- Introducing talkabouts
- Being Christian - in the world but not of the world
- Cancer - finding the words to comfort
- Children leaving the Church
- Friendship in a friendly church
- Financial Planning - pipe dreams
- Reconciliation - whose move is it?
- TGIF - escaping the stress of work
- Other Topics
The desire to talk about things is a natural and important part of our being. That is a reflection Of God's own nature -- God's Word is a testament to His eagerness to talk with us about everything under the sun. We ourselves do talk back, and we talk much more amongst ourselves with mates, friends and family. But lots of things get in the way. Our talk with God tends to be cryptic. Friends and mates can clam up. And a wide variety of potentially meaningful relationships are plagued by the limits of small talk.
The church is certainly a place for developing dialogue with God. But it is also a place for nurturing talk amongst ourselves about every aspect of life. Our confession of God's grace and His mastery over all of these aspects of our lives brings health and vitality to talk within all sorts of relationships. The church is called to develop our confessional awareness, through preaching and worship, but also through the ministry of members to each other.
A talkabout ministry, in an organized yet organic way, could facilitate the fellowship of people who need to talk about things. It would open doors between people with common concerns and offer some guidance for talking about those concerns. It does offer suggestions for what to talk about but, more importantly, it serves as a clearing-house for any suggestions or concerns that come up. It allows everyone to gauge the level of interest in a topic.
- in the world but not of the world
There is a story about a frog in a shallow beaker. This beaker is filled with water and is being heated very gradually by a Bunsen burner. At any time, the frog is capable of jumping out if the water becomes too hot. Yet, being cold blooded, his body continues to adjust to the rising temperature until the water boils and the frog dies.
Our world continues to change around us. One of the hottest trends is to see Truth in relative terms. Many things that were wrong fifty years ago are accepted with little question. Even amongst Christian churches and professing Christians, there is debate as to what is truth.
As Christians, we are called to live in this world, but not be consumed by it. In the Bible, God demonstrates over and over His anger against those who scorn the truth. We must believe that, as church community, even today, we can be faithful to God despite and even because of our sensitivity to society in these times.
- How are we like that frog in the beaker: as a society, as a church community, as individuals?
- What is "Truth"?
- Do you feel the church is sensitive enough to our society and the times we live in? Do you feel the church is standing up enough for the 'Truth'?
- How can we live as persons and as a church community in this world without being a part of it?
- What are some pertinent "Truth" issues we must deal with today? What should our response be as a church community and as individuals?
- finding the words to comfort
Cancer can happen to anyone of us. Predictions are that, in the next ten years, three out of every ten of us will have experienced it, survived it or died of it. We may be frightened by this prospect and we may choose to ignore it, simply believing that it won't happen to us.
Yet, when a friend or family member gets cancer or has to deal with it close at hand, we do feel the need to face cancer more openly. We want to reach out to the victims, talk with them and support them, even if we don't quite know how.
We can draw strength from Jesus Christ to be like Him for those who suffer through the agony of cancer.
- What has your personal experience been in approaching the subject with someone who has cancer or is dealing with it close at hand?
- What do you wish the person who has the cancer would share with you, to open the way for you?
- Are you finding the reaching out more, or less difficult within the congregation, than, e.g. in the workplace?
- Do you wish you could more readily draw from the Word of God to comfort and encourage, to pray with the person who has cancer?
- Are you comfortable asking the person with cancer what it is they really need?
Children leaving the Church
- a prayer for covenant children
If an adult or son or daughter no longer goes to church - any church - our pain is deep. Some of us are not able to share this pain within our own families, and even less so with our brothers and sisters in the congregation. We suffer in secret. We cry, we pray, we worry and are sad. Or we are angry: with our son or daughter, with the church or with the Christian school. We blame ourselves or we blame others.
Scripture is clear about the importance of a of being a member of the body of Christ. When a child rejects the body we fear for that child's salvation. Can a covenant child who is baptized, or who has even publicly said "yes" to that promise, be lost forever? We can only hold on to God's faithfulness.
- Where and how did we fail - did the church fail? Are we responsible? Ashamed?
- What can and should we say to this child, do for him/her?
- How do we best keep the lines of communication open?
- Is it important that the congregation knows so that its members can pray for our child and share our pain?
- in a friendly church
Friendship is one of those things that seem to happen .. or not. The 'not' can be a source of pain for people from an early age on. We place a great deal of value on friendliness, and the quality of true friendship ('agape') is widely considered to be more noble even than married love, but the jump to actually being and having a friend is not so sure.
There is no direct biblical imperative to friendship. Many of its qualities are applied to all in our fellowship (and even to enemies). But the deep need to experience Christ in our lives and the call to be, ourselves, Christ like, requires a depth of commitment that can only be realized in a limited number of relationships. Whatever part of our being calls for help and empathy calls for friendship. Friendship is an opportunity and a promise for all who are in Christ.
- How has friendship figured in the various stages of your life?
- Which characteristics of the relationships you've experienced have made them friendships?
- How does church life mesh with the maintenance of established friendships?
- How does church life encourage the development of new friendships?
- What are your hopes for maintaining and developing personal friendships in the future?
- pipe dreams for the poor of pocket
Financial security remains out of reach for most of the world's population. As always this has not held people back from leading full and rich lives. Neither should we, who trust in God live in fear of the future, even when our financial resources are limited. Happiness does not (not before nor after retirement) on things that money can buy.
Yet there is no denying the stress of always coming short and the wistful glances at others, in our own community, who seem to have it so easy. And if the large sacrifice to Christian school tuition pushes us over the edge, it is easy to brood over the injustice of it all.
We cannot shrug off responsibility for our own financial situation. Everyone must make the best of what's given to them. But neither can the church simply ignore all but the most destitute. Freedom from needing 'things' enables everyone to help carry each other's burdens.
- How has financial stress affected your spiritual life?
- How have you experienced the added financial burden of Christian Education tuition?
- What are your hopes for the future financially?
- What kind of financial support do you think is appropriate from the church community?
- whose move is it?
Reconciliation figures prominently in God's Good News. We are made well aware of our own shortcomings and of God's repeated offers to forgive and forget. We feel assured of the reconciliation between God and his children even when we don't actively seek it.
Reconciliation between God's children seems less The hurts and bitterness us are often masked by cordial relationships or buried by separation. We know we should forgive and seek forgiveness but the old nature's force is often stronger. Our unwillingness to confront others or to face up to criticism keeps us from making a move. And when no one makes a move, even trivial hurts can get cemented into the annals of history
Fellowship is a precious gift - not one that should allowed to spoil from seeds of misunderstanding and bitterness. God with us, we can expect some measure of the reconciliation that he freely gives us to grace our lives together as well.
- Share an incident of reconciliation from your own past.
- Do you harbour unresolved hurts? How do they affect you?
- What does it take to get things moving in the of reconciliation?
- escaping the stress of work
It is natural, at the end of a work week, to feel satisfied with a job well done and to look forward to a bit of a break. That, after all, is how God planned it when he proclaimed Sabbaths and feast days. But much work in the world is not as God planned it. It can be unsatisfying, stressful and tedious, and then the exodus can take on the same unhealthy qualities as the work itself.
The workplace has suffered from the Fall as much as any part of God's creation The attitudes of employers, fellow workers and ourselves, and sometimes even simple circumstances can poison our work and make it difficult.
- Describe episodes in your life when work was a real burden.
- How did (or do) you cope with job stress?
- What effect do recreational (and even church) activities have on your ability to cope?
The talkabouts platform was floated some fifteen years ago, around the same time as my Fellowship Forum online bulletin board. Since then, I feel, the world has shifted on its foundation, and there are many other topics of discussion. I will list those that I thought of back then (some seem dated now) and leave it open to adding more.
- Children joining other churches - the ecumenical challenge
- College and university - sharing choices and consequences
- Infant baptism - an old discussion with the new 'Baptists'
- "Lord of the Rings" - new eyes for the cosmic struggle
- Nine-eleven - facing the new terror
- Personal devotions - when good intentions fail
- Sex after hours - finding time after work, church, children and school find you
- The poverty line - making ends meet in an affluent culture
- Underemployment - hopes and dreams on hold
- Where have all the members gone - a frank discussion with ex members
- 'Oncers' - Sunday without the second service
This talkabout platform was floated in the middle naughts, and never really caught on. Like many of my ideas, I thought it was a better mousetrap – but it seems I don’t know mice very well. I constructed a fancy display case for it, which you can see in The Living Vine Panorama, directly below the Pentecost panel. By then it was serving ignominiously as a literature rack. Now it sits in my basement, because I can’t bear to throw it out.
Newmaker Notes – writings, photos and collections – by Henry J. de Jong.
Newmaker is the spirit that drives a lifetime of creativity, and is a reflection of the Creator who continues to make all things new.