is to strip away the peripheral and engage head-on with the task at hand. No flowers. No sugar. Cut the BS.

2. Never Waste a Crises.
There is nothing that will unite a group of people faster than a problem, crisis, emergency, or disaster. Some of the most powerful revolutions were born on the back of shared injustice, lack, or shortfall. People, bonded together through the memories of conflict and crises, find themselves at impossible odds orchestrating an impossible uprising of creative and unstoppable solutions that are totally surprising and, very often, from the ground up.

For years, one requirement of my leadership teams’ was to go on a roadtrip every six months with people they had just met in the last six months. Besides the community and relationships this built, it was fundamental in helping our team leaders use crises to look for creative solutions. Why? Every good road trip is bound to have a few wrong turns, a missed exit, a weirdo hitchhiker, a flat tire, or an empty tank of gas. Four people in a car, while learning to either love or hate each other, must put everything else aside to work towards crises resolution – most often resulting in strengthened relational bonds.

Crisis bond people; it brings us together. As team leaders, we must never ever waste a crisis. These are absolutely critical times that will determine the strength and creativity of our teams. While we do not manufacture crises, we shouldn’t be all that fearful of them either. For the healthy team it tests them, allows them to do necessary purges, and brings about a closeness that is not possible when times are quieter, softer, easier, and greener ($$$).

3. Ante Up.
As one pastor puts it so eloquently, “Put your cup on, lower your head, and head back into the ring.” Volunteers and staff are more likely to face the challenges of adversary head-on when they go into battle side-by-side with their leader(s). Team leaders must respond to challenge by upping the ante themselves, calling people to action, and daring people to move with them. This often requires the blood, sweat, and tears of leaders in breaking ground and punching out new and exciting possibilities even when all the odds are against them. Staff and volunteers don’t mind taking a few shots and enduring a few hardships when they see that their leaders are out front bearing the assault as well. Leaders, ante up, and then challenge your people to put their money on the table as well.

4. See the Future.

Team leaders who inspire and motivate their team towards significant action open windows into the future that are both compelling and achievable. Sometimes these windows are very small and are only open for a moment to help re-direct the team; other times the windows into the future are massive floor to ceiling portholes that provide sweeping panoramic vistas of a land far away and beautiful. Either way, these windows into the future are what will continue to drive the church – staff and volunteers – towards imaginative and strategic movement. Vision is about hope. It’s about the people and places we hope for and about clearly seeing what might be. Vision is about community. It’s about where we expect to be and who we expect to be there with. It’s collaborative and felt by all, seen by all, and believed by all. There are times, however, where team leaders need to become the mouthpiece of “we” re-envisioning, re-imagining, and re-calibrating what exactly it is that the team sees. In some ways, team leaders become the teams’ optometrist ensuring that the vision stays sharp and in focus. A clearly defined image of the future is often enough to ensure the continued hope, inspiration, and creativity of our teams.

Leaders Get Discouraged

Finally, leading teams through discouragement, set-back, and failure is perhaps one of the more difficult leadership challenges that a team leader faces. In my own experience, these are the times I feel most vulnerable to feelings of inadequacy, thoughts of resentment towards team members, and to thoughtless reaction that further damages or slows progress. I am continually faced with the truth that not everything I do, the future that I see, and the current reality that I describe, are not always as I see them. Yet, I must continue. I must remember that God is at work and often in the most surprising of ways. I must remember that I am loved and cherished by the God whose image I am made. I must remember that my value as a person is not attached to my accomplishments, net-worth, or leadership skill set. Rather, my inherited worth is that I am undeservedly heir to the Kingdom of heaven, known as a child of God, and called and equipped to serve His community with humble faithfulness.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Shredders, sledders, and powdogs

Over the course of the last few days and week, mountains all around BC have started to see snow flying in them thur hills. This - for every shred - is the time of year that inspires us to sacrifice to Ullr by burning old snowboards, stinky gloves, and filthy doorags. The snow is near and, for all you snowshredding people, I've drudged up an old memory originally posted elsewhere January 6, 2007. It's almost time to ride.

Snowboarding Two Days Ago:
I have been snowboarding since 1991 and somehow managed to ride the funnest frontside turn that I have ever done in my life! Amazing frontside slasher on this double overhead windlip! Riding under the chair lift we will often get cheered for different jumps or dropping cliffs and such...but never for simply doing a turn on the snow. This turn was different: the whole chair lift was cheering and yelling and I rode the rest of the run down with my hands on my head in the shape of horns and yelling. I obviously snowboard for the glory.

Snowboarding Yesterday:

Imagine that there is so much snow falling that, on one of the resort runs, a ski patrol skidoo is stuck! Crazy amounts of snow.
Anyhow, my brother Jabin and I spent the day riding fresh pow, pillaging chutes, dropping some decent size cliffs, and just generally getting rad. Third last run of the day we dropped into this steep untouched face (in the dark) that was pretty unstable. I led and as I made my first turn the snow about 30 feet above me fractured and slabbed down sweeping Jabin, who was behind me, down the slope. He yelled and, as I turned around to see what was going on, I was hit with a wall of snow that carried me until the all the snow stopped moving. Crazy experience! We were both buried nearly to our waist, were safe, and were all smiles! A good reminder to for us to respect the mountains.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What I Expect from Senior Leadership

Being in a staff position for nearly nine years, alongside an amazing team of pastors and leaders, has been both a demanding and rewarding experience that has kept me challenged and growing. Over the course of that time, I have come to learn what to expect and what to value from my lead pastor, Jim.

1. Leadership – As a member of staff, I look to my lead pastor to set the spiritual climate of the church, establish direction and objectives, help clarify the mission, and to ensure that I am traveling in the right direction with the rest of the team. This includes timely evaluation, correction, envisioning and re-envisioning that is collaborative and inspiring. From time to time, this also requires the lead pastor to shuffle staff position focuses to meet the changing demands and passions of the church. A healthy team will likely have its job descriptions continually in flux. This benefits the church and mission as well as benefiting the team so as to have the right people in the right places doing the right things.

2. Teaching – Besides the ongoing mentoring, sermons, and lunches at the pizza-by-the-slice place, my favourite part of each work week is our Monday morning staff meeting. Here, our team engages in a learning environment led by Jim that often comes through the outflow of what he has recently been learning, wrestling with, or interacting with. It has been of tremendous worth to have the influence of a lead pastor who is well read and who loves to teach us young guys!

3. Care & Protection – Over the course of time, it is not unlikely for a few of us staff to catch a few cheap shots from well-meaning church folks. Any time the Gospel is proclaimed there will, undoubtedly, come opposition and bullets aimed at one or all of us. I have had my share of hate mail, blog campaigns, and even a court case to know the immense value of a lead pastor who has my back. Not only does he protect me when I need protection, but he continually comes alongside of our team in thick and in thin to care for and love us. During family crises or celebration, through ministry success or failure, and in our extra-curricular activities, it has been empowering to know the care and protection of my lead pastor.

Staff people, be it youth, worship, children’s, outreach, family, etc., must learn how to openly and honestly work towards sustainable and engaging relationships with their lead pastor. As we allow ourselves to be led, we will be led well. When we submit ourselves to our leaderships’ teaching, we will learn to learn well. And finally, the care and protection we receive must be reciprocated towards our lead pastors who often find themselves in lonely, vulnerable, and vital positions of influence. Thank-you to all our hard working lead pastors for the good work you do.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Howdy yo. For any of you PAOC people who occasionally lurk around here, there is a new collaborative leadership resource that is being published online. It is called LeadingForward and is administrated by our new district officer, Dave Solmes. Go check out some of the video and other leadership resources posted. Before you leave, add it to your blogroll.
Grace and Peace,

Monday, June 22, 2009

Leadership Journal

I came across this short little leadership thought in my journal recently. I'm not sure where this thought came from - a book or conference - but I'm pretty sure that I didn't originate it! Hopefully it is helpful.

In identifying a leader ask:
1. Do they have influence?
2. Is their influence good or bad? What is their character?
3. Do they have good people skills and a high social/emotional intelligence?
4. How driven are they? Are they action-oriented people who are comfortable taking initiative?
5. Are they good thinkers?
6. Do they have street smarts?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

::Charlatans and Saints::new green day.

The new Green Day album hit stores, ipods, and stereo's this weekend asking listeners to walk down another punk rock opera. Similar to MCR's Black Parade and Green Day's previous work, American Idiot, this rock opera delivers thoughtful lyrics, angry guitars, and classic Green day chord progression while exploring Americana fundamentalism. The main character, if you're wondering, is named Christian. Go look in the mirror.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Go Bouldering.

The last couple of weeks have finally begun to feel a little bit like what summer will be. I love spring, the forest, and bouldering. The Hunter Creek boulders near Hope, BC are seeing somewhat of a revival of activity this spring with more traffic and problems being scrubbed and climbed.

A quote from Teddy Roosevelt's April 1910 address delivered at the Soronne, Paris sums up some of my climbing thoughts of late:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Role of Pastor

A version of this hit news stands yesterday. In 600 words or less - enjoy.

The occupation of Pastor runs deep in my family. My grandpa was a pastor, my dad is a pastor and church planter, my youngest brother is a pastor, and I, while growing up, firmly decided that I would not be a pastor. Ironically enough, I am now nearly a decade into the life and work of a pastor and thankful that my family heritage didn’t include heavy lifting or things that smell bad.

Upon learning that I am a pastor, people often ask, “What is it that you actually do?” or state “It must be nice to only work on Sunday.” To be honest, working only one day a week would be great for my rock-climbing schedule but horrible for the life of the Church. The reality is that being a pastor is not a clock-in/clock-out job; it is a lifestyle job that requires much from the pastor on an ongoing and continual basis.

So what does a pastor actually do besides drink coffee and play the churches’ Xbox?
I believe that there are four basic roles that a pastor fills in doing their job well; they lead, teach, care for, and protect their church.

First, pastors lead through organizing, gathering people, and setting the church in order. In addition to serving, this part of the pastors’ role requires that they multiply their leadership, study extensively about good leadership, and continually evaluate their leadership. As their church grows, they will need to build systems, becoming more precise in and reproducing their leadership so that it is both accountable and decentralized.

Second, the pastors’ role in teaching includes one-on-one conversations, teaching in small groups, and preaching to large groups, such as on a Sunday morning. This responsibility to teach requires a couple of things: one, that pastors spend long hours in Biblical study; and two, that they learn to clearly articulate that which they’ve studied. This means they should be students of both culture and communication, studying the great communicators of our time including politicians, comedians, writers, and even talk radio hosts. Sadly, many great teachings go unnoticed or unheeded not because of a lack of good content, but because of poor communication.

Third, a pastor functions as a caregiver. A good pastor is known for actually caring for the good and well-being of people. They respond to peoples’ needs through prayer, support, care, and counselling often networking with other local caregivers such as Cares Counselling here in Abbotsford. As pastors and churches, our intent should be to come alongside hurting people and journey with them through the mess of life, providing both hope and restoration.

Fourth, as protector of the church, a pastor defends orthodox doctrine and refutes heresy, false gospels, and deceivers. However, shielding the church also assumes advocacy for those unable to advocate for themselves such as in the cases of spousal or child abuse. This is why churches put in place safety and security procedures for their children and youth ministries and why churches need to take great care when publishing personal information of its members. Pastors, like our great Advocate, Jesus, must defend and protect the church from those who intend to deceive or harm it.
Though a pastor should be quite competent in each of these four areas, there will inevitably be seasons and circumstances where a pastor and church need to give more focus and attention to a particular area. For example, an untimely death in the church requires an intense season of care. While leading, teaching and protecting do still continue, the primary focus becomes one of compassion for the health, well-being, and good of the hurting.

Finally, if you know a pastor – whether you attend church or not – ask them what they do with their week. You might be surprised that spring golfing doesn’t make the list.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm Over This Band.

Donald Miller, who has a new book coming out soon, writes a funny post on his blog. It is easily worth 3 minutes of your time! What are you over?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Church Product

Follows is a great quote from Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death on the state of advertising and our cultures appetite for personal value.

What the advertiser needs to know is not what is right about the product but what is wrong about the buyer. And so, the balance of business expenditures shifts from product research to market research. The television commercial has oriented business away from making products of value and toward making consumers feel valuable, which means that the business of business has now become pseudo-therapy.

A re-phrase of the quote as it concerns pastors and churches may, at times, be both an accurate and alarming statement of many of today's churches.

What the pastor needs to know is not what is right about the product, but what is wrong about the buyer. And so, the balance of church expenditures shifts from product research to market research. The television commercial has oriented church away from proclaiming products of value and toward making church people feel valuable, which means that the business of church has now become pseudo-therapy.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Jesus the Advocate

I forgot to post my last Abbotsford Times column...I'll get it for you sometime soon. Anyhow, a version of the following article hit newsstands today. Enjoy friends.

The creation story, as told in the book of Genesis, tells of how male and female were uniquely created and shaped by God’s hand to enjoy four significant relationships with God, others, ourselves, and the environment. Unfortunately, all four of these relationships have been about as stable as an unchaperoned junior-high prom date. A quick survey of any news media outlet will easily confirm the truth of these broken relationships as Abbotsfordians are forced to deal with gangsters, brownish chicken air, urban sprawl, domestic abuse, homelessness, and hypocrites of every stripe.

The first relationship we are meant to enjoy is with God who we are to trust, love, honour, and serve as King. This requires our humble submission to His rule and reign, doing what any good servant would: report for duty, demonstrate loyalty, wait for direction, and complete the task.

Secondly, our relationship with others is meant to be that of mutual respect ruled by an ethic of love. This is why the picture of humanity painted at the end of the Bible is one of every language, nation, gender, and race joining together to worship God around His thrown. With Abbotsford being the third most ethnically diverse city in the nation, behind Toronto and Vancouver, it would seem natural to look around at the City’s diversity for a sneak peak of what Heavens’ languages, culture, and restaurants might sound, feel, and taste like.

Thirdly, mankind’s relationship with himself is to be that of a sound mind in which we can think, feel, and act in ways that are good and beneficial for all other relationships. This is why counsellors, self-help gurus, and Dr. Phil are in such demand as people hope for a renewed mind, emotion, and will.

Fourth, the Biblical view of creation is not that we worship nature as god or goddess as some do, nor that we strip mine, dump chemicals in our streams, or recklessly drive gas-guzzlers to the corner store when we could just as easily have walked. Our relationship with the earth is meant to be one of gardening and tending to, as good custodians of something created for our pleasure, enjoyment, and sustenance. For every tree-hugging-organic-wearing-bicycle-riding-recycling-hippie in a 1970’s diesel van, this should come as great comfort to you.

God’s response to these four broken relationships is both of anger and sadness. Anger that we destroy or allow to be destroyed our environment, our selves, our human relationships, and our relationship with God, and sadness over the results. Further, if pollution, addictions, social and economic injustice, or people’s separation from God angers or sadness you, you are agreeing with and, to an extent, feeling the heart of God. For most caring, socially responsible, environmentalist atheists, agnostics, and neo-pagans, this might come as quite a shock. You, whether you realize or care to admit it, agree with God’s anger and sadness over sin, evil, and injustice.

Finally, one of Jesus’ names and functions is that of Advocate. Jesus, the Advocator, is advocating for clean drinking water, sustainable cities, and places for fawns to frolic. Jesus, the Advocator, is advocating for the renewing of our minds and is pleased with the mental health’s field of work. Jesus, the Advocator, is advocating for the good and ongoing relationships of all people regardless of skin color, creed, age, gender, language, or opinion. And Jesus, the Advocator, pulls double shifts as the Mediator mending the broken relationship between man and his creator, the God of the Bible.