Pulse Podcast 022: Priesthood of All Believers

Welcome to episode 22. We have been talking around these kinds of ideas for a while, the concept of congregationalism, of listening more carefully to each other and outsiders. But in this, we give this concept its biblical name: the Priesthood of All Believers.

Here is the preview version:

And here is the audio version:

Prayer Calendar: When the Formula Doesn’t Add Up

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We like formulas. They make life understandable. “A + B + C = D” helps simplify our world. It is orderly and predictable. It is sad however, when we turn prayer into a formulaic exercise. We all do it from time to time, often with good intentions. We have a problem (A) and we add prayer (B) and we appeal for the power of God (C), and then we expect a specific result (D).

We all want prayer to be far more than that. We know prayer is about relationship and conversation. However, I find myself at times defaulting to the formula. You may as well.

As we grow in our prayer lives, is there a way to leave the formulas behind?

Recently I heard someone quote “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”. They quoted it as a formula that applied to Canada, today. I will be the first to say we need humble prayers of confession. However, I believe it is a mistake to feel God is obligated to heal Canada if we pray those prayers.

He may, and that would be great, but He may not. This passage is a promise to the Hebrew people, not a current day formula to follow. Yet we sub in the pieces: our country’s current state (A) + humble confession (B) + God’s power (C) = healed Canada (D). This is not an isolated example.

How can we move past these kinds of formulaic prayer?

Let us limit our thoughts to just two basic reminders:

First, we should recognize that not all formulas are bad. This sounds contradictory. However, let me give you two examples: The Lord’s Prayer and the ACTS acrostic (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). Both could be considered formulas and if there is no intention in them can turn into ruts; yet they can move us well beyond the A+B+C=D formula.

When we take time to consider what Jesus modelled for us and pray in a similar way, or when we broaden prayer beyond a mere “shopping list” to include declarations of God’s greatness and our thanks, as well as acts of confession, it can expand our prayer life. The key might be our intentionality to broaden prayer.

Second, we could spend more time in conversational prayer. Prayer at its core is a conversation. I know that I really take this for granted at times. I have the opportunity, at any time, on any day, to chat with God almighty. Instead, I often don’t converse because I focus on “my list”. Conversation is a two-way street. Prayer is no different. We share and we listen.

I suspect for us, listening is far harder, yet it could be very beneficial. An interviewer asked Mother Teresa what she said to God in prayer. She responded, “I mostly listen.” That led the interviewer to ask, “When you listen, what does God say?” She answered, “He mostly listens too”.

Could listening move us past the formula?

Do I feel so at home in God’s presence that I am comfortable when both God and I are listening?

How about you?

Pulse Podcast 021: Priesthood of all Believers

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We’ve often heard, and often said the term “priesthood of all believers,” but have we stopped to contemplate what it means? What kind of an audit could we give ourselves for this? And how well would we do on it?

Join us as we give some fresh thought to this subject for the EFCC family.

Here is the preview/teaser version, which you can show at church or with your small group, etc.:

And here it is in audio-only format:

The Pulse: Reaching Beyond our Borders

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As a young college student, with a heart to share the Gospel and make a difference in the world, I believed I was “called” to serve the Lord as a missionary. For me, that meant leaving the country and culture I was used to, learning a different language, and going to some unreached corner of the world to share the Good News about Jesus. At the time, I was part of another denomination, one that had all kinds of cultural trappings, including our own language and even a cookbook!

I couldn’t imagine going out to plant that denomination’s churches in some primitive tribal location. And so, like many passionate prospective missionaries of that time, I applied to a non-denominational mission to pursue my missionary career. A career, by the way, that continued in conjunction with my 40 years of pastoral work here in Canada! It is a great organisation, and continues to do great work around the world.

Now I find myself the Director of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada Mission (EFCCM) — the international ministry arm of the EFCC. Not everyone knows that this is part of the EFCC, and it makes sense to explain why this is so.

In a Christianity Today article called “Missions, Denominations and Honest Questions”, author Ed Stetzer points out that denominations are a tool and not the goal. Our primary goal is not to plant Evangelical Free Churches in the places where we serve. Our goal is to see lives transformed by the power of the gospel, and to see new believers enfolded into new or existing churches where they can be lovingly nurtured and discipled to become obedient followers of Christ.

The task of the church is defined by The Great Commission — to go into the world and share the good news of Jesus Christ. Each local church has a responsibility to fulfill that task, but no single local church could accomplish this. One of the core reasons our churches have associated is to partner, to share resources and encourage each other in this. And together we can accomplish far more than the total of what we can accomplish if we continue to work independently.

Not only is the EFCC’s Statement of Faith a compelling, comparatively simple expression of what unites us, our ethos endorses collaboration. Our commitment to inclusivity of all those who share the Hope that is ours in Christ allows us to partner with other like-minded ministries. We can build bridges because of our doctrinal position where others cannot. We can bring people together to impact communities and nations in ways that are unique and creative.

The EFCCM is not a mission committed to any one specialised form of ministry. We are a generalist kind of mission, committed ultimately to seeing the Gospel work dynamically in lives and seeing local churches being born and being strengthened to further the work the Christ began. This gives us freedom to be creative in our approaches to sharing the Gospel as we seek to serve with cultural sensitivity.

We can encourage each local church in Canada to be a Great Commission Church. We can encourage every member and adherent of our churches to be Great Commission Christians. And we can help churches and individuals find way to give practical expression to that commitment.

Ed Stetzer raises an important question that must always be before us: “Is our denomination being a good steward as a tool for the mission?” By God’s grace, we want to come together as one body across our nation, united around our ethos, and empowered to carry out the Great Commandment and Great Commission of our Lord.

Prayer Calendar: Getting Past Salt and Pepper Prayers

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The other day I was talking with my friend Ron Swanson regarding the way most of us North American Christians pray. He used a phrase that I just can’t get out of my head. He said we often treat prayer like salt and pepper – an add-on, a little seasoning on top of the meal we have made.

Is this really the way we pray?

Sadly, if we are honest, we probably have to admit – yes prayer often feels like salt and pepper. We get busy doing our own stuff, and then perfunctorily sprinkle a little salt and pepper prayer into the mix.

Could we find a way to get past salt and pepper prayers?

I’ll be the first to admit, this is often where I land.

I want to pray. I know I need to pray. I know there is power in prayer. I know prayer moves the heart of God. I know that God desires a deep connection with us through prayer. I know prayer is one of the few practices that Jesus specifically taught his disciples how to do. I know lots about prayer. However, there is a huge difference between knowing lots about prayer and praying. There is even a wide chasm between desiring to have a better prayer life and actually praying. Sadly, I often fail to act on the knowledge and desire that I have. I often fail to pray deeply and passionately. I simply, sprinkle a little salt and pepper on what I am already doing.

If you are like me, you don’t really want to hear one more person give you another guilt trip about prayer. So, I will try and avoid that here. You don’t need to read another book on prayer. We’ve all read several of those, and have been temporarily encouraged; but then have found ourselves struggling along again.

Instead, I’m wondering: Do we need to re-imagine prayer?

Mark Buchanan in his book, Your God is Too Safe, writes a chapter on the loss of imagination. He uses kissing as an example – if you describe a kiss in it’s sheer physical form it almost sounds repugnant. It takes imagination to turn it into something incredible. He talks how we can rip the heart out of a communion service but explaining every last detail. He reminds us that one of the missing ingredients in our faith is imagination.

Is this what we have done to prayer? Taken the heart right out of it because we don’t have the imagination to see it in deeper, bolder, and more mysterious ways? I don’t know for sure, but I’m willing to go on a journey of re-imagination.

So, let’s imagine prayer as:

  • listening
  • breathing
  • food
  • life-blood
  • war
  • visiting the King
  • surgery
  • hanging out with our best friend
  • 911
  • I have several more, but you add your metaphor here

At some point, these metaphors all break down. However, could they also breathe fresh life into the old bones of our prayer lives? It’s worth a try!

To see the latest prayer calendar, click here.