There's a Trick of the Light I'm Learning to Do

This is a collection of songs I wrote and recorded in January - March, 2020 while on sabbatical from ministry. They each deal with a different aspect or expression of the Gospel. Click on the image above to listen.

Three Hands Clapping

This is my latest recording project (released May 27, 2019). It is a double album of 22 songs, which very roughly track the story of my life... a sort of musical autobiography, so to speak. Click the album image to listen.

Ghost Notes

Ghost Notes
A collections of original songs I wrote in 2015, and recorded with the FreeWay Musical Collective. Click the album image to listen.

inversions

Recorded in 2014, these songs are sort of a chronicle of my journey through a pastoral burn-out last winter. They deal with themes of mental-health, spiritual burn-out and depression, but also with the inexorable presence of God in the midst of darkness. Click the album art to download.

soundings

soundings
click image to download
"soundings" is a collection of songs I recorded in September/October of 2013. Dealing with themes of hope, ache, trust and spiritual loss, the songs on this album express various facets of my journey with God.

bridges

bridges
Click to download.
"Bridges" is a collection of original songs I wrote in the summer of 2011, during a soul-searching trip I took out to Alberta; a sort of long twilight in the dark night of the soul. I share it here in hopes these musical reflections on my own spiritual journey might be an encouragement to others: the sun does rise, blood-red but beautiful.

echoes

echoes
Prayers, poems and songs (2005-2009). Click to download
"echoes" is a collection of songs I wrote during my time studying at Briercrest Seminary (2004-2009). It's called "echoes" partly because these songs are "echoes" of times spent with God from my songwriting past, but also because there are musical "echoes" of hymns, songs or poems sprinkled throughout the album. Listen closely and you'll hear them.

Accidentals

This collection of mostly blues/rock/folk inspired songs was recorded in the spring and summer of 2015. I call it "accidentals" because all of the songs on this project were tunes I have had kicking around in my notebooks for many years but had never found a "home" for on previous albums. You can click the image to download the whole album.

blogs I follow

Readings, 2020

Readings, 2020
Paradise Lost, John Milton

Adorning the Dark, Andrew Peterson

The Soul of Shame, Curt Thompson

Cure for the Common Life, Max Lucado

Halos and Avatars, Craig Detweiller, ed.

Fool's Talk, Os Guinness

Brendan, Frederick Buechner

The Screwtape Letters

Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis

The Pilgrim's Regress, C. S. Lewis

Becoming Whole, Brian Finkert and Kelly Kapic

Real Sex, Lauren Winner

Out of the Silent Planet, C. S. Lewis

Voyage to Venus, C. S. Lewis

random reads

Christ's Comet: an analogy for the local church

As a pastor, I have often found the image of a comet to be a helpful framework for thinking through and reflecting on the various levels of participation in church life that one sees among the people connected to any given local church, from Christmas-and-Easter Christians, on the one hand, to fully devoted day-in-and-day-out disciples on the other.

In case you've never seen one before, let me explain.  A comet is a beautiful moving object in the night sky with three basic parts: the nucleus, the coma and the tail. The "coma" is a glowing cloud around the nucleus, that the nucleus creates as it moves through space, and the "tail" is the luminescent stream of gases that the nucleus leaves behind it on its journey. What's important to note, for our purposes, is that it's the movement of the comet’s nucleus which creates the coma and the tail, and makes it shine so brightly.

Here’s a diagram:


Let me point out the parallels here, for starters.  The local church is like this in that ideally it, too, is moving—that is, it is on mission for Jesus and going from point A to point B, spiritually speaking, in the process.  A stationary or stagnant church, obviously, doesn’t ‘shine’ any more than a stationary comet would.   And, like a comet, it is made up of a solid core nucleus, namely, serious disciples who are genuinely committed to living out their faith in the context of day-in-and-day-out community. Without that nucleus, you've got no comet.

But here's where it gets interesting.  Because around that nucleus of disciples there's going to be a glowing “coma”—that is to say, a bunch of folks who are Christian and committed to Jesus (so they’re glowing) but they aren’t “all in” in terms of their commitment to this local congregation (i.e. they’re not part of the nucleus). They are attracted to the ministry and life of the community, they participate in it on a more superficial level. They are, more or less, moving with the congregation, but they haven’t yet made a deep commitment.

Then there are folks who are in “the tail”—that is, they are Christmas-and-Easter types, maybe, or perhaps they are they are the spouse of a member of the church.  It could be that they were once involved but in various ways have dropped off. They may not even be Christians, but they still have a residual “glow,” because they were or are in contact with the nucleus. However, they’re not really “moving with” the nucleus (or if they are, they’re moving much more slowly).  Every church community, whether they realize it or not, has a "tail" like this.


Like I say, as a pastor, I find this a helpful image for thinking about church life.  Ideally, my work as a pastor helps people in the tail move up into the coma, and people in the coma move up into the nucleus. When people in the nucleus break off into the coma, I do what I can to keep them from dropping into the tail.  I sometimes find it helpful, even, in pastoral work, to ask myself "where in the comet" is this person, and then shape my pastoral response accordingly.

So it's a useful visual, to be sure.

But, here’s the reason I find the comet analogy especially helpful: because for the comet to be a comet (and for it to shine brightly in the night sky) it actually needs the coma and the tail along with the nucleus.

Every local church needs all three.

Of course, you can’t have a tail and a coma without a nucleus, anymore than you can have a church without a core of serious, committed disciples who are moving in the direction of Jesus. However, that nucleus won’t “glow” unless it has a coma and a tail—just like the church won’t “glow” if it doesn’t have an aura of seekers, neighbours, Christians who are not quite “there” yet, etc.—people who are participating in the community at various levels of commitment, but they haven’t made a covenant or membership commitment to this local church.

Sometimes church leaders can be tempted to despair over the "commitment level" of people in their community (and to be sure, the ideal movement is always "up into the nucleus" through deeper commitment and fuller devotion to Jesus), but the thing to understand is that a church without any loosely-committed adherents is like a comet without a coma or a tail.  And just to beat the analogy to death: the movement of the nucleus actually creates a coma/tail; it's inevitable, even, dare I say, desirable.  In the same way, the mission of the church’s core will create a coma and a tail of people who are more-or-less moving with the church but not quite “all in.”

It's inevitable.  Even desirable.  Because a church that doesn’t have this happening, is probably not moving that much on mission, and probably isn't, actually, shining too brightly for Jesus.

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