What is Church? Part 1: The Invisible and Visible Community of Jesus

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May 302014

Visible and Invisible ChurchThere is a lot of discussion and confusion around the word ‘church’ these days. What is the church, and who is part of the church? How does one join or get in on this faith community? Is the church some mystical, invisible, world wide, secret society who have a covert, or sometimes not so covert, mission to convert everyone to the religion of Christianity? Is there a secret hand shake to identify whose in, or do you have to have the fish symbol on your car to belong to the club? Is the church a meeting in a building on Sunday morning at 11am where some people called Christians gather to practice some strange rituals like the Eucharist, or listen to a talking head trying to be a stand up comedian telling jokes that are not all that funny?

Is the church not Jesus followers ‘being and doing’ the words and works of Jesus 24/7 where they work, live, or play? Is there any value in going to a sacred space and participating in the ageless sacraments with a community of Jesus followers we have committed to go on this journey with? What does it mean to be the church scattered and the church gathered? Are we to invite our friends who don’t go to church to come to an attractional gig or do we go to the people and be Jesus with skin on?

Here is my working definition of what the Church is. The Church is simply the ‘the invisible and visible family ofProdigal come home God’. (Ephesians 1:5; 3:14)  Anyone who says “Yes” to the invitation calling us as estranged kids to come back home to the outstretched arms of Dad are welcome back with a party. (Luke 15;11-32) Only God knows for sure who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’. That is not for us to judge. We will be surprised when one day we see who is all part of this great Family of God.

This Family of God called the Church is then called to be and speak the Good News of a new country or culture called the Kingdom of Heaven. We are really resident aliens who are citizen’s of a different country, yet fully engaged in making this world a better place. (Heb. 11:9; I Peter 2:11)

The Church is to be ‘colonies of Heaven’ here on earth. We are called to be living icons reflecting the culture of this new country and giving our full allegiance to King Jesus. The Church is part of this Kingdom or country, but the Kingdom of Heaven is much larger than the Church. We don’t own Jesus, nor do we have the corner on truth. The fact is that sometimes the organized church doesn’t always reflect or demonstrate what the Kingdom of Heaven is really like when we clamor for power and money, when we back stab and betray each other, and when we abuse or neglect the little, and the least. Upside Down Kingdom

The Church is a part of a bigger deal that is coming down. The Kingdom or country ruled by King Jesus will restore all of creation back to God’s original idea. A leopard will lie down with a goat. (Is 11:6) There will be no more war and poverty. (Is.2;4) All tribes and nations will sit together at the great Feast. (Luke 13:29-30) Children, the poor, and women will lead. (Is.11:6, Matt. 18:2-4; ) It is an upside down Kingdom that has come and is coming.

Justice, peace, freedom, healing, reconciliation, redemption, and unity with diversity are all themes of the songJustice for Children 1 of the Kingdom that are being sung all around us, and like a tuning fork, are ringing within us if we only stop and listen. (Luke 10:9; 17:21)

We respond to the song of the Kingdom when we stand in awe at the beauty of the Creator in a rainbow; when we reconcile with someone who has hurt us; when we hear the heart cry for justice coming from a child working in a sweat shop, and we refuse to buy clothes from the companies profiting from such injustice; when we say ‘No’ to racism, or the oppression of any marginalized group of people by being their friends and speaking out on their behalf; and when we care for the environment by planting an organic garden, or cleaning up some trash.

The Church scattered and gathered is to help connect people to this song of the Kingdom being sung in us and around us. The Church is to be this mysterious paradox between the invisible, scattered community of God as well as a visible, gathered, local expression of this community. (Acts 2:46; 5:12; Romans 16:5; I Cor 1:2)

In my observation and personal journey, it is so easy to veer to one side or the other. We can claim to be part of the ‘church invisible’ where we are living out our faith in our neighborhood, work places, school, and places of play 24-7, yet rarely, or never commit to gather with a group of Jesus followers to be a visible demonstration of what the upside down Kingdom culture of Jesus looks like. Welcomg Home the Prodigal 2This view of church as an amorphous blob or a community of ‘me and God’ is not a full or clear picture of church.

People need to see a visible, practical, and local expression of a community of followers of Jesus living out Kingdom culture (verba visibilia).  As Jesus said, “They will know you are my apprentices by how you love one another. (John 13:35)”  How we love one another is a sign and commercial for what the culture of the new country and Kingdom of Heaven is to be like.

“As I often say, the greatest sign and wonder is when two or three Christians actually get along by passing the test of time, and pressing through conflict. Many days I have more faith to raise the dead than I do that two Christian can walk out being faithful to and forgiving one another.”

This is not to say we as the gathered church are perfect in any way. We are all broken people in need of the mercy and grace of God. We are an imperfect icon of Jesus and His Kingdom. We are like a stained glass window with some cracks. What lacks integrity is when we are not honest with our sin, and hide behind religious pretense or masks.

There are many who have given up gathering with other followers of Jesus, and committing to a visible faithScattered Church community. (Hebrews 10:25) The reasons for not gathering or committing to a visible church are various and sundry. We become disillusioned around the dysfunction and politics of the church. We suffer disappointment around unfulfilled, lofty expectations of what we thought church would be, or we carry the wounds of unresolved hurt experienced through relationships in the church. We become rugged individualists who choose to walk out our faith journey on on our own.  We deem community life to just be to hard, or sometimes we are too busy with other activities to carve out the time to gather with other Jesus followers. Its easier to sleep in on a Sunday than to make the effort to go to another ‘thing’.

For some folks, there is a deep seated fear of being used or taken advantage of by institutions and authority figures. It is clear that there is a growing distrust in our culture with big government, organized religion, and institutions that are meant to serve people, but instead are often self-serving.  In the church culture, these people become Christian anarchists or iconoclasts who express a distaste for any leadership, organization, church buildings, rituals, and liturgy. Gathered and Scattered Curch

On the other hand, many of us have been so consumed with running the church gathered that we don’t have time to develop any significant friends outside the church. We are so busy running church programs that we have no time for serving in our neighborhoods. Church becomes an isolated sub-culture that is so detached from the world that we have little effect.

We so called ‘Christians’ can sometimes be really weird, uptight, fearful folks. We fear the big bad world out there, so we hide in our holy huddles lobbing self-righteous diatribes about all the horrible sins outside the camp. The reality is that all those same sins come with us to church every Sunday often cloaked or hidden behind religious garb and flowery religious talk.

Because of the pressure or guilt some of us feel around converting our friends, we become abnormal and strange. We anxiously or zealously look for opportune moments to pigeon hole our friends and blurt out our scripted evangelistic presentation like a telemarketer spitting out their sales pitch on the phone. It comes across in a pushy, stiff or forced way that leaves our friends feeling used or that they are somehow inferior to us. If all we can talk about is ‘spiritual stuff in churchy language’ we come across as religious nut cases.

If we treat our friends as projects to convert, we communicate that we have relationships with an agenda. We then wonder why people want to avoid us. This is not to say that we should be embarrassed to tell our story of what Jesus is doing in our lives. There is a time to speak words.  This needs to be as natural as sharing any Good News we have. The key is that our words carry weight when we are actually living Good News.

I think a healthy expression of church involves both the invisible, scattered reality alongside the visible, andVisible and Invisible gathered community of God. The invisible church without the visible expression is like a tree with sap but no trunk. The gathered church that is not scattered would be like keeping salt in the salt container never sprinkling it on food to bring out the flavor.

In my next blog, I will discuss the bare essentials or unique practices and distinctives of what it means to be the church invisible and visible no matter what the culture or context.

The Emerging Church: A Beautiful Mess!

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Feb 132014

Emerging Church 1Have you ever heard the following comments: “If we could just be like the early church!” or “Wouldn’t it be great to have been part of the church in the book of Acts!” Often these comments come from a genuine desire to see the church act more consistently with who we say we are as followers of Jesus. The perception being that the early New Testament church was the pinnacle of things, and that progressively, except for a few blips in history, the church has been losing ground. There is a desire to return to the halcyon days of the church when the church was a force to be reckoned with.

 I believe that most people, church or non-churched, are on a quest to find the ‘real thing’, or seeking truth founded in love. This journey was never meant to be traveled alone, but with a community of fellow seekers of truth.”

Though wonderful things happened in and through the early church, there was also a lot of mess. When you readMessy Church the story of the early church you see a whole lot of bickering, division, dysfunction, lying, power politics, and sex scandals mixed in with the miracles, rapid growth, radical giving to the poor, and martyrdom. The bottom line is that the church throughout history has been made up of messy, broken people. The confounding thing is that God has chosen to invite us into ‘His Grand Dream’ of restoring and reconciling all of creation to Himself.

For clarification, I will be using the word ’emerging’ to describe the journey of the whole church , not just as a buzz word to describe a particular stream of the church called ’emergent.’ The church has always been in the process of emerging into her true identity. The church is progressively, in fits and starts, getting cleaned up to look and act more like Jesus, and reflect His upside Kingdom.

I love the whole church with all her dysfunction and foibles, though there are many times I shake my head at some of the things we do and say in the name of God! Like an irritating kid brother or sister, there are expressions of the church that drive me bonkers, and that I disagree with in theology, practice, and packaging. Yet they are still my family!”

The purpose of this blog is to give a framework and context for what I hear, see, and think are the ‘crux of the matter’ questions underlying some of the collisions going on in the church today. I will not be trying to steer or convince people to take one position over another. I readily admit that I am not a dispassionate observer, and that I do have a present position, bias or leaning on these questions. It would be hubristic of me to claim that I have conclusive answers to these questions and dilemmas. I come as a work in progress, a curious life long learner who has not arrived, and a practitioner trying to field test what I believe.

It is my aim to surface in a cursory fashion some of the seminal theological, structural, and praxis questions impacting how we ‘be and do church’. This blog is simply a primer to stimulate learning and discovering truth in the context of community. My hope is that through dialogue, loving debate, and heaps of humility we can avoid the extremes on either side of an issue and seek truth in love.

lens 2The one philosophical, pedagogical, and hermeneutical template that I will use in framing the questions is what I refer to as the Divine tensions lens. Divine tensions are two opposing ideas such as free will and determinism that are part of the way God designed the world we live in. These ideas contain a piece of truth, yet when they stand alone they can they can distort the full picture of truth. They need to be held in some kind of dialectical tension as we reach for understanding. This Hegelian idea of thesis, anti-thesis, and synthesis is actually, in my opinion, a God initiated way of progressive learning.

In our quest for truth we need to embrace humility, mystery, and beauty as beacons of light pointing us Portal into eternityin the right direction.”

I believe that paradox and mystery are the portals or windows to go through on the eternal journey of exploring the vast oceans of beauty and truth summed up in Jesus!


Jesus with kids 1Truth is not simply the knowing and reciting of a correct proposition or doctrinal statement (John 5:39-40, James 2:19). Truth is found in knowing the person behind the proposition. John 1:14 states that Jesus came in flesh and blood to show us who God is, and what He is like. Jesus was full of grace and truth. Our thoughts and ideas of who God is must be filtered through an ongoing encounter with Jesus.  Having said that, I am not discounting the necessary discipline of engaging our minds in rigorous thinking and theological learning, especially in a postmodern culture that tends to elevate experience over dogma and doctrine.

The pedagogy of mystery allows us to say, ‘I don’t know!’, and not feel insecure or fearful about not having all the answers! Curiosity and wonder propel discovery and worship.”

To claim that we fully know all truth would be as foolish as saying we have discovered all there is to know about Jesus. If we think we have figured someone out the relationship becomes stagnant and boring. What then will we be doing for eternity? Our discovery of truth is not limited to the present, but will carry on through eternity. It is progressive revelation. I think we have embarked on an eternal quest in search of the endless depths of beauty and truth found in the Trinity. We will spend eternity getting to know God. This means we have all simply scratched the surface.

Tight Rope Walker 1A key lesson from Church History 1.0 is the ongoing proclivity to pendulum swing from one end of a paradoxical truth to the other side. Like a teeter totter, Church History is full of reactionary responses to the dangers and ditches we fall into time and time again when one side or the other claims that their understanding of dogma is the right one. We then use our understanding of truth as baton to beat the other side up. My desire is that we would continue to dialogue and learn from each other. In my opinion, I am most apt to be on the edge of becoming heretical when I think I have figured out all the answers and stop learning. The other danger is when I study the Bible in isolation without having my thoughts processed and challenged in the context of community.  When I fear or resist receiving input or challenge to my beliefs the blinders of hubris keep me from seeing the chasms I may be falling into.

Without further ado, here are some questions to get the ball rolling. These questions are not exhaustive just a starting point for dialogue:

Theological Questions:

Our view of the nature of God and His Mission has a profound impact on how we ‘be and do’ church! Healthy community gives space and encourages seekers to ask the tough, thorny questions.”

  • The Nature of God Questions: The Tension Between the ‘Open Theism’ and the ‘Reformed’ perspective onJesus the Sovereignty of God: Does God have foreknowledge over every event and exercise meticulous control over everything that happens in this world? If so how do we reconcile the issues of evil and suffering? What does sovereignty really mean? How do we hold in tension a view of God where He is all powerful yet also all loving?  How do we reconcile the nature of God in some of the O.T, stories where He seems to be a grumpy, war mongering and violent Deity in seeming contradiction to the Kingdom message of nonviolence and the ‘love trumps all’ nature of Jesus summed up in voluntary sacrificial love demonstrated in His death on the cross?  Is God bi-polar in nature? How do we not neuter God and make Him to be what we want Him to be? Is there hierarchy in the Trinity, or is the Trinity a community of reciprocal love and mutual serving with no jealousy and jockeying for position?


  • The Salvation Questions: Is salvation a legal, forensic transaction, a relational transaction or both? What about the idea of personal salvation versus the salvation of all of creation? How does one enter into the Kingdom of Heaven? Who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’? Which view of the atonement is right: the penal substitution theory of the atonement (The idea that God the Father had to kill His son Jesus on the cross to appease His wrath, and to pay the ransom or punishment in blood for our sin) versus the nonviolent view of the atonement where Jesus chooses to die on the cross and overcome the violence of Satan and humanity by going in the opposite spirit of love, forgiveness, and identification? Has God predestined who will be saved and who will not be saved? Is it not God’s nature that all would be saved? If so what does that mean? Are we bearers of Good News or Bad News?


  • The 3 H’s Questions: Hermeneutics (How we interpret the Bible), Hell, and Homosexuality: How do we interpret the Bible properly recognizing that we all bring our personal and cultural biases, blinders, and bigotry to the table when we read the text? Is hell a literal place of eternal torment and punishment, or a constant reality based on the consequences of our choices when we reject God’s way of living out of love, beauty, peace and forgiveness? Is homosexuality a result of rebellion against God, or a form of sexual brokeness due to some gender confusion caused by sexual abuse? Is homosexuality an orientation that one is born with even if it does not seem like the norm? What does the Bible really say about homosexuality? What would we do if a gay couple in a committed relationship, and who loved Jesus joined our church community, and asked if they could lead a small group in the church?


  • The Questions about the end, and after life: How do we avoid blind triumphalism that purports the notion that through all our human achievements things are getting better and better? Yet on the other hand how do we not settle for a fatalistic pessimism in which we the ‘chosen frozen’ are waiting in our holy huddle until Jesus beams out of this wicked world that is going to hell in a hand basket? Is this world going to end in fire, or will Jesus complete when He returns the renewal, change, and restoration of this world that He set in motion in His nonviolent victory over Satan, sin, and death when He died on the cross and rose again? Is heaven a literal place we go to, or the removal of all barriers keeping the Kingdom of Heaven coming in all its fullness here on earth.


Structural Questions:

Do we simply need to put a fresh coat of paint on the building, or add a few more bells and whistles to make church attractive? Is there a need for a major overhaul of how we structure church from top to bottom?”

  • The tension between ‘Centralization and de-centralization’ of structures: What shapes of church structures will best serve life? Is big mega church with all its resources of people, money, and buildings better than simple church that is fluid and easy enough for anyone to do, yet is constrained by limited people and money. Is there room for both? How much of what we do in church culture is the by-product of the pagan practices adopted during the reign of Constantine and Christendom period?


  • Structures that don't serve lifeThe tension between the Universal Church (organic, invisible, and scattered in nature) and the local church (organized, more visible, and gathered in nature): Is church a 24-7 expression lived out in our work places, and where we live, a Sunday morning service, or both? What are the ageless priorities or rhythms of the gathered church that we are to practice as rituals or sacraments with life? How do folks with normal jobs have time to run the programs of church gathered, and still have time to build quality relationships where we work or live as the church scattered? When does ‘organic church’ become so amorphous (loosey goosey) that there is no metric to measure whether we are being true to our raison d’etre or effective?  When is organic church a cover for our unresolved hurt, disappointment, or rugged individualism whereby we are afraid, or not willing to be accountable to anyone, and don’t know how to play on a team? Though God does not reside in buildings, is there a place for sacred spaces?


  • The tension between hierarchical and  flattened out forms of leadership: How do we steward power and authority in a healthy and safe way? Is any form of top down leadership abusive? Are consensus forms of leadership a reaction to, or distrust of any type of leadership resulting in paralysis, and everyone doing their own thing so as not to offend anyone? How do we avoid dictatorships on the one hand and anarchy on the other hand? What are systems of leadership that allow catalytic, visionary leaders to do what they are good at while minimizing whiplash to the rest of the community? How do the pastoral and managerial type leaders relate to the catalytic apostolic/prophetic type leaders without alienating or fighting each other?


Praxis Questions:

How do we be communities of Jesus followers that live the upside down Kingdom in this world? What does church look like in real life?”

  • The tension between ‘attractional and incarnational’ approaches to mission: Is it more effective toIncarnation invite the non-churched to ‘come’ to our events and programs, or to ‘go’ be Jesus with skin on to the people we work, play, and live by? What is it that will attract people to Jesus and church? How do we live out  justice, reconciliation, stewarding the environment, hospitality, and serving the poor in our everyday lives?
  • The tension between the paid professional pastor model and the bi-vocational leaders model: How do we create a culture in church that is not consumeristic, and where the paid pastor is not expected to dole out all the religious goods and services that people feel they deserve, and have paid for with a tax? Would the church survive if the paid or volunteer leaders were taken out of the equation? For those working in full-time jobs outside of the church, how do they carve out time to give the attention necessary to organize even a few church meetings without their job or family suffering? How do bi-vocational folks make a living and still have time to give for mentoring leaders, serving in the community, forming relationships with folks inside and outside the gathered church, and organizing gatherings even of the small, simple variety? How do we avoid burnout, divorces, the growing exodus of pastors out of full-time vocational ministry, and the breakdown of family life in leaders who are juggling all these roles? How is the Greek dualism of the secular sacred divide still impacting how we view ministry and the church?


  • The tension between the classroom ‘talking head’ approach and the ‘one on one’ mentoring approach to training and discipling: Do people really want to grow?  How do people grow? Are people willing to face their real growth issues by going deeper in relationships of trust in a community, or do most people simply want church light where they can come and hide? Are most church leaders so busy running the church programs to keep the people coming that we don’t have enough time to ‘one on one’ mentor and apprentice people? Do the 52 life changing sermons and classes we teach or preach bring about the kind of transformation we had been hoping for? What is the purpose and place for preaching and teaching n the spectrum of how we approach spiritual formation and training? How do we marry theological training with doing the stuff in the field where one faces the real questions?

I hope these questions will spur you on to find a few friends that you can regularly meet with to become a learning community that through love seeks the truth! I have a class for working folk that explores the development of Christian thought through history. It’s called Exploring Ancient Future Pathways: A Journey Through Church History and Theology with a Community of Friends. If you are interested in this class that will run one Saturday a morning for a month here in Calgary e-mail me at sojourner40@gmail.com and I’ll get you more info. If I have enough students, I’ll start this March.

By Tim Schultz

Growing Deep and Wide: The Push and Pull Between Risk Taking and Limits!

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Feb 052014

Stretched Rubber Band 1Expansion, promotion, growth, and exploration of new fields of opportunity are all desirable goals of any enterprise, business, church or individual that does not want to become stagnant or settle for the status quo. We love being part of the happening thing where there is momentum and movement.  Most of us like the feeling of being on the winning side. The perks that come with growth such as more people, more money, more recognition, and the buzz of activity are attractive. Yet premature, or rapid expansion may be fraught with as many problems as there are perks.  Any healthy organism, organization or person will grow deep in the unseen sub-terrain foundations to sustain the visible outward growth of more production, programs, and more people to serve. It is my observation and analysis that companies, churches, and individuals that grow their spheres of influence in a sustainable and healthy way live in the tension of their present fences, boundaries, and limitations; while preparing and planning to extend their operations and influence into new fields. They are like a rubber band that is pulled from both ends without snapping or breaking.

The questions that arise are: ‘How do we know what our fences. limits, or boundaries are? When do we stay put within these fences and consolidate? How do we know when to take risks and move out into new fields of opportunity?

Most of us chafe at the idea of having fences put around us. We tend to see these fences as keeping us from something better on the other side, or as an obstacle to our freedom and growth. How can limits, boundaries, and fences actually be a gift? King David paints a different picture on the benefits of boundaries in Psalm 16:6:

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

Boundary lines or fences in our lives help us to know where our assigned field is, and where we have authority tofences 1 operate. In this context, I would like to define authority as the ability to influence flowing from a delegated position, or earned through relationships developed in a defined field of geography, an area of expertise, or an organization. Authority comes from having a skill set or gifting, and the necessary resources to do the assigned job or project. For example, after coaching soccer in our neighborhood of Bowness for over 10 years, and coaching or playing soccer at a many levels since I was a child; I have both delegated, geographic, and relational influence with the families of the kids I coach in soccer.

When we are working from within our fences around our assigned field, we will being doing what we are good at which brings both a sense of fulfillment and visible results confirmed by those around us.”

How does one determine their fences and assigned field? In 2 Cor. 10: 13-15, Paul gives us a few clues about how we determine our fences and field:

We however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but we confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither did we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others.”

  • Relationship Fences: Who do you have relational equity with? These folks invite you to influence with your message, skill set, or want to buy your product. You have established trust with these people, companies or churches over time by being trustworthy, authentic, and dependable with your marketing, message, and product. The tricky part can be when you have relational influence that crosses organizational authority fences or lines.

Be aware of the spoken and unspoken rules of engagement in an organization when you work through relational authority lines that are outside the lines of delegated authority. If you don’t you will step on toes, and rightly or wrongly be pegged as stepping into someone’s sand box without permission to play!”

  • Capacity Fences: Know your limits emotionally, financially, energy wise, and in skill set!

When you feel frayed, spent, overwhelmed, in over your head, and over extended heed these limits, or you will burn out or end up bankrupt! When you are working within the field of your relational, delegated, and resource fences or limits the extra peace, provision, and people will come to position you to take on more.”

  • Character Fences: This fence includes the slats of humility and honesty. Give credit where credit is due!

Pump Your Tires“Don’t take credit for someone else’s work as a means to fast tracking growth or as a tactic to promote yourself and your company! This will bite you sooner or later. Resist the urge to pump your own tires. Let others do that for you!”


When it comes to knowing when to expand your sphere of influence,Jumping Together 1 there is one good litmus test that is a great check and balance especially for entrepreneurial, visionary type leaders. Are those around you ready to risk with you? This is what I like to call the ‘team leap test’. Our sphere of influence expanding is not only determined by our readiness to risk, but also the willingness of those in in our present circles of influence also being willing to risk. Paul states this in the latter part of 2 Cor. 10:15 when he says, “Our hope is that as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand…”


Whiplash 1We can all give examples of leaders who have boldly taken steps to risk without taking the pulse of the key people around them, and measuring the risk quotient of key contributors. Often the result is the visionary leader ends up alone without the help they need to be successful in the venture, or there is a lot of collateral damage in relationships as the company or church veers in a different directions. Sometimes the company or church collapses from being over extended without the infrastructure to sustain the expansion.  I call this visionary whiplash syndrome. What the visionary leader thinks is a slight, small 3 degree shift or change in direction can feel like a 90 degree snapping of the tail to those at various levels in the company, and tje communities they lead.


Not everyone will have the same risk quotient or be willing to grow. There will always be naysayers and laggards,snowball rolling 1 but the more people we can bring along the better. Another way to put it is that when those around us are growing and expanding their spheres of influence, our sphere of influence will grow! This is essentially the commitment to mentoring and multiplying of new leaders by empowering and envisioning them to see how their personal vision can be fulfilled within the context of a larger shared vision. When the culture changes from ‘I’ to ‘we’, we all win. A ground swell of momentum and movement slowly builds like a snowball going down a hill. It starts out slow and small, and then gains speed becoming an unstoppable force! Remember, it may take some years of living the dream within the confines of your present fences and field before your sphere of influence expands.

Go start a movement by helping folks heed their fences, focus on their fields of relational, geographic, and delegated influence, and by helping folks stoke the flame for taking new jumps of faith or risk!”

By Tim Schultz

Matrix Leadership: Navigating Between Parallel and Colliding Worldviews!

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Jan 212014

Travelling Between Parrallel UniversesWe are living in a day, when maybe more than ever, there are growing chasms, nasty collisions, and ugly cultural wars being fought around which ideologies, worldviews, theologies, systems, and perspectives on social issues will shape the world we live in. One doesn’t have to look far in the arenas of politics, the church, and economics to see this reality. The following are blatant examples of these wars going on. Who can forget the gong show last year in America exhibited in the utter intransigence of the left and the right to budge nary an inch over how to deal with the budget and debt ceiling crisis. The polarization and unwillingness to seriously dialogue and seek solutions from both sides led to the shutting down of the American gov’t. What about the kerfuffle that the singer Neil Young stirred up in the last couple of weeks with his, sometimes informed and sometimes ignorant of the facts, crusade against the oil sands development in northern Alberta? How about the media battle waged over the Christmas break between those who are pro and those who are against homosexuality and gay marriage demonstrated in the Duck Dynasty controversy, and the scrutinizing of Pope Francis’s comments about gays.

In leadership circles, there are the ongoing debates about the merits of flattening out and implementing ofCollisions in Worldview 1 more egalitarian models of leadership versus the more hierarchical, top down styles of leading. In systems and organizational theory forums, there are discussions over whether a centralized or de-centralized system is better than the other. Then there are the social justice issues as they relate to where we shop based on the ethics of how our clothes are produced. Do we know whether the workers who are producing   our favorite brand name clothes are being paid a fair wage and working in horrific conditions or not?  Are all the box stores and multi-nationals to be avoided in favor of the boutique shop? What about only shopping from local, organic producers? Are simple, small churches better than large, mega churches?

Parrallel universe 2In the church, there are vociferous theological battles being waged over everything from the existence of hell; to whether homosexuality is an acceptable sexual orientation one is born with, or an abnormal, sinful choice made out of rebellion or gender confusion; to hermeneutics (how we should interpret the Bible). The Neo-reformers and emergent folk are lobbing verbal grenades of judgment at each other that at times gets quite personal. People are being branded heretics for believing in the ‘openness of God’ perspective (the view that God may choose not to exert meticulous control over everything that happens in this world), or for having a different angle on the penal substitution theory of the atonement.  The post modern emergents are not without fault. Often emergents can come across like snobby elitist liberals who have somehow attained perfect enlightenment on the truth, and hold disdain for their right wing conservative brothers and sisters who they view as stuck in the dark ages and neanderthals.

I can appreciate the fear and concern coming from the conservative neo-reformers that absolute truth is beingParrallel Universe 1 watered down into a milquetoast relativism, or a universalism where it doesn’t matter what you believe because all roads lead to God. Yet the longer I live and the more I study history, I realize that most of our wrestles with truth are not new. None of us have the corner on truth or on Jesus. We all know in part. There is absolute truth, but none of us have the corner on absolute truth. A genuine seeker of truth is both humble and hungry to find truth never claiming that they have fully arrived. We are all progressively coming into greater revelation of the Truth. We all are needing to close the gap between what we say we believe, and how we then live.

The resulting polarization, mean spirited vitriol, and violent gun slinging with words and actions is leaving a lot of collateral damage, division, paralysis, disdain for leadership, rejection of the traditional institutions they lead, and even sometimes death when folks revert to violence to defend their point of view.Tug of war

Around the world we see the push and pull either towards tribalism or nationalism, rigid fundamentalism or intolerant liberalism, and the accordion effect from centralization to decentralization and back. Just look at the mess in the Middle East, especially Syria. These clashes of ideology are not going away. Our world seems like a complex matrix made up of opposite, yet intersecting universes. It is overwhelming and scary. We can choose to either bury our heads in the sand and pretend these tectonic collisions are not happening, or out of fear we can dig in and defend our present position at all costs.

There is a desperate need for a different kind of leadership. Most people are fed up with the bickering and are looking for leaders who will bring people together rather than polarize. We need leaders who seek a common center that embraces paradox while avoiding partisan politics and the extremes of either side. We need leaders who have an appreciation for conflicting ideas where the answer may not be either/or but both.

Travelling Between Parrallet Universes 2“Matrix leadership is the ability to travel between two divergent universes holding onto the strengths of each worldview while discarding what is blatantly evil, and challenging the polarizing behavior or blind spots of either worldview. Matrix leaders are at ease with paradox and mystery. They are able to rise above myopic thinking to see the big picture solutions that transcend partisan politics. They seek a higher ethic, give space for divergent opinions, and  don’t see diversity as a threat, but a thing of beauty.”



Ecclesiastes 7:18 says it this way: “Its best to stay in touch with both sides of an issue. A person who fears God deals responsibly with all of reality, not just a piece of it”


Matrix Leadership Skills to Practice and Develop:

  • Become a Gatekeeper, Synergistic Thinker, and Cross-Cultural Translator: This calls for a person who is willing to immerse themselves in and understandCollisions and Beauty cultures, languages, and the customs of 2 worldviews that are polar opposites in many ways. For example my wife grew up in Japan and I grew up in Africa, yet we are both Canadians. How Africans view time is quite different from how the Japanese view time. A Japanese train is rarely late while a meeting in Africa rarely starts on time.The funny thing is that when it comes to time my wife is more African and I’m more Japanese! This skill requires developing a third worldview or perspective that can hold in tension the diversity of 2 opposing ways of thinking on an issue and offer up a 3rd alternative. They are good at using humor to poke at the blind spots and inconsistencies in a particular perspective in a non-threatening way. They are good at translating the meta-narrative of one worldview into the language of the opposing worldview in a way that brings appreciation and understanding.
  • Become a Statesman and Storyteller: This skill requires searching for creative solutions that move opposite poles to a common center where both sides compromise and feel they are able to contribute. Learn to tell stories that unify us around a grand vision, and communicate our deepest longings in the language of the heart.
  • Matrix 1Become a Curious Life Long Learner: Read, study and become versed in both sides of an issue of ideology, theology, or economics. Most of us react to the other side out of ignorance and fear.
  • Become a Peace Maker and Negotiator: Learn the skills of conflict resolution. Take a course on the subject. Make it part of your life’s work to help bring reconciliation between estranged family members, friends, and conflicts in the work place.


  • “Matrix leaders are bridge builders, peace makers, and statesmen or women who can hold in tension paradox without compromising core values and ideas.”

  • Become a Relationship Broker and Connector: Create spaces where you bring people of different views together to hear each others story. Develop friendships and enter into respectful dialogue with people who hold an opposing view on politics, theology, economics, or sexual orientation. Do not enter into the dialogue with the goal of trying to change the other persons beliefs, but simply listen and try to understand their point of view.
  • Become a Systems Architect and Collaboration Coach : A systems architect will give room for differentParrallel Structures 1 shapes and structures to co-exist and even support each other without trying to change one another, compete with one another or  judge one another. In a large business, organization, or church where there are multiple departments that are competing for resources, there is a need for leaders who will help competing entities see that through sharing of resources all can win.


  • “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if large, mega churches or businesses would financially support and help start simple church movements or small businesses without having to control them or keep them under their organizational umbrella.”

  •  Develop a thick skin as you will have arrows shot at you from both sides.

Our Deepest Longing In Relationships: Experiencing and Practicing Unfailing Kindness and Faithfulness

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Sep 102013
What we all long for!

What we all long for!

Most of our problems in marriages, relationships, community, and church flow from a faulty view of the nature of God and the toxic residue we carry from our experiences of broken trust, promises and covenants not kept, and of betrayal in our relationships with one another. We get tired and resentful when we initiate with people, and they don’t initiate in return. We often feel like we have been used in relationships to benefit someone else’s agenda, or on the flip side we’ve been guilty of using people to meet our needs. We have a hard time trusting God or people because they have not kept their end of the bargain from our perspective.

I believe this is how many folks outside of the church feel when we develop a relationship with the subtle unspoken, or sometimes spoken agenda of converting them, or getting them into our church. People are smart and can smell a slick vacuum cleaner salesmen or multi-level marketing scheme a mile away.  What would it look like to love people with no strings attached? Is that even possible or right?

He loves us even if we reject Him!

He loves us even if we reject Him!

I believe that our best example of how authentic relationship works comes from God. The highest value in the Trinity is relationship flowing out of love. God loves us with no strings attached. He keeps His end of the bargain even when we don’t. He remains faithful even when we are unfaithful. (II Tim 2:13) He is a covenant and promise keeping God. (Hebrews 6:13-19) God takes the risk of loving us first while being fully aware that we may choose not to love Him in return. The Trinity will continue to love us even when we don’t reciprocate that love. He demonstrates unfailing kindness to us.

Hesed 1The Hebrew word for this core part of the nature of God is Hesed. It is such a rich and profound word that describes the kind of relationship God practices. In Exodus 34: Psalm 86:15 from the Message says it this way: “But you, O God, are both tender and kind, not easily angered, immense in love, and you never, never quit. ”  This thread of God’s faithfulness and everlasting kindness is woven through out the Bible. I believe it is the highest ethic in God’s heart, and what we so long for in our relationship with God, and one another. When we experience faithfulness we are secure in our relationships!

Sealing the deal!

Sealing the deal!

In the O. T., there are some interesting practices when one entered into a covenant with God or another person. An animal was sacrificed and cut in two halves from the nose to the tail. The two parties would stand on the blood facing each other. They would pledge their lives to each other, commit their wealth to each other, and they promised to take care of each others relatives if the either party died (Go’el – near kinsmen). They would pledge to be loyal to each other even if one party should screw up. They would then walk in a circle 8 around the halved animal, so that they ended up where the other party had stood to begin with. To seal the covenant, they would cut their wrists and grasp hands letting their blood mingle, and they add the other persons name to their name. In Genesis 17: 5 when God makes a covenant with Abram. Abram takes part of God’s name JHAWEH and inserts into his name becoming Abraham.

In our understanding of God, many of us wonder if He is a dual personality playing Jekyll and Hyde. In some instances in the Bible, He comes across as an angry God doling out severe punishments, wiping out people, and then on the other hand extending mercy. He seems to flip flop, depending on His mood that day. In relating to this kind of God we walk on  egg shells never really knowing whether He will be kind towards us or angry at us. Out this notion of who God is we have a hard time trusting Him. This then impacts how we relate to one another.

I believe that to understand God’s holiness, judgments, power, and justice, we must see these characteristics through the prism of Hesed. If we don’t, holiness becomes legalism, a list of behaviors through which we judge people, or a form of religion where by through our behavior we try to win God’s approval. Through this skewed lens, justice and His judgments are viewed as punitive, or God venting His anger rather than demonstrations of His love.

Love puts boundaries around us to protect us!

Love puts boundaries around us to protect us!

When God stands up for and defends the under dog (the poor, the widow, the foreigner and the alien) we see His love expressed in justice. When through His judgments He brings order out of chaos caused by sin we taste of His unfailing kindness to restore His fabric of beauty, peace, and generosity to all of creation. When we experience the discipline of God, we see a Father who loves us enough to train us so we grow up. He cares enough to put up fences to keep us from harm, and yet gives us the freedom to face the consequences of crossing these boundaries. (Hebrews 12:5-11).

When it comes to God we are to respect Him, fear Him, and stand in awe of Him. Yet we can respect someone we don’t really like. If our view of God is that He is consistently angry, not pleased with us, constantly pointing out our faults and sins, and looking for reasons to punish us, we will want to hold Him at arms length. We end up avoiding or hiding from Him. If we see Him as a grouchy, mean-spirited, war mongering, vindictive God who keeps score, we will want to avoid spending time with Him, especially if we have not been faithful.

His Kindness never fails!

His Kindness never fails!

If our image of God is one where the consequence of choosing not to love Him is that He will rejects us, or will turn His back on us, we end up acting like servants trying to keep a Master happy, not friends. Yet Jesus in John 15 says that God wants us to be friends not merely servants.  The question is “Do you like the God you worship? 

Yet His nature is so opposite to what many of us believe. He is first and foremost  a merciful and faithful God. When we blow it, He gives us a second, third, fourth, and who knows how many chances. It is His kindness that brings us to repentance. It is love that changes people.Do we really believe that? Exodus 34:6 in the Message says: “God, God, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient– so much love, so deeply true — loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin..”

The practical question is: When we have tasted of and are secure in the unfailing kindness (Hesed) of God how will that impact how we live out relationships in community and mission?  There is much that could be said, but for the sake of brevity, I will pose a few questions to ponder and ideas of how we can apply Hesed in our relationships in and outside of our communities of faith.

The end goal of communities of Jesus followers is summed up in John 15;13: Greater love has on one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”  “We are to become a community of faithful forgiving friends!” 

Communities of faithful friends!

Communities of faithful friends!

Below are some questions to help us move towards that goal.

  1. When have you experienced betrayal or broken covenant in your life? What trust issues do have as a result?
  2. Is there still residual pain that causes you to hold God and people at arms length?
  3. Do you keep score and hold on to grudges from past hurts?
  4. When people don’t keep their end of bargain or meet up to your expectations do you feel resentful or look for pay back?
  5. Do you have some relationships in your life where there is no other agenda other than to simply enjoy their presence with no strings attached? The relationship is not founded on whether the personcan perform some function to further your agenda or mission as a community?
  6. How do you react to folks who blow it big time? Is their a safety in your community for folks to be vulnerable and honest with their mess? What happens when a person of another sexual orientation comes into your community?
  7. Does your community quickly make space and welcome in the foreigner, widow, single moms, orphans, and the poor?
  8. When a leader in the community has to step back from leading, do they still feel welcome and a part of the of the community? Is there an inner circle of the cool leader types and an outer circle of folks in your community? Is it hard to break into the ‘in’ circle?
  9. Is there the freedom to express our spoken and unspoken expectations for community, and the freedom for people to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to those expectations?
  10. Have you ever experienced people moving into the same neighborhood together to love one another and serve that community? Have you ever experienced people selling a second house or car and giving all that money to the poor out of love?
  11. Are you becoming a friend of Jesus and do you have a band of faithful, forgiving friends who practice ‘Hesed’?
Staying True!

Staying True!

When it comes to mission I believe we need to have genuine friendships with those outside the church and love people whether they ever say ‘yes’ to Jesus or not. We are to love folks whether they ever come to our church community or not.

Without authentic relationship where we love people with no strings attached, we end up assuaging our guilt, or getting weird by doing forms of power or prophetic evangelism where we parachute in and out of people’s lives doing our thing to people in a strange way. We end up doing programs of evangelism, like sharing the 4 spiritual laws, that feels forced or aggressive. We come across as arrogant, and as if we have the truth and others don’t. We do proclamation evangelism through a meeting without taking the time to really get involved with folks God has put around us to love and be loved by. All of these approaches to sharing our faith are good and effective, but lack integrity if we don’t start with real relationships.

We need to chill and begin by just loving people, and letting them love us in return. Out of relationship, God will give us opportunity to share our story of how we have had an encounter with Jesus where we have tasted of His unfailing kindness that has met the deepest longing in our hearts, and is the reason why we love others with no strings attached. As Jesus said in John 13:35 “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” 





Timing is Everything: Doing Our Part and Then Chilling Out

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Aug 062013
It is always dark just before the light breaks through.

It is always dark just before the light breaks through.

Have you ever needed something to happen where there is an impending deadline after which the consequences seem pretty dire? Have you ever had a situation where things worked out at the last minute or the 11th hour? It may be some finances coming in, a job opening that you are waiting on, a document being processed, and a house or other item selling. Most of us get stressed out when we want or need something big or small to happen according to our timeline. We feel out of control and that our fate is in the hands of others. When things don’t go according to our plans we worry, fret, throw our hands in the air, and maybe even throw a temper tantrum or hissy fit! We become either fatalistic, or some of us take things into our own hands and try to make the desired result come to fruition, usually leading to more frustration and weariness when there is a delay or roadblock.

Timing is really all about doing our part and then letting go, trusting that there is a perfect and right time for everything.

It is coming to the realization that we have a Creator who is involved in the affairs of this world, both big andTrust 1 small, and cares about every concern we have. As Matthew 6 says, we have a Father who cares for the sparrows and makes sure they get fed. He even makes sure the lilies are clothed beautifully. If He cares that much for birds and flowers, how much more does He care for our needs? God calls us to do our part and then relax and trust that He will work things out at the right time!

It is also the revelation that as much as we think we are in control of things, we are not. The sooner we learn this lesson the less negative emotional energy we will expend, which in the end does little but increase our stress levels and raise our blood pressure!


Waiting is the hardest thing to do!

There are two contrasting Greek words for time. The one word is chronos: a space of time with an uncertain start or ending, a season which lasts for awhile often implying delay. (Matt. 25:19; Acts 8:11, 14:3,18; Heb. 4:7; Rev. 10:6) This word has to do with the normal routine, pattern or course of time. It has to do with being faithful in living the mundane, and doing our part as we wait for those things we hope for. It seems very slow and like a long time. It is often the ‘not yet’ times of our lives.

Ripening 1

Suddenly, the fruit is ripe for the picking!

The other word for time is kairos: the metaphor for this word comes from fruit that is ripe for the picking. This is the fullness of time when things happen suddenly or at an accelerated rate (2 Cor. 6:2; Ephesians 1:10). After what seems like a long period of waiting and being faithful, things happen at a quicker pace than normal and often with little of our efforts. Things come together suddenly and loose ends are wrapped up. It seems like there is a convergence of people, events, and circumstances, so that all the pieces of the puzzle that were disconnected fit into place. This is a time of opportunity and action. It is the already or now season of our lives.

Here is a recent story from our lives about perfect timing. A few months ago, we engaged in the process of selling our 2010 Honda Civic. The reason for selling the Civic was that our oldest son Jon was in the process of getting his driver’s training, and to insure him for both collision and liability on the Civic would have been an astronomical cost beyond what he or we could afford. We wanted to pay off the remaining loan on the car and have a little money to help Jon buy an older reliable car that he would only need to put liability insurance on. So we did our part and listed the car on Kijiji, Auto Trader, and Face Book, as well as letting friends know by word of mouth. We had a few people inquire about the car, but the deal breaker would be that the car had no A/C. One gal, who had just recently graduated from university, really liked the car, but in the end it was too expensive for her to buy and insure. We lowered the price to $11,500, and waited with this nagging concern about the impending costs of insurance for Jon, and the ongoing car payments.

out of control 2Meanwhile, Esther, my wife, who is very practical and often wonders whether she hears God or not (at least in the more exotic ways), kept seeing the number 11:11 on digital clocks in our house or car.  The number 11 is often a type or symbol of things coming together or happening in the last hour, as well as the number for incompleteness or chaos. Often there is chaos before things come into order, isn’t there? Thus the saying ‘at the 11th hour’.  She had this sense that the car would sell at just the right time. Well, this turned out to be prophetic.

After 4 months of trying to sell the car (our chronos time of delay and being faithful in doing our part), and a couple weeks after Jon passed his drivers test and needed to be insured on one of our vehicles, friends of ours who knew we were selling the car and had mentioned possible interest, contacted us to let us know that one of their cars had died. They came over, had a test drive, and paid us $11,000 for the car, all within the space of a couple days. Hmm, sounds like kairos timing!  That same week, Jon was offered a car for next to nothing by a friend he works with. It is an older vehicle with a little rust, but runs well, so his insurance costs will be much lower. As Hannibal, from the old TV series A-Team, used to say, “I love it when a plan comes together.” For those of you born after 1987, you’ll have to google Hannibal to see what you’ve missed!

So I want to encourage any of you out there that are still waiting for something important to happen to hang in there. You have a Dad who cares for you and is concerned about even the smallest circumstances of your life. Lean into Him in the chaos.

Stick with it in living those things you value even when it doesn’t look like there will be any immediate dividends for your faithfulness and hard work.

Discern the season you are in and respond accordingly. As the book of wisdom, Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 11 says, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heaven…He has made everything beautiful inTiming is Everything its time..” If you are in a winter season or time of grieving, then this is a time for being, resting, recuperating, and not doing. If you are in a spring season, then start stuff, plant things, and build with all your strength and smarts. If you are in a fall season, then reap the harvest of all your hard work and enjoy. In a summer season of life, we get to watch what we have planted grow with a little watering.

By learning to do our part and then learning to trust and let go, we experience what it means to live a carefree life!


Creating a Healthy Culture of Ownership in Community: Everyone Coming to Give and Receive

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Jun 232013
Giving in Community 2

Crisis creates a sense of ownership and community.

As I write this, our city of Calgary and my community of Bowness is experiencing a state of emergency due to unprecedented flooding that has forced the evacuation of around 100,000 people from their homes. A large portion of our downtown is under water, including Stampede Park and the Saddledome. This disaster has been no respecter of persons. Rich and poor have been affected.  In the midst of all the loss and chaos, I’ve been amazed at the how this crisis has created a sense of community where so many folks are pitching in and willing to go to extra-ordinary measures to help their neighbors in whatever way they can. There is a strong sense of ownership, and people willing to sacrifice for each other. My questions are, “Is is possible to sustain this sense of ownership and giving and receiving in community beyond the crisis, and if so, how?”  and “What are the factors that stymie or kill ownership in community?”

When people have a sense of ownership in the creating of a community, they are willing to make great voluntary sacrifices for the sake of the community. Sacrifice becomes a privilege not obligation.

Eighty Twenty RuleOne of the factors that sooner or later will stunt or even kill the health of a community is when the same few people are doing all of the giving while the majority of the community are happy to come and receive. This is what we commonly call the 80/20 rule: 20% doing the giving while the 80% receive. If this trend continues in a community, the ‘givers’, who are usually the leaders, either burnout or become resentful that they are doing all the giving.

Greener grass 1

Hmm, the grass is greener over here!

Furthermore this pattern breeds a culture of immaturity in the rest of the community. The 80% come happy to consume but not contribute. This consumer mindset and practice results in people treating community like a commodity where they can pick and choose what goodies they like, and become critical about those goods and services that are not meeting up to their expectations. They don’t own the community and when the community is not meeting their needs they pick up and leave. In church culture, we call this the migration or shuffling of the sheep from pen to pen in search of greener grass.

“As leaders we need to be training people how to be be self-feeders and empower them to care for each other.”

navel gazing

Inward focused community gets stuck with navel gazing!

While it is true that many people have been deeply hurt within church communities and need a place to heal and process these hurts, some communities develop an identity around people’s pathos or sickness, leading to a culture of navel gazing, negativity, and narcissism. The ethos of the community is created around being against something, or bad mouthing everything and everyone, as well as a self-centered attitude of victimization. The tone of the gatherings quickly turns into a complaining session about what’s wrong with the existing systems or institutions of government and church, and what people think the organizations should be giving them rather than how they can be a solution to what’s broken. People never get better and stay stuck in their unhealthy patterns of behavior spiritually, emotionally, financially, and relationally. Instead of taking personal responsibility for their choices and their healing, there is blame shifting. This is enabled by leaders who are always bailing folks out, coddling people, and assuaging this ‘woe is me’ mentality. This focus on navel gazing and negativity repels healthy folks. The community becomes ingrown and eventually dies or people turn on each other.

isolation 2

Resist the tendency to isolate!

The other tendency I’ve noticed in faith communities is that some people, when they are going through a hard time, will tend to isolate from the community. They disappear and don’t let anyone know. What we fail to realize is that our decisions do not just impact us, but affect the rest of the community. We are not an island unto ourselves. I do believe that there are times when we need distance from the community for a period of time. A healthy way to process a time out from the community is to communicate that decision with the community. The community should keep a door open for their return.

Need in many leaders to be at the center!

Need in many leaders to be at the center!

For many of us in leadership roles, we need to be aware of our unhealthy motivation to be needed that is fed by people treating us like a savior, as if we are indispensable. We quickly can become the center of community to the point that the community revolves around us. We develop an identity around always being in the power position of giving or having all the answers. This over-inflated view of our importance manifests in leaders trying to do it all to keep everyone happy. When these needs become our primary internal drivers, we become a bottleneck to healthy community.

Often leaders resist letting their guard down out of a fear that people will lose respect for them. Other blockages to leaders receiving are the fear that they will be perceived as incompetent, or that showing their weaknesses will make them vulnerable to others taking advantage of them through gossip. Yet if leaders never share their needs with the community or receive from the community, people will not bond with their leaders, or grow up and take ownership.

Receiving from community!

Receiving from community!

At any stage in the life of a community we have folks who are coming primarily to receive something  from the community because of tough life circumstances such as economic, spiritual, relational, or emotional struggles. We need to create space in our community for folks in these stages of life. They need to feel free to just come and be loved, without any pressure to perform or produce. Community for people who are suffering, grieving, spent, burned out and running on empty should be a safe place to just ‘be’.

We all have something to give and receive in healthy community!

We all have something to give and receive in healthy community!

On the other hand, it is my firm belief that every person has something to give and receive when the community gathers. Not everyone can give to the same level, but we all have something to contribute. Even the poorest person can bring a bottle of pop to the potluck. It has been my conviction and observation that part of the process of healing for people going through troubled waters is to be able to come alongside another person in the community and give a word of encouragement. Even if all someone can do is show up, their very presence is a gift.


Giving and Receing 2I believe that we all have an innate longing to contribute and create together in community. How do we create communities of ownership and mutual giving and receiving ? Below are a few practical suggestions:

Change the language in community from ‘I’, ‘mine’, or ‘yours’ to ‘we’, and ‘ours’.


  • Give opportunities where ‘everyone gets to play’ or have ownership in contributing and co-creating: take time for people to express their vision for the community and then invite them to be the initiators to see that vision happen.

    Creating community together

    Our community that we create together!


  • As leaders, resist the temptation to start a program or initiative that people have expressed as a need, but are not willing to implement themselves or co-create with others of like mind.

“When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” I Cor. 14:26


  • Everyone has something to give!

    Everyone gets to participate!

    Here is practical way to help a smaller community begin to develop a giving and receiving culture :  Prepare people to come ‘share their gift’  in the next gathering. Encourage everyone to bring something to share with the community. It could be cookies they bake, a painting, a poem, a Scripture, a word of encouragement for the group or a member of the group, a song or piece of music they would like to sing or play. These times of sharing can include participation from even the youngest group member, teaching children from an early age that they have something to give!


  • Develop a board on your website where people can post their needs practically, and others can post skills they can use to serve, as well as material things they have to give away.Giving and receiving 3


  • Communicate the expectation and value for giving and receiving in community over and over again. Allow people to express what they are willing and able to give. Be careful to not project your expectations on others! Instead negotiate reasonable expectation.

By Tim Schultz

Wired For Adventure: Dare to Take the Road Less Traveled!

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Jun 172013
Bilbo's Band of Friends

Going with a band of friends on an Adventure

One of the deepest longings in all of us is the desire to make a difference in this world.  Though most of life is full of the mundane and ordinary, which is important and keeps us grounded, deep down all of us crave adventure. Even the most risk adverse or timid homebody is drawn towards epic stories of bravery, honor, deep friendship, and yes, even some romance. Some of us fantasize about what it would be like to go on a quest with close friends to overcome evil with good. We often choose to live these longings vicariously through someone else’s story rather than daring to take the road less traveled for ourselves. Just look at how popular the recent movie the Hobbit is or how many kids are immersed in video role playing games, especially boys.

The next generation is searching for a an adventure worth giving their lives for!

Don't let fear keep you from saying YES to an adventure!

Don’t let fear keep you from saying YES to an adventure!

Most of us are like Bilbo Baggins from the movie the Hobbit. Bilbo is quite content to stay put in Hobbiton where life is safe and predictable. That all changes when Gandolf and the dwarves show up at his house and invite him to join him on a grand adventure to restore and redeem their homeland from the evil dragon. Initially, he refuses the invitation to join the dwarves on their odyssey. He is afraid, feels inadequate, and would rather enjoy the comforts of Hobbiton than risk signing up for a sojourn with Gandolf and the dwarves which would be rife with danger and uncertainty. After the dwarves leave to start their journey, Bilbo is overcome with that gnawing internal tug we all have to be part of something life changing and not miss out by giving in to our doubts. He overcomes his fears and runs after the dwarves embarking on the joy and challenge of taking the road less traveled with a few, faithful, forgiving friends.

We are all wired for adventure!

We are all wired for adventure!

Deep down we all want to be part of a grand story where even the menial and the mundane things of life have meaning. In short, we all want to live a life of significance. We want our lives to count for something. Even the most shy, fearful person is wired for an adventure that makes a difference.Adventure Seeking

Some try to escape the tedious, ho hum, daily grind by becoming thrill seekers. They embark on some daring feat like climbing Mount Everest, or becoming adrenaline junkies by always pushing the limits. They attempt crazy pursuits such as hang gliding, or the latest craze in Norway, called wingsuit jumping. This is a sport where folks climb to the top of a cliff overlooking a fiord and jump. The first hundred or so feet you free fall. Then at the last possible moment you pull the ripcord for your parachute and hope it works to break your fall before you splat on the valley below.  Sounds crazy to me!

The majority of us will never attempt such great exploits, yet all of us are being invited to go on a grand adventure where we become contributors and sojourners in the Big Story of God’s plan to rescue and restore this world back to His original idea. Yes, as amazing as it sounds, you and I are being tapped on the shoulder with the invitation to join God on His mission to bring justice, peace, beauty, reconciliation, renewal, and restoration to all of God’s creation. (Romans 8:18-21; II Cor. 5:18-20) We have the privilege to be part of God’s natural and super natural solutions to end poverty, to provide clean water and education for all, to be advocates of justice for abused women and children, to eradicate diseases such as HIV and malaria, to bring real peace between competing and warring peoples and ethnic groups, to discover clean energy sources that don’t damage the environment, to create beauty and communicate truth through the arts, and to be the delivery boy or girl who brings the message of Hope to all: the Good News that the Creator of the Universe loves us and desires to have a relationship with each and every one of us.

We are not to go on this journey alone. God promises His backing, and all of His resources to help us. We are to find a circle of friends who together ask these three questions: “What part are you and I to play in God’s Big Story?” and “What are the gifts, talents, and ideas given to us from God to make a difference in this world? ” and “Who are the band of friends that we are link arms with on this grand adventure?”

To take our place in this Grand Story requires taking a risk and choosing to take the road less traveled. These choices are presented to us daily in small ways, and then occasionally in our lives we are given opportunities to choose a path that results in monumental and deeply impacting changes to us and the world we live in. With that I leave you with this poem from Robert Frost to reflect on as you and I contemplate the choices before us:

Divergent Paths



by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, 

And sorry I could not travel both 

And be one traveller, long I stood

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same, 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Road Less Traveled

Here’s to living a life full of purpose and adventure. Take the road less traveled and see where it takes you!

Demystifying Our Life Calling: Diving Into the Zig Zag Adventure of Connecting the Dots

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Jun 052013

Connecting the dots 1Many of us struggle all our lives with the existential questions such as, “Why am I on planet earth?”, or when framed in a more religious context, “What is God’s will for my life?” The quest to discover the answer to these questions leaves many of us stuck in a fatalistic, passive, ho-hum resignation that the answer is to mystical or difficult to figure out. It feels like we have to be a spiritual guru, mystic or prophet who regularly gets open-eyed 3-D visions, hears the audible voice of God, or sees angels. If not a mystic, we feel like we have to be Bill Gates with the intellect of a genius to unravel the labyrinth of life.

Realizing that we are not spiritual giants or geniuses, we decide to just let life happen to us, or hope that God zaps us with a clear directive dictated through the proverbial writing on the wall or through a vision of an angel telling us what to do. We end up paralyzed as we grope around in the dark or fog waiting for this sudden flash of light, angelic appearance, or prophet to illuminate the path or direction we should take. We end up feeling like the quest for our life’s purpose is much like playing the proverbial game of pin the tail on the donkey blindfolded. At best we have a 10% – 30% chance at hitting the mark.

This is not to say that God doesn’t speak to some through more exotic or supernatural means on a regular basis. It is the feeling and thinking that if we don’t regularly get dreams, visions, or angelic visitations then something is wrong with us spiritually, or that we don’t quite measure up that I want to free us from. God does speak through extra-ordinary ways when we are in danger, need a dramatic change in direction, or when we start out developing our spiritual radar to encourage us that He is real! Yet for most of us and in most cases the journey of hearing God’s voice is a conversational relationship between two friends that recognize each others voice after spending a lot of time together. They don’t need to shout at one another to get each other’s attention!

Rubix CubeOthers of us embark on a complicated journey of attempting to unravel the mystery as if it were a game that we can conquer if we could only figure out the rules and master them. We think our life calling is like a riddle, a Rubix cube brain teaser, or like trying to untangle a knotted ball of yarn that simply needs to be figured out. If we just get the formula right or execute our 5 year plan, the road map for our lives will be clear and a straight line to our end destination. The harder we try to make things happen and bring about our desired outcome, the more we realize that we are not fully in control. There are surprises and serendipitous encounters that just happen and become pivotal threads in forming the tapestry of our life mission.

For many, the quest for our life purpose or God’s will for our lives seems so illusive, and only to be attained by the few really smart people or the spiritually elite folks. We feel like schmucks or second class citizens when others speak with confidence about their life mission and how they are living it. I want to debunk this kind of thinking.

If only I could figure out the way through the labyrinth?

If only I could figure out the way through the labyrinth?

“Finding our calling should not be so complicated and mystical. It is neither a formula or a mystery! It is more like the zig zag adventure of connecting the dots by following our hunches in the midst of making value based choices. As we follow our intuition with intention, the bigger picture of our life mission takes shape.”  Tim Schultz

It is a series of daily small decisions we make like choosing which stones to step on to get to the other side of the river. It is both a subjective and objective process where we need to give up the fear of making mistakes or getting it wrong. I want to demystify this journey of discovery of our life purpose by suggesting some ways to connect the dots and have fun doing it.

  • Listen, trust, and move on your hunches, gut feelings, nudges, or what Christians call the ‘still small voice or whisper’. (I Kings 19:12)  Other words to describe your gut feeling is intuition or discernment. For Christians, this is where the interaction and conversation with the Holy Spirit takes place.


  • How do I know whether my hunches are right to follow?

    How do I know whether my hunches are right to follow?

    I know that following one’s hunches raises some good questions like: “How do I know that my hunches are right and that I’m not just making stuff up or being led by my emotions?”  “How do I know whether the still small voice is God or not?” Like any relationship, we learn to recognize the familiarity of the voice of our friend by spending time with them, listening to them, and risk taking on what we hear. (John 10:4-5; II Cor. 2: 12-13) Another safeguard is to test our gut feelings through the filter of our core values. If a hunch contradicts them then best to test that hunch by consulting some friends, collecting more objective info, and not making a rash decision based on our hunch. 


  • Make room for, and adjust to the surprises and serendipitous encounters or experiences that come along your path and change your course, or interrupt you plans! (Proverbs 16:9;I Cor. 16:5-9) Interruptions to our plans are to remind us that as much as we plan there are factors beyond our control that shape who we are to become. We can fight or resist these seeming zigs and zags, and in doing so miss out on wonderful opportunities or open doors.


  • Get the car in drive. Start moving in a direction even if the road map is not yet fully clear as to where you
    Which way do I go?

    Which way do I go?

    will end up.  If you need to make adjustments to your course, you can do so while in motion, or if God needs to re-direct you He can do so even through more dramatic ways such as through a dream, vision, or an angel. (Acts 16:6-10)


  • Daily Live Your Values. (I Thess. 5:16-22) These are the ropes or chains that you hold on to and keep you from straying off the path and over a cliff by making decisions solely on subjective feelings that could be catastrophic. If you are a follower of Jesus start by ‘obeying the Book.’ As you do the general will of God, He will give you the specifics.


  • What do I really love doing?

    What do I really love doing?

    Figure out what you are good at, what you really enjoy doing, and keep doing more of that. (Romans 12:6-8) I tell people that I was born to coach, start things-which means being a catalyst, and connecting people to one another. One reflection exercise to help unearth these passions or motivational gifts is to look back on your life up to this point and track what kinds of things have you done where you felt a sense of this is what I was created to do. When have you experienced the most joy, fulfillment, and a clear sense of contribution?


  • Ask for input from friends or community around you. (Proverbs 15:22;16:20) Court counsel from folks who really know you, are for you, and will be honest with you even to the point of telling you what you might not like to hear.


  • Have fun in the adventure and don’t be afraid to make mistakes!


By Tim Schultz


The Joy of Neighboring: Learning to Be Present With Those That Cross My Path

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Apr 112013

ConnectingThere are two innate longings in all of us:  the desire to connect and the desire to make a contribution. What I’m learning is that if I simply learn to be fully present with the people that God brings across my path, cool stuff happens where these two longings in me and the folks I meet are fulfilled. Without trying too hard, community and mission happens that is not artificial, programmatic, or pushy, but fun and fulfilling. We end up practicing the second command that Jesus gave us to love our neighbor in a way that is accessible to all and transcends all barriers. I love it!

The three practices I am slowly learning as the way to be fully present with people are listening, letting go of my agenda, and allowing people to give back to me. I want to share my story from last week that illustrates these three practices.

I was minding my own business last week, going through my normal routine of working out at the YMCA when it all happened. Now anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a pretty focused person when it comes to my workouts. When I go to work out, my agenda is not to visit or chit chat with people, but work my body hard enough that my shirt is dripping with sweat.  My wife always comments that I’m the sweatiest guy in the gym. This is my time to think, pray, work out any stress, do some anger management, and yes, work off some calories. Perfect multi-tasking which gives me great joy!

Well, needless to say, last week my agenda for my workout got blown out of the water. It all happened when a fella I’ll call Ali, a nominal Pakistani man in his late 60’s who I had met some months ago, decided to engage me in conversation. I was diligently working up a lather on the bike when I noticed Ali chatting with someone else two bikes down from me. Without any invitation, Ali moved over to the bike next to me and said, “Hi Tim! You’re that priest I met a few months ago.” I said, “Yes, I’m the nonreligious priest,  pastor, or life coach who is learning to be a follower of Jesus.” In my head I was thinking, “How can I make this short and sweet so I can get on with my workout?” Yet the Holy Spirit had other ideas.

Letting go.

Letting go.

Ali proceeded to tell me again about how six years ago his wife had been diagnosed with dementia and placed in a care facility. He shared how he had cried for two years straight because he missed and loved his wife so much. Before retiring, Ali had been a very successful geologist in the oil industry, and as far as material things go, he was not wanting. Yet he told me that all that wealth meant nothing to him because of the pain in his heart.

Then he asked me when we meet as a church community and if he could join us. He expressed how lonely he was and how he needed a place of belonging where he could tell his story, and that he would be willing to even contribute. I told him that one of the practices of our community is to encourage people to be vulnerable and then to pray for them. He said that though he wasn’t ready to follow Jesus, he had no problem being in the group and joining in the discussion about Jesus. At this point, I realized that I was in the middle of a God moment and that I needed to surrender my agenda for the rest of my workout.

The joy of eating together!

Eating together!

Ali went on to offer his home for us to meet in anytime. Then he said that to get to know us better he would like to take our whole family out for an East Indian meal at a local restaurant. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Here was a man that even in the midst of the pain he was experiencing in his life, was willing and offering to serve and give to us. What a profound Kingdom moment for me. All it took was for me to be willing to listen, let go of my agenda, invite him into community to experience love, and accept his offer to serve and give to me. How much easier could it get?

We ended our conversation that afternoon with some hearty laughs as he asked me questions about why the book of Song of Solomon was in the Bible with all that descriptive and sensual language about the beauty of a woman. He was curious as to why “pornography” would be in the Bible. Good question! I left that day both refreshed by how I was able to love my neighbor and receive in return, as well as convicted by how often I’ve missed those God moments because I haven’t  been fully present and aware of what God is doing around me.

I dream of communities of Jesus followers popping up all over the city, where normal everyday people take that little step of loving their neighbors and forming community and spiritual family around the lonely, the little, and the lost.

The Mosaic will be having a gathering called The Feast on Saturday May 4th, from 6-8 pm at Calgary Community Church in Montgomery, 5136 17th Ave NW. The theme will be The Art of Neighboring. You are welcome to join us as we explore this topic and hear the stories of joy and frustration from people who are exploring what it means to love their neighbor from across our city of Calgary.

Loving one another on this journey of life.

Loving one another on this journey of life.

A great resource on this topic of neighboring that is full of anecdotes and simple applications written by a couple of practitioners is The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door, by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon.


Tim Schultz