Community

Meeting My Muslim Neighbour

This was not my first time visiting a local mosque here in Calgary. The first time I went was for a Friday Prayer Service and I was very uncomfortable. You can read about here. So with my friend Dan, I was eager for a more positive experience after receiving an invite to visit the Ahmadiyya mosque this past weekend.

Arriving at the entrance to a beautifully silver domed worship centre, I was a little surprised that there was not more people there. It was a public event to meet Muslims while exploring some of the many questions our culture faces in light of a growing...

A Experimental Narrative to Ephesians 4

Well, here goes... There lives a magnificent artist and like all masters, his palate is an extension of himself. Spreading the colors of life across his palate he took up the one singular narrative of his masterpiece on one single grand canvas. Blank as it was, with each brush stroke life was brought to the canvas and the artists expressions lite up the imaginations of all who saw it.

Starting with an apostolic background the essences of the colors mixed creating variant shades that would later interconnect the dynamic articulation and contexts he would soon add to tell his story. 

With a backdrop set, the artist began adding a prophetic environment of setting and a revealing of place and time. This brought out the hidden and deeper meanings of...

"What Is A House Church?" ~ Vision Proper For The Tribe of Expressions

"What is a House Church?" This is probably the most common question I get asked when people hear that I am a House Church leader in The Edge. I think one of the common mistakes we make in answering comes when we see House Churches as a model rather then an organic community of people. We say, "We are trying to..."

  • "... be like the 1st century house churches."
  • "... be less organizational."
  • "... just do life with friends and family."
  • "... do church smaller within our homes and living rooms."
  • "... be a simple small group."

When we really look at what being a house church is, our intentions are not to follow a model or even past example, it is really to be a closely knit spiritual family who are...

Jodo Shinshu Buddhism: A Christian Encounter

Driving over to the Calgary Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temple[1] I wasn’t quite sure what I would encounter. I knew that Buddhism has many different expressions and I wasn’t sure whether this community would be a full cultural emersion into eastern practices or if it would be a blend of eastern and western philosophies.

Arriving, I quickly noticed that it had recently been renovated and was very architecturally appealing. Later I would get to speak with one of the elder members of the temple who explained that the house was actually 100 years old and had only recently been renovated into the temple that it now is. There was a ramp that allowed access as I wheeled...

Journeying in the Story of the Edge – Pt. #2 - In the Beginning: The Birth of a Movement

House ChurchThe Edge family of Home Churches and intentional communities didn’t start with the concept of Home Church at all. It began with a desire for more. More of what Jesus taught. More of what the disciples seen and heard and couldn’t stop talking about. More relationship and less corporation. More exploration and less risk management. More experience and less talk. More power and less excuses. In short, I guess we just wanted more of what Jesus promised and modeled for us. We began as “East Edge”, one of the regional ministries of Centre Street Church. We would have started on our own, but the Lord opened the door to work together with an established church, and we interpreted it as the Lords will, and his provision for a strong start. We dreamed and discerned and prayed for a number of months, and officially began in September of 2006.

This was a time of great excitement, as four small tribes of about 15 people each began gathering in homes in the communities of Rundle, Marlborough Park, Taradale, and Harvest Hills around the city of Calgary. Living rooms came alive, and tables were often brimming with fantastic potlucks and conversations. Joy and a strong sense of family were experienced in these gatherings as people congregated, lifting their voices in worship over the music of many instruments, and deeply felt led by the Spirit in the movement they were beginning. During the journey, the Lord used authors such as Neil Cole, Alan Hirsch, Michael Frost, and Hugh Halter to guide and inspire us.

In the years that followed, East Edge would experience several challenges with the experience of loss due to those moving away, death, and various emotional challenges. However, the movement was also growing, and spreading. The “East” in the name had to be dropped because “The Edge” was moving out. New Home Churches were started, but existing Home Churches and communities were also embraced and adopted, such as Expressions in the SE of Calgary in 2012. In 2013, the first Home Church outside of Calgary was started in Medicine Hat by original “East Edgers”, Dave and Angie Noelle, and a major thrust was initiated into the South Asian community led by David Benjamin. In the last couple of years, The Edge has found partnership with House Churches in Vancouver, Vernon, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and a movement of HC’s in Cuba.

Throughout the movement we felt a sense of spiritual growth and expression. There has always been a feeling of continuity as we gathered in our leadership retreats, which is where a lot of the inspiration and vision has been developed. The Edge has really begun to embrace a culture of discipleship and investing in people. With our own publishing of ‘Imitating Jesus’, we are beginning to embrace the rhythms of Investing, Involving, and Inspiring those we are connected with. The Edge has always desired to be a community built on the foundation of loving God, loving people, and making disciples – by simply living Jesus’ life within the lives of others. This has been our dream and vision from the beginning.

Reflections on the Early Church and The Edge Home Churches Today – Pt. #5 - Measures of Success

Empty asphalt road towards cloud and signs symbolizing success a Before turning to what measures of success the early church had I think it wise to also recognize maybe some of its failures as David Bosch articulated; the first of which being that, “Jesus had no intention of founding a new religion.”[1] It wasn’t until several centuries later that Christianity would become an officially recognized institution or religion. Jesus was more interested in creating a movement that transcended all institutions from the sacred to the secular parts of every believer’s life and the community they were a part of.

Although many in our movement still carry the baggage of the institutionalized church, we try to focus ourselves away from these old paradigms, holding our beliefs in openness while reconciling the gospel as we encounter Jesus in the everyday. In this way, we embrace and develop relationships with neighbors and organizations that are not always from a Christian belief and yet are part of our community, neighborhood, and greater parish tribe. This places us in gathering environments such as the Body, Soul, & Spirit Expo, the Calgary Centre for Global Community, and the New Canadian Friendship Centre.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmizYMEIgUM]

A second failure Bosch notes is, “[The Church] ceased to be a movement and turned into an institution.”[2] While recognizing the need for a skeleton in which the body can grow around, the church cannot become bonded to the institutional legalism of its doctrine. A Christian movement is defined when the members of such beliefs can transcend them into the whole of creation and maintain a centered focus to the reign of Christ. The Edge, while fostering its tribal communities, works at recognizing their placements within the neighborhoods they are a part of as the localities and neighborhoods to which they are called to serve. We are blessed to be a blessing to our neighbors and live the life of Jesus amidst the greater community around them!

Bosch’s last failure that he identified with is that, “[The Church] proved unable, in the long run, to make Jews feel at home.”[3] Within The Edge, I see this in two ways; on the one hand, we embrace ethnic and cultural diversity extremely well with First Nation, Indian, Bhutanese, and Chinese tribes within our movement. But, much like the first century church, we struggle to find a constructive relationship with traditional and/or large church models. We need to work at reconciling our understandings of God’s work being in all forms of church, including those in large and traditional settings. The quantification of numbers is not what is important, big or small, and yet the quality and/or weight of voice speaking from such communities must be held in equity between each other. Still, I wonder if success has a quantifying difference between the two?

Diversity in the EdgeSecondly even in the midst of our diversity in contextual, cultural, and affiliational demographics; we must not let these diversities dichotomize or polarize our movement so that each solely views itself at the exclusion of all others and/or is unable to permeate the crossing into and overlapping of each others relational movements. The Edge must work at the unification of each other’s movements as part of the mission of living the life of Jesus in the lives of others.

As we consider the measures in which the early church considered marks of success, Bevans and Schroeder seemed to identify three particular signs. The first is, “There number was increasing daily (Acts 2:47)”. While as a house church movement, The Edge does not consider numbers to be a full measure and expression of success, we recognize a desire to see people coming to know Jesus for the first time while entering a deep and life long relationship with him in discipleship. However, we are more concerned with a more quality-focused commitment then we are with mass quantity of followers committing. This does not dismiss however, the need to grow through investing, involving, and inspiring new disciples who will also be living the life of Jesus within the lives of others.

Secondly they identify that, “they enjoyed an intense and happy community life (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35)”. As I shared earlier in the introduction, many in our tribes consider each other as brothers and sisters while recognizing the church as a family unit. We often meet and talk outside of the planned gatherings. Intimacy and developing a communal culture of joy amidst tribal living is second nature to The Edge movement! We naturally become an organic unit for inclusivity.

Lastly, they observe that, “they enjoyed the esteem of many in Jerusalem (Acts 5:12-16).”[4] It is difficult out of humility to speak of the affirmations to our tribes’ presence but, in many neighborhoods, our friends and neighbors deeply appreciate the ways we have served and connected with them. Often as we enter community spaces we are greeted by name and even embraced with hugs and appreciations for our being there. We take the understanding seriously that if our tribes were to disappear in our respective community’s, our neighbors should miss us.

[1] Bosch, David Jacobus. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1991). Pg. #51.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid. Pg. #52.

[4] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004). Pg. #17.

Reflections on the Early Church and The Edge Home Churches Today – Pt. #3 - Rhythms of Ecclesiology and the Gathering Practices of the Church

ExpressionsDescribing the common movements of the early church, Bevans and Schroeder write that, “As for house churches, not every private Christian home was designated for this purpose; rather, certain houses became the accepted places for the regular weekly gathering for prayer, bible study, sharing resources, community discussions, and the Eucharist.”[1] These rhythms were not internally focused but rather commissioning elements that embraced value in worship, mission, and discipleship all together. The EdgeWhile the home is a major focus in The Edge house church movement, the central gathering environment does not restrict us from ecclesiological rhythms. God’s mission takes us out into the parks, the malls, streets, retreat centers, coffee shops, pubs, and many more places. Each community finds freedom in expressing their unique contextual constants within the guidance of their own communities as they deepen in Invitation to others and in Challenge to grow more in the likeness of Christ.

These rhythms of ecclesiology that each community expresses finds commonality in a discipling pattern that encompasses all three elements of Investing, Involving, and Inspiring. For some tribes these are expressed in different terms but they find the same meaning in the pursuit of their relationship with God and as we seek to be Living the Life of Jesus Within the Lives of Other People. It is these discipling patterns that we will explore deeper in later posts.

[1] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004). Pg. #80.

Reflections on the Early Church and The Edge Home Churches Today – Pt. #2 - Visions and Dreams for Mission

MarginalizedIn his book ‘Constants in Context’ Stephen Bevans and Roger Schoeder identify three major themes in the mission of the earlier church. The first being in, “the churches mission of inclusivity and universality has its roots in the Old Testament, particularly in the vision of the prophets.”[1] From Peter’s first sermon following Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41) to Steven’s speech before being martyred before Paul (Acts 7:1-53), the Apostles would continually point to God’s mission pushing His chosen people to embrace and “bless” those who are on the margins of their society. As this word becomes flesh in Jesus (John 1:14), the missio Dei continues to reflect a inclusive diversity to those who are often rejected or outcast by world perspectives. David Bosch writes, “What amazes one again and again is the inclusiveness of Jesus’ mission. It embraces both the poor and the rich, both the oppressed and the oppressor, both the sinners and the devout. His mission is one of dissolving alienation and breaking down walls of hostility, of crossing boundaries between individuals and groups.”[2] The Edge has embraced this desire of diversity and inclusiveness to a radical level. Our tribes are filled with marginalized people such as sexually broken, disabled, First Nations, artistically eccentric, and ethnically and culturally distinctive. We still have a long way to go however, as there are great dangers for these diversities to segregate themselves solely into affiliation driven communities that become more of a exclusive clique then a unconditional and open inclusive community. There must be a fostering for the development of ligamental bonds that allow these diversities to cross over all tribal thresholds and build relationships with a multitude of diverse characters and identities as we are called in the mission of The Edge itself.

Word Became FleshThe second identification of mission in the early church is, “the church’s mission has its roots in the ministry and person of Jesus as he preached, served and witnessed to the reign of God and gathered about him a community that assisted him in his work.”[3] The early church was not in the pursuit of following an institutional doctrine or organization but rather wanting to emulate and follow the relational and organic model presented through the life teachings and actions of Jesus as he demonstrated and articulated God’s reign through both.

This modeling of following Jesus above all else is the fabric in which our house church movement builds a relational discipling culture we call ‘Imitating Jesus’. Through bringing both the gospel stories in narrative and teaching with experiential parallels in today’s social settings, we try to emulate a sense of becoming part of that story so as to have a greater understanding of what Jesus is calling us to become as his disciples. We do not follow the model of the church or doctrine but look to the biblical narrative itself as the model to which we are to follow.

Lastly, the third principle in mission for the early church is, “the church’s mission has its roots in the post-resurrection faith of the first disciples – that they are called to witness to the gospel of Jesus and the gospel about Jesus.”[4] Walking with two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus began journeying alongside them. They did not recognize him until later when he broke bread and gave it to them. They were filled with excitement as their “hearts burned within them” (Luke 24:32) and returning to Jerusalem they gave praise saying, “The Lord has risen indeed!” (vs. 34). With many more stories, the early church exuded a faith not about past works of Jesus but the continuing works of Jesus.

Through many gatherings in individual tribes as well as leadership gatherings, The Edge continually asks the questions of “What is Jesus doing, so that we might join him?” and “What is Jesus not doing that we may be doing and need to stop?” It is a witnessing of Jesus’ continuing works around us that sets us apart from other movements that perhaps are restricted by long dead traditions and ideological expectations.

These three models of mission exemplified through the early church reflect greatly on the direction of The Edge as we pursue the missio Dei in today’s context. Of course they also become engrained in the rhythms of ecclesiology we practice in gathering, or repeated ways we gather as a body, to which we can now turn.

[1] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004). Pg. #11.

[2] Bosch, David Jacobus. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1991). Pg. #28.

[3] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004). Pg. #11.

[4] Ibid. Pg. #11.

Reflections on the Early Church and The Edge Home Churches Today - Pt. #1 - The Simple Church: Or Is It?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Probably over a decade ago when I first heard about the House Church Movement I never thought I would be involved with it as I am today. I remember it being called the “simple church” and the vision was to return to the practices of the early first steps of the church as we see it in Acts and the letters of the Apostles. Yet as simple as we might have hoped it would be, I have learned that it simply is not so simple. Over the course of the next several posts, it is my hope that I and my brothers and sisters in The Edge House Church Movement can reflect upon the contextualized dynamics of the early church movement and its reflections to the house church movement today in Visions and Dreams for Mission, Rhythms of Ecclesiology and the Gathering Practices of the Church, Catechisms and Schools of Discipleship, and Measures and Successes.

Before getting into these dynamics of the early church however, it is important to note that they did not recognize a distinction between their calling in discipleship and the everyday practices and events of life. As Steven Bevans writes, “The missionary idea of ‘gossiping the gospel’ was certainly much more than just a verbal message; rather, it was the message of one’s whole life. The conduct of ordinary Christians had the greatest significance and impact for the spread of the gospel. They lived out ‘the language of love.’”[1] This “language of love” would take the gospel not just into the religious establishments of the Temple and the synagogues but also into the streets, the market places, and perhaps most importantly, into the homes of the believers. These homes would become the embodiment of radical inclusionary dwelling places for the family of God as they extended the immediate family unit beyond themselves “to include slaves, freed persons, hired workers, tenants and partners in trade or craft.”[2]

Today these visions and dreams for a radicalized mission and expression of the church have inspired many more people like myself, to embrace an unexpected family that becomes united to experience and follow Jesus into all of life’s moments. It is my hope that together, my Edge family and I might learn from the story of the early church and grow more in the likeness of Jesus and the radical and incredible movement he has called us to be a part of - The Mission of God!!

[1] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004). Pg. #88.

[2] Ibid.

For Now I see In A Mirror Dimly

Close Up of a Metal Tuning Fork I grew up in a musical household. My mother would play guitar in the living room and I would sit with her singing worship songs and camp tunes for hours. She used to love taking the break in between worship songs to sing 'On Top of Spaghetti' with me; at least until I learned the alternative lyrics of 'On Top of the School House'!  Some how whenever I broke into a different rift of words, the tune would sour and she'd stop playing. How important are the lyrics to the notes which are played along with them? Deeper still, must there be proper emotional response to the lyrics which go along with such notes?

Bevans and Shroeder reminded me of that early lesson in life with their analogy that, "Like a complex fugue or polyphonic motet, God's unity is constituted by diversity and God's diversity is rooted in unity of will and purpose; the church is the church inasmuch as it has been included in that harmony." (Pg. #298) The lyrics of the church's ecclesiology must be in the harmony and unity of the message to which it embodies or it ceases to be the church entirely! Nor can we void the internal depth of emotion to which that message is to be embraced as a missional community itself!

The contemplation of these last few months has brought a renewed vision to my heart and mind in the significance of a united harmony between the movements and ecclesiological practices of the individual believer and the church as a whole. Together we are on a mission which does not find significance in and of itself, but rather it points towards greater experiences of faith, hope, and love in the promise of a richer and fuller future. To use Bevans and Schroeder's words, "Christians are incorporated into the divine life and experience a foretaste of the world's destiny of full communion with God, with one another and with all of creation." (pg. #299)

I'd be remised to say, like the small taste I had as a boy, I can't wait for that day to sit with my mother again and sing praises to God; and I promise, I'll get the lyrics right!