DashHouse.com

The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

Filtering by Category: Interviews

Encouragement for Revitalizers: An Interview with James Seward

Last week I mentioned @ChurchVitalizer. It's my privilege today to post an interview with the man behind the Twitter account, James Seward (who also has a personal Twitter account).

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I'm grateful that he was wiling to answer my questions.

What made you decide to start tweeting as @ChurchVitalizer?

Church planting is all the rage these days, something for which I'm glad. I was a founding member of a church plant and my brother-in-law is a church plant pastor. But in our zeal to plant churches we must not abandon the existing churches. I could list a whole host of reasons for this, but I'll limit it to these: 

  1. While church plants often focus on being inter-racial, successful revitalizations are generally better at being inter-generational, a vital component of a healthy biblical church.
  2. Church plants rightly focus on reaching the un-churched around them (though they too often grow by plucking some of the healthiest members from other local churches). But there are many existing churches that are full of unbelievers and people whose faith is anemic. Church revitalization gives you a ready and captive audience that need to hear God's Word.
  3. Given the Bible's high regard for the local church, even the unhealthy ones, it seems like a biblical approach to work with the existing church to make it healthy instead of starting an entirely new enterprise down the street.

The work of revitalization is every bit as tiring and demanding as church planting, though the stresses are often quite different. Yet I've found many of the trending books and voices in social media provide all sorts of support for church planters but offer comparatively little to encourage people doing the work of revitalization. @churchvitalizer is my effort to be a small part of the solution.

What do you hope to accomplish through your tweets?

I hope to offer encouragement and perspective to those doing the work of revitalization.

Some pastors doing revitalization can grow discouraged, hopeless and alone. For them I hope to point them to truths from Scripture that will lift up their heads and help them press on with joy and hope.

Other pastors are unwittingly drawn to the idol of numbers -- the bigger my church is, the better I'm doing. Not only can this cause them to prioritize the wrong things, it also can do a number on their souls and how they think about their church. I hope to remind them of what God has called a pastor to do and to judge their success based on how well they're doing what God has asked them to do.

There are still other pastors who waddle in mediocrity yet hide behind the mantra of "sound doctrine" and "biblical preaching" as excuses to not work hard and grow. For example, he might be arrogant and ungracious but blame people's dislike for him on his strong doctrinal positions; or he might be a weak preacher but blame people's dislike for his preaching on the fact that they can't stomach biblical preaching. For men like that, I hope to point them to resources that have helped me grow better in the work God has called me to do.

A lot of pastors who are doing revitalization are greener pastors. Pointing out common pitfalls and exposing them to resources they might not know about is another goal.

You wrote, "Revitalization is not about taking a dwindling church and growing it, it's about restoring the gospel and God's Word to their proper place." What do you mean by this?

Man judges health very differently from how God judges health. If a church is growing and the budget is being met, we deem it healthy. So when people hear the term "revitalization" they often think of taking a church that is shrinking or not meeting budget and turning those numbers around.

But God judges things differently. His picture of health is given in Ephesians 4:11-16 (among other places). And, at the risk of oversimplifying it, I'd boil it down to two things:

  1. a culture where people are growing more Christ-like by speaking God's Word into one another's lives, and
  2. a church that looks to God's Word for everything - how it's structured, what elements go into the service, how to preach, how to pray, who's in leadership, how conflict is resolved, how sin is dealt with, what is believed, how decisions are made, etc.

There are many big churches with big buildings and big budgets that have built themselves up through effective management, putting on a good show and having a dynamic communicator & awesome band at the front; that doesn't make them healthy.

The church I previously served in had 600 people when the work of revitalization began. It ebbed to 450 before it started to grow again. In the meantime, the culture was slowly but dramatically changing. So when I talk about "revitalization," I'm talking about restoring a church to health based on God's criteria, not man's. It has nothing to do with size or budget.

What are you learning as you pastor Maple Avenue?

I'm a young pastor with much to learn. One lesson I'd like to share.

Early on, I met with fellow Fellowship Baptist pastor Justin Galotti who is doing revitalization in the city. I'd grown accustomed to hearing revitalizer's horror stories about how hard their job was, how difficult revitalization was, how slow their church was to embrace change. But Justin kept talking to me about how strong and capable God is to bring change. His words were full of hope and confidence in God. This reminded me to truly trust God as I labor. As I've done so, I've seen over and over how God is working.

I hope that my interactions with others - inside and outside Maple Avenue - are marked by the same God-centered hope that Justin's words contained.

Thanks so much, James.

Be sure to check out @ChurchVitalizer and @James_Seward on Twitter.

Interviews from 2013

I linked to some of the top posts from this blog in the past year. In reality, some of my favorite posts are the interviews I conducted from the past year. Here's a list:

Planting with New Kingdom Citizens: An Interview with J.D. Payne

Church planting is missionary work. It is more apostolic and less pastoral. It is about raising up new believers, not working to fulfill the desires of long-term Kingdom citizens.

Urban Church Planting: An Interview with Mark Reynolds

I’m also seeing a growing awareness of the need and opportunity in cities for church planters, but we’re still lagging behind in the competencies and proficiencies to do it well.

Ministry in a Post-Christendom Context: An Interview with Barry Parker

We need a radical humility that is grounded in the Saviour of the World because we are not the saviour of anything.

Scholarship and Warmth: An Interview with Bruce Walkte

If my theology does not change my life, it is not good theology, but an idol.

Kutoa — How to Make a Difference for $1 a Month

Kutoa is about people everywhere helping people everywhere because people everywhere matter.

The Ongoing Influence of C.S. Lewis — An Interview with Kathy Keller

Lewis fits into no category, theologically or culturally, and yet he punctures all manner of pompous cultural assumptions of our day.

The Ongoing Influence of C.S. Lewis: An Interview with Kathy Keller

Kathy Keller, assistant director of communications for Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, has written a beautiful essay about the influence of C.S. Lewis on her life:

...Lewis has been my daily companion. He alone navigated me through the cynicism and illogic of my college religion classes. His prose was a model for my own. When others began to write about him and form societies and have dinners and speakers and tours, I must admit to a pang of jealousy. Lewis was mine! (Had I been older, I have often thought, I would have given Helen Joy Davidman Gresham a run for her money!) But the truth is, Lewis is not mine. He is a shining gift of God for many ages. A gracious man, and a man of grace.
Kathy Keller

Kathy Keller

I'm grateful that Keller was willing to answer some of my questions about Lewis's ongoing influence.

You corresponded with C.S. Lewis as a child. How did those letters shape you as a young woman?

As a young child I thought it nice, but not particularly unusual that this author should answer my letters. After all, his books could hardly be found in the U.S., so I thought he was lonely and not well known! Later, when I came to understand the volume of mail he received, and that he answered every letter, in spite of rheumatoid pain in his wrist, I was amazed and humbled. I had though Lewis was my private possession, because I was the only one who seemed to know about him. 

You've said that C.S. Lewis has been your daily companion. How does his writing continue to shape you today?

I had though Lewis was my private possession, because I was the only one who seemed to know about him. In college, if I wanted to spruce up my writing style, I would just re-read all I had of his works. He was so clear and concise, it sort of rubbed off. When I read him today, I am always surprised to discover that this or that argument that I had "always" known had come from him.

The New York Times just called Lewis an "evangelical rock star." What accounts for his popularity among evangelicals today?

Lewis is not part of the culture wars, and so can be enjoyed by all groups. He fits into no category, theologically or culturally, and yet he punctures all manner of pompous cultural assumptions of our day.

Lewis wrote of his growing preference to catch "the reader unawares—thro' fiction and symbol" rather than through a direct approach. How can evangelicals learn to do this from Lewis?

I did my thesis on Lewis's Mythopoeic View of Language---I think they ought to read Lewis himself, first, read his fiction, read other fiction, and find how Christian truths can sneak up on you when you aren't on guard against them

Do you have a favorite C.S. Lewis book?

Perelandra. Peter Kreeft, I believe, said that when he lies dying, he hopes that his mind will fly to the coronation scene at the end of Perelandra. Me, too.

Kutoa: How to Make a Difference for $1 a Month

I know and respect Josh Brake, a pastor from Georgetown, Ontario, just outside of Toronto. It wasn't until recently, though, that I heard of Kutoa, a charity he founded that makes a huge difference with only $1 a month. I had to find out more, and Josh was willing to answer my questions.

What does Kutoa mean? And what is it all about? 

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Kutoa is the Swahili word that means "to give", and giving is what Kutoa's about. 

Kutoa is a cloud-based micro-philanthropy movement that is getting people from all around the world to participate in giving the equivalent of $1 Canadian dollar/month. No more, no less. Each person that gives $1 gets 1-vote for 1 of the 3 projects we're promoting via our monthly partner organization (e.g. International Justice Mission, Child Soldier Initiative, etc.). The project with the most votes at the end of the month gets all the money. 

It's that simple. 

Kutoa utilizes social media to get the word out. Participants are able to share on Facebook & tweet about the project they voted for. The really cool thing is we can track all the people & $1's that have been given because of me. In Kutoa's YOUR IMPACT section, I can see how my getting 100 people to join has lead to almost 500 joining from 18 countries. Not only that, I can see how my $1 has multiplied. In 11-months I've given $11, but because of me $1269 has been given by people from 18-countries. 

Kutoa is about people everywhere helping people everywhere because people everywhere matter.

Can you give us a story of how Kutoa is making a difference?

With a $0 marketing budget and taking a 0% admin fee on the $1, launching Kutoa as a global charity was a risky strategy. Has this worked? You tell me. In less than 11-months we've had close to 900 people begin to participate from 85 countries around the globe. And this is just from friends telling friends telling friends.

While Canadians still make up the bulk of Kutoa's membership, some surprising countries round out the top 10.

  1. Canada
  2. India
  3. Nigeria
  4. United States
  5. Pakistan
  6. United Kingdom
  7. Ireland
  8. Ghana
  9. Turkey
  10. Australia

On a global scale Kutoa is making an impact by funding projects that save lives and give new starts to families and entire communities.

Kutoa has partnered with 11 organizations to date and through those have funded the prosecution of sex traffickers in Cambodia, training midwives in Gambia, fleece blankets for Syrian refugees, family literacy in Guatemala, and fish farms in Armenia (currently in the lead this month) just to name a few. 

Most, if not all, Kutoa participants would never have ever considered funding these projects on their own, but in a group where they are only asked to give a little, their $1 is multiplied to have an impact well beyond what they could personally afford.

Finally, we are seeing people that, previous to their involvement in Kutoa, gave nothing to no one, are now making regular donations to a number of organizations that we've supported. Their worldview is being changed by their participation in this simple concept. 

It doesn't seem that Kutoa is an overtly Christian charity. Can you explain why you chose to structure it this way?

First thing is this: I am called to preach Christ, not Kutoa. But for me all things are intertwined. Kutoa is not "Christian", but what things for a follower of Christ aren't? Certain things, like preaching and teaching the Scriptures are more often and easily observed as gospel work, but the expression of my calling is not limited to these two functions. 

Josh Brake

Josh Brake

The parable of the Good Samaritan, while at times used to prove things that I don't think the parable is teaching, does teach this — if I'm going to truly love God (the Creator), I'm also going to love my neighbour (God's creation). This entails, though not exclusively, to act graciously towards those we encounter with needs both near and far in a world that is more connected than it has ever been.

Personally, I need to be obedient in both of these areas of my life and Christian expression. We all do. 

On one occasion I was sharing my faith and motivation for starting Kutoa with one man who joined the movement (who is not a Christian) and he said the following: "This is the most Christian thing I've been a part of."  Does this make him a Christian? No. Personally, I'd be more than happy to see his experience in Kutoa get trumped by being a part of the Church. That would be the most Christian thing he could be a part of, but for now, I'm encouraged to see that those who do not follow Christ can see Christ in Kutoa and beginning to understand grace conceptually.

Helping people that can do nothing to help themselves is decent skeletal understanding of Christ's work on the cross. I could do nothing to save myself and yet I was given something that brought me new life. Grace is a beautiful thing and the arguments and criticism hurled towards those that have found a way to be an expression of God's grace isn't cool. Not at all. 

All of this to say I am acutely aware that Kutoa could go the way of the YMCA, Red Cross or, to a lesser extent, Habitat For Humanity in starting out as an overtly Christian organization that over time rids itself of its Christian connection. In order to combat this, we aren't starting out by calling ourselves a Christian organization at all. 

If I were to label Kutoa as Christian I do 2 things which I think are actually counter to my gospel call:

  1. Say that unless you are a Christian, helping people in the way we are attempting isn't for you.
  2. Limit my interactions with those involved with Kutoa primarily to Christians

I don't have any issue with organizations that are overtly connect themselves to the proclamation, but the short comings of attempting this strategy amidst the kind of movement we are seeing are obvious. 

Kutoa is an organization that is led by an unashamed follower of Jesus that is organizing people to help people because people matter to God - all people, everywhere.

"Kutoa is aiming to take charitable giving into the next generation of technological advances." How do you do that, and why is that so important?

Have sat on the Board of Directors for a Christian Mission organization, I know firsthand that traditional donor bases and means through which people give are drying up - fast! More and more Christian organizations are relying on big, lump sum donations while refusing to change their model of fund raising. 

The key, I believe, to raising up and connecting with the next generation of donors is to make sure people feel intimately connected to something bigger than themselves, have access to specific information about what they are supporting and making it easy, if not instant, to become involved and tell others. 

Kutoa does all of these things without apology. We send nothing in the mail - nothing - and only communicate via email. Our website is our "office" where people from all over the globe are free to drop in and visit whenever they want to. As for fundraising, while people are able to mail us a cheque to support our organization if they want to, the only way to be involved in the monthly voting is to create an account online, which requires the use of a credit card or PayPal account. We know that this limits our accessibility to some who are more "seasoned", but we're not building a movement that caters to yesterday or that wants to stay in the hear and now, but is flexible and can quickly adapt to the trends of tomorrow.

There is also something exciting about new features that are constantly being developed for the web. These help us to empower our users to share what they are a part of and experience their connectedness with this global movement. 

If didn't make the intentional decision to not be certain things, then we wouldn't be where we are. Full stop.

You're a busy pastor and father, as well as the founder of Kutoa. How do you do it all?

The answer is I don't. My wife has been AMAZING through this journey and I am still trying to figure out the work/life balance. Having 3 children aged 4 and under certainly keeps our house active.

I also love my church and feel called to serve in my community. We have also been going through a Senior Pastor transition at the church where I work, so this past year has been unique to say the least.  It's not a rockstar, mega-church kind of environment, but it's where we as a family feel called so we're doing our best to be obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives here.

Now that Kutoa is airborne and we have a new Senior Pastor, I am starting to delegate tasks that can be done by other people. This has helped with my stress levels and is allowing me to focus on the visionary/leadership components of Kutoa and put more energized hours into being a pastor.

One more question: Can Americans make donations as well and receive a receipt?

Donations over and above that amount to the organization are issued a tax receipt both in Canada and the United States. Kutoa does not issue a tax receipt for the $1/month contribution to our projects.

Thanks, Josh! 

Note: I've signed up to support Kutoa, and I urge you to do the same. A small amount of money can make a huge difference around the world.

 

Scholarship and Warmth: An Interview with Bruce Waltke

Dr. Bruce Waltke is a preeminent Old Testament scholar. His teaching career has earned him a reputation of being a master teacher with a pastoral heart. Dr. Waltke has also pastored several churches, lectured at many evangelical seminaries in North America and has spoken at numerous Bible conferences.

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I’ve been impressed by Dr. Waltke’s scholarship, as well as his pastoral warmth. I’m grateful to Dr. Waltke for agreeing to answer some of my questions.

As Professor of Old Testament, what brings you the greatest joy? Is it studying, writing, teaching, or something else?

I wish I could say that I find my greatest joy in my students.  Though I do delight in them and in their ministries, I find my greatest joys in writing and publishing and in teaching. I used to get the most joy out of teaching and preaching, but as I got older I realized more and more how transitory verbal ministries are. As I got older I came to value teaching more and more for  what it built into the lives of my students and its multiplication and its continuation in their ministries. That reward, however, is less direct and seemingly more restricted  than that of writing, for writings touch more lives for more time than students in a classroom. But writings, like all things, will pass away, as publishers undoubtedly will cease to publish my dated works. But unlike Qoheleth I know there will always be a residue of eternal profit, for all ministry participates in the eternal kingdom of God.

Your exegetical work seems to me to combine scholarship and worship, which aren't found together as often as one might wish. How have you been able to maintain both together?

Others note an alleged combination of scholarship and worship. It must be relative, for I am unconscious of it.  My scholarship always seems to be inadequate because knowledge is always imperfect--there is always another book to read on a subject or is being written on it.  As for worship,  though I do not know the full depths of my depravity, I know it well enough to know that my motives are always tarnished by self-interest, not by worship. My spiritual flaw is a carnal perfectionism. I believe God is taking that flaw and sanctifying it by his Spirit in me.  Quintillius said:  “Ambition is a vice but it can be the mother of virtue.”  To become a vrtue must be the work of God's grace.  I have nothing of which to boast. This process of holiness is true of all healthy Christians, isn't it?

Pastors often feel pushed away from theology to be more "practical." What advice would you give to a pastor who aspires to be a pastor and scholar?

I cannot distinguish between theology and practical theology.  If my theology does not change my life, it is not good theology, but an idol. I hope every pastor who stands behind the sacred lectern is a scholar.  By that I mean, I hope the teacher of God's Word will teach it as responsibly as possible within the time available.  Very few are so gifted they can be both an academic in a university or seminary and a pastor. There is by the restraint of time and being human a less than perfect scholarship and of pastoring. What is needed is both humility, a recognition of our limitations, and a commitment to give God the best of what he has given to us. We need to keep our priorities straight, lest we make Success our god. It's hard not to envy those who worship Success and receive worldly rewards.

Knowledge is both a virtue and a vice.  It is necessary and certainly better than ignorance.  Paul frequently says he doesn't want us to be ignorant.  On the other hand, it is a vice: it always puffs up and is imperfect.  By God's grace I overcome its endemic tendency to pride the pure virtue of love and its imperfection by the pure virtues of faith and hope.

It's a joy to see the warmth between you and your friend Haddon Robinson. It's a good example of friendship maintained through years of life and ministry. How have friendships like this sustained you?

Photo courtesy of Chris Brauns

Photo courtesy of Chris Brauns

Haddon is so uniquely gifted that I feel unworthy of his friendship.  His warm friendship toward our family  is a mark of his truly godly character. His brilliant conversation always refreshes me.  Bonnie's love is peerless. Elaine and I treasure their friendship.  The sustenance of their friendship brings delight, psychic joy that cannot be fully verbalized. When the four of us are together we  seem to feed on each others thoughts, commitments and basic disposition toward God and others, though Elaine is now suffering dementia. Haddon or Bonnie never interpret us negatively; they truly believe and hope all things;  I do not think they ever think of enduring us.

How can we pray for you?

I have taken a leave of absence from teaching at Knox, to test how I can best serve God without a contract to teach. Pray that I will finish well and have the wisdom to prioritize my time well in this new context.