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It’s been sometime since I’ve written anything here. Obviously my Euro predictions were a wee bit off. At any rate, here are a few updates that may/may not be of any interest.

(1) I graduated (or, convocated?)! Three years and a whole lot of reading and writing later and I am officially a graduate of Wycliffe College. My wife will heartily agree, no doubt, that these three years were hugely important for our family and me personally. Going into Wycliffe I was in a bit of a strange place mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Seminary isn’t for everyone, but for me it was just what I needed. I grew up in more ways than one and feel a renewed call to ordained ministry.

Wycliffe College Convocation (2012) – Can you spot me?

(2) On the note of ordained ministry, my family and I have been moving in recent months towards Anglicanism. Little known fact: I was baptized in the Church of Ireland and attended St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Newmarket, ON up until the age of about eleven. At the end of April we had Charlotte baptized at our local Anglican Church (St. Matthew’s Riverdale). A few weeks back I was officially received into the Anglican Communion by the laying on of hands from Bishop Mark MacDonald. I am also currently on a one year contract with St. Matthew’s as parish assistant in order that I may gain ministry experience in an Anglican context. All of this is, among other reasons, because I hope to apply for ordination with the Diocese of Toronto in 2013. This journey is, for me, anxiety laden in more than a few ways. I actually plan on writing a short series of blog posts over the summer documenting our journey towards Anglicanism and all of the things I’m concerned about along the way.

(3) We’re moving. As of August 1st we need to be out of the house. We finally found someone to move in and take our place (we have been living in intentional Christian community, of sorts, for the past year and a bit and needed to help find a person to take over our place in order to leave). Ideally we want to stay in the Riverdale/Leslieville neighbourhood as we love it here and our church community is here (not to mention my other job with the Philip Aziz Centre). It’s not looking promising at the moment but I’m still hoping we can find something in the next couple of weeks.

OK, that’s all for now. I’m going to attempt to post at least once a week over the summer to keep the creative juices flowing.

Peace y’all!

 

*The featured image is of St. Matthew’s Riverdale.

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In The Crucifixion of Ministry, Andrew Purves writes:

“The defining matter of the church’s life is not to convert and bring people to faith (the evangelical heresy!) or to bring in the ethical commonwealth (the liberal heresy!). The defining matter for the church’s life, for which the church exists, is to bear witness to Jesus Christ. He, not we, converts people and brings in the reign of God,” (p.132).

To some visitors of this blog that may not be anything new but for others it may very well be (particularly depending on what sort of circles you grew up in and spend time in). The “bearing witness to Jesus Christ” bit requires much theological reflection and wrestling and can often be a point of contention.

Anyways, there you have it. Don’t get it twisted!

What say you?

The last number of years have been pretty challenging for me. Most of you know that I spent a number of years as a youth pastor and during that time I changed a lot as a person. I changed a lot as a Christian. I count those 2.5 years as some of the best in my life (the word ‘best’ is not to be confused with the words ‘easy’, ‘joyful’, ‘fabulous’ etc). I saw a lot. I thought a lot. I did a lot. I became disillusioned with a lot of things including middle-class suburban life, Evangelical Christianity, and the influence materialism was having on my life. All of these things changed me.

Now there are probably others out there who can identify with this sort of paradigm shifting, life-altering sort of experience and what I want to note is that there are different ways of dealing with this.

Towards the end of my time as a youth pastor I began to develop some bad habits. Things started appearing in my life that may or may not have been bad in-and-of themselves but these things lead to other things which resulted in me living a dishonest (less than abundant) life. I was so overwhelmed with life/employment situations and so frustrated with the confines of Evangelical Christianity and white middle-class piety and I’m not sure I really knew how to handle all of this.

Last night I sat down with a good friend/mentor in my life to talk about some things I’ve been struggling with and he posed the following question to me: “Ok, so what are the real issues?” What? At first I didn’t know how to respond. I couldn’t really pinpoint any “real issues” in my life that manifested themselves in bad fruit. I couldn’t think of any internal issues that showed up certain ways on the outside.

But I’ve been thinking about this since last evening. And while I’m still (obviously) processing a lot of these things I think one of the internal issues that manifested itself in a particular way on the outside was bitterness. I didn’t start out bitter. I started out frustrated but the more and more things I saw and experienced caused this frustration to slowly turn to bitterness. I began to hate a lot of what I was exposed to in Evangelical Christianity.

I won’t delve too deeply into the sorts of things I’m talking about here because I’m still working through them but perhaps I can touch on them at a later date.

Also, while I’ve begun to realize the root of bitterness in my life this should not be confused with me retreating and embracing much of what Evangelical Christianity has on-tap in the developed world. No. A lot of that is still bullshit and still frustrating but I’m hoping that from here on out I can use those things and those emotions to write a different sort of story for myself in the grace and peace of Christ.

So, here’s to life. Triumphs accomplished. Failures experienced. Second chances. And, above all, grace that refuses to allow us to remain the same.

ps – Today as I was thinking about all these sorts of things I read this blog by Don Miller and, needless to say, it hit be square in the face.

Lot’s has been happening lately which partially explains why I haven’t written much. From June 27 – July 7 Christina and I took a group of 9 students and 1 other leader out to Glace Bay, Nova Scotia to work alongside Dave and Shirley Sawler. I’ll write more on this later.

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This past week we held the first ever Cornerstone Sports Camp: Foundations for Life and Sports. This was a sports camp put on for kids in the Aurora community. A lot of work went into this and it turned out to be a great week. We ran baseball in the morning at a local park and then basketball in the afternoons at a local high school. The kids all had a great time and it was really fun getting to know and spend time with them. Definately look forward to doing this again next summer. Kudos to all of our volunteer coaches and team leaders!

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This evening Christina and I headed down to Church in the Beach to hang out with the Burkes and the local Body there. It was quite the evening. The group of people that we are heading over to Europe with include the Burkes and some people from the faith community in the Beach so we gathered there as a sort of ‘send-off’. It was great. I really love worshiping with the folks at CITB because they all seem so free from pretense. No one pretends that they have everything figured out. The leadership isn’t convinced that they are the most dynamic leaders the world has seen. It’s refreshing. There was probably about 30 people that were there last evening. Most evangelicals would likely chuckle upon hearing that number but I tell you, God was present.

Howard Moore, the Canadian Director for Greater Europe Mission preached about the mission of Jesus. We looked at how/why the Father sent the Son into the world and the impact that this had on the Church being sent into the world. Great stuff. Afterwards we had a time of prayer for those of us heading to Europe.

Then came the party. After our gathering everyone, and I mean everyone, headed back to the Burke residence and partied. Food, drinks, converstation…the whole bit. Why party? Well one of the women that has been a part of this community since 2001 has been a refugee in Canada since 1999. Just this past week she won her immigration case and was granted refugee status! Great! Paul asked her if she had anything she wanted to say. “I won!” was her cry. Then from the back of the room came this: “We all won!” Wow. This really hit home. How wonderful. This woman did not win this case by herself. Rather, the entire community won and was granted refugee status. At times like this I realize how true Paul’s words are: “so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others,” (Rom. 12.5) and “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of your is a part of it,” (1 Cor. 12.26-27).

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This Friday Christina and I along with a group of others head over to France and Hungary for 3 weeks. Essentially the break down of our time looks like this: we’ll spend a week in Sopron, Hungary at a conference for church planters from all across Europe. I’m super stoked for this and can’t wait to learn from these people. Then we’ll head back to Paris, France for a week where we will try and be Jesus on the streets there. Finally, we’ll take the train up to Lille, France to try and be Jesus on the streets there. What’s really cool about Lille is that it is about 60% muslim. This is one of the cities where there were riots between muslim youth and police a couple of years ago so I’m pretty excited to walk those streets. I’ll try and update with pictures and stories from along the journey.

Grace and peace.

JT

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector,” – Jesus (Matthew 18:15-17).

In my experience, most people are terrible at dealing with any sort of conflict or disagreement. I say most and not all because there are some people that are better than others at dealing with such things.

Much of Christs’ teaching has to do with how we ought to relate to others. The above passage is no different. Jesus is here talking about what you ought to do if someone “sins against you.” For our purposes, let’s broaden that a little bit to anything that someone does to upset you including saying something that you may disagree with.

When someone becomes offended or upset I most often see one of two reactions: 1) The hurt person goes and complains to someone else about the particular situation or, 2) The hurt person says nothing but stores up bitterness towards the person that has upset them. Both of these reactions, although prevalent, are extremely problematic and poisonous. Let’s say someone says something that I disagree with. Is that unfortunate? Maybe. However, what is even more unfortunate and just flat out poisonous is if I react in one of the two ways listed above. Let’s look a bit longer at the above responses.

1) If you are hurt or upset by something that a person says your reaction ought not be to run and complain (“tell”) to someone else for, “a gossip separates close friends” (Prov. 16:28 ). Gossiping can very well fuel your own discontent towards the person that has upset you. Sharing and gossiping with someone about how terrible another person is for saying such a thing simply gets you more worked up and angry at the person that has done the hurting and this in no way resembles the love and grace we are to show others. Yet this happens every single day. People are hurt all the time and their first reaction is to tell someone else (now certainly I’m not saying that you should ALWAYS approach the person that hurt you because in some cases this may not be safe, but I’m simply talking about your average situation where something was said that you may disagree with etc). When will we learn to practice better, more constructive ways of dealing with hurt?

2) Likewise, if someone says something that is upsetting to you it is unwise to do nothing and allow yourself to become bitter. Paul exhorts the church in Ephesus to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice,” (4:31). Bitterness ought to have no place in Christ’s Body. Likewise, the writer of Hebrews says we ought to “see to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many,” (12:15). The writer of Hebrews teaches that bitterness can “cause trouble and defile many.”

As Christians, we *ought* to relate to people differently. If we are upset about something that has been said we should not react by gossiping or becoming bitter because these reactions are not reflective of being created anew. We are made *new* in Christ and ought to demonstrate a better way of living, that includes a better way of dealing with conflict and hurt. Jesus prescribes a better way when he says, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you,” (Mt. 18:15). If we truly believe this and do it we can save ourselves all of the hassle that comes with the previous two options and in so doing we can actually demonstrate a better way. When you go directly to the person to show them their fault (instead of going directly to someone else to show them someone else’s fault!) you eliminate the gossip. There is no chatting amongst people. There is no hearing things from third or fourth or FIFTH parties! If you are hurt, go directly to the person and let them know you are hurt. When this happens and it is kept “just between the two of you” then “you have won your brother over” and it is an edifying experience for all those parties involved: People are encouraged by one another, the truth is spoken in love and we are able to grow *together* as a Body and rejoice in that! (The same cannot be said about gossip). Likewise, if we handle conflict in such a way it leaves little room for bitterness. If you are hurt and go to the person to talk about it and share your hurt with them and they listen to you then you both grow closer and there is mutual healing and edification. This eradicates any bitterness because you are left healed and encouraged.

I think that the Church has much to learn in the area of dealing with hurt/conflict, however, when I see Jesus I see hope. As Christ’s Body we can demonstrate a better way! In fact, this is our DUTY! So let us do away with childish things such as gossip and bitterness and let us pursue truth and reconciliation, and over these things let us put on love.

Grace and peace.

JT.

this is nothing new. people have been talking about this for along time, however, i’m beginning to experience it for myself. so here it is.

if you live anywhere in the developed world, like myself, you know what it’s like to walk into a mall. shops of all sorts and sizes. they are renovating the mall close to my apartment to add in new stores. we have shops that sell 50 different kinds of popcorn, shops that sell clothes for big ladies and small ladies, shops for skater kids and kids that want to be in the next abercrombie commercial, sports shops, jewelery shops, nutrition shops, zellers and restaurants. if you like yoga, go lulu. TVs? try the sony store. whatever you want, it’s there. clothes, food, gadgets and books. all under one roof. all you have to do is show up with your family or friends and stroll down the halls, stopping in at the shops you like and purchasing whatever you want. give me what i want.

and, if you live anywhere in the developed world, like myself, you know that this attitude isn’t reserved for the mall. people are completely detached from products, people and places and they have this notion that whatever they want, they can get. just go out and buy it. out with the old, in with the new. when you live like this, it effects all aspects of your life. so what happens when you go to church?

well, if you live anywhere in the developed world and go to church, like myself, you know what it’s like to see church become yet another commodity. next time you meet a churchgoer ask them, “why do you go to your particular church?” in all likely hood they will probably go on about some sort of program for their kids or the great worship or the preaching or the 3-ply toilet paper. is this healthy? is this church? when you attend a particular church because of what that church can offer you, aren’t you just strolling around the mall? but the problem is, this isn’t the mall, this is a community of faith. the problems with this consumer mentality when it comes to church is that it never ends! maybe you attend your church because they have a great kids program. well suppose the childrens minister leaves and you hear of another church across town that has an even better kids program. “let’s go there!”

my point is simply this, church isn’t meant to be another thing that you consume. can we be honest and call this what it is? it’s selfish, it’s self-centered and it’s not reflective of the renewal of one’s mind. when we gather as a community of faith, we gather not to consume, but to be consumed. we gather with the hope that Christ will consume us, all of our strengths and our failings, and that he will in turn, send us out to be consumed by others. so it’s not about great programs or crappy programs, it’s about committing yourself to the Body and playing your part, whatever that is. it’s about dying to yourself and your own crappy desires and being renewed by the Spirit so that you can learn to desire rightly. it’s about realizing that you are important to the local Body, even if you’re the body part that releases excrement.

church is all about consumption. just not the kind we’re used to in the developed world. so lay down your life, pick up your cross and be consumed by Christ so that you can become food for others.

grace and peace.

jt.

christina and i have some cool things happening this summer.

1st of all, we’re taking a group of 10 students out to glace bay, nova scotia for 10 days from june 27-july 7. we’ll be working with dave and shirley sawler who are planting churches in cape breton. we’re really excited about this and it’s so cool to see the students getting excited as well. pray that God would continue to guide our steps.

2nd, we have this amazing opportunity.  for 3 weeks in august we’re heading to europe with greater europe mission to get our feet wet in the area of church planting, or as david fitch puts it, “seeding missional communities.” this is an area that christina and i have felt like the Lord might be leading us towards. we’ll spend the first week in hungary at a gathering of GEM’s church planters from all over europe. awesome. then the second two weeks will be spent walking the streets of paris getting a feel for the people there and getting involved in different things that God is doing there. here’s the kicker, all of our expenses are paid for. flights, trains, food, shelter. it’s paid. cool. so needless to say we’re pretty excited about this. i’ll be talking to the staff at church about this next week so be praying that they are supportive of this incredible chance we have.

it’s a lovely friday. get off the internet and go play.

peace.