Archives For Missional

My friend, Lance Ford, wrote a note on my Facebook wall today reminding me that I haven’t blogged since March 21.


I opened up Dragon Dictate and discovered a number of half-written posts that I thought I’d finish. But I didn’t.

Perhaps tomorrow.

Instead, as my first post back after far too long way, let me point you at three books I’m reading that I have found particularly helpful.

Make Your Own Application

The first is from my friend, Michael Newnham, a.k.a. Phoenix Preacher. It’s called Make Your Own Application. I’ll let Michael explain it in his own words,

A couple of years ago I started writing a weekly column on Fridays I cleverly called “TGIF”

What actually happened was that I woke up one Friday morning and had no idea what the hell to write and something fell out of my head and onto the keyboard. It had to have a title…and it was Friday, after all.

After some hits and misses, I found my voice writing about what was going on in my daily life and drawing scriptural applications from the same.

I wrote about my son and the skateboard park, I wrote about my doubts, I wrote about my faith…and I wrote about my cats. Miss Kitty and Squeak became regular guests of my readers as I chronicled how God speaks through critters.

This book is a collection of those writings. 

Let me just say with all the crap that I see happening in the church — crap that I need to admit is having a significantly negative impact on my faith, Michael’s book is fresh water in a dry and thirsty land. My recommendation is you buy the book. You won’t regret it.

Three Free Sins

The second book is one that Michael recommended, Steve Brown’s Three Free Sins—God’s Not Mad at You. Steve and Michael are both Reformed in their theology. I won’t hold that against either of them. 🙂

Three Free Sins had me laughing out loud in many places — which scared the dog. 

I received this from a friend: “You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I’ve ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They’re slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of love . . . no, wait! I was thinking of Labrador retrievers!”

It also often hit me where I needed to be hit, which I greatly appreciate.

Forgiveness was the focal point in Christ’s teaching because he knew that without profound “to the bone” forgiveness, there is no freedom, no real joy, no peace, and no release from the pain and the root of bitterness that destroys nations, families, and individuals. He understood that the key to everything important in life is forgiveness.

And the final book of the three, equally as good as the other two, is Kathy Escobar’s Down We Go: Living Into the wild Ways of Jesus.

Down We Go

Like me, Kathy spent too much time inside the “much sound and fury signifying nothing” world of the North American mega-church, before finding herself on the outside of it.

This book is her story of experiencing Jesus in the midst of people most middle-class Christian folk would attempt to avoid. It is a story of full bandwidth Christianity—a combination of incredible highs and painful lows along with everything in between.

When we put relationship with people above everything, we will cultivate authentic transformational community—little pockets of love—instead of spending our energy, building ministries or lifestyles that don’t reflect the humble spirit of the Beatitudes. These pockets of love help teach us interdependence, a critical characteristic of Kingdom living.

Another critical element we can’t forget as we engage a life of downward mobility is dreaming. Big or small, dreams are part of Kingdom living. They inspire us to try scary things, meet new people, jump into the deep end, or put our toes in the water. Without dreams we can’t make “what could be,” a reality. At the same time, I continue to learn that dreams are often much prettier when they are just dreams.

Life down here doesn’t always turn out the way we think it should be, that’s for sure. But that’s the beauty of downward mobility. “Pretty” and “easy” aren’t the goals. Transformation is. And one thing is clear: Down here, there’s a lot of room for transformation.

It is a must read book for those of us tired of consumer Christianity — who have that sense, as Bruce Cockburn would say in More Not More, that “there must be more…” 

If, like me, you find yourself in a thin space when it comes to your faith, I would highly recommend any or all of these three books.

Looking for Sanctuary

kinnon —  July 30, 2011 — 6 Comments

Beginning earlier in the year, Imbi and I began to produce a video for Sanctuary in downtown Toronto and one for Parkdale Neighbourhood Church. (There are two versions of each – one about 5 minutes and one around 9.)

Imbi and I both fell in love with the people in both communities and I thought you might enjoy watching these videos. (And I realize that even a five minute video is long today. We have the attention span of gnats. At least I do.)

In both cases, staff, volunteers and other community members realize that they are all in this together. These aren’t the unbroken serving the broken – but a realization that we are all broken and in need of Jesus.

And if you need examples of missional, understanding Sanctuary & PNC might be helpful.



And if you’ve made it this far and want to see the longer versions, as well as more of Imbi’s and my work related to the church, please visit here. There’s also a Missional Videos widget in the sidebar.

One of the more popular posts from this tiny corner of the interwebs was one I wrote in September of 2005, A Better Word than Volunteer. In that post, I wrote this:

The American Heritage Dictionary definition for volunteer is "To perform or offer to perform a service of one's own free will." [Emphasis added]

That sounds noble and selfless, doesn't it. So why does the word "volunteer" bother me as much as it does when it comes to the church.

At a very basic level, those of us who profess to be believers in and followers of Jesus are called the Body of Christ. The Apostle Paul uses this imagery to explain how we function.

A body isn't just a single part blown up into something huge. It's all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, "I'm not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don't belong to this body," would that make it so? If Ear said, "I'm not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don't deserve a place on the head," would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it. (The Message)

If our understanding of who we are is that we are all a part of (rather than a part from) a single living entity, how do we invite different parts to volunteer to be involved.


January, 2011

In October of 2010, Jamie Arpin Ricci wrote a post called Disciples, Not Volunteers. Jamie speaks more powerfully to the impact of the word "volunteer" on how we function (or don't function) as the Body of Christ.

Volunteering has become the primary way in which Christians are invited to participate in the work and mission of God & His Church in the world. While much good has come of this (and I am not suggesting the eradication of Christian volunteerism), I truly believe that we have crippled and compromised our missional capacity by making it so central and foundational to our approach to mission/ministry.

It has been since planting a church that I have seen it most clearly. Initially, the passion and vision for a new missional community in our inner city context was received with great enthusiasm and participation. However, as the initial fervour cooled, as it inevitably must, we realized that discipline and commitment were then necessary to keep the community healthy and growing in maturity. Again, all of this is expected and natural. However, despite how many affirm that we want to be a community of leaders who share the responsibility of the work of mission equally, functionally people still assume hierarchical leadership, leaving it to the few (or the one) to get things done when they are not able.

As I’ve dug deeper, I began to see a common thread: we all too often view our involvement in missional church community through the lens of volunteerism. In other words, we love the vision and reality of ministry and want to be involved, as long as it fits. We have discipled entire generations of Christians to see missional engagement as a voluntary opportunity they can add to their lives when it works or isn’t too demanding. This isn’t to say that many people don’t live sacrificially, but rather that the general trend reflects an attitude of optionality. [Emphasis added]

Let me unpack my thoughts further with a family example.

One of our three adult children is considering "volunteering" for the kids ministry in the church we attend. He is particularly gifted with kids – he loves them and they love him back. He has had this gift for as long as I can remember.

This church loves its kids and does a good job with them on Sunday mornings. And I know they could use the assistance my son would willingly provide.


I also wonder whether the need for making disciples of the childrens' workers ever enters into the equation. Is part of the focus of the ministry leader(s) on discipling the ministry workers – or is that seen as a responsibility of the ministry that is focused on adults. (And when, how and where does that take place? I don't ask this in accusation – I have great love and respect for the leadership team at this church. )

I could have used the example of another one of our children who works with the teens ministry at another church in town. And I can guarantee that there is little to no focus on discipling the ministry workers in that example.

In a volunteer culture, I would strongly suggest that making disciples of those engaged in whatever ministry of the church is not even on the radar. Most volunteer-driven church ministries are happy with warm bodies. And those warm bodies are committed to "that ministry" for as long as it is convenient.

With Jamie, I believe we need to move away from asking for volunteers and move towards calling people to be the part of the body that they have been designed to be – and then to intentionally disciple them as they function in their calling, by walking with them in the manner that Jesus walked and taught his disciples.

As Eugene Petersen paraphrased Paul,

A body isn't just a single part blown up into something huge. It's all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together.

The call to discipleship is a recognition that we have been God-designed to be a functioning and fruitful part of the Body of Christ – and we must be discipled into that fruitfulness.


More of my posts that work their way into this discipleship discussion:
Confronting Idols and Making Disciples – Chris Wright interview excerpt
More Disciples, Fewer Leaders, Please
Diss-Missional Discipline or Missional Discipleship
Sermons Don't Make Disciples – Missional Discipleship Part 2

For the past week this blog has seemed to be all Chris Wright, all the time. Not that there's anything wrong with that. 🙂

This post is no different – featuring an excerpt from an interview we shot with him midweek.

Chris is one of the more gracious and yet, one of the most prophetic leaders that Imbi and I have ever met. Though tired from a week of meetings and teaching in Toronto, Chris sat down with Imbi for a 45 minute interview that covered some of what he shared at Lausanne 2010 in Cape Town, as well as his thoughts on what the church needs to raise up leaders in the 21st Century. 

In my not humble, but accurate opinion, this is more than worth five minutes of your time to watch. 

Confronting Idols & Making Disciples from Bill Kinnon on Vimeo

This video is also available on YouTube.

Imbi and I would like to thank Barry Parker and George Sumner for helping to make this happen. Both Barry and George are on the Canadian Board of Langham Partnership. (Once again, we shot in George's office @ Wycliffe College.) We would also like to thank Barbara Jenkins, Director of Admissions @ Wycliffe, who has helped with arranging a number of interviews along with Karen Baker-Bigauskas, Assistant to the Principal, who simply makes things happen.

Chris Wright's books that are pertinent to this video: The Mission of God and The Mission of God's People.


I’ve begun reading Chris Wright’s The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission (on my Kindle) partially as a result of hearing him @ Tyndale on Monday – partially in prep for an interview with him in a couple of hours @ Wycliffe College – and largely because it’s a very good book.

The Mission of God, one of Chris’ earlier books is “theologically denser” than this one – more for a Master’s student, perhaps. (Our copy was given to Imbi by friends who thought it would be an important read whilst she worked on her MTS. It was.)

The Mission of God’s People is written for God’s people – in a winsome and engaging style as Chris begins to answer the question:

“What do theology and mission have to do with each other?”

Chris addresses why there sometimes appears to be suspicion between theologicans and missional practioners;

…theologians may not relish their theories being muddied by facts on the ground and the challenging questions thrown up by the messiness of practical mission. Practitioners of mission, in quick riposte, may not wish to see their urgent commitment to getting on with the job Christ entrusted to us delayed by indulgent navel-gazing about obscure long words ending in – ology.

I’m not far enough into the book to give you a complete review, but I will say that, so far, the book has been more than worth the price of the Kindle edition.

THE Missional Secret Sauce

kinnon —  November 9, 2010 — 4 Comments

Because the Missional Market demanded it, our missional minions have produced it.

Just what you’ve been waiting for:


Add a little to whatever you’re cooking up, AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

UPDATE: Lesslie Newbigin

What a great name for a place to hold a Theology Pub in downtown Toronto!

My buddy, Triple D (aka Dr. Darryl Dash – though he’d rarely, if ever, use the title) was the instigator for the Theology Pub Toronto. Here’s the motivation for his instigation;

Here’s what I’d love to find: a group of people who get together and:

Eat. There has to be food. Something happens when you turn to others around a table and eat steak and kidney pie or whatever, and lift a glass together. The whole experience becomes relational.

Discuss theology. I am tired of pragmatism. We need to get practical but we can’t start there. We can’t just emote, neither can we only talk how-to’s. Ideas have the power to change the world. I love sitting together with others who are not just wrestling with what to do but who are talking about what to think, who are dipping into some of the best thinkers of the past, and who believe the good stuff is found at the theological, not the methodological, level.

Are open but orthodox. Some of my best interactions have been when people from different backgrounds and beliefs are thrown together. Some groups I’m part of are too insular. I want a group that is orthodox but in which we benefit from those who think differently. In other words, it has to be a group in which we talk about our differences honestly but without getting all polemical.

Care about mission. If people like Christopher Wright are right (and I think they are) and mission is the basis of the entire Bible, then good theology will propel us into mission. We should become a group of people who are changing the world around us. [All emphasis and links are from Darryl’s original.]


Imbi, Liam and I have thoroughly enjoyed all the Theo Pubs we’ve attended and we look forward to the next one on November 22nd @ The Bishop and Belcher at 7pm. (Though I don’t think Li will be back from Europe yet.) If you’re in the Toronto area and find the above quote from Triple D compelling, please join us.

NOTE: Imbi took the above shots, which is why she isn’t in them – and this was taken at the 2nd location for the TheoPub – which was a restaurant on The Danforth.

In this second video, Gary Nelson, President of Tyndale University College & Seminary and Dave Fitch, Associate Professor of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary talk about what theological education looks like now and what it needs to look like. And that theological education is not simply for full-time seminarians, nor is it to simply to create full-time ministers, missionaries or other paid church staff.

Nelson/Fitch – Theological Education in the 21st Century from Bill Kinnon on Vimeo.

Please note that missonally-focused videos shot & produced by myself and Imbi Medri-Kinnon are available at the Missional Channel on Vimeo. You can also grab the Widget for this channel from the right hand column of this blog under Missional Videos and place it on your blog or website.

Nelson/Fitch – Missional – Does the word still have value? from Bill Kinnon on Vimeo.

Imbi and I shot this latest video (the first of three or four parts) at the end of August in the Office of the President at Tyndale University College and Seminary – set up when we found out Dave was coming into Toronto to meet with Gary (and spend a bit of time with us, too.) Gary Nelson had only been in the position of President & CEO at Tyndale for five weeks.

We first met Gary in the early ’90’s when he lead BUILD – Baptist Urban Involvement in Leadership Development (if I remember the acronym’s meaning correctly). Gary left BUILD to become the pastor of a multi-cultural, downtown church in Edmonton. Some of his story there informs his important book, Borderlands – A Congregation’s Introduction to Missional Living. (Len Hjalmarson does a very good series of blog posts on Gary’s book.)

Prior to joining Tyndale, Gary spent the previous decade as General Secretary of Canadian Baptist Ministries where his heart for mission both in Canada and around the world was very much in evidence. Imbi and I confess real excitement with Gary’s new position at Tyndale. We think you’ll discover why in this video and the next two that we will put up over the next week or so.

This first video came out of Imbi and I asking Dave and Gary whether the word “missional” had become so over-used/mis-used that it no longer really had value.

The next video in this series focuses on what Theological Education Looks Like in the 21st Century. The third video looks at The Pastor in Post-Christendom and ends with Gary and Dave reflecting on what they are excited about for the church in the midst of this liminal church space.

These three videos will be added to the Missional Channel @ Vimeo – where our friend, Dave Fitch, figures prominently. Featured in those videos are Alan Hirsch, Graham Cray (who leads Fresh Expressions), Ed Stetzer, Cam Roxburgh and Andrew Jones.

NOTE: I began writing this post on May the 7th and never finished it. Today I will. Part 2 in the title refers to this post as Part 1.

Please see UPDATES @ the bottom of this post that point to people including Bob Hyatt, Darryl Dash and Len Hjalmarson.



As I type this post, mid-Friday afternoon (May 7th, 2009), tens of thousands of church leaders are preparing their sermons for this coming Sunday. Some are in their church office, door firmly shut, a Do Not Disturb sign literally or figuratively in place.

Others are in their home office. Their spouses and children knowing well enough to leave them alone.

The cool leaders are in the local St. Arbucks, an over-priced Venti of surprisingly poor quality coffee close at hand, as they scribble notes into their Moleskinés while searching Logos on their MacBooks.

Still others are somewhere listening to (insert your favourite preacher) as they copy down the theme, the examples and sometimes even the personal stories of those "gifted preachers." (I've heard of one copyist who preached something along the lines of "when my three daughters and I were in Hawaii" – the problem being he'd never left mainland North America and he only had a son – an extreme case, no doubt.)

For many, if not most of these preachers, the Sunday service will be their primary point of contact with members of their congregations. This will be the place where these preachers hope to impact their listeners with the preacher's understanding of the gospel. For some it's the gospel of self-help, of living your best life now, of God as Santa Claus.

For others, the Gospel has ruined them for anything else – they are madly in love with their Saviour – and they pray fervently that the words they've laboured over that week will be words of life to those gathered. And across the breadth of churches on my continent, there will be every kind of sermon preached in between those two extremes.

I would guess that in the 27 years I've been a Christian, I've probably listened to heard close to 1,500 sermons. Though I know many have impacted me (including any number from Barry Parker, Jenny Andison and Dan MacDonald in my fair city), I can accurately remember the message of four (six). One was Bob Roxburgh at Millmead Baptist Church in Guildford, UK in the fall of 1987. Bob's primary point was that the only real sign of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in a person's life was the Fruit of the Spirit – rather than the wild charismatic gifts too many of us then sought.

The second was actually a pre-Advent series of three sermons from Fleming Rutledge preached at Little Trinity in the late fall of 2008 under the theme of Advent Begins in the Dark. You can read one of them here. I have them in iTunes and have listened to them numerous times. (She is my favourite preacher bar none.)

The other two sermons were both preached at Christmas Eve services, a number of years apart, by different preachers- one focused on Satan and the other on Dying Well. Sigh. (I remember them both too well as Imbi and I had been so thankful that the non-believing friends we'd invited hadn't shown up either time. Aside: Regina Spektor's Laughing With is playing as I type this paragraph.)

However, I do remember, often in great detail, the hundreds of times that people more mature in the Faith shared their lives with me – telling me stories of what the Lord has done and what He can do – often opening my eyes to the Scriptures while they did this. Many guided me on my journey with gentle correction or words of encouragement. Others kicked me so hard in the buttocks that I still feel the pain. (And I'm not suggesting I didn't deserve that form of correction.)

Some of these people have been with me for all of the journey so far. Others were only around or available for a short time. (My father-in-law died in my fifth year of being a believer – after having had a profound impact on me – and I still miss him, 23 years later.)

I haven't only learned from people "more mature in the faith" than me. My kids, their cousins and their friends have taught me plenty. (I should also note that my wife, Imbi has played a huge role in my growth as a Christian as have a number of members of her family, including two who would not identify themselves as evangelicals.)

Sermons Don't Make Disciples

After this post of mine (Part 1 to this post's Part 2) prompted by Kevin DeYoung, I dropped by to read the next in his series on Reggie McNeal's book, Missional Renaissance. In the comments, DeYoung says this,

If I had to summarize the mission of the church in two words it would be: make disciples. [emphasis added]

If you read the "Part 1" post, you would know I don't disagree with that statement. My question to Kevin would be, "how do you think disciples are made?"

According to his co-author, Ted Kluck, in their book, Why We Love the Church (link is to my review), Kevin spends 20 hours a week preparing his "45 minute expositional sermons," for which Ted is both "thankful" and "glad." (Pg 67) My not particularly positive comment on this in my original review prompted a response from Andrew Jones that led to an interesting discussion in the comments on his post – with many great comments from my friend, Triple D.

If you are spending 20 hours a week preparing your sermon, while involved in raising a young family (in DeYoung's case), managing the "business of church" with all the cares and concerns of your congregation and physical plant, elders meetings, etc not to mention blog and book writing – how exactly does one go about "making disciples."

A friend of mine once led a rather large youth group in a mid-western Canadian city. They saw kids coming to Christ by the dozens. My friend and his team began to disciple those kids and then realized that the people who were "raising their hands for salvation" in the main services were not being discipled in any meaningful way. He approached the senior pastor, who he was close to at that time, to talk about how to create more effective discipleship and got this response, "you just need to encourage people to hear my sermons on Sundays and Wednesday nights. That's all the discipling they need."

But sermons don't make disciples – though living life together just might.

Let me play the Jesus-shaped discipleship card. Jesus made his disciples by living with them. He didn't preach at them – though he did preach – rather, he was in intimate relationship with them. And that intimate relationship, combined with the power of the Holy Spirit, turned them into people who helped change the world.

Do me a favour and go read Matthew 28:19-20. Even if it's for the eleventy-seventh time. Jesus is telling the disciples to do what he has shown them to do through living life with them. He doesn't say, "go write great sermons and preach them in the Temple." He tells them (and us) to "go and make disciples of all the nations." (Make a point of reading Luke 9:57 to Luke 10:23 as well to see both how Jesus trained disciples and the cost of that discipleship.)

I do not debate that preaching plays a role in making disciples of "all the nations" – but if your primary function as a church leader is writing and delivering sermons – how much are you really a part of the discipleship-making conspiracy? (Conspire is from the latin, conspirare- to breath together.)

Please understand that I am not arguing against the importance of teaching. I am arguing that hands-on teaching – where there is a level of intimacy and transparency between the teacher and the taught – is more effective in discipleship-making than the lecture-style nature of preaching.

I would further argue – and this coming out of months of discussion with Imbi – that unless the church recovers the art of catechesis, the "ministry of grounding new believers in the essentials of the faith", our efforts to make disciples will be less than fruitful. (The above quote is from the back cover of J.I. Packer and Gary Parrett's Grounded in the Gospel – one of the books in my reading cue.)

Finally, I acknowledge that your stellar preaching may in fact draw a crowd – but how many disciples are being made while you are not being disturbed.

UPDATE 1: Please pray for Gary Parrett who was critically injured in a bus crash in Korea.

UPDATE 2: Please read a repost of Bob Hyatt's which he's posted in response to this one.

UPDATE 3: Len Hjalmarson's post chaordic leadership, embodiment, adds some very good stuff to this discussion. He quotes from Gary Goodell's Where Would Jesus Lead,

Jesus modeled leadership by living and walking with His disciples, everyday people, and the religious leaders of His day. You can emulate His leadership style by changing the traditional hierarchical, pulpit-based leadership model of most Western churches to a more relational form of leading from among the people. This leadership style involves participating in the chaos of real, to-way relationships, yet bringing order by training and discipling in the midst of chaordic interaction. 

UPDATE 4: Darryl Dash pushes back with Sermons DO Make Disciples.

Do not!

Do so!

Do not!

Do so!