Arthur Dash (1950-2015)

I lost my most frequent commenter this week. More than that, I lost my brother — half-brother, to be precise, but really my brother.

Arthur Dash was born in 1950 in South Africa. When he was four years old, his mother died of pneumonia. Shortly after, his father remarried, but the marriage lasted only six months. When Arthur was nine, his father remarried again. When he was 17, his father kicked him out of the house, right around the time I was born to his step-mother.

Arthur had a hard life. For some years, we had no contact with him. He viewed himself as the black sheep of the family. I met him for the first time as a young adult in 1988, and we began to see him more frequently, along with his wife Patti.

Arthur was what you’d call a complicated personality. He had a deadly and shameless sense of humor, often at his own expense. He was kind and generous. He loved the Lord. But he also had his issues with churches, occasionally struggled with depression, and he was honest about his hurts and struggles.

Arthur with his father in 2006

Arthur with his father in 2006

In 2006, a month before our father’s death, he travelled to England to pay his respects. After the trip, he wrote:

All in all, I enjoyed the trip. I am much more at peace with myself and Dad, having had the opportunity to see him and tell him I love him. When we left him on Saturday, and I repeated that last statement, he actually said, "Me too!" 

Arthur was a frequent commenter on this blog. More recently, he would email his comments. When I moved from pastoring to church planting, he expressed surprise that I would “start a church from the ground up” and “be the jack of all trades.” But then he wrote:

It is God who gives us the desires of (in) our hearts, and He who calls us to travel the paths He has chosen for us. It is also God who made the maps and leads and guides us on our journey, and He who has promised to supply us the necessities along the way. All I can do is stand in the gap and support you as you follow the calling on your life.

He gave me this advice: “Just remember that your very survival in your new adventure depends on your dependency upon God, His Son, and The Holy Spirit.”

When we were going through a difficult period, we emailed him, along with other family members. Arthur replied:

I was up most of the night, thinking and praying. Maybe I have found my purpose after all? Even the marines need tactical support, you know! I may not be capable of front-line ministry, but I am capable of prayerful support of those who fight in the trenches!

He would regularly encourage me in our church planting efforts:

Bro., I wish I lived closer to you. This is the kind of church I would love to be a part of, at least judging by your Mission Statement.

I pray that you continue, successfully, to be weak and helpless, and to be the church that God has called you to be. 

His last email to me was characteristic of his humor. He described a recent fall in which he hit his head. When I told him I was sorry to hear this, he told me that he thought it was “hilarious” and that “At my age one no longer has any pride…And, no my head did not hurt. There would need to something in there for it to hurt.”

I was going to see Arthur this coming Saturday, but sadly, I’ll have to wait longer now. Arthur died in his sleep this past Tuesday, June 23.

He wrote this poem eleven days ago. “Not particularly good, but it's the best I could come up with during my personal worship,” he said.

I loved you because You first loved me.
Savior. Redeemer. You are everything to me.
My Fortress, my Banner. My hands towards heaven I raise.
My Healer. Provider. You are worthy of all praise.

I loved you because You first loved me.
You became a Man, and died upon a tree,
And conquered Death, Almighty God, 
Joint Heir, Son of Man, dare I make You Lord?

Yes, we loved You because you first loved us.
Upon a cross You were nailed and trussed.
A crown of thorns upon Your head.
You died that we may live instead.

Oh, What A Wonderful Savior!

Virtual Assistant Review and Giveaway

When I began church planting, I knew I had an opportunity to approach things differently. When I found that I couldn’t keep on top of my administrative tasks, I experimented with using a virtual assistant. I’d read about it through Michael Hyatt, and it seemed like an effective and affordable way to get the help I needed.

I’ve tried three virtual assistant options so far, and all of them have benefits and drawbacks.

North American dedicated virtual assistant — I tried this for a while, and it worked well overall. The quality of work was high. The virtual assistant company monitored the relationship to ensure things were going well. On the downside, the cost was relatively high, the hours were limited (my package was five hours a week), and the virtual assistant juggled other clients. Managing a dedicated virtual assistant also takes an investment of time. If you want to check out this approach, I recommend eaHelp.

Offshore virtual assistant — I tried this one most recently. Affordability is the biggest selling feature. On the downside, I found that the quality of work was lower, and there was nobody to monitor the relationship. Again, it takes time to manage a dedicated virtual assistant. If you want to try this approach, I recommend Virtual Assistant Finder.

North American on-demand assistant — I’ve been using model for almost two years, and it’s what I would recommend for most people. It’s affordable, and doesn’t require time to manage the relationship. On the downside, you don’t have a dedicated assistant who gets to know you. In Less Doing, More Being, Ari Meisel explains the benefits of this approach:

Ninety-five percent of tasks can be done by an on-demand assistant. The great thing about coming to this realization is that it makes you bombproof. You don’t have to worry if something happens to the dedicated assistant you depend on…Furthermore, since your tasks are no longer limited to one capable person, scaling becomes automatic and painless. Communicating exclusively through e-mail means that you can assign tasks whenever and wherever you are.

If you want to try this approach, I recommend Fancy Hands.

Which one is best? Meisel says, “On-demand assistants are great for people who are just starting out and have few tasks, and they’re great for very advanced people. In the middle, you should be with a dedicated assistant.”

Each approach has its benefits and drawbacks. For most, I would recommend an on-demand assistant like Fancy Hands, especially if you want to experiment with using a virtual assistant.


Want to try a virtual assistant? I’m giving away a month’s starter pack (five tasks) for Fancy Hands. Fill in the form below. I’ll randomly pick a winner. You have until Sunday night. Please enter only once.

Congratulations to Clay Porr, winner of the giveaway.

Jill Briscoe's Laugh

I was asked to give an update on our church planting efforts this past Sunday at the Greater Toronto Spiritual Life Convention, an annual multi-church event. Because of this, I had a front row seat to hear Stuart Briscoe preach. I’ve heard Briscoe preach before, and as usual he did a masterful job. But that isn’t what I’ll remember the most from that evening.

Sitting in the front row, I was one person away from Stuart’s wife Jill as he preached. As Stuart preached, Jill laughed. She laughed a lot, and genuinely. She’s probably heard all of his jokes before, but after 57 years of marriage, she was engaged in what her husband said, and able to laugh at every one of his jokes.

One of my friends was asked recently by a church search committee what a successful ministry would look like if he came to that church. They probably expected him to describe goals about the growth of the church, and the great things that would happen under his ministry. After thinking a minute, he said that he would consider his ministry there a success if his wife still loved him at the end of his tenure, and that he had some true and significant friendships with others. It’s not the usual definition of success, but it’s not a bad one either.

I’ve been around long enough to understand that it’s hard, and that ministry and life can take its toll on one's life and marriage. On Sunday night I saw two things I loved: a man in his eighties who continues to serve faithfully, and his wife who still continues to laugh. 

I appreciate Stuart Briscoe’s preaching, but I may have appreciated his wife’s laugh even more. If I reach my eighties and have remained faithful, and have a wife who still laughs at my jokes, I will count myself a blessed man indeed.

In Praise of Hobbies

I’m a big fan of Sam Javanrouh, a Toronto street photographer who posted a picture a day for ten years. I’m still sad that he only posts the occasional picture now.

When we moved to Liberty Village in December 2012, I thought it would be a good time to try to take some street photography myself. I’ve taken a street photography course with Javanrouh a couple of times, and have been wandering around the Liberty Village community with a camera. I still haven’t run out of things to photograph, and I've posted a picture a day at for 673 days and counting.

My original intention was to use photography as a way to make connections in the community. It’s a creative and technological community, and I thought a photoblog could allow me to build relationships. Along the way, I discovered that I enjoyed photography. Not only that, but posting a picture every day gets me walking in the community, and it slows me down to observe what’s around me.

In some ways, the photography hasn’t done what I’d hoped. It hasn’t led to connections in the same way that other initiatives have. I’ve participated in one art show, and I’m about to participate in another. I’ve been able to publish a photobook using Kickstarter, and I’m about to order a few more for a Christmas show in a couple of weeks. I’m still posting a photo every day. We’ve been able to use some of these photographs in our ministry. I've met at least one significant community leader through the photoblog. All of this is good, but I won’t be writing a book about how to grow your church using street photography anytime soon.

When are you free to be fully yourself without your ministry leadership role? In what ways are you developing your hobbies?
— Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving

But I’d do it again in a minute, not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself. I’m learning the joy of avocation, and in taking the time to enjoy my community in ways that I might not in the busyness of life and ministry. Plus, it’s fun to know that my photos are hanging in some people’s homes now.

I’ve met a few other pastors and theologians who enjoy photography too. If you’ve ever thought about pursuing photography as a hobby, I’d encourage you to pursue it. Today, I’d like to sing the praises of hobbies when they’re rightly pursued.