Saturday, May 25, 2024

Covenant and Community

"Covenant and Community" is a deep exploration of God's unwavering commitment to humanity, showing that His covenant is a promise of love, provision, and protection. It calls for humans to respond by living in love and worship, fostering healthy communities, and remembering the ultimate sacrifice made in the New Covenant through Jesus Christ.


This sermon explores the concept of 'covenant' as it appears in the Bible, highlighting its evolution and its implications for human relationships with God and each other. The word 'covenant' was introduced after sin entered the world as a promise from God to counteract doubt. However, the meaning of 'covenant' in the ancient Near East culture differs from our modern understanding. It was not a contract with responsibilities but a promise from God, the provider and protector, to humanity. The appropriate response to God's covenant was and still is worship.


this sermon explores the various eras of Israel's history, showing how God restated the covenant at each stage, reminding His people of His role as provider and protector, and their role to love Him and each other. These reminders took various forms such as the rainbow after the flood, the circumcision for Abraham's tribe, the Levites and the law for Moses' nation, and the promise to David's Kingdom that the Messiah would come through David's lineage.


However, despite these constant reminders, the people often forgot their covenant with God. This led, ultimately, to God's promise of a New Covenant, as prophesied by Jeremiah, where God would forgive their sins and write His law in their hearts. The New Covenant was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection provided the ultimate reminder of God's covenant in the bread and the wine of the communion meal.


The sermon concludes by emphasizing that the covenant between God and humanity has always been one-sided, with God taking on all the responsibility. God provides, protects, creates, recreates, saves, restores, builds, and rebuilds. In response, humans are called to love Him back and love all that He has made. The covenant is God's promise and our purpose: Love.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Sharing the Gospel in Chains


In my Sabbath School class this morning, I'm telling the story of Acts 16:16-34. Then leading a group reading and discussion on Philippians 1:12-20 to discuss the topic of the week:  "Standing for the Truth."

The conclusion:
With eyes fixed on Jesus,
Life is a string of God-given opportunities 
for the sharing of the Gospel.
Don't complain about what God didn't do. 
Instead, rejoice in what God is going to do!



Thursday, April 18, 2024

Sabbath: The Way And The Day

Sabbath should inform the way you worship just as much as the day you worship! 

Genesis presents it as a day created for rest with God (Gen 2). Exodus reframes it as a day of rest honouring creation (Ex 20). Deuteronomy reframes it as a day of rest due to freedom (Deut 5). Jesus reframes it as a day of rest to be truly human (Mark 2). He says mankind is the master of Sabbath, not the other way around. 

Worshiping on Sabbath is a form of resting but it's not always restful! Sabbath is a day to remember the God who created us, liberated us, and empowered us to connect to our role as stewards of creation and champions of the freedom of others. 

Sabbath was truly made for man, not man for the Sabbath. It serves to remind us to bring rest to our fellow man and the broken earth. It serves to reclaim us as created in God's image. And it remains both a day and a way of being truly human.

Working on Salvation

Many Christians spend a lot of time and energy calling each other out. Paul had a better idea than working out everyone else's salvation... 

"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life." Philippians 2:12-16

Focus on your own journey. 

God is working in you and through you.

Fear and tremble if you must.

But do it without bickering. 

Love others blamelessly.

You are children of God.

Shine like stars. 

Hold firm.

Word.

Life!

God's Socks


Yesterday, as I approached a supermarket, I saw a homeless man wrapped in a blanket accepting donations near the door. I stopped in front of him and said, "Hey mate, is there anything I can get you from inside? Do you need anything?" 

He looked up at me and said, "Could I have a pair of socks? Would that be okay to ask for?" 

"Of course!" I said, "I'll see what they have."

While paying for my groceries and his socks, I had an overwhelming thought - I've learned to identify these as the Holy Spirit speaking to me - "Offer to put the socks on for him." 

I thought, "Weird. I'm not doing that!" 

Outside, I went to the man and said, "They had the best socks ever! Warm work socks. And, it's a three pack. You can put them all on!" 

He laughed and thanked me. As he lowered his blanket to reach out and take the socks, I saw one of his arms was in a sling.

"Would you like me to put them on for you," I asked.

"No, I'm alright," he said.

"You sure?" I said, "Can you do it with your arm in a sling? I'm happy to help."

"Yeah," he said. "I can do it. But, hey, thanks for offering."

"You're welcome, have a nice day."

"You too."


As I drove home, I laughed to myself. God just schooled me in humility. God didn't ask me to put the socks on, just to offer. Sometimes God needs to remind me to be willing to serve so I am ready and willing when the need is there and the work is humble. 


There have been lessons before this one: 

Look - See people. See the needs of others. 

Listen - Talk to people. Ask what they need.

Bless - Serve people. Meet felt needs. They are real.

Sunday, April 07, 2024

Storyteller Needs Audience!


Biblical storytelling is good for my well-being. Like, extremely good! 

I told Bible stories at 8 am every morning at my local Camp Meeting in Victoria, Australia over Easter weekend for family worship. The next Sabbath, I told a Bible story (Other people say "preached a sermon" but that's not my style) at Warrnambool church. Lovely people there!

It's been a decade since I preached weekly as a pastor. I miss it dearly! For the past two weeks, I've been in the best head space I can remember for a very long time. I'm my best self when I'm operating in my giftedness! I thrive when I'm sharing life lessons from the Bible. Before COVID, I was very active in travelling for storytelling in churches, school week-of-prayer programs, and Camp Meeting series to Primary, Juniors, Teens, Youth and even the oldies. I love sharing Bible stories and inspiring others to be passionate about the Bible.

Do you have a Camp Meeting coming up? Week-of-Prayer? Need a speaker who loves Jesus and the Bible? That's me! My preaching schedule is pretty much empty. Not good! Please invite me to bless your crowd. I'm ready to go! 

I'm available to travel. I speak to all ages. I'm open to any age-appropriate Bible-based theme or topic. Let's build something together - something just right for your needs!

If you need a speaker, please consider me. Thanks.


Here's an example. Watch more on the Bible Stories Playlist of my YouTube channel.


Or a storytelling workshop for your church or school leaders or Pathfinders?

Telling your story is your best witness!

Explore the entire Story=Power Storytelling Series on this playlist.


Thursday, April 04, 2024

Love One Another


For the small handful of Adventists who say Christians who worship on Sunday are deceived by the Devil or worshipping "Satan's way", I beg you to prayerfully consider Mark 3. Imagine it is written just for you.

Look how the chapter starts. Look how it finishes. In the context of being God's family, Jesus says when we call what God is doing "Satan's work" we err beyond repair!

"Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mark 3:28,29)

Visit a Sunday church with some friends who go there. Attend one of their small group Bible studies. Spend a day of worship with them. You'll see what God is doing in their lives. You really will. And your words and deeds toward them will change. 

You will change.

Remarkably. 

I have.

Christians are family not enemies. Brothers and sisters not rivals. We are called to love each other. Jesus says, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

Only Love Remains


In Psalms 5:5 David writes, of God, "You hate all who do wrong." Some Christians take this to mean God hates sinners. 

This shouldn't be taken as God's opinion. David says at the beginning of the chapter: "Listen to my words, Lord" (Psalm 5:1). It is David's view that God hates evildoers. David's words. 

We know from Jesus' ministry that God loves sinners. In Luke 6:27-28 Jesus says: “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." Jesus' words. 

Jesus showed that God loves everyone. And he called us to do the same because God is Love and we are His disciples! 

When the early church was thriving, Jesus' disciple John wrote in his first love letter, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).

Once mankind walks shoulder to shoulder with God in Jesus, the ideas of racism, sexism, wealthism - all forms of human hierarchy - fall away and only love remains.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Restory Church: Interpretive Guides are Intentional Disciple-Makers

More Restory Church Posts
The healthy church is a landscape of spiritual mentorship where disciples recognise their role as disciple-makers. They mentor others as interpretive guides – individuals who lead others through life's decisions and faith transitions while also equipping them with the same skills. In essence, they empower others to become guides themselves, fostering a ripple effect of wisdom and support within the church and wider community. Disciples are disciple-makers.

At the core of this approach lies the art of interpretive guidance. Imagine working at an info booth in a city - handing out maps and helping travellers interpret those maps. Or working in a national park as a trail guide where you serve as both interpreter of the people and their skills and the guide leading them, based on their skill level, to their destination on a route they can both enjoy and accomplish. An interpretive guide is not a scholar but a well-resourced friend. 

Being an interpretive guide in a faith setting is a practice that invites deep reflection, exploration, and understanding. Rather than offering ready-made solutions, Interpretive guides are disciple-makers who facilitate a journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth. They ask thought-provoking questions, listen empathetically, and create a safe space for individuals to wrestle with life's complexities.

Consider the story of Sarah, a young professional grappling with a career dilemma. Unsure of which path to take, she turns to her interpretive guide, Rachel, for guidance. Through a series of reflective conversations, Rachel helps Sarah explore her values, passions, and long-term aspirations. They pray together and delve into the Scriptures, seeking wisdom and discernment. With Rachel's gentle guidance, Sarah gains clarity and confidence to make a decision aligned with her faith and purpose.

Similarly, John finds himself navigating a challenging faith transition. Feeling adrift and uncertain, he seeks support from his disciple-maker, Mark. Through their discussions, Mark encourages John to explore his doubts and questions, providing a safe space for him to voice his struggles. They pray together, and examine theological teachings and scientific research, allowing John to reconcile his faith journey with newfound insights.

The impact of interpretive guides who are also disciple-makers extends beyond individual guidance. They also invest in the development of future leaders, equipping disciples with the skills of Scriptural interpretation and spiritual wisdom. As disciples learn to guide others through life's complexities, they not only deepen their own understanding but also multiply disciples within their church community.

Imagine a network of empowered leaders, each serving as a beacon of guidance and encouragement to those in need. This is the vision of Interpretive guide disciple-makers – a community committed to walking alongside others, offering light in times of darkness and hope in moments of uncertainty.

If you feel called to join this transformative journey, I invite you to embrace the role of being an Interpretive guide disciple-maker. Whether you're a seasoned mentor or a budding disciple, there's a place for you in this movement of empowerment and growth. Ask a leader you respect to mentor you. And, offer the invitation to a new Christian to “Follow me as I follow Christ.”


10 Skills of an Interpretive Guide

Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of others, fostering a deep connection and creating a safe space for exploration.

Active Listening: Being fully present and engaged in the conversation, allowing individuals to express themselves freely and feel heard.

Cultural Competence: Understanding and respecting diverse cultural perspectives, ensuring inclusivity and relevance in interpretive discussions.

Open-mindedness: Maintaining a non-judgmental attitude and being open to various interpretations, allowing for a richer exploration of theological concepts.

Effective Communication: Clearly conveying ideas and concepts, adapting communication styles to meet the diverse needs of those seeking interpretation.

Reflective Practice: Continuously evaluating and improving one's own interpretive skills through self-reflection and learning from experiences.

Balancing Authority and Humility: Striking a balance between sharing knowledge and recognizing the subjective nature of interpretation, promoting a humble approach.

Adaptability: Being flexible in responding to different learning styles, perspectives, and unexpected shifts in the interpretive process.

Facilitation Skills: Guiding group discussions effectively, creating an environment that encourages active participation and respectful dialogue.

Spiritual Wisdom: Drawing from a deep understanding of religious teachings and practices, providing a solid foundation for interpretation within a spiritual context.


Interpretive Guide Coaching Session and Example Questions

Opening Reflection: How would you describe your current understanding or feelings about the topic we're exploring today?

Scriptural Connection: Are there any specific scriptures or teachings that come to mind when considering this aspect of your life or situation?

Personal Relevance: How do you see this aspect aligning with your personal values and beliefs?

Historical Perspective: Can you share any experiences or events from your past that might influence your perspective on this matter?

Community Impact: In what ways do you think your beliefs about this topic affect your relationships within your community or congregation?

Exploring Alternatives: Have you considered different interpretations or approaches to this issue, and if so, what insights have you gained?

Practical Application: How might your understanding of this concept guide your actions and decisions in your daily life?

Open-ended Inquiry: Is there anything else you'd like to share or explore regarding this topic that we haven't touched upon?

Reflective Pause: Take a moment to reflect on our conversation. What thoughts or feelings arise as you consider our discussion?

Future Integration: How can you integrate the insights gained from our conversation into your ongoing spiritual journey and practical living?


Interpretive Guide Life Topics and Example Questions

More Restory Church Posts
Core Values Assessment: What values are most important to you in making this decision? How do they align with your spiritual beliefs?

Prayerful Consideration: Have you taken time to pray about this decision, seeking guidance from God?

Wise Counsel: Have you sought advice from trusted individuals within your faith community or mentors who can provide valuable perspectives?

Scriptural Guidance: Are there scriptures or teachings that directly relate to the decision you are facing? How can they inform your choice?

Past Learning: Reflect on previous life decisions. What lessons have you learned from those experiences that might be relevant to the current decision?

Spiritual Goals Alignment: How does this decision align with your spiritual goals and the broader purpose you believe you are called to?

Inner Peace Indicator: When you think about each option, pay attention to your inner sense of peace or unrest. How does each choice impact your spiritual well-being?

Impact on Others: Consider the potential impact of your decision on your relationships and community. How might it align with your commitment to others?

Long-Term Vision: Envision the long-term consequences of each choice. How do they align with your vision for your life within the framework of your faith?

Trusting the Process: Are you willing to trust in the guidance of your faith and embrace the uncertainty that comes with making decisions in alignment with your spiritual beliefs?

Restory Church: Cultivating a Healthy Narrative - Empowering Lay-Led Church Communities

More Restory Church Posts
Due to financial strain caused by declining attendance, recession, and increased cost of living a crucial shift is needed in the landscape of church leadership and management dynamics. This restructuring must place volunteers, the local laity, at the forefront of faith community building.

While this financial strain may be the impetus for change, it will not serve well as the master story. Bad news grabs eager eyeballs but it doesn’t grow healthy hearts. Stories of hellfire do not generate lasting change. Stories of the Kingdom of God and its eternal reign of love, healing and peace are so effective that Jesus made them His bread and butter - and His Kingdom is still growing! A meta-narrative that connects the local church with the eternal Kingdom is the only story that will do. Jesus is all. 


Cultivating a healthy narrative within a lay-led church community is not just about sharing stories but about educating and empowering individuals to shape their story through intentional engagement. Behavioural change specialists say to change a habit - personal or corporate - only one thing is needed: record keeping. The questions you follow up with story-gathering (statistics/responses) will motivate change. While it may feel like a watched pot never boils, watching behaviour intentionally (record keeping) causes rapid change in groups and individuals. So, let's explore how to foster the creation of a healthy church narrative through the crafting of personal, relational, and communal skills.



1. Personal Skills: Unveiling Authentic Narratives

At the heart of a healthy narrative lies the power of personal connections. Empower individuals to share their life stories, fostering genuine connections within the community. This involves:


Sharing Personal Stories: Encourage individuals to articulate their faith journeys, weaving a tapestry of shared experiences. What has Jesus done for you or in you this week?


Intentionality: Guide members to align their actions with their values, fostering purposeful engagement. How did your faith guide your decisions this week?


Cultural Competency: Equip individuals with the skills to navigate diverse backgrounds with sensitivity and understanding. What idea or reality did you open your heart to outside your comfort zone this week?


Prayer and Discernment: Foster a practice of prayerful discernment, guiding individuals to understand the needs of others and shape thoughtful outreach approaches. How did the Holy Spirit guide you toward loving others this week?



2. Relational Skills: Crafting Meaningful Connections

Effective communication is key to nurturing a healthy narrative within the community. Elevate the relational fabric by:


Effective Communication: Enhance communication skills by inverting in meaningful connections that resonate within the community. Who have you connected to in the wider community this week?


Active Listening: Develop the ability to listen attentively and comprehend the stories and experiences of fellow community members. What did you learn by saying “tell me more” this week?


Invitational Mindset: Cultivate an inviting approach that welcomes others into the folds of the community with warmth and inclusivity. What invitations did you accept this week? What invitations did you give?


Conflict Resolution: Equip individuals with the grace to resolve differences, preserving positive relationships within the community. How did you serve as a mediator this week?



3. Communal Skills: Bridging Gaps for Growth

A healthy narrative thrives when all members actively contribute to the growth and engagement of the church. Foster communal skills by:


Community Needs Assessment: Understand and address specific local needs to lay the foundation for impactful community engagement. What needs have you seen this week?


Inclusive Outreach Strategies: Craft approaches that appeal to a diverse audience, ensuring the community is welcoming to all. What demographic have you seen uniquely served this week? What demographic did you see in need of loving attention?


Active Community Engagement: Beyond traditional church settings, involve members in various activities to strengthen community bonds. What intentional group outside the church (club/craft) have you engaged in this week? 


Digital Outreach Skills: Harness the potential of digital platforms for effective communication and outreach efforts. How have you lifted Christ up online this week? How have you built people up online this week?


Hospitality Training: Create a welcoming atmosphere where newcomers feel embraced and comfortable within the community. How has your involvement in church this week focused on making people feel safe or welcoming new people?



Conclusion:

By focusing our teaching, dialogue and record-keeping on the cultivation of Personal, Relational, and Communal skills, disciple-makers will reshape the church community to hear and tell a healthy narrative about themselves. This intentional approach not only fosters a holistic inreach/outreach community but also strengthens the collective identity and purpose of the lay-led church. Together, these skills weave a narrative of inclusivity, authenticity, and connection. Thus paving the way for a church community that flourishes under the guidance of its empowered and intentional members.

 

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Jesus Journey - Part 7 - Mark 4:21-34


In this 7th episode of the Jesus Journey, the focus being Mark chapter 4:21-34, we build on the exploration of the Parable of the Sower in episode 6. The discussion delves into more parables and teachings of Jesus, aiming to provide insight into the workings of the Kingdom of God.


Key Points:

Parable of the Lamp: Jesus begins with a metaphor about a lamp, emphasizing that nothing hidden will remain so forever. This sets the stage for understanding the purpose of his cryptic teachings.

Parables of Seeds: Jesus follows up with parables about seeds, highlighting the growth of the kingdom of God. The mustard seed analogy underscores how something small can yield significant results.

Interpretation of Parables: The discussion elucidates the deeper meanings behind Jesus' parables, emphasizing the role of the church in illuminating the truths about God in the Bible as revealed through Jesus.

Understanding the Kingdom of God: Through these parables, Jesus reveals the nature of the kingdom of God and the process of spiritual growth. Good soil, representing receptive hearts, yields abundant fruit.

Role of Believers: Believers are likened to lampstands, meant to shine the light of Christ who dwells in them as the church. By staying connected to Jesus and his teachings, we become vessels for spreading the message of salvation.


Conclusion:

The passage underscores the transformative power of Jesus' teachings and the responsibility of believers to share the light of His Word. Through understanding and embracing the Kingdom of God, individuals become agents of spiritual growth and Kingdom growth. The journey of faith involves continual nourishment and cultivation, leading to a deeper connection with Christ and a greater capacity to grow the Kingdom.

Restory Church: Dear Mr President

More Restory Church Posts
Last week, my heart broke for the president of the Oregon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists when I watched his video and read his open letter. He had to announce severe cutbacks in spending made necessary primarily by attendance dropping by 75 per cent after COVID. There are, of course, other factors. Watch the video and read the open letter for more details.

I knew the president would have been receiving all kinds of negative feedback. So, I put on my thinking cap and wrote a positive letter of encouragement with some ideas. These ideas have not left me alone since and are the reason for the Restory Church series.

Change is hard. And it's here. 
Be kind in the midst of it. Always!

Here is the letter.

-x-x-x-x-

Dear Pastor Dan,

I watched your video when you released it and read your open letter this morning. I can only imagine the stress you are under. My heart and prayers have been with Oregon this past month and you in particular.

On my morning walk today, after reading your open letter, my brain was racing. This is going to snowball. You are the bravest and therefore the first to say things publicly. Clearly, a new strategy must be implemented or the corporate death that looms will arrive. I spent the rest of the morning considering two questions. 1. What must the laity become to change the world for Christ? 2. How can we train the clergy to empower this laity movement?

As we navigate the challenges of declining attendance and increasing costs associated with paid clergy, empowering the laity is the only viable solution.

We can turn things around if pastors become enablers. Attendance will increase and new members will join the church if we resource and empower our pastors to be trainers and facilitators in the following three areas.

1. Personal Skills: Encouraging laity to share personal stories, be intentional in their interactions, develop cultural competency, and employ prayer and discernment in their outreach efforts.

2. Relational Skills: Providing training in effective communication, active listening, an invitational mindset, and conflict resolution to enhance interpersonal relationships.

3. Communal Skills: Guiding laity in conducting community needs assessments, employing inclusive outreach strategies, actively engaging in community activities, utilizing digital platforms for outreach, and receiving hospitality training.

A laity trained in Christlikeness and then loosed on the world will rescue the church and hasten the soon coming of Christ through personal relationships. The principle was Jesus' first: Love God, Love neighbour. It must be ours, now.

Beautiful people attract people. If Christ be lifted up - oh the hope of it!

May the Lord bless you and give you peace as you change the world for Him! Your leadership and open communication inspire me all the way over here in Australia. Continue in strength.

I would love to be involved in future brainstorming sessions and however else you wish. I don't want money, just so you know. My brother lives in your conference. Like so many, he left God long ago. It would be a blessing to see him loved into Jesus!

Know this: What you are doing is a light on a hill for many other conference leaders. Courage to you as you weather the storm and arrows that come when you lead the pack!

Keep changing the world!

Dave Edgren

-x-x-x-x-


Reflections

I received a very grateful and inspiring email in response from Pastor Dan. I cherish it!


What are the key things you see facing the health and growth of the church?

What are your thoughts about my assessment and suggestions?

Please read the other Restory Church Posts and then comment on what you think of the “Restory Church” concept? How does it help?


Please write in the comment section or email me at davedgren@gmail.com

Friday, March 15, 2024

Restory Church: Jesus Culture - Lay-Led Storytelling

More Restory Church Posts
In the pages of the Gospels, we encounter a profound example of storytelling and grassroots community-building. Jesus, the ultimate disciple-maker, walked the dusty roads of Palestine, engaging with people from all walks of life through parables, miracles, and intimate conversations. As we delve into his life and ministry, we uncover a treasure trove of wisdom that illuminates our path towards a Restory Church—a community rooted in the storytelling culture and lay-led structure exemplified by Jesus himself.



The Power of Parables

Throughout his ministry, Jesus used parables to convey deep spiritual truths in a way that resonated with his audience. These simple yet profound stories served as mirrors reflecting the everyday experiences of his listeners while challenging them to consider the deeper implications of his teachings.

Take, for example, the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In this timeless story, Jesus challenges societal norms and prejudices by portraying a despised Samaritan as the hero who demonstrates true compassion and neighbourly love. Through this narrative, Jesus not only teaches the essence of loving one's neighbour but also models a radical inclusivity that transcends cultural barriers—a lesson that remains as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago.


Empowering Disciple-Makers

Central to Jesus' ministry was the training and equipping of his disciples to become disciple-makers themselves. Unlike the hierarchical structures of religious leadership prevalent in his time, Jesus embraced a lay-led approach, empowering ordinary men and women to carry forth the message of the Kingdom.

Consider the calling of the first disciples by the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus did not recruit scholars or religious elites but rather fishermen and tax collectors—individuals deeply rooted in their communities and familiar with the rhythms of everyday life. Through intentional mentoring, storytelling, and shared experiences, Jesus transformed these humble street people into bold proclaimers of the Gospel, laying the foundation for a decentralized and lay-led movement that spread like wildfire across the ancient world and into today.


Mentoring and Community Building

In addition to his public ministry, Jesus engaged in intimate mentoring relationships with his disciples, inviting them into a deeper understanding of his teachings and mission. Whether sharing meals, walking together on the road, or withdrawing to pray in solitude, Jesus modelled a relational approach to leadership that prioritized authenticity, vulnerability, and mutual support.

One such poignant example is found in Jesus' interactions with Peter. Despite Peter's flaws and failures, Jesus continually invested in him, challenging him to rise above his limitations and lead by example rather than bravado. Through moments of correction, affirmation, and restoration, Jesus demonstrated the transformative power of mentoring within the context of a loving and supportive community.


Towards a Restory Church

As we reflect on the life and ministry of Jesus, let us reimagine the church not as a rigid institution but as a dynamic and inclusive community grounded in the principles of storytelling, disciple-making, and lay-led leadership. A Restory Church embraces the storytelling culture of Jesus, recognizing the power of narrative to bridge divides, challenge assumptions, and inspire transformation.

Furthermore, a Restory Church nurtures a culture of grassroots leadership, where every member is empowered to become a disciple-maker and agent of change within their sphere of influence. By fostering mentoring relationships, sharing stories of faith and transformation, and embracing the diversity of gifts and perspectives within the community, we pave the way for a church that is truly reflective of the Kingdom of God—a diverse tapestry of individuals united in love, purpose and mission.


Walking like Jesus

It's time to embody the lay-led grassroots community structure exemplified by Jesus, the ultimate storyteller and disciple-maker. As we walk in his footsteps, may we become catalysts for renewal and transformation, sharing the timeless message of hope, grace, and redemption with a world in desperate need of Good News.


Reflections

How does storytelling and disciple-making feature in your following Jesus?

How does Jesus' focus on the grassroots community help you?

Please read the other Restory Church Posts and then comment on what you think of the “Restory Church” concept? How does it help?

Please write in the comment section or email me at davedgren@gmail.com

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Restory Church: Reviving Lay Led Community

More Restory Church Posts
To save the church, we must restore lay-led community, not as a nostalgic yearning for the past, but as a strategic move in the preservation of our faith communities. To walk the Kingdom journey as Jesus did, a Restory Church wears two sandals: 
1. the cultivation of a healthy narrative 
2. the shaping of interpretive leaders 


Healthy Narrative

The foundation of any thriving community lies in the stories it tells itself. The narrative of a community serves as its collective identity, shaping the values, beliefs, and aspirations of its members. In the context of church restoration, it becomes imperative to craft a narrative that not only reflects rich traditions but also resonates with contemporary lives.

By sharing an experience that bridges the timeless teachings of the church with the challenges and triumphs of the present, a healthy narrative emerges. This narrative becomes a guiding light, fostering unity and shared purpose among the diverse individuals who make up a healthy congregation. This tapestry that binds generations, will emphasize the need for the church in our increasingly fragmented society.


Interpretive Guides

At the forefront of this revival stand a redefined church leadership – interpretive guides – leaders who go beyond traditional roles to engage with the congregation on a deeper level. These leaders understand the pulse of the community and act as mediators between the sacred teachings and the lived experiences of the individuals.

Interpretive guides do not strive to be authorities but lead by being empathetic listeners, wise storytellers, and catalysts for meaningful dialogue. Through their guidance, the congregation navigates the complexities of modern life while staying grounded in the principles of the church. They interpret the teachings in a way that resonates with the current context, ensuring that the church remains a relevant and dynamic force in the lives of its members.


A Thriving Church

Restoring the church to a lay-led community is not a return to a bygone era but a strategic evolution. Churches are dying for lack of being needed. A thriving church recognizes the need for unity, shared purpose, and relevance in the face of societal shifts. The interplay of a healthy narrative and interpretive leadership forms the backbone of this cohesive movement.

As interpretive guides lead the congregation through the evolving landscape, the healthy narrative serves as the compass, pointing towards a collective vision. Together, they pave the way for a church that is not just a place to house a denomination but a vibrant community that thrives on connection, understanding, and shared growth. A thriving church is not a place to go but a place to be.


Restory Church

A Restory Church is an intentional community with a healthy narrative, interpretive leadership, and thriving relationships. It is my hope that you will choose to be a Restory Church! Over the next handful of blog posts, I will walk down this sandal-worn path and hope at where it leads. We will explore church, community, purpose, relationships, and leadership to learn to walk as Jesus did and live a cross-shaped story. 

Let's do this!


Dave the Storyteller

P.S. Please comment or email me if you have ideas, questions, or stories that illustrate the points I'm trying to make. Thanks!


Reflections

How are you involved in creating a healthy narrative in your church? In your family? In yourself? 

What are the key things you see facing the health and growth of the church?

How do you understand being an Interpretive Guide? Who is yours?

Please write in the comment section or email me at davedgren@gmail.com

Saturday, March 09, 2024

Jesus Journey - Part 6 - Mark 4:1-20

Jesus was playing the long game when he told parables. Thoughts?


What is your favourite parable?

Introduction:
Embarking on the exploration of Mark 4:1-20 in the Jesus Journey's sixth episode, we delve into the profound teachings of Jesus through parables. This passage, featuring the renowned Parable of the Sower, encapsulates layers of wisdom that invite us to reflect on the nature of the Kingdom of God.

The Setting:
As the episode unfolds, we find Jesus at the sea, addressing a vast crowd from a boat. Employing the picturesque backdrop of the sea and shoreline, Mark portrays Jesus teaching through parables, a narrative style that conceals deeper meanings within seemingly simple stories.

The Parable Unveiled:
The Parable of the Sower takes center stage, where Jesus unfolds a narrative about a sower scattering seeds on various types of soil. The imagery of seeds falling on different terrains symbolizes the varied receptions of the Gospel message, serving as a metaphor for the different responses people exhibit towards God's word.

The Questions Arise:
Following the parable, Jesus is approached by those around him, and the twelve disciples, with inquiries about the purpose and significance of the parables. This moment sets the stage for a profound exploration into the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.

The Secret of the Kingdom:
In response, Jesus unveils the secret of the Kingdom of God, explaining that to those within, the mysteries are revealed, but to those outside, the truth remains veiled in parables. He cites Isaiah, emphasizing the intentional obscurity to prevent understanding for specific reasons.

A Mark Sandwich:
Mark, the storyteller, employs his characteristic "Mark sandwich" technique, framing the central teaching with bookend stories and statements like "listen." This technique emphasizes the importance of paying attention to the hidden layers of meaning within the parables.

The Secret of the Kingdom:
Sandwiched between the Parable of the Sower and its explanation, Mark 4:11-12 puts a twist on Isaiah's Call in Isaiah 6:1-11 by changing one word. This highlights a parallel between the mysterious nature of God's "not yet" message given in Isaiah 6, the ministry of Jesus and the hidden keys to the Kingdom within his parables. Both show spiritual discernment is needed to understand what God is doing. Parables hint at an answer to Isaiah's question "How Long?" How long until the Kingdom would be revealed? Parables pull back the veil to let us peek into the Kingdom of God!

Interpreting the Parable:
There are a variety of ways this parable could have been applied before Mark wrote his down. Possibilities: The effectiveness of parables. The effectiveness of Jesus' ministry. The reception the disciples received in new locations. The escalating power of the Gospel throughout time. Each layer of interpretation adds depth to the overarching message of the parable culminating with Jesus' interpretation in Mark - The effectiveness of the Word of God. 

A Divine Challenge:
Jesus challenges the understanding of the disciples, urging them to grasp the essence of the parable. He then imparts a singular interpretation, categorizing the various responses to the Word of God as represented by the types of soil in the parable.

The Call to Transformation:
Mark concludes with a cautionary note, emphasizing the need for hearts to be transformed, drawing from Ezekiel's proclamation of a heart change. Mark's message is echoed by Augustine's exhortation to break the hardness, remove the obstacles, and cultivate a heart receptive to God's Word.

Conclusion:
Mark 4:1-20 introduces the reader to the power of parables. Particularly the richness of the Parable of the Sower and the profound insights it offers about the Kingdom of God. The challenge remains: are we the good ground that welcomes, retains, and bears fruit for the glory of God?

Friday, March 01, 2024

Jesus Journey - Part 5 - Mark 3:7-35

"Whose are Youse?" 

What does it mean to live under the authority of Christ? Mark 3 gives a great answer.

 Jesus says anyone who does the will of God is His family. That's pretty awesome! 

If God is our Father, we obey Him and are at home with Jesus.



Welcome back to our exploration of the Book of Mark. This time, we delve into the remainder of chapter 3. Although we've only scratched the surface of this chapter, starting at verse 7, we will navigate through to the end, offering insights and reflections on various aspects. 

This chapter of Mark zeroes in on people's thoughts, reactions, and actions concerning Jesus. It scrutinizes the different approaches various groups had toward Him. 

The initial segment, spanning Mark 3:7-12, titled "Ministering to the Multitude," narrates how a massive crowd followed Jesus from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, Tyre, and Sidon. The crowd's sheer size led Jesus to take precautions, even using a small boat to avoid being crushed. The text emphasizes the tangible healing power of Jesus, as people pressed toward Him, seeking a touch that brought miraculous healing.

Moving on to Mark 3:13-20, we encounter the naming of the twelve apostles. Jesus, on a mountain, specifically called those He wanted, appointing twelve as apostles. Notably, He gave Simon the name Peter, James and John the name "Boanerges" or "Sons of Thunder." This section underscores Jesus' deliberate delegation of authority, both for preaching and driving out demons, marking a pivotal moment in the establishment of His ministry.

The chapter further unfolds in Mark 3:20-30, titled "A House Divided." Here, Jesus addresses the uncomfortable reactions from His family and the accusations from scribes who assert that He expels demons by the ruler of demons, Beelzebul. Jesus employs parables to challenge this narrative, emphasizing the inherent contradiction in Satan opposing himself. He declares that His actions are rooted in binding the strong man (Satan) to plunder his possessions. The gravity of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is highlighted, suggesting an eternal consequence.

Finally, in Mark 3:31-35, entitled "True Relationships," Jesus' family seeks Him, prompting His response that redefines familial ties. Jesus asserts that those doing the will of God are His true family, transcending biological connections.

As we conclude this exploration, remember that Jesus invites us into His family by aligning ourselves with the will of God. Embrace the transformative power of Christ, allowing His love and authority to shape your identity and relationships.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Getting back to the heart of worship with Jeroboam

Jeroboam was meant for greatness in the Kingdom of God. What happened? 

1 Kings 11:37–38 (CSB): 37 I will appoint you, and you will reign as king over all you want, and you will be king over Israel. 

38 “ ‘After that, if you obey all I command you, walk in my ways, and do what is right in my sight in order to keep my statutes and my commands as my servant David did, I will be with you. I will build you a lasting dynasty just as I built for David, and I will give you Israel."


Read the rest of the story in 1 Kings 11. 
Why did Jeroboam fall? Avoid answering quickly. Put yourself in his shoes. Imagine his life. Where was his "leader's heart" emotionally/relationally when he established Israel's new worship scene? Was it all about worship? Or was some deeper fear playing on Jeroboam's heart? 

Sunday, February 11, 2024

PCF - An Invitation to Bible Study


When visiting Christian schools for a week of Bible storytelling (they call it Week of Prayer, or other names) I often tell a story on the first day that challenges the kids to read the Bible for themselves. It goes like this:

Last night, your chaplain, took me to a new all-you-can-eat restaurant in the city! It was yum. And, it was weird! There were three serveries. The first had a big sign over it "Square Meals". The next was "Raw n Fresh!" And the final one, "PCF". 

There were a few people in the Square Meals line getting a plate of meat n veg or Lasangna and salad, etc. And there was one person at the Raw n Fresh buffet. But, the line for the PCF servery was huge! It actually went out one of the doors and into the car park! 

I went up to the PCF servery just to look - it was trays of differently coloured sludge - chunks floating in a soupy mess. It was weird. I saw the chef through the window and mouthed, "What is PCF?" He laughed and waved me to the kitchen door. Once inside he showed me a group of chefs preparing gourmet meals. Next, he showed me rows of people eating those meals. 

"To properly digest your food," He said, "You must chew each bite 27 times before swallowing, did you know that?" I shook my head, getting a bit queasy. "Who has time for that?" he continued, "So, we help!"

I then saw that the 'eaters' were spitting each bite into a bowl next to their plate of perfectly prepared cuisine. Those bowls were collected by food prep hands and put into the large serving trays at the front. 

"Pre Chewed Food," The chef said proudly, "PCF. The world loves it. It's everywhere!"

By then, the audience of kids are not being quiet and respectful. They are making grossed-out noises, conversation blurts and all kinds of cacophony. 

I stop and face them, "What? You don't believe me?" They all shout, "NO!"

"Why not?" After taking a few answers, I say, "Because PCF is disgusting, right? Nobody would eat that!" 

"And yet we do. There's Adventist PCF. Baptist PCF. Mormon PCF. Catholic PCF. Christian PCF comes in all flavours and chunkiness! Every time you listen to a sermon - PCF. Every time you read a devotional - PCF. Someone else has already chewed it up and regurgitated it for you!"

Kids - still grossed out. Concerned looks from staff members...  

"So, this week, I challenge you to get "Raw n Fresh" spiritual meals by reading the Bible for yourself. And get some Square Meals by studying the Bible with a group of friends. And yes, enjoy my PCF. I loved chewing it up for you. But, goodness gracious, please don't live on the stuff!"

Friday, February 09, 2024

Psalms 82: Ye are gods - Group discussion guide


Introduction

Ensure you have a coin with you. Invite group members to take out a coin and look at it.


Q. What do the images on the two sides represent? Why are these things important to your nation? Why is there always a person on at least one side? What does that person represent?



Read Matthew 22:15-22


Q. Even though they were trying to trick Jesus, these Pharisees saw the core attributes of a Godly leader in Jesus. What did they see? (Matt 22:16 - truthful, taught Gods ways, impartial)


Q. What does Jesus' coin lesson teach us about the best way to live a Godly life? (Matthew 22:21 - honor and serve God while also respecting leaders)



Read Psalms 82:1-8


Q. It's hard to miss, so let's go there first! Who are the gods in verse 1 and 6? 


The same Hebrew word begins and finishes Psalms 82:1 - Elohim. Often translated as “God” it can be translated in other ways. Let's take a look at a passage that will help.



Read Exodus 21:2-6


Q. Which word in this story do you think is a translation of Elohim? (Exodus 21:6 - judges)


Q. If you guessed “master” you are not far off. Does anyone know the Hebrew word translated four times in this passage as “master”? (Adonai - Another word commonly translated as “God”) 


Reread Exodus 21:5 replacing the word Master with Adonai. Beautiful, isn't it?


Q. What can we learn about leadership, parenting, governing and even relationships from the way the Hebrew language freely uses words for God to represent people in authority?



Two Sides of the Same Coin


Reread Psalms 82:1-8


Imagine this Psalm as a script for a stage play.  

Verse 1 is the setting. Psalms 82:1

Verse 2-4 are God's lines addressing the other actors. Psalms 82:2-4

Verse 5 is narration for the audience's sake.  Psalms 82:5

Verse 6-7 are God's lines addressing the other actors. Psalms 82:6-7

Verse 8 is Audience's line. (Shouted in unison!) Psalms 82:8


Q. Which part is your favorite? Why? 


Q. Which part challenges you most? Why?



Conclusion


We have a rare treat in our study today. Jesus has done some of the interpretation of our Psalm for us! 


Read John 10:31-39


Q. Who does Jesus say the phrase “you are gods” refers to? (John 10:35 “those to whom the Word of God came”)


Q. In Jesus’ day, the Word of God was what we now call the Old Testament. To whom were the writings of Moses and the Prophets given? (Israel, the people of God)


Q. Because of the cross, who are the people of God today? (followers of Jesus)


Q. Where does this place us in Psalms 82? (as ‘gods’ - leaders under God's authority)


Q. How will this inspire you in the way you live your life?

Saturday, February 03, 2024

The Gospel and You

What is the Gospel? Is there more than one? What does it mean to live the Gospel?



The word "Gospel" is an Anglo-Saxon word derived from the words "Good Spell" or, more literal in meaning, "Good Story". And that it is. The Gospel is a great story that makes a difference in our lives!

When we read the word Gospel in the New Testament it is a translation of the word "Evangelion" which means "Good News." When Jesus used the word, it was a particular kind of good news. It was Kingdom News. 

When the Roman Empire coronated a new Emperor - they sent out the Evangelion to the far reaches of the world. "Good News! There is a new God King in Rome!" When the Roman army won a battle, they sent the Evangelion to the Emperor in Rome. "Good News! We've won the battle!" 

So, when Jesus used the word, He meant it in that cultural context. He was using it the way the locals did, not the way we do! He took the Roman meaning and put a God-centered spin on it. You can see it clearly at the beginning of Mark's good spell. "After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God: 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!' " Mark 1:14-15 

With Jesus, the Kingdom of God sends Evangelion. The Kingdom of God has come near! Good News! Luke spells out the good spell Jesus was teaching in Luke 4:16-21. It was "good news to the poor." This Kingdom sets captives free, heals the blind and proclaims the year of the Lord's favor! 

After Jesus, the word Evangelion went through another reworking because of the way the Early Church used it. The Roman meaning was left behind and it became a new "Good News". Jesus died for us. He rose to life again. He lives interceding for us. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus. His death, His resurrection and His love are ours to take to heart today. Now, that's Good News! 

As the New Testament closes, in the book of Revelation, Evangelion takes on an even more amazing meaning: "Eternal Good News!" What could that be? How is it different from the Gospel Jesus preached? How is it different from the Gospel of the Early Christian Church? Which is the most important Gospel?  

Watch my sermon for the rest of the Gospel story! It's a wild ride (and some beautiful scenery!)

Then, let me know what you think!


Thursday, January 25, 2024

Psalm 121 - Group Discussion Guide


Introduction

Some call Psalms 121 "The Traveller's Psalm" as it is about God's protection as we journey. The subtitle "A Song of Ascent" refers to the pilgrimage Israelites took to Jerusalem for sacrifice and worship.

Some commentators suggest pilgrims would sing this psalm in their camp the night before they reached Jerusalem as they looked at the Holy City. The following psalm (Psalm 122:1-9) takes place within Jerusalem's walls.

Other commentators suggest that weary travellers would sing this song when they saw the hills of Judah in the distance, knowing Jerusalem was within reach. “I lift my eyes toward the mountains...”

Whatever the case, it is a song of hope to sing on life's journey.


Read Psalm 121:1-8 as a group

Q. Who is the "I" in this poem? Who is the "you?" 

A. While it could have been written to encourage a friend, Psalm 121 was probably a note from the psalmist to himself. We can certainly benefit from taking it as a personal message of encouragement in our lives! Let it speak to you like a hand-written message from a beloved relative.


Read Psalm 121:1 

When are you most likely to lift your eyes "up" to the Lord? (Prayer)

This is a song of protection. In the Hebrew text, only one word is used for what our versions translate variously as “watches over,” “preserves,” and “keeps.” That word (shamar) is used six times. It is found twice in the second stanza (vv. 3–4), once in the third stanza (v. 5), and three times in stanza four (once as “keep” and twice as “watch over,” vv. 7–8). How does God "shamar" you in your times of trouble?


Read Psalm 121:2

How does naming an attribute of God help during prayer? (Focus)

Which of God's attributes do you find most effective in focusing your attention on Him? (omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, love, forgiveness, creativity, mercy, etc)


Read Psalm 121:3

When have you especially felt God's protection in your life?


Read Psalm 121:4

How does combining "God is always awake and watching" with protection and prayer redefine it in your mind? (Since love is God's primary attribute, His power, presence and knowledge are reassuring not intimidating. God's attention is a blessing - not a curse!)


Read Psalm 121:5

What does it mean to you that God is a safe place "right by your side"?


Read Psalm 121:6

Obviously, God's people experience sunburn and exposure. In a spiritual sense, what does this verse mean to you? (You will be cared for day & night!)


Read Psalm 121:7

I am reminded of the children's book: "We're going on a bear hunt." Life happens. "We can't go over it. we can't go under it. We have to go through it." What difference does it make to know God is there, going through it with you?


Read Psalm 121:8

Most accidents happen within 10 kms of home because we lose focus on the tasks of travelling. Faith life tends to be the other way around. The young in faith tend to have vibrant evangelistic fervor and elderly people have a calm reassuring stalwart faith. On the spiritual journey, the middle tends to be the hardest. 

Why is this? What makes some moments more risky for our faith than others? (We often lose our faith-focus during the busiest and most stressful moments.)

What advice would you give someone to help them regain and maintain their faith? (Eyes on the prize! Fix your eyes on Jesus!)


Conclusion

Life is a journey without God or it is a journey with God. The choice is ours to make. The same road is travelled. Birth. Life. Death. But the company and the comfort are very different. 

So what is the disciple of Jesus to expect? Eugene Peterson gives this answer on pages 40 and 41 of his book "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction."

The Christian life is not a quiet escape to a garden where we can walk and talk uninterruptedly with our Lord; nor a fantasy trip to a heavenly city where we can compare blue ribbons and gold medals with others who have made it to the winners’ circle.… The Christian life is going to God. In going to God Christians travel the same ground that everyone else walks on, breathe the same air, drink the same water, shop in the same stores, read the same newspapers, are citizens under the same governments, pay the same prices for groceries and gasoline, fear the same dangers, are subject to the same pressures, get the same distresses, are buried in the same ground.

The difference is that each step we walk, each breath we breathe, we know we are preserved by God, we know we are accompanied by God, we know we are ruled by God; and therefore no matter what doubts we endure or what accidents we experience, the Lord will preserve us from evil, he will keep our life.

Dave Edgren ~ Story: Teller, Author, Trainer ~

BOOK DAVE NOW! Dave Edgren is passionate about creating a values-based storytelling culture. In his engaging and often hilarious way,...