If you are reading this, it means that you are connected, in some way, to VantagePoint3. Very few of you have just “stumbled upon” this blog and website. (If that is the case for you, keep reading because I don’t believe in “coincidence”). Most likely, then, you are well aware of the impact VantagePoint3 processes have had in helping transform lives and communities. You have either personally experienced, or seen first hand, the transformational power of God at work in the life of a person equipped and empowered to live the life they were created to live.
Pam Edwards recently told one of the Vista Cohort groups, “Real change begins with people talking about their concerns.” Our concern, which I’ll bet is yours as well, is helping people grow deeper in their most important relationship and igniting faithful service in God’s mission.
In almost a year on the VantagePoint3 team I have learned, through an incredible number of conversations, that almost every person connected with VantagePoint3 has been introduced to us by someone whose life was transformed, through one of our processes, by the deepening of their relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Over the past number of years I have had the privilege of spending time with pastors, staffs and sharp lay leaders discussing how the VP3 processes have created a good sort of stirring. The amount of consistent lives changed has cued them to scootch up to their balcony to get a broader perspective of what is happening within their setting regarding the formation of their adults.
When I met with these good people, I would often think of other good people who were hanging out in their particular balcony, and believed that somehow these same perspective seekers could learn from one another. As good as it was to visit each of their settings offering a question or word of advice, I felt the nudge to invite them to come together away from their setting in order to pay attention to what they noticed from their balconies, to trust what they found themselves caring about, and to come up with a way to address what they now noticed from the balcony.
When the Thanksgiving holiday came around in Canada, which was usually the second weekend in October, I saw it primarily as a long weekend. In order of importance were: a day off school and eventually work, one extra night to stay up late and an extra morning to sleep in, for-sure church attendance that Sunday (Mom’s idea), and of course the signature turkey meal.
I remember my first American Thanksgiving in Missoula, Montana. I took a year off from the electrical trade to travel around North America with a ministry team of college agers. We would visit churches performing concerts, dramas, door-to-door visitation and discipleship training. I was the sound man. For the life of me I could not figure out why there was such a big to do by the Americans on the team regarding Thanksgiving, and why they felt so disheartened about not being able to be home with their families to celebrate what was obviously a major deal.
One saint from the early church, Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-211), defined prayer as “keeping company with God.” In this sense, Jesus invites his listeners to a prayer-ful life—life in the company of his divine community. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me… (Matthew 11) “Come to me…Learn from me…” Jesus says. He stresses that this prayer-ful life must be learned. We cannot simply reach out and grab such a faithful and wise life. It is not a life that can be purchased or picked off the shelf. We cannot read it in a manual and then simply follow the directions. Rather this sort of life demands that we immerse ourselves in a relationship of learning with the mentor.
The Reeses decided our vacation time this summer would include time spent in one of the most beautiful parts of the homeland of Canada, Banff National Park. Just before you get into the park along the #1 Highway you come to Canmore, Alberta. An impressive little town with ginormous sentinel mountains surrounding the town.
One of those mountains is called Ha-Ling Peak, named after a Chinese cook for the Canadian National Railway who in 1896 was double-dog-dared for fifty bucks to plant a flag at the top of the mountain. Those wagering the fifty bucks said he couldn’t do it in less than ten hours. He started at 7am and was back in time for lunch, planting a large enough flag for the doubters at the local watering hole to see. That was before any paths were cut to make it “easier” to get to the top.
The most significant book I have read in the past two years has to be Eugene Peterson’s The
Pastor: A Memoir. It is the story of his formation and his vocation as pastor. If you are not acquainted with Peterson or only acquainted with his contemporary translation The Message, then The Pastor would be a great place to start getting to know this important author. The book provides so many directions for fruitful reflection, conversation and prayer whether you are a pastor or not. The one thought in particular that keeps on grabbing my attention is in his Letter to a Young Pastor found at the end of the memoir.
Jason Koleba is the lead pastor at Cochrane Alliance Church in Cochrane, Alberta. If you get a chance to hang out with Jason, before you reach the end of your grande coffee you get a sense that he is a person in love with Jesus and His way in the world. In fact, a concern for unleashing the church to live more missionally is a significant part of Jason’s signature, and why he knows the importance of investing in the deepening and empowering of those who call Cochrane Alliance their home.
The following are some words of encouragement and challenge he offered to those whom he had been walking alongside over the past three years, helping them discover more deeply who God is, who they are, and what God desires to do through their lives for the Kingdom. To be honest, I find myself prayerfully hoping for similar words and letters to be given by more pastors across North America. The church would become an attractive community again if such “walkingalongsideness” were practiced.
I have been re-reading the Bible. It’s been a while since I’ve read it from ding to dong. Usually my intake of the Word is guided by a bit of a gut check to be honest with what book of the Bible or passage I need to land on for a bit. And I have never been disappointed in the Spirit’s way of timing what I read with the particulars of my life. Maybe that’s part of the “living and active” thing.
I’ve been making my way through Genesis over the past several weeks. There have been many foundational blocks laid in Genesis that our faith has been built upon, held together by the mortar of God’s Spirit. Quite frankly, I have found myself saying to myself many times on this read through, “Holy moly. Talk about your crazy narratives and timelines!”
In Ephesians 4:7-16 the apostle Paul communicates a vision of maturity that one New Testament scholar has summarized this way, “each member contributes to the growth of the body.”[i] This is the mystery of how God’s Spirit nurtures us as Christ’s body. If we are to mature it will be done in the company of others. It is truly a “life together” that God has in mind.
One of the concrete ways in which we can learn to live this “life together” amidst today’s individualistic culture is through the practice of friendship. Spiritual friendship does not naturally grow out of the fast-paced and competitive lives so many of us live. In reality, our professional priorities, and our household busy-ness many times stand against the cultivation of deep friendship.