Tag Archives: Lakeview Church

Unemployed

Today was my last day at The Salvation Army Community Services.  It was a good run but like all things come to an end.  I am still going to be involved in homeless issues here or where ever we end up and I am still writing about urban issues in The StarPhoenix.  I am not sure what I am going to do with my life now.  I spent 11 years as a pastor in Spiritwood (while working at Lakeview Church during some of the same years) and I have worked for The Salvation Army for the last six years so unemployment is a rare occurrence for me.  I think I have been unemployed for a week in my entire life. 

I am not sure what I am going to do now and am open to suggestions.  If you are wondering what I am good at, I updated my LinkedIn profile (I think I finally figured out what LinkedIn is for) but you can always email me at jordoncooper@gmail.com.  Walking out of a job without a plan is crazy course of action but I am really looking forward to what is ahead and where ever it takes me.

Review of The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch

Published by Brazos Press :: Purchase at Amazon.com or Amazon.ca
294 Pages
Website
: www.theforgottenways.org which also has an excellent weblog which is published by Alan Hirsch
Disclaimer: Publisher (Brazos Press) sent me a free review copy but I would have purchased the book regardless.

Before you start into the review, my initial thoughts on the book topped 9000 words which testifies to how good of book I thought it was but it was a little depressing to think that I needed to edit that long of a review (Wendy says that any review that long is not a review but a sequel). The book is divided into two sections so what I plan to do is review the first section now, take a week or so break from it and review the second section. I will put it all together for a single review when I am all done. As is the blog policy, all typos and spelling mistakes are mine and we will blame the spell checker in Google Docs and never speak of them again.

A couple of months ago now I started reading Alan Hirsch’s latest book, The Forgotten Ways. Along with Michael Frost, he wrote The Shaping of Things to Come, one of the most important books in the area of the church and missiology that many of us have ever read. Not only can they write good books together but they can write solo as well. Michael Frost’s book Exiles came out last year and Alan Hirsch’s book, The Forgotten Ways showed up in my mailbox in early 2007. For the last two months every free moment has been spent with the book or thinking about the consequences of what has been written. It’s a book that I will read more than once but here are some early thoughts that will do the book justice.

The book is divided into two sections. Section One is “The Making of a Missionary.” Hirsch tells his own story. It is a path that many of us would recognize that starts with him in the “come to us” attractional model of doing church that has defined evangelicalism since it became part of the establishment to moving towards a missional incarnation. Section Two is titled “A Journey to the Heart of Apostolic Genius.” There we explore what Hirsch calls Missional DNA. Methodists will recognize the work of Howard Snyder who has used the DNA analogy in the past. For us Canadians who read a lot of Alan Roxburgh, you will recognize the concepts of liminality and “communitas vs. community”.

Forward by Leonard Sweet.

Sweet opens up with a great forward that was quite helpful to me in dealing with the frustrations I have talking with those in traditional churches and especially those that have been schooled in church growth thinking. He uses the metaphor of occasionally having to defrag our computers and get all of the bits and pieces put in their proper places. Not only do we have to do it with our computers but also with our minds.

Sometimes our hard drives need fragmenting. Data entered on our hard drives isn’t always done neatly. The more files you have, and the more programs you download, the more your hard drive gets scrambled by confusing, scattered, random inputs that get sprayed over lots of space. Computer crashes, power outages, and stalled programs just add to the fragmentation.

The harder your hard drive has to work to retrieve the original information, the slower it becomes, the more blurred the pictures are, and the more resistant everything is. As a serial procrastinator, I tend to put off my defragging until the computer almost grinds to a halt. Defragging requires I dedicate the computer to doing nothing but cleaning up the confusion my messes and misses have caused. This housecleaning can take hours. But once I got through the defragging process, my hard drive recovers its speed, and my images once again snap, crackle, and pop with clarity and conviction.

Christianity has undergone untold crashes and clashes in the past two thousand years. In the last five hundred years its original hard drive has wiped out so many times, especially in the West, that it has almost ground to a halt.

I appreciated Len Sweet’s forward to the book as I can’t remember how many discussions I have had about the emerging church and people bring up the measuring points of Christendom. There is a desire for something different but we drag along all of this clutter from what where we have come from.

The discussion starts with a good question. How did the early Christian movement go from roughly 25,000 members in 100 AD to roughly 20 million by 300 AD? More importantly, it did it without all of the things that today’s church defines as vital for ministry. Buildings, a defined Scripture, professional clergy, John Maxwell seminars on leadership, Hillsong worship CDs, Christian radio or television (I may be embellishing his list but you get the point). Not only was the church “deprived” of the “essentials”, it was also under persecution. It isn’t just a discussion of the early church, the church in China had a similar growth rate under the same kind of persecution and also the Methodist revival in England is touched on. So how do they do it. Hirsch identifies six elements of what he calls Missional DNA or mDNA.

  • Jesus is Lord
  • Disciple Making
  • Missional-Incarnational Impulse
  • Apostolic Environment
  • Organic Systems
  • Communitas instead of community

Chapter One :: Setting the Scene

He notes the same thing that many of have been saying (probably because we read it in his first book) that great missionary movements begin on the margins.

In the study of the history of missions, one can even be formulaic about asserting that all great missionary movements begin at the fringes of the church, among the poor and the marginalized, and seldom if ever at the center. It is vital that in pursuing missional modes of church, we get out of the stifling equilibrium of the center of our movements and denominations, move to the fringes, and engage in real mission there. But there’s more to it then just mission; mist great movements of mission have inspirited significant and related movements of renewal in the life of the church. It seems that when the church engages at the fringes, it almost always brings life to the center. This says a whole lot about God and gospel, and the church will do well to heed it. (page 30)

For the longest time, I have been saying that churches can’t or won’t go through tremendous change. I gladly eat those words when I read about Hirsch’s community, the South Melbourne Restoration Community (now called Red). At some very frustrating times in my pastoral journey, I would have loved to have read there story of transformation from the holding pattern that most churches are in to becoming missional was worth the price of the book for me (disclaimer, I didn’t pay for the book, I got a review copy but you know what I mean). A particularly jarring part of the book is his mention that only 10-15% of Australian culture is attracted to the contemporary church growth model.

A combination of recent research in Australia indicates that about 10-15 percent of that population is attracted to what we call the contemporary church growth model. In other words, this model has significant “market appeal” to about 12 percent of our population. The more successful forms of this model tend to be large, highly professionalized, and overwhelmingly middle class, and express themselves culturally using contemporary, “seeker friendly” language and middle-of-the-road music forms. They structure themselves around “family ministry” and therefore offer multi-generational services. Demographically speaking, they tend to cater largely to what might be called the “family-values-segment”–good, solid, well-educated citizens who don’t abuse their kids, who pay their taxes, and who live largely, what can be called a suburban lifestyle.

Not only is this type of church largely made up of Christian people who fit this profile, the research indicates that these churches can also be very effective in reaching non-Christian people fitting the same demographic description–the people within their cultural reach. That is, the church does not have to cross any significant cultural barriers in order to communicate the gospel to that cultural context. (pg 35)

Since almost all churches in typical western cities are working from this model, they are all competing for the same demographic. I started flipping through Michael Adams book, Fire and Ice and I would say our percentage is 15 to 20% of is in that “family values segment” versus 35% for the United States. To make this simple for everyone, the way we do church in Canada manages to avoid 75-80% of the population. Not are the vast majority of churches competing for the same segment, according to George Barna, it is a shrinking segment which by 2025 is expected to decrease by half. Despite the fact that doing the same thing and expecting a different result is a definition of insanity, it is what we do. As Hirsch says on page 37

What is becoming increasingly clear is that if we are going to meaningfully reach this majority of people, we are not going to be able to do it by simply doing more of the same. And yet it seems that when faced with our problems of decline, we automatically reach for the latest church growth package to solve the problem–we seem to have nowhere else to go. But simply pumping up the programs, improving the music, and audiovisual effects, or jiggering the ministry mix won’t solve our missional crisis. Something far more fundamental is needed.

So what do we do about this? Well as Hirsch shares his experiences, changing the system does have some effect. As he diagrams out, on pages 43 and 33, moving from a pulpit ministry (5%) to a platform and programmed ministry (10% active in ministry) to a alternative worship gathering (20% of people involved). While 20% is a sizable improvement, it still leaves 80% as pew potatoes.

In his discussion about this on page 45 he offers up this interesting footnote.

In a dialog between Michael Frost, many members of the faculty of Fuller’s School of World Mission, and me, it was generally acknowledged by all there that church growth theory had, by and large, failed to reverse the church’s decline in America and was therefor somewhat of a failed experiment. The fact remains that more than four decades of church growth principles and practice has not halted the decline of the church in Western contexts.

So how do we reach out to the remaining 80% of people who don’t have the church on their radar if church growth principles aren’t the answer? Hirsch draws a correlation that I don’t think I have read before but makes a lot of sense. Hirsch concluded that the fundamental issue was that they had been ineffective at making disciples, and so were failing at living missionally. This coincides with what Ron Sider wrote about in The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience and what Robert Webber writes in Ancient Future Evangelism, we don’t do a good job in making disciples which undermines everything else we try to do as a church.

The phrase, “we cannot consume our way to discipleship” hit me hard. For years I proposed that if we could give people enough opportunities to learn, they would. While I worked at Lakeview Church we tried to expand our offerings which overlooked the consumeristic nature of what we were trying to do. Christians come to church to be fed and we are just feeding the idea of a consumption based faith reinforces the church shopping ethos at the expense of undermining our efforts at discipleship before we can begin.

The alternative according to Hirsch is to move away from the idea of choices that come from consumerism and take a covenantal approach to discipleship which reminds me of some of what Stanley Hauerwas has written as a response to capitalism. How does that happen?

  1. Structural changes :: To address the problems of passivity, they became a cell church so it made it harder to be a pew potato.
  2. Instead of core values and statements, they adopted a covenant and some core practices. Most core values in churches are all the same anyways but what they wanted were something that would cause movement. So instead of appealing to the head, they appealed to the feet.
  3. Each cell group had to practice spiritual disciplines. The model they came up with is called TEMPT.

Chapter Two :: Setting the Scene

“Nothing is more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than achieving a new order of things.” Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

“Strictly speaking one ought to say that the church is always in a state of crisis and that its greatest shortcoming is that it is only occasionally aware of it… This ought to be the case because of the abiding tension between the church’s essential nature and its empirical condition…. that there were so many crisis centuries of crisis free existence for the church was therefore an abnormality… And if the atmosphere of crisislessness still lingers on in many parts of the West, this is simply the result of a dangerous delusion. Let us also know that to encounter crisis is to encounter the possibility of truly being the church.” David Bosch, Transforming Mission

Hirsch starts the second chapter with this from Edward de Bono.

…if there is a known and successful cure for an illness, patients generally prefer the doctor to use the known cure rather than seek to design a better one. Yet there may be better cures to be found. He rightly asks how we are to find a better cure at each critical moment we always opt for the traditional treatment. Think about this in relation to our usual ways of solving our problems. Do we not constantly default to previous patterns and ways of tackling issues of theology, spirituality and the church? To quote another Bono, this time from the band U2, it seems like we are “stuck in a moment and now [we[ can’t get out of it.”

The follow up thought to this is “most efforts at change in the church fail to deal with the very assumptions on which Christendom is built and maintains itself.” ( page 51) In part, this is why we are “stuck in a moment and can’t get out of it” (U2).

Hirsch then uses an analogy from the computer world. Apple Inc. is synonymous with innovation. In that world innovation translates into reworking three components: hardware, OS, and software. We saw that with the iPhone where Apple asked that Cingular change their wireless protocol to accommodate the innovation of the iPhone. To take advantage of new hardware, you need a new operating system. If you don’t have new and great software ready to go, what’s the need for a new operating system. Working at one and not the other doesn’t always make a lot of sense (somewhere Bill Gates is sitting on top of a pile of money disagreeing with Hirsch but we get the point) without the other.

As Hirsch continues on page 52 that many efforts to revitalize the church aim at simply adding or developing new programs (Alpha in many churches comes to mind) or sharpening the theology and doctrinal base of the church without changing the foundational understanding of Christendom or how the church operates. Leadership needs to develop new assumptions on which more missional expression of the church can be built.

How do we do that, Hirsch quotes refers to Ivan Illich on page 53

Ivan Illich was once asked what he thought was the most radical way to change society; was it through violent revolution of gradual reform? He gave a careful answer. Neither. Rather, he suggested that if one wanted to change society, then one must tell an alternative story. Illich is right; we need to reframe our understandings through a different lens, an alternative story, if we wish to move beyond the captivity of the predominantly institutional paradigm that clearly dominates our current approach to leadership and church.

He sees the system story at the center of who we are reaching out to affect everything else we do.

Church consultant Bill Easum is right when he notes that…“Following Jesus into the mission field is either impossible or extremely difficult for the vast majority of congregations in the Western world because of one thing: They have a systems story that will not allow them to take the first step out of the institution into the mission field, even though the mission field is just outside the door of the congregation.” (Unfreezing Moves, 31) He goes on to note that every organization is built upon on “an underlying systems story.” He points out that “…this is not a belief system. It is the continually repeated life story that determines how an organization feels, thinks, and thus acts. This systems story determines the way an organization behaves, no matter how the organizational chart is drawn. It’s the primary template which shapes all other things. Restructure the organization and leave the systems story in place and nothing changes within the organization. It’s futile trying to revitalize the church, or a denomination, without first changing the system.” Drilling down into this systems story, the paradigm, or mode of church, is he suggests one of the keys to change and constant innovation.

Easum notes that most theories about congregational life are flawed from the start because they are based on an institutional and mechanical worldview. Or what he calls the “Command and Control, Stifling Story.” This is particularly marked when you recognize how different the predominant forms of church are from the apostolic modes.

After a conversation with Scripture he concludes that “we realized that Bible sustains a thoroughly consistent warning against the centralization of power in a few individuals and concentration of it in inflexible and impersonal institutions (pg 55)

Reinforcing his view is Martin Buber and C.S. Lewis. (pg 55) .

…[Buber] warns us about the dangers of religious institutionalism when he notes that “centralization and codification, undertaken in the interests of religion, are a danger to the core of religion.” This is inevitably the case he says, unless there is a very vigorous life of faith embodied in the whole community, one that exerts an unrelenting pressure for renewal on the institution. It was C.S. Lewis who observed that “there exists in every church something that sooner or later works against the very purpose for which it came into existence. So we must strive very hard, by the grace of God to keep the church focused on the mission that Christ originally gave to it.”

For those of you who have read Brian McLaren, the name Ralph Winter may be familiar. Basically he gives us the concept of cultural distance. It is a good guide to help a church conceptualize the barriers it must cross in order to be effective missionally.

As one moves along the scale each step from left to right it indicates a barrier one must cross to demonstrate the Gospel.

  • m0-m1 Some concept of Christianity, same language, similar interests, same nationality, same socio-economic class to yours and your church’s. Most of your friends are in this bracket.
  • m1-m2 Stereotypical non-Christian. Little interest in Christianity and suspicious of the church or had a bad experience with Christians. Just go to the local pub to find these folks.
  • m2-m3 No idea about Christianity or antagonistic towards Christianity as they understand it.
  • m3-m4 The most distance and active resistance. Major cultural and/or worldview obstacles exist.

As Hirsch points out, the Edict of Milan and Constantine’s deal with the church provided a uniform context in the western world for about 1600 years. As Rodney Stark puts it on page 60.

Far too long, historians have accepted the claim that the conversion of Emperor Constantine (ca 285-337) caused the triumph of Christianity. To the contrary, he destroyed its most attractive and dynamic aspects, turning a high-intensity, grassroots movement into a arrogant institution controlled by an elite who often managed to be brutal and lax.

The church has largely conformed to that mode and is comfortable working with the m0 to m1 regions. The other regions were largely “missionary” concerns until the end of WWII. as Hirsch pointed out early, the m0 to m1 zone is vanishing (Perhaps 15% in Australia to 35% of people in the United States). We are surrounded by people in our neighborhoods that have m2 – m4 barriers up. In Christendom “outreach” often worked as the barriers to acceptance were much less. In post-Christendom and the pluralistic environment, the cultural distance has increased and our local context has become missional.

Hirsch breaks down the move from Christendom to now with this important thought on pg 60

With the breakup of the modern period and the subsequent postmodern period, things have begun to radically change. For one, the power of hegemonic ideologies has come to an end, and with that, the breakdown of the power of the state (e.g. the Soviet Union) and other forms of “grand stories” that bind societies and groups together in a grand vision. The net effect of that has been the resultant flourishing of sub cultures, and what sociologists call the heterogenization, or simply the tribalization, of western culture…

People now identify themselves less by grand ideologies, national identities, or political allegiances, and by much less grand stories: those of interest groups, new religious movements (New Age), sexual identity (gays, lesbians, transsexuals, etc), sports activities, competing ideologies (neo-Marxist, neofacist, eco-rats, etc.) class, conspicuous consumption (metrosexuals, urban grunge, etc), work types (computer geeks, hackers, designers, etc.), and so forth. On one occasion some youth ministry specialists I work with identified in an hour fifty easily discernible youth subcultures alone (computer nerds, skaters, homies, surfies, punks, etc.). Each of hem taks their subcultural identity with utmost seriousness, and hence any missional response to them must as well.

Hirsch uses Alpha as an example which while over three million people in the UK have participated, they have not been integrated into traditional churches. He points out that it is most successful with the dechurched and instead of being a missionary tool for the unchurched, pointed out that we often don’t reach very hard beyond our own walls (pg 63) Why don’t they want to go to church? It is the “Jesus yes, Church no.” phenomenon again where people come to faith in small informal groups but don’t want the organized part of the religion to be part of the deal. Hirsch suggests that the prevailing expression of church (Christendom) has become a major stumbling block to the spread of Christianity in the West.

So for those of you who are feeling uncomfortable, the good news is that it hasn’t always been done this way. Hirsch refers to Robert Webber and points out that we are probably closer to life in the early church than in Christendom (although being in a post-Christian society is radically different than being in a pre-Christian one of the early church). He quotes Loren Meed on page 66 who brings a healthy dose of reality to where we are at.

We are surrounded by the relics of the Christendom Paradigm, a paradigm that has largely ceased to exist to work. [These] relics hold us hostage to the past and make it difficult to create a new paradigm that can be as compelling for the next age as the Christendom paradigm has been for the past age.

From there is a discussion on the emerging church that has this great comment by Hirsch.

Another quite remarkable feature is that by and large this phenomenon flies under the radar of must church observers, because they are looking for the familiar features of the church as we know it through Christendom. As such it tends to be an underground movement. I have often had to field criticism of the EMC in the guise of pragmatic questions like, “Where is it working?” or dismissed in phrases like “When I can see some success, I might consider it”. But it is working. The answer is right there under our noses, but we can’t seem to see it because we are looking for the wrong things. If we look for certain features obvious in the Christendom paradigm (like buildings, programs, over leaders, church growth, organization, etc.), we will miss what is really happening.

That’s enough for the first section of the book which for me is worth the price of the book. If you haven’t read the book already, you need to purchase it. For leaders of Christian communities, the book is that good and that revolutionary. The second part of the book is even better and gets at the heart of what needs to happen in more theological and practical terms.

When is the next part of the review coming? I have a couple of days off this week and will have the second half of the book review online next Sunday. That way I won’t be too far being in my effort to review 52 books in 52 weeks.

For more on the book…

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What is a duvet and why do we need a cover

Yesterday the flyer from Jysk came to our house and Wendy noticed that they had bed in a bags for really cheap. So today we went over and looked around and all they had were stuff that only Martha Stewart would like and then only when she was in prison. So we spent some time looking at duvets and then I was told that we needed a duvet cover to which I replied that comforters have gotten this far in our marriage, why not stick with those. That lead us to Winners to which I mistakenly decided to go into there with Wendy. As I walked in I couldn’t help but realize how sad most of the men looked and how a large percentage of the women shopping there looked and dressed alike.

After we picked out a fleece blanket for the bed, I was off to Starbucks for coffee where I ran into my cousin Cathy Johnson where of course I didn’t notice her. I don’t know what it is with that Starbucks but when I go in, I am thinking about one thing. Wonderful, bitter, caffiene loaded coffee. About 75% of the time I run into someone, often from Lakeview Church and I completely miss them. Sometimes going in, sometimes going out. Of course I missed Cathy and her coffee drinking partner, Marlene. The reason that I am pointing this out is that if I ever walk by you while going into Starbucks, a) you aren’t alone as I seem to be oblivous to everyone b) it isn’t intentional and c) I may have a coffee related addiction.

Of course I had the extra distraction of knowing that I was in Winners and was wondering if my soul was crushed like so many of the men I saw shopping with their wives.

My love of football

I was wearing my Denver Broncos hat at work the other day and someone asked me if I was a casual or a hardcore fan. I replied I can tell them the names of every NFL starting quarterback over the last decade and probably the school they came from and the round they were drafted. That and my last dog was named Elway.

They asked me where my love of the game started and I decided to post the story here.

My first football game was in Calgary at McMahon Stadium and we watched the B.C. Lions destroy the Calgary Stampeders. We moved to Saskatchewan in 1984 and it was in the middle of a very long playoff drought and John Hufnagel was our quarterback. Yes, the same John Hufnagel who can’t get the New York Giants going at all.. It would kind of like moving to Chicago and then getting excited about the Cubs. It was hard.

As I entered into grade nine, I realized that the road to the NHL wasn’t going near my neighborhood, I quit playing hockey and I decided to try out for the junior football team in my school (grade 9-10). I wasn’t that fast but I was tall and big so I was an offensive guard. For the first several practices, all I did was get steamrolled by players bigger than I but then there was a big game for the senior team where all of the grade nine kids got bussed to Gordie Howe Bowl (yes, Saskatoon’s football stadium is named after Gordie Howe and if you make fun of it, I’ll elbow you in the face). Most of the grade nines on the team went to the game but for some reason a friend of mine and I decided to skip the game and go to junior practice and practice against players a year older and more experienced than I. Being short of decent players, I got tossed into a play in practice where the defence was practicing some blitzes. I lined up and two guys came at me and while I was being steamrolled by one, I grabbed the other guys jersey and all three of us came to the ground with me again being tossed on my backside. It was a blatant hold but at the time I didn’t have any other options (like technique or skill). While I was laying there my coach came rushing over and got all pumped up about how I kept fighting and saved the quarterback from being hit hard. He was all jacked up and I was just glad I wasn’t being cut. For some reason, football just got easier after that and I got to play a fair amount that year.

The next year the same coach gave me a speach about being a great tight end (insert joke here) and helping the offense. My first practice play at tight end was my last. I ran over the middle towards the ball and saw a lot of guys on defence ready to separate my head from my body and decided this is stupid. I immediately asked the coach to play defence.

From then on I was a defensive end and I loved it. I loved hitting the qb so much, I took several late hit penalties over my high school career.

While I played on several good teams, my favorite guy to play against was a big farm kid with red hair and a bad mullet. In football you are told that if you are more intense, have better technique and more desire, you will win the individual battles. That is a lie. This kid had no technique and apologized to every player he played again when he tackled them and knocked them over. He had no intensity at all but he was stronger than a bull. He was so strong that he could tackle running backs at full speed with one arm. His apologizing to everyone didn’t go over well with our defensive line coach who was Mr. Intensity. I remember him yelling at this guy for saying sorry to everyone. He just apologized to the coach for apologizing.

1988 was Notre Dame’s championship season so it became my NCAA team and I became a Denver Broncos fan during a Monday night game where Tony Dorsett became the #2 rusher all time and the Jay Schroeder lead L.A. Raiders overcame the biggest deficit in MNF history to beat the Broncos. Despite that setback, I became a big Broncos fan that night and that 8-8 season. Other factors that made me into a NFL fan were that 1988 was the first year of Pro-Set football trading cards and I think it was one of the best sets of cards ever.

While I worked at Lakeview Church, the programmer was Mike Gingerich and Mike used to stop in my office on his way to the coffee maker and we would exchange obscure NFL trivia, often about quarterbacks who were busts. I think if we had worked together longer, we would have eventually developed a language based totally on NFL quarterbacks. “That was quite Rick Mirer-ish, don’t you think.” “Of course to counter your argument, there is the Anthony Dilweg factor”.

Lee played in high school and Wendy and I attended most of his games. Now Mark is getting into football which may be because of the six footballs of different shapes and colors that we have around the house. He is too young to play organized football but just fighting Maggi for the ball should teach him something.

Like old times again

I am giving a talk at Lakeview Church’s spring retreat on the church in the 21st century.  It won’t really be about that but that is the title I was given and it should be fun.  What is going to make it so much fun is that Saskatoon Community Chaplain and my former partner in crime Darren Friesen will presenting with me.  It will be in May.  I am sure D-Fri and I will be able to put together a podcast of the talk.

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My day off

Instead of working today, I have it off.  I have been getting Monday and Tuesdays off but a couple of weeks ago I asked for today off because Lakeview Church was having their winter retreat and asked me to do a presentation on the future of the church.

As can happen, the retreat was moved to May and I already had today off work and worked last Monday instead.  My talk was more about the future of culture and more particularily the culture that is off our radar.  I had used some insights I had gleaned from Warren Kinsella‘s book, Fury’s Hour.  I also was planning to use Miroslav Volf‘s book, Exclusion and Embrace where I think he correctly offers a theological position for the church as it engages with culture, a message that is often lost on evangelicals.  Anyways I am sorry that the talk won’t happen as I think I am probably the first person to ever try to combine the thinking of Warren Kinsella and Miroslav Volf together.  The retreat is rescheduled to May and if they ask me back, I will post my notes on the website.

So I had a whole day with really nothing to do.  Wendy’s depression is back which she writes about on her weblog today which isn’t anything that she is looking forward to.  We hung out around the house a bit and then headed out for a couple of errands.   The first errand didn’t go so well.  Wendy was depositing a check at the Royal Bank and was taking a long time as there was a long line at the ATM.  I was bugging Mark that maybe she got lost and Mark replied back, “how do you get lost in a bank?”  Just then Wendy walks out and instead of walking towards us, she walks away from us and goes to get into another mini-van of a different make and color before she realizes that she is at the wrong vehicle.  Mark and I are laughing our heads off and Wendy realized we saw the entire thing.  Lee did the same thing when he was 16 except he actually got into the car and waited in the wrong car until he saw my mom a row over getting into her car.  Then again, Wendy and I have walked into the wrong house once which is beaten by another friend of ours who met his nephew at his nieces house and they both went into the wrong house….

As she mentioned on her weblog, I also hooked up a dual monitor setup on her computer.  My video card has a DVI out on it as well as a VGA one.  The other day at work a co-worker helped a customer set up dual monitors using the same kind of video cards and a ten dollar adapter and some lights went on for me.  If you have even a semi decent video card, it is pretty easy to set up and once you start working on two monitors, even two 15 inch monitors, you will never go back.  The adapters are a little hard to find but I know that CBiT has them in stock.

The end of the day off is going to be spent at Broadway Roastery as we work on the next worship.freehouse.

Oh yeah, I fixed my blogroll.  Wendy is back on it.  Not sure what happened there.  For now, I am off to listen to some music.

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My Resume

Tandy Color Computer 3 :: 1988
My father bought one of these one year while we were out visiting.  It had a cool Q-Bert clone but other than that, it didn’t do much.

Commodore 64 : 1991-1993
A gift from my uncle.  Had a plethora of games but also some really cool applications.  It later ran Geos for the C-64.  A GUI interface on 64 kb of RAM.  It was also the days of Compute Magazine which featured a C-64 section in every edition.  I loved this computer and featured two of my favorite games of all time.  Hardball and a cool Air Traffic controller game.  A lot of people died over Los Angeles when I was controlling the airspace there.  The only thing left from it is the C-64 monitor which later became Wendy’s and mine first television.

Generic XT : 1993-1994
After spending the summer working for Custom Foundations and hauling 100 pound forms out of a pit so we could drive to a new location and drop them back in, I bought this 10 mhz XT for $250.  It had a 30 megabtye hard drive that was doubled with Stacker to 52 megabyes.  I used a great DOS Word Processor called Varsity Scripsit that I still miss.  Directory Freedom was an amazing file manager that kept those 52 megs running perfectly.  Another fun program was DOS Master and it played Tetris… a while lot of Tetris…  This machine took a lot of abuse… Desqview, Geos, Windows 1.4, Windows 2.11 all ended up on this system.  The best game played on this system was Sim City for DOS which was enjoyed by the entire family.

486-25 SX : 1996-1999
It was later pumped up with a Kingston Overdrive chip that allowed it to run as fast as a slow Pentium or a fast 486 but it ran Windows 95 slowly.  It also ran DOOM which Wendy would not let me play when she was around because the sound affects freaked her out.

Acer 486 33 SLC : 1998
My first notebook computer.  It ran Windows 3.11 with a cool shell that made it look and feel like Windows 95 or Mac OS.  It did have a black and white screen but ran Word 2.0c and Leaderboard golf really well  Both of which were very important to me at the U of S and at Lakeview Church meetings.

K6 II 333 MHZ : 1998 – 2002
An upgraded motherboard in my old box, this machine served me well until the hard drive controller finally gave up on me…  Ran Windows 95 and Windows 98.  Luckily it escaped Windows ME.

Apple Powerbook 150 : 1998
A wonderful machine that met an untimely death being dropped out of my backpack.  I used ClarisWorks on it and was able to use it at Lakeview.  At the time we were still pretty much un-networked unless you consider the sneaker net we had to use.

Gateway Handbook 486 : 1999
I salivated over the originall Handbooks and ignored the negative reviews.  When I got this one, the battery life was terrible but even after I rebuilt the battery, this notebook was terrible.  I sold it within weeks of getting it off eBay.  So much potential ruined by a horrible keyboard and screen.

IBM ThinkPad 133 : 1999-2000
Functional and boring… It ran Office 95, IE and not much else… It’s problem was that it came out just before wifi took hold. I sold it to Darren Friesen when I upgraded to a Gateway Solo

Generic 400 MHZ computer : 2000
This was an office computer at Lakeview, the fan bearings were dying on this thing and the only thing to stop the whining sound on it was to hit it, really hard.  I quickly realized that it was easier to hit with my hockey stick.  Long after I gave it to someone else, people wondered why the case was dented and the hockey tape on it.  During my time at Lakeview, my network connection was so messed up, when I hit the Start button, I could count to five before anything would happen.  Network accesses would take up to 30 seconds.  It wasn’t so much the computer’s fault as the network connection but any computer that you beat with a hockey stick to make work probably needs some work… I did manage to install BeOS on it one afternoon but the network admin wouldn’t allow me to connect to the broken network.

Gateway Solo 2000 :: 233 mhz : 2000-2001
First computer with wifi on it and I loved it.  It took a beating after Wendy dropped it one day but still survived.  It changed forever how I worked.  It had the same problems that the generic desktop had, it had to connect to Lakeview’s network.

Techtronics 933 MHZ : 2002-Present
Not much for personality but it runs XP okay and does what I need it to be.  Lee upgraded the video card in it so I can play some newer games and therefore get shot by him.  Fun.  Of course working at CBiT, it seems really pathetic compared to what everyone else runs and it isn’t even overclocked.  I am pathetic.

IBM Thinkpad 760 :: 2001 – 2004
No great love for this notebook but it served me well until Mark dumped some milk on the keyboard.  It lived long enough for me to get the data off the hard drive.

Compaq m300
Superslim notebook that met an untimely death last summer.

IBM Thinkpad R40 : 2005 – Present
Massive frustrations with this computer.  The R/C plug came loose off the motherboard and the seller says they can’t fix it after sitting on it for almost a month.  My co-workers insist that they can fix it so it’s fate is up in the air.  If it can be fixed, it will be Wendy’s.

Operating Systems installed over the years…

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Am I worth a podcast?

I have been enjoying my new iPod Nano quite a bit.  When I use it with Apple’s iTunes software, it makes grabbing podcasts and adding them to my Nano so incredibly easy.  My favorite podcast series that I have found comes via Jared Siebert and those are IT Conversations.  While the site name may be boring, the content is not.  Richard Florida, Joi Ito, James Surowiecki, Jason Fried, Clay Shirky, Grant McCracken, Sergey Brin, and Ray Ozzie have all been teaching me a lot lately and all for free.

As I was sitting in the small lunch room vegging out and listening to Richard Florida the other day over my iPod, I was also thinking about what church that Wendy, Mark, and I will be attending in Saskatoon.  Wendy’s and mine weekend schedules are nightmares.  We both work Saturday, Wendy until 11:00 p.m. and I work Sunday afternoons.  Wendy works one Sunday in four.  Saskatoon Free Methodist Church is my home church but it’s worship service is at 11:00 p.m. which doesn’t work for me.  Lakeview Church has a 10:00 service but I want something a little more liturgical.  There is a early morning Anglican service downtown but I don’t think they have anything for Mark…  Now those of you well schooled in seeker churches will remind me that the most important thing for anyone is to be part of a small group.  Back to the fact that Wendy works every evening so that doesn’t work for us either… Mid-week “believer services” don’t work that well for either one of us either.  Looking back, the church has been talking a lot about being a 24/7 church but a quick look at a lot of schedules show it is still primarily for those that work 9 to 5 and have their weekends off.  Who would have known how hard it would be for Wendy and I to find a church to attend as a family?  The scary thing is that we are not alone in wanting to connect to a local church but not being able to easily.

Back to the podcasts… I hope that local churches will soon start to realize that there are people out there that want to connect to a local church but can’t or won’t in traditional ways.  A podcast of sermons and teachings or hopefully something even more creative is an entry way to people like me.  Why a podcast?  Lakeview Church for years has been uploading all of their sermons online so people can download and listen to them although not via a podcast yet.  Why a podcast?  When I plug in my Nano at night or whenever, iTunes goes and gets me all of the podcasts that I am subscribed to and sync’s them to my Nano.  I have all of them and any new music on my iPod later.  When I can find some quiet time at work or at home or in the car, it’s all there and I can connect to any sermon I want to.  Right now, there isn’t a big selection of podcasts out there that I want to listen to so I am working through some of Brian McLaren’s sermons at Cedar Ridge Community Church.  I would love to be able to connect to my local church (once I find one) like that. 

I think there is a lot of roadblocks in the way until that happens and the major one being that people like Wendy and I don’t matter that much because we aren’t in the pews on Sunday’s.  Until that changes, I will still have IT Conversations…

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The State of the Blog 2006

Over the last couple of weeks and months I have been thinking about this site and what I wanted to do with it.  It has been around in some form or another since 1996 when I launched my first personal site on GeoCities.  It started just a couple months after I started pastoring in Spiritwood and was a tool I relied on heavily when I was at both Spiritwood and Lakeview Church.  For me, it was an online database of resources, links, and unexplored ideas.

By the time I quit Lakeview Church, it had taken on a life of its own but recently I have been questioning it’s worth.  I am not pastoring and the need to keep track of my links can be handled pretty easily by del.icio.us  Yesterday a friend of mine sent me this in an e-mail.


are you as bored with blogging as i am? wondering what is next. once upon a time we were on the cutting edge, now every wallmart housewife is blogging. read your link to the future of blogging.
when will the future be now?
 
It’s hard to claim you are a part of the cutting edge when even MC Hammer is blogging away.  Venture capitalists are tossing a lot of money at podcasting.  Andrew Jones (who left the following in the comments) is saying, “The future will come when all the media associated with our life (audio, video, shopping choices, poetry, text, event attendence, web site visiting, menus, etc) is automatically and effortlessly made public (published online). When this happens, the work on our part is not uploading more data but rather choosing to filter what we dont want people to access. That is the future of blogging.”  While Marshall Mcluhan is right that the medium is the message, I think my dissatisfaction goes beyond the medium to the message itself.  I am finding myself increasingly bored with what passes and is written for the discussion on the emerging church.  It isn’t just the blogs, the books are boring as well.  Over the last couple of years a couple of friends have said to me that the problem with much of the discussion about the emerging church has been it is the same people talking about the same things that they have for years.  I am looking at a bookshelf of books that I have read over the last 12 months right now and I am counting and counting and counting the books that all feature at least once reference to The Matrix (and I am not counting Chris Seay’s book on the subject)  If we can’t move past The Matrix, maybe we are stuck and think that by spinning our wheels we are making progress.
 
My own personal fatigue goes beyond The Matrix.  When I was pastoring I felt surrounded at times with those that have a self-professed prophetic calling to the church.  Despite all of the people that claimed prophetic gifts around me, I know of three of them.  One person would deny any such gifting but has the ability to understand the future.  One had a God given talent for speaking prophetically in the Old Testament tradition of prophets and I experienced it myself when I was younger.  The third person was my grandmother Jenner and she could read tea leaves.  From what some friends of the family told me, she was quite good at it (and no I can’t reconcile her ability to read tea leaves and being a wonderful Christian leader either).  So many times those that have these prophetic messages hurt my eyes with a blinding flash of the obvious or so completely over simplify a situation that they have little experience in that it isn’t any help at all.  I want to move away from these conversations and to a degree, the people who think this way.  As Guy Kawasaki said in Rules for Revolutionaries, “don’t let the bozos grind you down”.  I am not saying that people can’t tell the church what to do and remind people of their problems and how all pastors like me have sold out for the money and posh parishes and only house church/emerging church/urban churches/purpose driven churches are the only ones that are faithful to God’s word.  I am sure that someone will be listening, it just won’t be me.
 
For me when I was happiest in life was when I was exploring outside of the Christian sub culture.  I went through some old reviews that I had posted on TheOoze.  Some books that at the time no one else had read or was reading and I forgot how much fun it was to explore a new area of learning and think through it.  My friend Jared Siebert got me listening to science/tech/sociology podcasts on topics I have no expertise in.  I don’t know what he gets out of them but for me, I loved the sense of exploring the unknown and the next and finding a couple more puzzle pieces that may or may not fit in the jigsaw puzzle that is my life right now.  Everyone is asking me how much I like work.  The first couple of days I was in deep over my head trying to figure out hardware combinations that I had no idea what people were talking about.  I liked that feeling of needing to find out more, understand more, and finally making progress.  That is what I want jordoncooper.com to be more like.
 
The big difference on the blog will be in content.  Some of what you have noticed already.  The Contextless Links will be replaced by that day’s Open Thread.  It keeps my number of individual posts down and makes it a little easier to find the mini posts that make them up.  For over a year many of you begged me to open the comments on my Contextless Links and now that I have, almost no one is commenting.   Excuse me while I call you all losers.
 
Another difference will be a lot more longer posts and fewer of the shorter posts.  I do have net access at work and I do post a lot of stuff to my del.icio.us page but that is often work related and is posted daily over at my link blog.  While I doubt that people would mind if I blogged occasionally from work, I am paid to work and while there are quiet times there with little to do, I would rather spend that time scribbling in my Moleskine (Darryl Dash sent me one and I am now a convert to them) than posting incomplete thoughts on Blogger.  Some of the longer posts and reviews will be reworked into some longer articles for Next-Wave, TheOoze, and the Resonate Journal.
 
I also want to spend some time helping tell the stories of what is happening in the Kingdom of God (or as Brian McLaren says, the “Enterprise of God”) in Canada and around the world.  While I am bored with the rants, I still find passion and hope in the stories that get told of what is happening.  I would love to have those stories of hope define the conversation about the Gospel and culture.  My contribution will be to link to those stories and hopefully tell some of my own.
 
There is my road map.  Feel free to pull me over for coffee if you like where it’s going and of course, there are a lot of places to go if you want to get off at the next stop too.
 

Christmas Eve

So much for taking the Christmas season off from blogging anything.  I think I made it a couple of hours.  Pathetic.  Lee is downstairs sleeping, Mark is upstairs pretending to nap and for another 90 minutes, Wendy is working at Safeway.  I just talked to her a minute ago and she says it is just nuts in there.  Not a lot of fun.

Some random thoughts

  • I didn’t need to do any shopping today but we have broken an incredible amount of glasses and cups in the last week.  Zellers has their glasses on for 50% off today so I wandered in over at Market Mall.  I was expecting worse.  Every till was open but no lineups.  I heard it was worse earlier.
  • I ran into an incredible amount of people from Lakeview Church today and many read my blog.  It was fun seeing a bunch of old friends.  Luckily none of them had to do any shopping and were just running errands as Mark and I were.
  • After purchasing cups and some stoneware, we put them in the trunk of Lee’s car.  Some women thought we were going to get in the car and leave but we went back inside to say hi to Wendy.  The women snapped, started honking and swearing at Mark and I.  It really scared Mark.  I hope she is proud of herself.
  • We are watching the Star Wars Trilogy over Christmas.  I have no idea why everyone is so excited about this but Lee, Wendy, and Mark are all pumped about it.  Star Wars tonight, The Empire Strikes Back tomorrow and Return of the Jedi on Boxing Day.  May the Force be with you.
  • Mark has had some fun with both Norad Santa and also Google Earth tracking Santa today.
  • I wish I knew a big KISS fan.  I saw KISSopoly today.  How much fun would KISSopoly be to give as a gift?

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Turn around churches?

Here is a question for you that I am asking over at Fearless Honesty (the book I am working on with Darryl Dash and Scott Williams). Can you name me some mature churches that made big mid-course corrections? Ginghamsburg Church lead by Michael Slaughter comes to mind as does my old employer, Lakeview Church but after that, the list gets quite short. If you know of any, can you list them in the comments over at Fearless Honesty. Name of church and city would be great. If you have the URL or any details, I will put your name up in Christmas lights 🙂

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Upcoming.org

I am not sure why no one outside of tech circles is talking about or using Upcoming.org but it is incredibly cool, especially when a lot of you in a certain city (or metro) are using it.  Basically it allows you to promote and find interesting events that are in your city and also find out what your friends are attending.  My user profile can be found here (Wendy has one here) and enclosed are a list of events that we are planning to attend over the next short while.

I am not sure I would want to promote every single church service but it is also a great place to list big Sunday’s (Christmas Eve, Easter) and also some other big events like when Lakeview Church brought in Tony Campolo a couple years ago.  Just don’t spam it. 

You can also add a badge to your own weblog or site, just like the one to your right.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

This morning Wendy wrapped up the last of the unwrapped presents and placed them under our Christmas tree. Mark was upstairs in trouble and Lee was working (The same Lee who was at work at 5:00 a.m. this morning). We had some Tony Bennett and Bing Crosby on the CD player and some tinsel was hanging off of Hutch.

Christmas this year will be spent in Saskatoon. On December 20th, we are heading over to Jerry and Gloria Reimer’s house for an early Christmas dinner. We have spent almost every Christmas with the Reimers since I started working at Lakeview Church. On the 22nd we are looking forward to getting together with Tamara after her return from Taiwan.

On Christmas Day; Wendy, Mark, Lee and I are going to be spending it at home. Like other megachurch pastors, I am not having a Christmas morning service in Spiritwood so we will be getting up early, open our socks and presents and then hanging out over breakfast and the Walt Disney World parade on television. A little Regis and Kelly with my Christmas breakfast.

Wendy and I bought Mark a sled for Christmas. As long as it is -15 or warmer, we will probably take him sledding. I looked for one that would be fast so Mark will be flying down the hill. Our nearby hill isn’t that nasty so he should be quite safe.

One Christmas tradition that hasn’t continued is that our outside Christmas lights haven’t been stolen. We changed the way we put them up and our lights are scaled back but unlike in previous years when we have had whole light strings stolen, not even a light has gone missing. Good but weird.

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The question of leadership

I have been mulling over the issue of church leadership. A couple of professors of Bible colleges contacted me about how to teach “postmodern leadership” to their students. I didn’t really know what to say at the time that would have been beneficial but the idea of teaching leadership at Bible colleges might be one of the problems.

Bill Hybels (the link to to a horrible Wikipedia entry about him) was one of the first voices articulating the need for leadership in the church. Now you don’t have to agree with his solutions to agree with the problem. Since then, “leadership” has sprung up in local churches with their leadership communities and leadership building and leadership seminars. Some colleges and seminaries too have leaped on the leadership bandwagon.

I think leadership needs to be taught but can probably only be taught to certain people. There are a lot of people out there that I don’t think should be leaders and I cringe as I watch them trying to lead others, often to their doom. The idea that “everyone is a leader” is false as a lot of people I know can’t lead a horse to water. It doesn’t mean that they are bad people, it just means that they are not leaders.

The question of teaching leadership in Bible colleges is a hard one to address because at first glance, most Bible colleges are designed to promote conformity instead of independent thought. Many still have dress codes, behavioural rules, and some still have rules about hair cuts and facial hair. We all know Jesus would never approve of long haired people with beards. It would just seem to me that most people that are leaders, are probably not the ones most likely to spend a lot of time in Bible college. Given that most leaders are quite independent, even if they attend, they would probably not do well there.

So where then does the church and the denomination build their leaders?

  • You can poach them from other denominations and churches. I am being sarcastic but it does happen.
  • A lot of people get dragged along to Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit.
  • My tribe says that local churches do the best job in raising up leaders. That is a new idea for us but I think it is a good one and I hope it is an idea that continues to evolve. Church guru (and I mean that in a nice way) Lyle Schaller talks about how local churches need to identify and start investing in local church leaders when they are in grade five. That sounds outrageous but I know Lakeview Churchused to (I don’t know if they still do) have a great program for young teens who aspired for a deeper level of discipleship when I worked there. My tribe has also created an ordination track for those coming out of and intent on serving in local churches. I believe the thinking started out of megachurches but I think it is a good value. Leaders are raised from the communities they are a part of. The problem is that one would tend to get a very narrow view of what the church is and the weaknesses of any one church would be passed on and wouldn’t be challenged.
  • Has anyone else connected AABC accreditation with the rising cost of theological education and the impact it has on pastors and their ability to serve where God called them? Wendy and I came from lower or lower-middle class families economically. That meant student loans. Tom Sine talks about this in his excellent book, Mustard Seed vs. McWorld. I heard him talk about this at a Beyond Forum years ago when he talked about how much faster tuition prices have risen compared to the money students can earn in a summer. He talked about the average seminary student having a) student loans b) wealthy parents and both of those factors encourage students to seek a safe job and First Baptist Church in the suburbs instead of a foreign ministry area or inner city church where the pay is a lot poorer. My question is how do we do a great job of teaching theological education outside of the costly seminary/private college structure? For me, I think this needs to happen at the denomination level but what denomination wants to challenge the academy and also fund a way that is unproven. There are all sorts of “discipleship schools” out there for people wanting to spend an “intensive year” learning the Bible but who has the cash to shell out for something that you can’t transfer anywhere, which is part of the problem. I think Stanley Hauerwas is correct in that too many colleges and seminaries have become so far removed from the churches they were created to partner with and instead have modelled themselves after the university. I wonder if it is too late to change?

I am sure that you can teach leadership in Bible college but I wouldn’t do it as a class. Leadership is an art that is passed on from other leaders. I think that it is a much more cultural and environmental issue then read 500 pages from Jack Walsh (but ignore his comments on integrity and marital fidelity). If you want to create leaders, you need to to hire leaders as faculty and have them mentor those students in real life situations. I would say the same in local churches as well. Instead of “leadership retreats”, you need to change the environment so that leaders can learn, fail (which is an important part of leadership), and thrive. Part of this thinking is influenced by David Fitch’s incredible book, The Great Giveaway (I am working on a review of it to be posted later this week but go ahead, buy the book now)

Postmodern thinkers reveal the fallacy that individuals can think and reason to an objective decision all by themselves. Instead, the self is formed and shaped by a culture to act and think culturally in certain ways. Decisions therefore are not autonomous, isolated, and discrete. This is the myth of modernity. Decisions are birthed withing a given mind-set and shaped within a culture.

Just giving out information about leadership doesn’t accomplish anything. Well it may accomplish something but it won’t accomplish much. Leadership can’t be taught in a class, it is learned by osmosis when people are around other people who can lead. In some ways the monastic model seems to make a lot more sense to me as a way to develop leaders than our current way of lecturing 21 somewhat irrefutable laws in them and pretending this is it.

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Reverend Milburn Hindmarsh

On Friday morning, Aug. 12, long time Free Methodist pastor, Rev. Milburn Hindmarsh passed from this life into eternity at the age of 96 after a battle with cancer. This was a faithful servant of God whom has no doubt already heard those well deserved words “Well done, faithful servant”.

Funeral arrangements for Rev. Hindmarsh are as follows. Both the viewing and the funeral will be at the Saskatoon Free Methodist Church on Wednesday, August 17, 2005. The church is located at 2221 Hanselman Court in Saskatoon and the phone number is 306.242.4500.

  • Viewing is at 10:30 a.m.
  • Interment is at 11:15 a.m.
  • A Memorial Service will be at 2:00 p.m.

Reverend Hindmarsh pastored alongside my grandfather and was a special person in my life. When we moved to Saskatoon, he was the pastor of visitation at Lakeview Church and was frequently drinking coffee and tea in our home. When I started pastoring in Spiritwood, he called me over to his house and gave me his pastoral library. In it were some old books that helped define the holiness movement. Last year I re-read some of them and were moved by the authors desire to be more like God in all parts of our life. It was a neat moment and a kind of passing of the torch. I hope to be able to do the same thing to someone else someday. He will be missed.