A Chat With Matt and Jen Percy

So today’s interview is one I’m very excited to share with y’all. Matt and Jen are two people who I’ve been blessed to know as friends (and best friend, co-volunteer, coworker, in supervisor role, and as a volunteer for them) for much of my life – God has used them both to shape and inspire me. This year they started their Cardboard Koinonia ministry, and naturally I wanted to to know more about it. Matt and Jen thankfully both took time out of their busy schedules to answer those questions. Hope you enjoy.

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Could you share a bit about your testimony?

M: I grew up in a Christian household, not only that, but my parents were Salvation Army officers (Pastors) for the majority of my life at home. At age 5 I gave my heart to the Lord with the help of my Nan (Grandma) who was also an Officer. I always believed, and never doubted my faith or the existence of God but always wondered how God and the Bible fit in with what science and history says and what various scientists say. In my early twenties I began to lose interest in church, I found it boring and didn’t feel that it had anything to offer me and had no idea how to formulate or share my faith. That is until I discovered apologetics. I am a big history and science buff so learning that there was more to faith than just a blind leap was exciting.

J: I came to the Lord as a child and have grown in my knowledge and faith ever since. Like everyone, I’ve faced many ups and downs, but God has revealed himself to me in every circumstance and I have learned to be thankful and praise Him throughout every journey. Marrying Matt has deepened and strengthened my love for God, and His people. I’m excited for how He will use us both to further His kingdom through CK.

You both have been involved with a number of ministries – what can you tell us about them?

M: Growing up in the Salvation Army gives you ample opportunity to serve in all sorts of ways, I have helped with disaster relief, thrift stores, soup kitchens, family services, and youth groups. I have also been a regular part of the worship team as a drummer in each church I attend.

J: I’ve had the opportunity to serve in a few different ministries, 99% out of Calvary Church Toronto where I was born and raised. I’ve enjoyed leadership opportunities in both the Children and Youth ministries, and am currently a Worship Leader. I loved my time at Pape Youth Centre (Youth Unlimited, TYFC) working with you, Chris. I loved bringing the teens together and showing them the love of Jesus through hanging out, cooking, eating, and playing games.  


Why board games? What do you think makes them so interesting to you and others? Why is there such a growing community with them?

M: Board games have a unique way of bringing people together no matter who they are. People can sit at a table and have fun and connect regardless of social status, religion, or culture. I have played games with people from other countries, old and young, atheists, and agnostics as well as fellow believers. No matter who you are you are welcome at a table.

Can you share about the name – why Cardboard Koinonia?

M: Koinonia is a greek word that means christian fellowship, or communion with, God and/or other believers. This is the biggest part of our ministry. Most board games are made of cardboard so that’s where that part came from.


When did you first have the idea for Cardboard Koinonia? How long did it take to get the ball rolling and what steps did you need to take?

M: I have always wanted an excuse or an event that brings people together from various churches. It seems as though many people don’t associate very much with others beyond their own church building. I have also always loved board games and had previously planned game nights at our church just to get the church family together for some fun, we love hosting events and bringing people together. It really wasn’t until I began listening to the Game Store Prophets podcast and finding my way to their Facebook group, The Tavern, that I really figured out which direction it all needed to head. Early 2016 I came up with the name Cardboard Koinonia and started a facebook group of my own. From there we’ve grown it and built a facebook page, and a full website, we’ve had many more events, and I have had chances to talk to others doing similar things in their hometowns from California to Germany. We have been encouraged by the responses and help from others, and feel God calling us to continue with this ministry.


What are your goals with this ministry? What will you do if you can become a non-profit?

M: Our immediate goals are to get our website hosted and shorten our address so we’re a bit easier to find, having a few more awesome Game Nights, working with a great organization on a super secret event, and eventually turning Cardboard Koinonia into a charitable organization officially. This will allow us to raise money both for Cardboard Koinonia and other people and organizations. This will allow us to bring our gaming events to other churches, find our way to different conventions, and make us and our board games available to people that need us. Maybe people have just had a bad week and need to unwind, or maybe they feel as though they don’t really have friends or don’t belong. Lastly, we will be able to create and give away fun things like shirts, bags, and games.


Are there any resources (pastors, authors, theologians, websites) you learn from that you’d recommend to people to check out?

M: If you’re talking in general then I have a nice big list of Theologians, Philosophers, and Apologists that I enjoy and have learned a lot from. People like William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, Greg Koukl, J. Warner Wallace, and Lee Strobel being my favourites. In regards to games and God in particular I look to Mike Perna of Innroads Ministries who is an inspiration and sort of a involuntary mentor, Geeks Under Grace, Geekdom House, and Sam Healey and the Dice Steeple and Dice Tower have also inspired me to a lesser degree.


What do you both think is a challenge facing the church today?

M: I think too many kids are growing up not knowing what they believe and why, then when they are pressed regarding their faith they cannot give answers. Nearly half of the youth that leave Christianity do so because of intellectual difficulty. When challenged about their faith they don’t have a leg to stand on. People nowadays are overly skeptical and won’t believe anything unless there are facts to back it up.

J: I think it’s can be challenging to build relationships, and develop a strong sense of community, family, and belonging. There are many small groups within our church, but (as far as I know) there aren’t any cross-generational ones. I’d love more opportunities to break bread, laugh, cry, serve, learn, play, and grow with every age group.There’s a lot that can be learned from simply spending time with one another. I’d love to see the body become like the church mentioned in Acts 2.   


Do you find that more niche/out of the box ministries have more of an uphill battle (and if so, why)?

M: Yes and no, in the case of something like Geeks Under Grace or Innroads ministries, people are out there looking for a place where they belong, geeks in many cases had been relegated to the outside, churches were not equipped to know what to do with them, they were outsiders in most cases. These organisations give them a community, and know how to serve them the gospel and get them involved. The problem with niche ministries such as these is the amount of people that they minister to. If it wasn’t for the internet and being able to reach people from all over the world Geeks Under Grace and Gamechurch could not have grown to the sizes they have. Years ago it would have been near impossible, but we live in a time where the groups are available and at a time when I believe them to be most needed.


How can people support your ministry?

M: Prayers are always needed and appreciated. This ministry is nothing without God and his help. Secondly, check out our site and Facebook page. Comment, like, and share, let us know you’re out there and you like what we’re doing. Lastly, we currently have a GoFundMe campaign up and running to help us raise money to grow and get our ministry off on the right foot. Donations help pay for our website, events, and help us work towards becoming a charitable organization.


And finally, what would you both suggest to those who want to start their own ministry/non-profit organization?

M: If you already have something in mind, pray about it. God will let you know if that’s what you are supposed to do. Be passionate about it, work on it, think about it, and again pray about it everyday. If you don’t already have something in mind but you know you want to start a ministry figure out what you’re most passionate about, what are your favourite hobbies? How can you use that for others? Are you a carpenter? Build things for others. Are you an athlete? Start a kids sports program, or an adult one. Teach people how God can be glorified through sport.

J: Team up with others because you can’t do it alone! While you might think it’s “your baby| it’s actually God’s ministry and God’s plan and God’s timing. We were made to work together. Spread the word quickly, and ask your friends for help or suggestions. Everyone knows someone who could help with one thing or another.

If you’d like to learn more about Cardboard Koinonia, or if you’re loving what they’re about and would like/be able to financially contribute, you can do so by hitting up these links:

https://www.facebook.com/CardboardKoinonia/
https://cardboardkoinonia.wordpress.com/
https://www.gofundme.com/cardboardkoinonia

Thanks for reading my friends, I hope and pray that this was encouraging and beneficial for you. God bless my friends.

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A Chat With Fran Purvis

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Good afternoon friends! Today I am happy to share with you a new interview, one I got to conduct with a good friend of mine and missionary Fran Purvis. I met Fran back in high school years (good ol EYCI) in a ‘World Religions’ class. From there I had the pleasure of getting to know her more through mutual friends and the schools Christian fellowship. Over the years I’ve been blessed to support Fran in her mission with InterVarsity, and she was kind enough to take some time and answer some questions. Hope you enjoy my friends.

Can you share a bit about your testimony?

F: When I was 7 years old I asked Jesus to come into my heart- a sincere and heartfelt decision. Children can and do hear from their Creator, and they can make genuine decisions to know and follow him!  While I grew up in a spiritually nourishing household, there were also relational tensions within our home, and I struggled with anxiety and insecurity as a result, and between ages 12-18 I didn’t know how to grow in my faith without the presence of spiritual community outside my home.

In university I encountered the IVCF community of believers on my campus which really helped my own my faith, and heal from my identity issues and to see that I could be leader and an agent for the kingdom. I learned so much from them and really fell in love with Jesus at this time.

When did you feel the call missions?

F: My university community was really what helped me see that Jesus was about reaching out world and healing all things, people, relationships and creation! I was very captivated by this vision and was experiencing the goodness of mission in my own context. I felt a call to do full time missions at Urbana 09, but at that point I didn’t know what it meant. In my graduating year I decided to do an intern year with InterVarsity, and was placed In Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. That year was deeply formative for me, in providing me with a supervisor and mentor, Lisa Laird, who would encourage me to learn about the bigger story of Canada’s history, and to put myself in places where I could listen to and learn under Indigenous leadership- both Christian and non-Christian.

After that year, I was invited to join full time staff with IVCF, as a campus minister at the University of Regina. These past 5 years that I have served on staff I have grown in immeasurable ways as a follower of Jesus and a leader of others.  It has stretched me and forced me to see my own brokenness and need for healing; these years of learning to love and students have also challenged me to learn to offer this healing to them, through prayer ministry, community and scripture study.  In these years God has also widened my perspective of the gospel, in particular, God’s heart for reconciliation

 

What can you tell us about InterVarsity?

F: InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, who loved Jesus with a sincerity and devotion I hadn’t seen before- they let their whole lives be impacted by the gospel, but they also had room for my questions.  This community introduced me to a Jesus whose heart is to connect with women, the sick, the poor and the outcast, a Jesus whose kingdom is about reconciling, bridge-building, and restoring all things.

One of IVCF’s gifts is in helping people encounter Jesus in scripture, as well as creating authentic spaces for people to ask questions and wrestle through complexities. Also in creating genuine, loving community. IVCF is also trying to hold vision for multi ethnicity and ethnic justice which is quite unique for an Evangelical organization.

You’ve been on staff with InterVarsity with for a number of years. What roles have you had and what has your experience been like?

F: I have been a mentor, scripture teacher, led prayer meetings, led retreats, and have done admin tasks.  I have done missions work in China, Bangladesh and with Indigenous students here in Regina. Probably my favourite roles are leading prayer meetings, and helping students encounter the healing love of Jesus though prayer ministry. I also love doing any kind of cross cultural relating!  These relationships teach me so much!

What can you tell us about Urbana?

F: Thousands of students, including myself, receive a call to missions at Urbana. Urbana is an amazing chance to have your worldview and view of God’s global kingdom expanded. I have learned so much about God’s heart for the nations, and multicultural worship, from Urbana.

What have been some of your favourite experiences as a missionary?

F: I love seeing students experience Jesus, and to see them get caught up in the mission- to see that he is truly good and worth spending their lives on. Seeing students love their friends more and be more clear about why they follow Jesus, is awesome! I love a good, honest chat about faith and I love a solid Bible study that leaves people more in love with the Kingdom!

What would you say is a challenge facing missions?

Apathy and busyness. Students are so busy and it’s easy to be distracted!  Keeping Jesus at the centre, and having the mission be integrated into their lives (and my life) is essential.

Helping student grow roots in God through spiritual disciplines, like prayer, is a big issue too. Students need to learn to exercise these muscles, and there is alot that gets in the way (phones; socializing, not knowing how to spend time with God…)

Are there any resources (pastors, authors, theologians, etc) you learn from that you’d recommend to people to check out?

F: C.S Lewis; Henri Nouewen, Thomas Merton, and Belden Lane.

How do you see the church at work in Saskatchewan?

F: The church here is visible, but seems separate from the rest of life.  The church is sincere and wants to make a difference, but struggles to make an actually difference to peoples’ lives.  There is a heart for revival though, and there is a growing desire to pray and worship and see God move.

Do you see any differences in church culture in Western Canada compared to the East?

F: The church here is more conservative.  Other than that, I’m not sure how to comment, such a big question!

And finally – what would you say to someone thinking of pursuing missions?

F: Pray and ask God to open doors; pray for partners in ministry (friends with similar vision and values).  Work on developing skills and character growth, and spiritual growth, rather than fixating on what specific place you are called to. God will clarify location, but when we’re starting out its good to think about our first ministry assignments as “training ground.” Listen to where Jesus might be calling you and even if it doesn’t make sense or its costly- say yes! Jesus is worth saying yes to every time!

 

Thanks for reading, I hope that the Lord somehow speaks to you through these interviews and through Fran today. God bless my friends.

A Chat with Pastor Darryl Bergen

 

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Good morning good people! This past week I had the opportunity to reconnect with a friend and former partner in ministry, Pastor Darryl Bergen. Darryl came to Calvary as the youth pastor at around the same time I was asked to lead the pape youth centre ministry. We would frequently meet up to discuss strategy of bringing the two groups together, pray, and play a crazy amount of ping-pong.Since working together, Darryl has moved on to Wyoming Baptist (in Wyoming, ON) where he serves as youth pastor, and is a great brother in Christ to have. Darryl thankfully took some time out of his schedule to answer the following questions; hope you all enjoy.

Could you share a bit about your testimony?

DB: Born: Without clothes, to loving Christian parents who had no kids (until my siblings came along).
Grew up: A very, very good boy, musical and athletic, awkward, loved to read, was bullied, the sidekick to the class clown, in high school always wanted to be in a relationship (but always stuck in the friend zone) and…I was a Christian – whatever that meant (I just grew up that way) – oh, and people thought I was the “perfect kid”.
Messed up: Over time it became harder to maintain “perfect”. More I tried more I failed (a lesson I still continue to learn).
Fired up: As a teen I was invited to join a small group of peers and the youth pastor to do “life” together, there I experienced the forgiveness, grace and love of the Father, and the “perfect” sacrifice of HIs Son for me, got baptized and leaned into a life on mission to love God and love others.

Teamed up: Bridal College (I mean bible college) dated, graduated, married, and teamed up to love God and love others with the best partner ever! Really!
Low down: This is how I live today; not perfect but through grace – every step is gift of grace “for it is not I who live but Christ who lives within me”. Each day, each moment that is what I want to choose, to live “in Christ” and to walk in such a way so as to encourage others to do the same. Because that is really living!
This is me: Born and raised in St. Catharines. Lived in residence in Toronto 3 years for undergrad. Married summer 2002 and moved to Niagara Falls and served as a associate pastor of a Mennonite church. Moved back to St. Catharines where I commuted once a week for 3 years to T.O for graduate studies. At the same time my wife, Lisa worked on both an undergrad and a masters. Then we both moved to T.O. where she started teaching French at a private Christian school and I served at an urban church for 3 years as a youth pastor. We now live in Wyoming Ontario. Yes, there is a Wyoming in Canada. Wyoming is a little village of 2000 people where I serve as the pastor to youth and families.

When/how did you know you were called to your ministry?

DB: I felt the pull to vocational ministry as a teen, inspired by a significant move of God in my life and the influence of the youth ministry and my youth pastor whose goal in ministry was to develop young Christian leaders. I could think of no greater thing to do with my life than to do in others what my youth pastor did in me. Truthfully though, it wasn’t until everything else I tried to do failed when I truly felt called to do His work. Often it’s when we’ve reached the end of ourselves and let Him drive that’s when we hit the sweet spot of vocational purpose.

You have been a pastor in a moderate sized community (St Catharines), a big city (Toronto), and now a small town – what similarities and different challenges have you found in those places?

DB: No matter where you go every student and in fact every person needs two important nouns a someone and a somewhere. We cannot underestimate the power the right place has to affect relationships; Seinfeld had a diner, Friends had a coffee house, Cheers had a bar. Secondly, in anyone’s story of faith, there are people who have shown up and become catalysts for spiritual growth. Pastoring in any situation is all about making sure there is a place for people, any kind of person, to belong and to see them connect to others to be catalysts for spiritual growth. Challenges are always opportunities and I see these three challenges as similar no matter the context, whoever difference contexts will have different answers for these; Technology: (Unlimited potential yet unlimited moral and relational implications), Time: (Lot of options for wasting our time, but harness the power of love, words, and fun over time), and Training: (Specialism now forces us to provide excellence in our programs yet amazing opportunity to empower others to do something with the diversity of gifts and reach).
How do you determine what to share with the youth?

DB: I follow a curriculum plan from Orange that has a scope and cycle so that we don’t get stuck somewhere and miss critical aspects of faith development. Their scope and cycle for weekly programming is set up around 3 critical relationships that come from Matt. 22:37-42 (the great command) God, God and self, God and others.

Are there any preachers/authors/theologians you learn from that you’d recommend?

DB: Andy Stanley/ Carey Nieuwhof – Introducing a new paradigm of single point preaching and leading churches that unchurched people love to attend. Major Ian Thomas/ A.W. Towzer – These guys (preachers) just knew God. Louie Giglio – Almost nothing bigger than the Passion movement (speaking to the hardest age to appeal or speak to – US College students) and heck there almost isn’t a modern day worship song that isn’t co-written by him. Reggie Joiner and ReThink (Orange) – With all that they produce they encourage partnering home and church to PLAY FOR KEEPS when it comes to the next generation. N.T. Wright and Chris Wright (missiologist), Lesslie Newbigin (missiologist), Alan Roxbough Reach Records – Props to Lecrae and his posse – the artists will lead us.

 

If you could change the ‘youth ministry’ model – what would you change?

DB: I would love to challenge this mentality that says that students are a “problem to be solved not a person to be loved”. And who loves a student more than their parent? Granted every students home life is unique but a youth ministry model that looks to leverage the 3000+ hours of yearly influence of the home life of a student will set itself to win maybe not just the student but also the parent/ family as well. Increasing the partnership of home and church so that each and every student has a place to belong and a person/ people who care about them increase the chance of faith taking root in a students life.

What is a difficulty faced by the church today?

DB: Irrelevance and Extremism – I recently listened to an interview with David Kinnaman about new research from the Barna Research Group on Christianity in the USA. In this study they identify that American Christian faith is increasingly being seen as irrelevant and even extreme. It is getting easier to dismiss and harder to promote the Christian faith. In a secular, post modern, post Christian age the church no longer enjoys an important place or speaks to the lives of many North American’s today. The challenge and opportunity is for living out the Christian faith incarnationally and to finding new and relevant ways to tell the greatest story ever told to a generation that doesn’t know they need to hear it. Post Literate – Another significant challenge facing this and upcoming generations is the changing way we communicate and learn. We are now in a post literate age – where many young people communicate using image this will pose a huge challenge to reading and understanding such an ancient text as the Bible. 

What has been your biggest struggle as a person in pastoral ministry?

DB: I find myself inadequately trained for growing, leading and managing staff and volunteers and lack a basic knowledge of best practice principles for business. Because the church is a business – we’re in the business of making disciples who make disciples. That means there is a process, a system working to achieving that goal. And that goal is done not as a solo effort but through a system of volunteers. How do we come up the goals, who defines the goals, the process, and how do we manage the resources well. How well we define the goal and work together will be the limit or potential of our reach.

What are some of the ways you see the Lord at work in Canada?

DB: There are some Canadian Seminaries that are leading the way in innovative thinking on how to train in pastors and leaders in this new paradigm. This includes building cultural/ contextual theologies, developing theologies of faith in the market place, preparing students for ministry in a post Christian, post Modern, post Literate world.

And finally – what would you say to someone thinking about pursuing youth and/or worship ministry as a career? Could we change to – vocational ministry

DB: Pursue your primary calling with singular purpose and intentionality – Oz Guinness reminds us that we all share a primary vocation to love God and love others). Be a listener first – St. Francis reminds us to “seek first to understand before being understood” So be a listener of God and others. Do together – There is such a power in doing things as a team! Not only to you extend the limit of your reach but you encourage others by allowing them to use their gifts.


Thanks for reading everyone, hope you enjoyed it. In an unrelated note, I haven’t been posting as much cause I have been really sick lately (in and out of emerge four times, having trouble keeping food and liquids down at points). Please keep me in your prayers. It is my hope and prayer the Lord spoke to you through the interview.

God bless my friends.

 

A chat with Hallam Willis 


So this past week I had to opportunity to chat over email with an old and dear friend of mine Hallam Willis. Hal is someone I’ve known for much of my life; we were in sunday school together as kids (and then lost touch), were baptisted the same day, became close friends, worked in ministries together, and were involved in each others weddings (he as my best man, myself as a groomsman). Hal is a brother who the Lord has used to bless me immensely and help me change for the better. He is someone whose wisdom I seek frequently, who challenges me, and a person I look up to. Hal took the time to answer some of my questions, and I hope you’ll enjoy and/or gain something from them.

Could you share a bit about your testimony?

H: My testimony really begins with my parents, who all through my life were given the particular wisdom they needed for the particular stage of life I was in. They are both christians, and so I grew up going to church with them, but by the time I was fourteen, I was ready to call it quits. I have always been dominated by the rational/theoretical side of my mind, and so I found science and philosophy very appealing, but with only the most basic grasp of their concepts. I read a great quote somewhere, and I can’t remember who said it, but it goes: “Small sips in philosophy will make a man an atheist, but fuller draughts will make him a Christian.” So that was me. I was a sipper, and didn’t have my feet, and was carried away. So for the next handful of years, I spent my time quietly and privately disowning Christianity, getting involved in all the things teenagers get involved in, and for the first little while, really enjoying myself. But I was never at ease with it, the harder I tried to prove God out of my life, the less comfortable I felt with my lifestyle. Through this time, my parents, especially my mom didn’t put too much pressure on me, but they kept looking out for me, and injecting biblical wisdom into my life every once and a while, and I do attribute much to this God-given wisdom in keeping me open to the faith. Eventually God, in the way that only he can, called me back in grace. I was invited, very randomly, by a friend (who turned out not to be a christian at all), to a youth retreat; I don’t know why I said yes, but I did. It wasn’t a miraculous conversion that weekend, but I remember vividly sitting at communion and seeing a picture of Christ on the cross, and he was crying, and that image, though it didn’t convert me, made me sympathetic. And it was that sympathy, that new openness, that lead me on a journey back to Christ and to a renewal of my faith.

 

When/how did you know you were called to your ministry?

 

H: I felt I was called to ministry within the first two weeks of being in Bible College. I went with the plan of only being there for a year, to take a couple of courses, and learn something. But I fell in love with studying scripture up close and personal. I remember taking an Old Testament biblical theology course with a Professor named Peter Gentry, and watching my whole bible come together in one magnificent, detailed, intricate story. So I went full time for a degree thinking that I would be a missionary or a pastor. So that is the when I felt that call. But that was only a feeling, and that is a bit too subjective. I knew I was called to ministry really only last summer when I did an internship at Trinity Baptist Church and was confirmed by the congregation there that I have been given this calling.

 

There are a increasing number of ministries publishing online content, how helpful do you find this?

 

H: Yeah, this is something I have been struggling with for a while. Obviously I don’t want to generalize too much, but I have had a growing sense that the mass of online content can be very unhelpful for Christians who read it on a daily basis. There are certain brands of teaching whose emphasis can amount to having a yoke put around your neck that I think Jesus came to remove. I find myself dissatisfied with the “we are nothing but worms” approach to the Christian life, when this amounts to what feels like the totality of our spirituality. Instead, I would prefer a balanced approach which emphasizes the fact that I am a child of God on whom he has set his love, on whom he shines his face, and in whom he can be pleased. Other themes I see on a regular basis are blog posts that “suggest” Christians do “this” or “that” in such a way that we might feel bad for liking certain things, spending money on certain things, or enjoying certain activities that we should not be made to feel bad about by an anonymous blogger who can only write in the most general terms, often attempting to mimic the idiom of some famous preacher in a way that seems disingenuous.

 

You are someone who has recently completed seminary – what were your experiences like?

 

H: My experience in theological education has been largely positive, especially at Toronto Baptist Seminary (I’ll plug this school until the day I die). But as someone who is heavily involved in theological studies from the academic side of things while also preaching itinerantly, I see the good and the bad very clearly. On the one hand, theological education is absolutely vital for pastoral work. Theology is the lifeblood of pastoral ministry; knowing how to handle scripture is part of the calling of pastoral ministry, and the ability to engage scripture at a deep level, working through the various layers of interpretation and application is a heavy responsibility. Pastors are theologians, and they need to be trained to do theology. I make a distinction here. Seminary is not about going and learning theology, in the sense of reading books and just jamming information into your head. Seminary is learning how to do theology, to work out theology for yourself. On the other hand, I am very much against what I would call “game-playing,” which is doing something just for the sake of it. Much of biblical and theological scholarship is game-playing. Much of it has very little impact on the local church, and it really does involve a lot of people working on obscure things for its own sake. If people want to do that, that is fine, but it can be very dangerous for a person to go to seminary and bring this kind of mentality to the pulpit, a lot of jargon and debate that distract from real issues and the real work of a pastor. Pastors need to be discerning as to what information and debates matter, and learn to translate them into terms that their congregations can work with. But this should be a rather small part of their ministry rather than the main emphasis (or even an emphasis at all). This is a larger issue, dealing more with what theological education is really all about, and it’s a conversation that is ongoing in the academy.

 

You had a sudden health scare a couple years ago – could you share a little about that?

 

H: A few years ago my kidney exploded. Things like that never happen when you want them to, and they challenge us in any number of ways. The most important thing I learned from that experience was that there is no single answer to the question human suffering. There are unlimited and unique reasons why God allows suffering to happen, and uses it in the lives of his people to perfect us. Two things I learned very clearly were about scripture and worship. I learned that God uses suffering to bring certain scriptures alive to us, and to teach us experientially what they mean. In particular I learned what 2 Cor 4:17–18 really means: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” It is easy to read this, and say “Yeah, for sure” but a different thing to say “Yeah, for sure” when you are in the midst of suffering. We have to learn to look to Jesus in the midst of suffering if it is ever going to be more than theoretical. I can look back and see the fruit of my suffering, and I can read this verse with new eyes and tell people that truly it is a “light and momentary affliction” that is preparing us for an “eternal weight of glory.” The second thing I learned about is what genuine worship of God looks like. The day I got home from the hospital, after about four months of illness and three weeks in the hospital, I read Tozer’s The Knowledge of Holy, and the chapter I was on that day was God’s goodness. Being able to worship God in sincerity and truth means that we can shout and sing God is good when we are healthy and all is well, and when the ground under our feet gives way and all that remains is darkness.

 

What are your thoughts and experiences on/with the ‘cult of celebrity’?

 

H: Again, there is a lot of good being done with the dissemination of sound theology and preaching through blogs, youtube, and conferences. But as with most things, too much of a good thing will leave us overwhelmed and dissatisfied. I personally cut my Christian teeth listening to all of John Piper’s sermons on Romans on Sunday nights while I worked a job in the evening. That was transformative for me. But over the next few years I binged on audio sermons that were disconnected from my involvement in my local church. I think such binging on “celebrity” pastors can lead to an emphasis on information over participation, and it can leave us dissatisfied with our own pastors and churches. In recent years, I have come to anticipate hearing what my pastor is saying to me and my church more than I am interested in simply listening to a good sermon. Furthermore, people are only listening to a small group of pastors who are “celebrity,” and they all tend to have similar views and say similar things. So we can uncritically appropriate their ideas and idioms as if they were obviously true, this is the danger of celebrity, it lends a certain amount of authority to the person, and this can lull us into undiscerning complacency. By all means, listen, learn, enjoy, but do so critically and with your bible open, and remember they are just people. I know that most of the pastors who we would classify as “celebrity” would be unhappy about that title, and would want to reject it, so it is really more a problem from our side rather than theirs that I would be concerned about.

Are there any preachers/authors/theologians you learn from that you’d recommend?

H: D.A. Carson is on the top of my list. I find Carson the most nuanced theologians of them all. I try to emulate him in my own thinking by not making the too easy and often false “either/or” distinction. Carson is theologically and exegetically rigorous but pastorally and spiritually profound. C.S. Lewis is one of the most influential writers in my life, not apologetically but imaginatively. Lewis opened my eyes to see beauty and to see the glorious connections between ordinary life and spirituality and how fiction teaches us in unexpected and profound ways about reality. He also showed me that writing and preaching ought to be done beautifully, and great effort must be taken to not be trite or cliché. Finally, John Owen has had an important influence on me. He is my dead theologian, who I read when I want to get a perspective on scripture and theology that is not held captive by the picture of the present.

You have been the quest preacher at a number of churches over the past year, what has that been like?

 

H: I have really enjoyed the opportunity to preach at a few different churches in Toronto and in South-Western Ontario. Preaching itinerantly offers a unique challenge because you don’t know the congregation intimately, and you can’t guess what their needs are. It requires a lot more prayer and trust in God that he will guide his word to the needs of his people. Other than that practical lesson, it has just been a blessing to preach so regularly and meet so many new brothers and sisters in Ontario. I have a real passion for preaching, and it is always good to take my studies into the pulpit and learn how it applies to God’s people and myself.

 

What is a difficulty faced by the church today?

 

H: Learning how to engage with a post-Christian society. It involves a level of thought and engagement with our faith that was not necessary before. We need a level of nuance that we didn’t need before. But while it is a challenge, it presents a number of opportunities for the gospel. Secular society can only vacuously appeal to certain virtues, and in a very real way in the last few months, we have witnessed the struggle of a democratic society that has no place to put its feet (think of Trump and Brexit). A secular and postmodern society offers the opportunity for a robust public theology to go out and call people to the rock that is God in Christ. The Church offers a place where meaning and imagination, the Eucharist, worship, among other things, are able to confront and upend the empty and self-serving world people are now experiencing. The challenge is great in its complexity: it involves Christians turning their brains on, being creative, working at theology, philosophy, science, politics, the arts, and engaging deeply with culture, but it also offers opportunities for evangelism and discipleship that are extremely exciting.

 

What has been your biggest struggle as a student and as a person in pastoral ministry?

 

H: Learning to stop fretting about the Church. A common refrain today is that the church is in trouble, or dying, or needs to be fixed. The Church is the bride of Christ. He knows his people, and he will not lose them. The true Church cannot fail, it cannot be defeated, it cannot die out, and we aren’t responsible for fixing it. One of the big lessons I have learned as both a student of theology and someone engaged in pastoral ministry is to remove this kind of talk from my vocabulary. We have a tendency to want to fix things as pastors or engaged Christians, but God is doing his work, and he might decide to use us. We just need to do the basics: preaching, teaching, prayer, acts of love and mercy, seeking to be in the truth, etc. It is a struggle to fight the urge to try to fix things, especially quickly, but changing people is like trying to turn a big ship, it just takes time.

 

What are some of the ways you see the Lord at work in Canada?

 

H: In Toronto especially (I am not sure about the rest of Canada) I see the Lord at work in a number of ways, but I will give two specific examples. First, there are the Grace fellowship churches. This is a group of churches who work together in Toronto, who help one another, support one another, meet together, emphasize solid teaching, prayer, and evangelism, and have a really vibrant community life. I see God at work in these five churches as they grow. Second, I see God at work in the opening of a TGC chapter in Ontario that has united evangelical pastors from Orillia down to Niagara (if not further). This kind of fellowship brings a unity of vision to churches in Ontario and I really see it as God working here to unite the church and give us a common vision. Both of these are held together by the theme of unity, which reflects the vision of Paul in Ephesians, and I really do think that these will be a powerful force for change in the coming years in Toronto and Ontario.

 

And finally – what would you say to someone thinking about pursuing pastoral ministry as a career/or going to seminary/bible college?

 

H: I am very young, and in some ways, don’t feel wise enough to answer the first half of this question. But I would say to anyone thinking of pursuing pastoral ministry: seek the virtues that Paul speaks of in 1 Tim 3, be involved in your local church, look for ways to serve there, and seek opportunities to preach or teach in your local church. This will give you an objective basis by which to confirm your calling to ministry, and your specific gifts. On the education side of things, I would say to someone thinking of entering pastoral ministry that training is absolutely vital. Whether you get a degree or not doesn’t really matter (to me, it might to churches looking to hire though). The bible is an ancient text, filled with ancient literature, written in three ancient languages, and it matters to us today. To say that working with such a book is complex is an understatement. But a pastor is called to handle the word of God. It is a sacred task, and one which must be taken with reverence, fear, and respect. Part of that respect is being trained to study it and apply it. I am all about tools though, not information. I have a passion for equipping pastors with the tools they need to do their own work. I think that basic needs are the languages (Greek and Hebrew, and if you can Aramaic), interpretive/exegetical principles, and a system of theology to start with (a complete system of Christian thought). That’s the foundation, everything else we can learn on our own or through experience. The other thing, more stylistic but very important, learning to study scripture saves us from the curse of dull preaching. Preaching that is filled with clichés is a curse. Being able to really dig into a text and draw out the theology (biblical, systematic, historical etc.) saves us from having to rely on our own creativity, and it saves us from cliché. It also usually teaches us something new, and leads to more pointed and specific application, rather than more generalizations. So my advice and encouragement is towards education that focuses on tools rather than information. Pastors need the tools to exegete the text, and then they need years of prayer and experience to learn to preach and apply it.

Thanks for reading everyone. I pray this was in some way beneficial to you.

God bless you all my friends.

A Chat With Cameron Butryn

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This past week I had the chance to (over facebook messenger – we live in an easy to contact age) chat with an old buddy of mine. He’s someone who I’ve known for ages,  hes’s a guy whose brain I like to pick, and quite frankly he’s a brother in Christ who inspired me to take blogging much more seriously (and see the benefits of it); and his name is Cameron Butryn. I first met Cam when his father Alan became one of the pastors at my former/home church of Calvary in Toronto. Over the years we’ve hung out a fair bit (we have a few mutual friends and are up for the same kind of silliness) and it’s been a pleasure to see the Lord grow Cam into the man he has become. Cam posts a weekly blog, which you can find by clicking right here, and he was kind enough to answer some questions I sent his way. Hope you enjoy.

Could you share a bit about your testimony?

CB: I am very blessed to have been raised in a Jesus loving and church focused home. I’ve spent my entire life being able to learn about who God is and who I am to Him through my parents and church connections, but it wasn’t until my mid-teens that it started to become a more personal relationship. Jesus and I really started going steady when I was 18 and did a 6 month discipleship school with Youth With A Mission. It’s been an imperfect journey ever since, but God has been constant in grace, mercy, and love.

When did you decide you wanted to actively blog – and do it seriously?

CB: It was around this time last year when I was in Berlin, Germany that I felt a nudge in this direction. I was spending a few months over there and had some extra time to reflect, so I started writing out some of my thoughts. If I recall correctly, I ended up sending some writing to my mom who asked to post it on her blog. I received lovely responses and felt a sense of confirmation to pursue my own blog. Although, it wasn’t until late that August that I fully committed to consistently posting every Friday.

How do you decide what to write about when you post? What inspires you?

CB: I consciously approach every post with an open and prayerful heart. It really feels like praying for my ‘daily bread.’ I often am inspired by my own life experiences and being able to share the wisdom I’ve learned from my successes and my failures. Some weeks are inspired by books I read, some by interactions I have with people, and some are out of the blue and unexplainable.

Are there any pastors, preachers, or theologians that you read or listen to (or watch, etc) that you’d recommend?

CB: I really love Rick Warren, Judah Smith, and John Piper. Warren has an amazing ability to present the Bible in such a practically applicable way, Smith has a talented way of presenting Biblical truth in such an appealing and down right fun way, and Piper has created a great balance between his conservative and intellectual teaching and leaving room to let the Holy Spirit move in any way that He wishes.

What would you say is a difficulty faced by the church today – and what’s something we need to work on?

CB: I believe the church makes it a habit to over-complicate many things. Whether that be internal or external politics, doctrinal focuses, or rigid structuring, I believe Jesus is often lost in the mix. It’s all about Jesus, and although matters of doctrine, theology, and structure have their place of importance, what really matters is showing people how to encounter Him personally for themselves. You can’t meet Him face to face and not be affected. If we can work on loosening up, growing in grace, and guiding each other deeper into His presence, there will be radical growth.

What would you say is your biggest struggle as a blogger?

CB: Ideas flow often and, typically, quite easily. Executing them, on the other hand, can be a real struggle. As a bit of a perfectionist, it can be quite challenging to articulate and illustrate the ideas I have in a way that I am satisfied with. I often waste too much time fearing that it won’t turn out well, instead of simply sitting down and grinding it out.

What are some of your ‘go to’ scriptures?

CB: Different scriptures prove meaningful during different seasons, but I am always a sucker for the book of Ecclesiastes read through the lens of the New Testament. The writer had it all, but still found himself looking for more. I am reminded that life on earth is short and rather absurd, but it is still to be fully enjoyed by delighting in the presence of Jesus and guiding others into His presence as well.

You’ve also had some missions experiences – can you share some things about that?

CB: As I mentioned before, I did a 6 month Discipleship Training School with Youth With A Mission. It was an amazing time of learning, being surrounded by like minded and spiritually hungry people, and experiencing the foreign mission field. I spent 3 months, of the 6, in Bangladesh doing a variety of different ministries. Above all, though, I would say the most valuable aspect of seeing the overseas mission field is the perspective that it taught me. To see how other people live, to see what they believe, to see their struggles — it really put it all into perspective for me. It’s not easy to leave a lasting legacy when you’re only there for 3 months, but I’ll tell you this much — it left an eternal mark on my soul.

And finally – what would you say to someone thinking about starting and maintaining a blog – especially one that is Christian themed?

CB: If you had three readers — Jesus, yourself, and, of course, your mother — and would still find joy or purpose in creating and producing blog material, you are set for success. It’s an unbelievable blessing and privilege to be able to share with the world and create connections with different people, but if your foundations are rooted purely in blogging for His glory and your joy, you’ll do nothing but thrive.

As I mentioned up top, Cam has a blog you can read which you can check out at http://www.cameronbutryn.com/blog – and I’d highly recommend doing so.

Thanks for reading, and God bless my friends!

A Chat with Caleb Lambshead

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So this past week I had the opportunity to sit down with a good friend of mine, a brother in Christ (and in law), someone whose also in a group of guys who the Lord has used to have a huge impact on my life. Caleb and I went to the same church, and as said above run with some of the same crowds – but the Lord also took us on two different paths. The Lord took Caleb to serve with YWAM Maui for a number of years; and through them all over the world serving as a missionary. Caleb was nice enough to sit down with me and share some of his experiences…in two formats. Below you’ll find the standard text based interview we’ve done here, but also a video interview – which I really recommend watching. Hope you enjoy.

Video:

Text:

Could you share a bit about your testimony? When/how did you know you were called to missions?

CL: I became a Christian when I was five, I remember sitting on the coffee table in the living room while my mom was vacuuming. And I remember asking her all these questions like “what is heaven and hell?””who is Jesus?” and those kind of things. I remember as she was answering, at that moment I prayed to myself and asked the Lord into my heart (as I did three or four other times). At that time other kids really started making fun of me a lot, which kind of pushed me into myself – away from some of the bad things people were doing, and it also really pushed me into the church. There I met people who liked me, were encouraging, made me feel safe, and liked me for who I was. As for being called to missions, I came to a point in my life where I had no direction for my future. I was praying in my room one evening and asked the Lord, “What am I doing with my life?” and in the stillness I heard “Caleb, you are going to be a missionary.” It took a few years before anything came of that calling, actually it took me failing out of university before I was reminded of it again and knew I needed to pursue it seriously. I had a mentor who had done a Discipleship Training School (DTS) through Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Maui, Hawaii and figured I might as well apply. I applied a month before the school started and received all the support I needed before I left for Hawaii. During that time is really when I started to experience God in a way I never have before. My relationship with God truly became personal rather than living through someone else’s experiences.

What were some of the difficulties you experienced as a missionary?

CL: The biggest struggle I consistently faced was being pushed out of my comfort zone. In YWAM you are living in a communal environment, and sometimes they were quite close quarters. We don’t realize how entitled we are until we have to lay down some of our rights. Simply things like people leaving a light on, or that laundry habits (or lack there of) of roommates. This was pushed to a whole new level while living in Asia. Where living in Hawaii allowed for breaks because I could find rest in people, places, and things that were familiar going to Asia stripped this away from me and had me living in a state that was consistently outside my comfort zone. I had much less ability to run to foods, friends, or media because they were much less accessible. The beauty is that I had to find my strength in the Lord, there was nothing else to go to. I can remember times on deep struggle crying on the roof (one of the few places of any solitude the city) asking the Lord for the strength to continue on.

What was your experience like with YWAM?

CL: YWAM was one of the best experiences I have ever had. The insecurities I have from being made fun of while I was younger have made me overly concerned about how people view me. A lot of my actions were, and still are based off what others think of me. YWAM was a place where I felt safe to be able to learn more about myself and learn to fail and be okay with at. I needed an environment that was safe and encouraging for me to find who God  made me to be and how I interact with God. Most my life was just following the flow of our culture and fitting the mould. YWAM was a time where I set aside time in my life for the Lord to do what He wants in me.

Where did you serve on your missions trips? What were some of your responsibilities?

CL: As a staff with YWAM you come with the attitude to serve where ever is needed. Often your roles would change from quarter to quarter. Sometimes you would be working in the kitchen making food, or maintenance and making sure the property is maintain. One role I got to do was to team lead a few groups over to South East Asia. Essentially you facilitate discipleship in a group of students you have be given charge of for those six months. You become aware of what God is doing in their life and do what is needed to help them along. I was able to travel to Nepal, Thailand, and a large red Asian country during these times. As I moved over to Asia I was the DTS Director where I planned and managed the school and had a greater role in the discipleship of the staff.

What were some of the ways you have seen the Lord at work in your missions experience?

CL: The most consistent way I saw the Lord working was through the students that came through to YWAM Maui and Asia. Living in community you get to know people quite well and can really see change in their live if you are looking for it. When you have truly experienced the glory of the Lord you can only come out of it changed. The greatest joy I have experienced in this life is when some one truly comes to recognize the beauty of God and allows it to permeate their life.

What was it like coming back to Canada and readjusting to life here?

CL: Transition was/is hard. I knew it was going to be hard having lived a fairly transitory life, but coming back to Canada has been the hardest. When you engage a new culture there is an underlying grace you give yourself because you know you won’t understand it. You are foreign to it and there is a grace that flows from that. Coming back to Canada was coming back to my culture, a culture I should know and get, yet I feel more foreign here than in Asia at times. It is harder to have that grace because you should know your culture. One of the biggest struggles is trying to understand where I fit in here. I knew my role in YWAM because it fit me so well. In Canada I feel like just another face amid an ocean of people. Where once my experiences and giftings were valued, here they all feel meaningless and of no use to people. Much of what God is doing is teaching me my worth comes from Him and not my circumstances. I learn through doing and experiencing so I hold onto the hope that this is the goodness of God developing more character in me.

What would you say is are some of the difficulties faced by the church in the Western world?

CL: The biggest difficulty I see is our faith. Our faith has become so culturally relevant. Faith requires sacrifice and we have little we have to sacrifice when we follow Jesus in Canada. When a I was living in Asia and someone became a follower of Christ, they were sacrificing a lot. Following Jesus almost always meant going against their families wishes and being disowned. There was a real and immediate sacrifice for them. We have sacrifices we can give too, but it is all voluntary. You can easily live a life devoid of God as Christian and be perfectly happy, and that is terrifying. There is so much too God and we have let our faith become full of safety nets. We set our lives up to make sure that if something fails, we have a back up plan. Peter had no back up plan when he stepped off that boat to walk to Jesus on the water. He simply believed what he sensed Jesus was saying and did it. The best thing about that story is that Peter failed. He didn’t do it perfectly; he lost sight of Jesus, yet Jesus was immediately there to help him.

What are some of the ways you see the Lord at work in Canada?

CL: Recently I have spent time in Hamilton, Ontario and have experienced that city more. It’s a growing city that still has a lot of visible brokenness mixed with an upcoming, trendy, young culture. There is quite a bit of poverty in Hamilton and a lot of organizations that are meeting their needs. One of the neatest places I’ve been to is a coffee shop called 541 on 541 Barton St. It’s a coffee shop run basically by volunteers. Basically you can come in by a good meal and good coffee for a cheap price. If you want you can add a few extra dollars to your cost and put a few buttons into a jar on the counter. Someone who doesn’t have any money for food can use those buttons to eat or get a coffee. In this coffee shop you get people who are worth millions sitting beside someone who has no money. Downstairs there is a House of Prayer and on Sunday there is a church service for those in the neighbourhood. It is a great beacon on light in a neighbourhood of darkness.
Are there any preachers/authors/theologians you learn from that you’d recommend?

CL: One of the biggest influences to push me to finally do missions was Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. It was a huge realization how much God loves me. Another more recent influence has been Henri Nouwen. His books Lifesigns, The Wounded Healer, and In the Name of Jesus are fantastic. He has a great ability to analyze a situation and see how God is at work, and extrapolate more of who God is. Much of it was written  thirty years ago yet still speaks so well to our culture today.

And finally – what would you say to someone thinking about going into the missions field?

CL: As Nike so aptly says, “Just Do It!” It may require some sacrifice to work it into your schedule, but it is worth it. To help engage our culture we need to step outside of it to better critically examine it. I believe God honours those that are active in there faith for Him. If you take a step of faith to do missions God will honour you in that. YWAM Maui runs a DTS three times a year that has greatly impacted thousands of lives. I guarantee if you do a DTS with an open heart to allow God to move an work ,your life will never be the same. For those that aren’t able to go overseas we need to remember that missions is simply engaging a culture with the light of Jesus. Culture is far deeper than how we divide countries and regions. What culture are you surrounded in? Business world? Hipsters? Your weekly trips to the comic shop? That is your mission. When you follow Christ you no longer belong to the culture of the world, but kingdom culture. We are all foreigners living in a foreign land waiting to go home with the opportunity to show others Christ in the moments we find ourselves.

 

A chat with pastor Dave Lombardo

dave.jpgThis week I had the opportunity over email (gotta love the internet) with a great brother in Christ; a very close friend, a mentor, and an accountability partner: Pastor Dave Lombardo. Dave is serving as the youth pastor at The People’s Church in Toronto, and had worked in partnership with Youth Unlimited for a number of years through the church we were both attending and on staff of in East York in Toronto. Dave was kind enough to take some time to answer these questions and share some insight with us.

Could you share a bit about your testimony?

DL: I was raised in a Christian home and church attendance was a non-negotiable for our family. Every Sunday morning my parents faithfully got us out of bed and brought us to church. You would find us at the evening services each week as well. My parents were always involved in volunteer roles at the church. My mom regularly coordinated and led children’s ministry initiatives while my dad was on the church board and helped in other administrative roles. From an early age I understood that church isn’t just a place to go, but a place to be active. Most of my childhood memories are connected to my church life. When I was in my teens I detoured from the church and a life of active faith after some unfortunate events took place in our family. Though I didn’t stop believing God existed, I stopped caring about whether or not His existence mattered to me and how I live my life. When I was 18 or 19 I met a Christian leader who was passionately serving teenagers in Toronto’s East End. He asked me some tough questions about my life and led me back to the Jesus I had once known and loved. It wasn’t until this time that I truly understood what it meant to live out my faith wherever I go. From time to time I wonder about whether or not I was truly saved as a young teen when I professed faith or if my salvation didn’t actually take place until those later years when my life was changed radically by God’s love and grace. I believe that I was saved on the profession of faith as a young person but that it wasn’t until later that I experienced what some have called “Gospel wakefulness” which is heightened awareness of the purpose of the Gospel for salvation and Christian living.

 

When/how did you know you were called to your ministry?

DL: Every Christian is called into ministry. It’s unfortunate that our culture has professionalized certain aspects of pastoral ministry and other forms of Christian leadership. Sometimes we understand “being called into ministry” only in relation to vocational ministry which can mislead those who are not in vocational ministry to think they aren’t “called to ministry”. As for me and my call into vocational ministry (which I think your question is really trying to get at!)[editors note; it was, but I *LOVE* that you addressed that first part], the truth is that I didn’t know I was called until I was already doing it. I had been invited to serve in a particular youth ministry while studying full-time at a downtown Toronto community college. While these two things were taking place I recognized that God had been increasing my opportunities to serve in various capacities at the local church I was attending. Eventually it got to the point where the only thing I could think about was reaching the lost and pastoring other Christians to trust Christ more and take Him at his Word. There are many ways to do that and I’m enjoying every minute of figuring out how to communicate to goodness of the Gospel in whatever role or position I find myself in.

 

Can you tell me about your experiences with Youth Unlimited Canada?

DL: I greatly enjoyed my time with Youth Unlimited (Toronto YFC). During my time partnering with them in ministry I learned the value of networking and idea sharing. I learned that it is not wise to try and make it on your own and that true strength is in numbers. I learned how important is to create and innovate new approaches to caring for and serving people. I came to understand how important it is to work alongside people you don’t always agree with or who have a completely different leadership style. Even though I’m not employed with them any longer I still interact with YU staff at least once a week but usually more.

 

What are some of the difficulties you have faced in your time in ministry as a youth pastor at both a small(er) and large church?

DL: Other than differences in organizational structures and methods (which is vitally important to understand but relatively boring to what I think this interview is trying to accomplish) I’ve noticed that there are many similarities when it comes to teenagers and young adults in both of these contexts. Young people – just like all people! – want to be understood and accepted. They desire a safe place to be themselves and ask questions without the fear of being criticized for doing so. The difficulty is in fostering a culture where this can happen well. Smaller churches face the reality that everyone might know what’s going on in your life. This can be a deterrent for people who want to share their struggles but not have their secrets known by everyone. On the flipside, larger churches run the risk of having too many people to care for and therefore not be able to care for everyone well. No matter what we need to plant gospel seeds in our churches and pray against the enemy who wants no one to feel welcomed or safe.

 

How do you determine what to share with the youth?

DL: Each summer our youth team gathers and discusses what we will teach throughout the following year. This past year we wrote down all of the questions that had come from the students during the previous year of small groups and one on one meetings. Our list was long. Very long. There were questions about sex, gender identity, science, whether or not the Bible is actually reliable, how to reach friends, and so many more. Seriously, there were a lot of questions. After a time of prayer we began to group the questions into categories, then we created mini-series’ ensuring that we covered the breadth of topics, and slotted them into the calendar for the next year. After doing this our teaching team would take their question (or set of questions) and go to the Bible to find the answers. The result? Our talks and Life Group content for the year. I should mention that a lot of prayer takes place throughout this entire process. A principle we’ve gathered over the past few years is that it is not wise to assume we know what our students need to learn but to listen to their needs and meet them where they are through contextualizing the Gospel. Of course, there are certain things that students don’t ask for and yet still need to hear. We trust God for the discernment to teach these things as well. If students were asking ridiculous questions that were completely irrelevant to knowing Jesus and living a life of faith then we’d have to find a different approach.

 

How do you take care of your volunteers?

DL: I pray for them, feed them, counsel them, feed them, make them laugh, encourage them and build them up, feed them, hold them accountable, and believe in them. I try to ensure that my volunteers have meaningful work to do and not just token jobs. Of course, sometimes the chairs need to be stacked and the floors need to be cleaned and when these types of jobs are being done I try to be right there with them doing it as well. I like to give plenty of responsibility to our volunteers so that they feel the weight of the ministry which in turn increases their ownership. Without our volunteers our youth ministry wouldn’t exist. God has given us a team of incredible volunteers. They love the Lord, their patience is endless, their sense of humour is on point, and they are the types of adults I hope and pray our students become when they graduate out of youth. Also, we feed them.

 

Are there any preachers/authors/theologians you learn from that you’d recommend?

DL: I enjoy reading the sermons John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon’s “Lectures to my Students” is a must have for any preacher. I also enjoy reading what Tim Keller has to say as most of what comes from the tip of his pen is like pure gold. Mark Clark is a church planter in Vancouver who has a unique voice and perspective on Canada’s culture. He is worth paying attention to. But those are guys I don’t know personally. I have been greatly blessed to spend time with Charles Price who is just about to retire after many years of faithful Bible teaching at my church. He is the same man in and out of the pulpit. He is full of grace and wisdom. His questions are pointed and there is no doubt that he wants to see people grow in their intimacy with Christ. Charles has been a tremendous influence on my thinking, my preaching, the way I love and care for my wife and family, and simply to be a better man.

 

What would you say are some of the difficulties youth ministers face?

DL: As with any ministry there are many challenges, so I’ll choose just one: Forgetting that our strength and influence is rooted in Jesus and the power of His Gospel. Time after time I find myself walking a student through a pile of problems and feel the temptation to simply give them some psychological ideas about how they can live differently or make better choices. Don’t get me wrong, this type of counsel is vital for anyone. However, if this counselling is not soaked in the Gospel then it will only provide temporary relief to the pain. The Gospel brings true healing. Students (and all people!) need to know they are loved and that forgiveness is available. God’s grace is abundant. Jesus’s death was their death, and his resurrection is their new life. The temptation to turn to the world and secular sources is real, and we need to ensure we start and finish with the Gospel and the Word of God in our leadership. We shouldn’t be ashamed of repeatedly talking about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and applying what Christ has purchased for us in the lives of those who we serve.

 

What is a difficulty faced by the church today?

DL: A lack of unity. Jesus tells us that the witness of our faith to the dying world will be found in our unity with other believers. It seems to me that many have gotten caught up in building their own castles and have forgotten about our call to build His Kingdom. I recognize that this is a challenge because it is something I have to fight in my own life every single day. I should also say, however, that there are some incredible networks and collaborative efforts happening in certain communities. I do believe that this can be overcome one step at a time.

 

What has been your biggest struggle as a person in pastoral ministry?

DL: Learning how to watch everything that I say has been a challenge. Words are astoundingly important. I’ve been learning to recognize that every personal opinion can easily be understood as biblical truth, or the church’s stance on a particular issue or method of ministry. Though it is good to have opinions, it is better to state clearly when something is a personal opinion and not necessarily what everyone else believes or even agrees with. This is a daily challenge for me because I have a loud mouth and (what is probably) too many opinions.
What are some of the ways you see the Lord at work in Canada?

DL: I can’t speak for all of Canada, so I’ll just comment on where I live and serve which is the Greater Toronto Area (GTA from here on). God is bringing the world to the GTA. The nations are gathering in the GTA. Whether it is for school, business, escaping their homeland in search of refuge, moving here with hopes of ensuring a solid education for their children, whatever the reason, the whole world seems to be coming to the GTA. This provides us with the incredible opportunity to meet with people from cultures and countries that in some instances we’ve never even heard of! We should be welcoming these wonderful newcomers, caring for them, getting to know them, and in doing so proclaim the Gospel in word and deed. Let’s not miss this opportunity!
And finally – what would you say to someone thinking about pursuing ministry (in this case, pastoral and youth) as a career?

DL: I’d probably ask them a whole slew of questions! Questions like: Can I buy you a coffee and talk about this? (The, presuming they accept my invite!) Why do you want to pursue this? Has God called you to this? How do you know? What is the Gospel? Who is mentoring you? Is your spouse (if there is one) encouraging you to start this journey? How can I be praying for you? What can I do to support you?

[Editors note: Dave also blogs some great stuff, which can be found at http://www.davidlombardo.com/ . Also, if you were interested in learning more about what Youth Unlimited does, you can check out what they do in the GTA here and Canada wide here .]