Mar 28, 2011

Following Wimber on Facebook

Social media sites, like facebook, can be incredible tools for networking and equipping. In my congregation, Freedom Vineyard, our facebook group functions as a dynamic bulletin allowing us to connect our community. It is also a connecting point for the Vineyard Ontario Leadership Team (VOLT). And recently many of us experienced the power of social media as it gave us a common place to mourn the loss of our dear friend Rob Hall. Perhaps I'll post at a later date about some of the problems with social media sites, but today I want to focus on one of the boons.

Sean and Christy Wimber have set up an official John Wimber facebook page. So you can follow John Wimber on facebook. What I love about this resource is that they regularly post Wimberisms, that is things that John said. Continually they call us back to the heart and values of the Vineyard movement. If you are on facebook, you owe it to yourself to follow John and be challenged by the Wimberisms that will show up in your news feed.

What are some of the ways that you have found social media helpful in your ministry?

Mar 21, 2011

Everybody Plays

I was chatting with a theologian friend the other day about play and theology, his comment was insightful: everybody love play theory until someone tries to live it. The reason it came up was through my reading Wolfgang Vondey's excellent Beyond Pentecostalism. Vondey is one of the best scholars on Pentecostalism today. He admits that seeing play as a primary contribution of Pentecostal theology to a global theology is really hard to talk about in a non-playful way. It got me thinking about my own reservations around play, especially in terms of living the faith life. I liked to think that Wimber's slogan of everybody plays really didn't mean play, but doing the stuff in a more serious way - but now I'm not so sure play should be dismissed so quickly. Here are a few things I think are worth reflecting on:

1) Play is messy. This is the reason we want to dignify our religious expressions, most of us have learned to dislike mess. The problem is that play captures all the things we desperately want out of faith. Things like risk, inclusion, joy, experimentation, no need for the success models that have burnt so many of us out. The reason play is so messy is that it refuses to take itself seriously, at least not in the ways that "grown-up" culture wants to think of seriousness. Certainly play takes play seriously. But it is not purposeful in the ways that are typically valued by our culture. Without play we lose our ability to dream and experiment.

2) Play is all about joy. If the play isn't joyful then it doesn't last. This doesn't mean play is never hard, but it has its own rewards. I love playing games, and the games I love most require a tonne of work to pull off well (role playing games and strategic board games). But the work is always worth it - there is nothing quite like corporate story telling or having your friends over to play the silly madness that is Killer Bunnies. Joy in this case is about enjoying each other as much as the activity. And in terms of our faith lives it is about us enjoying playing with God and experiencing God's joy in playing with us. As Rik Leaf once sang, "joy is the serious business of heaven."

3) Vondey talks about how we grow up and lose our sense of play. Play is what kids do. When Jesus talks about becoming as little children I think he might be getting at this. Play doesn't have expectations, it doesn't really have goals. If it discovers a purpose then it can quickly go from being play to something more work like. This aspect of play is probably the most risky. It means dropping a tonne of pop Christian training. It means saying we don't have to know what it will look like - instead we just have to enjoy the process of playing it out. When I was reading Vondey I kept thinking that I've yet to see this sustained but the few glimpses I've seen of playful living were totally worth the risk.

4) Play is for everybody. Back to the Wimberism, everbody plays. What I love about play is that it is not about the superstars. It is not sport. It is not drama. It is play and everyone can play. Isn't that what we really want for our churches? A place where everyone can play, where no one needs to feel left out? I think so. I know it is an ideal, but I'm willing to let my ideals get caught up in the joy of play if it means I get to play with God. How about you?

Mar 14, 2011

Book of Note: Christians are Hate-filled Hypocrites

NOTE: This is a reprint of a review from my personal blog, Bert Waggoner recently recommended it for Vineyard folk. I thought you might like to read a review of this gem. Frank (Freedom Vineyard)

This is a very helpful book. Prof. Wright has presented something that I strongly believe we need to sit down and think about. As an academic who studies evangelicals I am constantly weighing through alarmist self-condemnation and finally someone has had the guts to say that it simply isn't true. Whatever else I say about this book, I think it needs to be read and taken very seriously. Wright calls us to love the truth and be suspicious of statistics, especially when someone is trying to sell you something.

Wright wades through a variety of claims made about Christians, with careful attention to Evangelical Christians. He shows how these claims are often based on erroneous, suspicious or poorly interpreted statistics. He draws on large sample statistics to try and get at what the real situation might be. To his credit this could be very tedious writing, but Wright moves us along at a pace that avoids bogging us down in the details but gives us enough information to see whether or not there is any substance to the claims. I find he is fair. He doesn't paint an overly rosy picture, but he also doesn't paint the doom and gloom we often hear from pulpits.

Wright could have spent a bit more time on the disconnection between his statistically measurable aspects of Christian action and morality. The reality is that the agendas for negative publicity are often filled with strong assumptions about the nature of Christian action and morality. This isn't as much a critique of Wright's choices here as it is of the ideologies behind the internal negative reports on Christian morality. He does get at this with his lovely term "cranky nostalgia", I would simply call it ideologically driven romanticism.

For me the litmus test in terms of bias came when Wright addressed the powder-keg issue of homosexuality. I felt he was very focused, not presenting his own bias but sticking to his task of evaluating Christian attitudes, as measured by the statistics, towards gay individuals. I wonder if he could have been as unbiased towards Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses as well - he seems to lump them in with other religions despite the fact that they are Christian sects which emerged around the same time as many other "evangelical" sects. Historically it is more helpful to lump them in with the groups they are most related to, regardless of their adherence to classical categories of orthodoxy. The only reason I point this out is that it is a place where Wright's bias does show through.

All in all this is an excellent book. Wright punctuates it with humour (albeit fairly geeky humour) and keeps his analysis succinct and relevant. I highly recommend this book.

Mar 7, 2011

Your Turn Now

We are in our fourth month here at the Regional ThoughtWorks Blog and we need your help. One of the things that John Wimber reminded us about was that "everybody plays". That means you too. I hope you will consider helping out in any or all of the following ways:

1) tell us about blogs that you find helpful in your life and ministry.

2) write a Blogs that Get you Thinking post.

3) write a piece on how you are interacting with any of the ThoughtWorks material.

4) write a review of a book, film, or training course you have been challenged by.

5) write about a conference or event you participated in that you think others could also benefit from.

6) write about what your community is doing to equip the saints for Kingdom ministry.

There is an incredible diversity and richness in our region. I'm looking forward to mining those riches together and living out the promise of God from our last regional celebration - God is not done with the Vineyard in Ontario.

Blogs that get you Thinking - Video Edition

Let's face it, blogs work because they are often short snippets of much bigger conversations. They are accessible - unlike larger books and articles. In the busy lifestyles that dominate our culture - small is big. So it should be no surprise that short videos would be so popular on the internet. But if you've ever surfed YouTube for "good" videos, well you've probably been more disappointed than encouraged. I want to mention a couple of video sources that I have found helpful.

First, TED talks. These short videos are so consistently good that I actually subscribe to them as a podcast (I'll post more on podcasts later). TED is a non-profit organization dedicated to getting ideas out there. Their original focus on technology and design has broadened considerably over the years - and although the talks happen in expensive conferences they are so dedicated to the idea of getting the ideas out there that they make them freely available online! Plus they are all fairly short - under 30 minutes and sometimes under 15. What is really helpful about TED talks is that they often capture ideas that have mainstream traction in our culture.

Second, 30GoodMinutes. This is an inter-religious video and sermon archive, with the focus on inspirational messages in a well-organized website. You'll find the full range of voices from Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, speaking about stuff that matters like hope, endurance, getting along with each other, and faith. Speakers you might recognize are Randall Balmer, Robert McAfee Brown, Rodney Clapp, and Joan Chittister (a radical Catholic sister that I've grown to appreciate).

I know there are many other great sites out there. Some even oriented specifically to evangelical Christians. But I felt these sites might be ones some of us had missed and that are definitely worth visiting when we need a quick bit of inspiration or mental stimulation. Enjoy.

Frank Emanuel, Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa.