Teaching Kids about God's Love and Prayer isn't hard if you get them involved. Try this!
Values in Story
"Your story matters! Tell it well. Tell it often."
- Dave Edgren, Storyteller
Invite Dave to speak to your crowd today!
Sunday, February 12, 2023
Wednesday, February 08, 2023
An open letter to the pastors at the 2023 AUC Minister's Meetings
I write to you as you gather at Avondale for your quinquinial Australian Union Conference ministers meetings.
Two decades ago, on Sabbath morning, I told the children's story at Avondale during the divine service at the minister's meetings. If you were there, perhaps you remember John the Baptist recounting his nightmare about a seven headed dragon. Storytelling was and is my passion.
Over the next ten years, I went through severe faith deconstruction. The apex of which occurred during my time as Associate Editor at Signs Publishing. I went through it alone. I spent many a drive home from Warburton calling to God and waiting for an answer. I even tried the silent treatment and listened for a still small voice. As you might expect, I heard nothing.
There was no one spiritually mature and safe to whom I could talk. My ministerial secretary was perfect and distant, as were all the men at the top. That seemed to be the way to survive. So, I tried. I joined the acting game.
I didn't want my storytelling to end but there were fewer and fewer topics on which I could preach or write with honesty. I read old scripts, danced old jigs. And in my private time I devoured books by McLaren, Campbell, Rohr and Spong. I needed to find God. I needed to find myself. Both were shadows of who they once were.
January 4, 2013 a brain tumour was safely removed from my auditory nerve. It left me deaf on that side with severe tinnitus but otherwise normal in appearance. My energy levels were massively depleted as the neurosurgeons said they would be. For three months, I took all my sick leave as I couldn't drive and stayed home on doctors orders, to recover.
One year later, to the day, I was removed from ministry permanently.
So, what happened during that year? The three months of recovery were bliss. Too tired to do much, I laughed with my family and ate every meal at home. I decided to be honest. When asked to go back to work, I would tell them who I really was. I would tell them what I believed and didn't believe.
When the call came, two churches - one small and one as assistant to a power pastor, I said exactly… nothing. During that year, I rode my motorcycle too fast. Numerous corners nearly took me. I spiralled into spiritual self loathing. One day I told my wife she would leave me if she knew what I really believed. She disagreed vehemently! And then, in my private thoughts, I wondered if I still had the old charm. So I tried. And I failed by succeeding.
January 4, 2014 I received a phone call from the conference President. We met in a McDonalds birthday party room. Our family had just moved so I could take a full time school chaplaincy role. When the President, General Secretary and power pastor asked me why, I told them everything. All the above but in greater detail. It felt blissful to unload a decade's burden! I talked and talked. The General Secretary commented that I seemed relieved not upset. True. Finally someone was listening and I couldn't be punished for my deconstruction.
My risk taking could have been partly a result of surviving brain surgery. It happens. But, it was definately a result of my faith deconstruction. The broken me was being unbroken and didn't want to go back into the paddock. I didn't want to sacrifice my new found freedom and honesty to return to the cowardice of the past. And so I bucked at the system's reigns. I took risks. Big ones. And I was fired, guilty as charged.
I went home with my tail between my legs. I'm grateful I wasn't brave enough to wrap it around my neck as some do. I went home where I was loved into accepting reconciliation. I was forgiven the moment I confessed. I still don't fully understand it. Much as I struggle to understand the cross, even though there is no better place to fall.
I've been told by others that I didn't deserve mercy. Duh. One pastor's wife told me her husband would be on the street after she emasculated him (not her words), should he ever dare! A decade later, she obviously still believes he is perfect as he remains intact.
A year later, while attempting to share a devotional I was writing on healing, a pastor told me if he were to help me it would send the wrong message. He said he wasn't sure how much time needed to elapse before He could be seen helping me. He didn't want to be unfit for duty in the temple, I guess.
The laity have been kind and accepting, welcoming me into their ranks with inclusive embracing arms. Over all, I've come to realise we teach and preach forgiveness well enough for the people to understand and act. And as I have listened to them over the past decade, even deconstruction is welcomed and expected. The discussion is vibrant.
Unfortunately, pastors are human. Deconstruction is part of maturity. This means, pastors who mature deconstruct and rebuild their faith. The needs for nonjudgmental mentoring, safe policies and empowering procedures for pastors with questions still remain unmet. Room to breathe and a safe place to debrief is desperately needed.
And thus, pastors in deconstruction manifest a variety of unhealthy behaviours.
In the pulpit: Poor preaching. Flimsy exegesis. Pathetic proofs. Weak point, pound pulpit.
In the home: Disconnection. Impossible expectations. Fake smiles. Do as I say, not as I do.
In the heart: Anxiety. Depression. Loneliness. Unbalanced relationship with God. From broken vessels that hold nothing - to - being so heavenly minded you're no earthly good.
I write to you not because I want back in. I'm much safer and healthier out here. I'm a better Christian now that I've come through my rebuilding phase.
I write to you because keeping our heads in the sand is killing pastors. We loose them to safer professions. We loose them in deconstruction. And, shockingly, we even lose them to death. The Seventh-day Adventist church must stop killing pastors.
While you are gathered this weekend, demand better. Your leaders have titled this gathering "The Empower Ministerial Convention." May it live up to its name. Pastors are deeply loved by God. It's time we started treating them that way.
Yours in Faith,
Sunday, October 30, 2022
Why the doctrine of Original Sin is good for nothing
I've lived in two worlds.
In America, where I grew up, faith was everywhere. Being a Christian nation, I was raised believing we are all desperate sinners in need of saving. Most Americans are taught this worldview. Teaching leads to believing and beliefs lead to action.
In Australia, where I've lived for the past 30 years, faith is an occasional thing. I asked a state school principal I worked for (as a chaplain) where she got her moral code. She is a multigenerational non-believer. She shrugged and said, "My parents lived a life that was family centred and generous to others. I learned early on that being nice feels better - both now and in the long run - than being mean. And people love people who love people. My partner and I modelled this to our kids. We go beach camping as a family with friends for two weeks every summer. We just love family and friends. Life is better when you love others."
Currently, horrible floods are inundating thousands of square kilometres of Australia. It's still raging. Entire towns have been decimated, some multiple times. Aussies, who believe in community and mateship, flock to the affected areas and work for free - in their hundreds - to clean up and return the broken communities to their feet.
There was one act of looting - a man entered a flooded home and took a TV - and it was reported on the news and the rest of Australia shook their heads in disappointment. There's been no more looting.
Mateship. Community. A fair go. Love for others. If you asked Aussies for a reason as to why they are like this, most wouldn't be able to put it into words. There's a classic Australian film called The Castle in which the husband is always praising his wife and when she says "it came out of a can" or some such rebuttal, he says, "It's how ya do it, Love. It's how ya do it." That is the Aussie Spirit. And that's humanity, I reckon, left alone - without the doctrine of Original Sin tampering with it.
Now, if you took a nation and told their children they were desperate sinners and could never do anything good without God helping them, what would they become like? Well, they might buy lots of guns to protect themselves. They might build family sized bunkers for times of crisis and arm the perimeter to kill the unprepared. They might loot homes and shops when crisis hit to help their own. They might shoot children in their own schools. They'd say, "We're sinners. Hopeless sinners. We have no hope and God has forgotten us."
Look at what the doctrine of "Original Sin" did to Christianity historically. Created to raise income for the building program of the medieval church, penance was profitable. Teaching people they were born in sin and steeped in it until death resulted in people seeking a solution. And they paid because the clergy told them paying was the way to forgiveness.
Soldiers in the Crusades came to their priests and confessed sins they were undoubtedly going to commit. "I'm a lowly sinner, Father. I will kill for the king but along with the killing, there will be the raping and pillaging. I don't want to do these things but you know... It's just too much for a sinner to resist. I'll be raping, no doubt. And burning houses full of children, I'm guessing. So, you'd best forgive those acts. You know father, sometimes people hide in big buildings - like churches - so, you'd better forgive me for burning a church or two. I'm but a sinner! Please forgive me, Father." And the priests did. Forgiveness before sin - permission to rape, pillage, destroy and murder entire villages.
Imagine, if from today forward, the church taught: "You are created in the image of a loving God, and so are your neighbors." How Christlike and loving might we become?
That said, I also do not believe we are able to be sinless. That is the ditch on the other side. "hopeless sinners" on one side and "sinless saints" on the other. And the road in the middle? The road to the Kingdom of God? Jesus.
His answer to the hopeless sinner: "The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life!"
His answer to the sinless saint: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives."
The road in the middle: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."
And there's a promise for people on the road and in both ditches, I believe: "For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive."
A poor doctrine of sin results in a weak doctrine of salvation. And, there is nothing weak about the love of God as revealed in Christ Jesus!
Monday, March 21, 2022
When God Comes Down
The Tower of Babel and Beyond!
At Pentecost, God underlined the linguistic diversity that He introduced at Babel. Everyone in the crowd was able to understand the disciples speaking in his or her own language. The first miracle that the Holy Spirit did was to make it possible for the story of Jesus to be understood in many languages all at once. The Triune relational God did nor force conformity on his followers by making them all hear his message in one language, He encouraged diversity by allowing them to hear in their own language. From even before the Christian church was called Christian, it was multicultural and multilingual. – Eddie Arthur, Babel, Pentecost and the Blessing of Diversity
The miracle was not in the ears of the hearers, (as some have unaccountably supposed,) but in the mouth of the speakers. And this family praising God together, with the tongues of all the world, was earnest that the whole world should in due time praise God in their various tongues. – John Wesley
Dave Edgren ~ Story: Teller, Author, Trainer ~
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