Thinking Out Loud

February 28, 2017

Oswald J. Smith: Not Made for Defeat

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:32 am

While we were on holiday, I sat by the pool and read an out-of-print book, Not Made for Defeat, Doug Hall’s biography of Oswald J. Smith the founder of The Peoples Church in Toronto. I more or less read the book in a single sitting. I’ve mentioned him in passing here before such as,

The Peoples Church was Canada’s first and for many years only megachurch, and this long before the term existed. The Toronto church was also independent, a rarity in its time. It was founded by Oswald J. Smith whose ordination was Presbyterian and had also founded an earlier church with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Smith had been turned down by several missions agencies because of his health, but ended up living to 96 and traveling all over the world.  You can read more at Wikipedia.  (As a young child, I attended Oswald Smith’s funeral, where Billy Graham spoke.)

as well as one time mentioning his philosophy when he would be gone on mission trips:

Oswald J. Smith built Toronto’s Peoples Church into Canada’s first — and for a long time only — megachurch. When he was away on missionary trips, some of which encompassed months at a time, his philosophy was to always book guest speakers that he felt were better than himself.  If you’re an aspiring teacher or preacher, I can’t stress the value of listening to great speakers; of going out of your way to hear the best, especially hearing them in person.

oswald-j-smithCertainly attendance never waned while he was away.

I also included a number of quotations by him at Christianity 201, such as:


Give according to your income lest God make your income according to your giving. 


So long as there is a human being who does not know Jesus Christ, I am his debtor to serve him until he does.


The church that does not evangelize will fossilize.


We talk of the Second Coming; half the world has never heard of the first.


No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.


This was the church where I spent the extremely formative years from when I was 11 to age 21. I continued to have contact for many years after. Peoples Church has only ever had five pastors — Oswald  J. Smith, son Paul B. Smith, John Hull, Charles Price and now Brett McBride — so I grew up hearing the stories about the church’s founding and although the torch had been passed to Paul Smith, I got to hear Oswald on a few occasions. In the later chapters, there were several names I recognized. 

For those reasons, the book may not have held the interest of others, but for me it was a page-turner. A few quick takeaways as I’ve actually misplaced my copy as I write this:

  • The idea of calling: Smith’s was cemented at a very early age when he took a train trip from rural Ontario to hear an evangelist at Toronto’s Massey Hall.
  • The idea of vision: Smith experienced success early on, but would walk away from pulpits in Toronto, Chicago and Los Angeles to pursue a vision for a particular type of church.
  • On non-denominational churches: Smith had seen abuses of the idea of church membership and wanted a place not governed by the denominational requirements to have such.
  • A megachurch apologetic: Smith believed if you want to see many people converted to Christ through preaching, you need to preach to many people.
  • A maverick spirit: Churches weren’t air-conditioned in those days, so one summer Smith erected a tent on a vacant property for an entire summer. Followers were told to bring a chair they weren’t using and leave it there, leading to people clogging the buses and streetcars of the pubic transit system carrying seats to the first meeting.
  • An understanding of media: Smith’s Sunday night “Back Home Hour” was an unscripted radio program for parishioners to end their worship day at home, though they could stay after the evening service for the broadcast. Not only did many stay, but people started arriving from other churches, stretching the Fire Department’s approved capacity for the building.
  • On marriage and ministry: Smith’s wife Daisy freed him to take worldwide mission trips, yet strangely, despite being away extensively, he didn’t want ministry immersion to damage his home and family life.
  • On church leadership: Smith was an iconic leader but was neither autocratic nor a micro-manager. He would return from overseas and discover new innovations initiated in his absence and would be moved to tears.
  • Legacy: Though known for the independent Peoples Church, Smith was a major force in the early years of the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
  • The Faith Promise Offering: Smith’s then unique contribution to the fundraising component of missions conferences; only once did actual annual missions giving not exceed the amounts pledged; though pledged is the wrong word, people committed “in dependence upon God.”

Oswald J. Smith was a man for his times but with an approach to ministry that would work in our times as well, even if the fine tuning of the methodology would differ today. We need a lot more like him.

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November 8, 2010

And Then There’s This Website…

I found this after the woman in question took a HALF PAGE advertisement in the Toronto, Canada edition of Metro, the commuter newspaper.   Half pages don’t come cheap.

It ran on October 18th, 20 days ago.  It linked to this:

www.thepeacelady.com

Nothing like a website that cuts to the chase, right?

I decided to look up the individual video clips which comprise the website at their source on YouTube.   Less than 100 views each.  Not a single comment.  (Well, maybe one.)

I figured you guys might want to help her out with her stats.

But seriously…Why do people do this?   Who is the intended audience?  What is the intended result?  How clear is the message?   What do I do (as Andy Stanley would say) to ‘discern the next steps?’

Better yet, here’s a good question for today:  Have you ever personally known anyone who was part of something religious that was, for lack of a better (kinder) term, “incredibly fringe?”  Did you ever challenge their beliefs or spiritual modus operandi?

Learn more about The Peace Lady here in this December, 2009 report.   If you live in Toronto and you’ve seen the woman on the bridges in the white robe “blessing” the traffic; yep…it’s the same person.

August 17, 2010

Abilities Church Mystery Donor Disappears

Nothing is more frustrating in ministry than people who say they are going to do something, or give something, and then never come through.   It would be far better for everyone if they had never made empty promises.   In this story, the disappointment was greater than usual.

On March 1st, I ran a story on this blog about Abilities Church, a unique church project that happens Sunday evenings in Toronto, Canada for people who are physically or developmentally challenged.    This church is being used as a model for similar projects throughout North America. 

Needless to say, ministry to certain people groups is more financially challenging, so when Abilities Church was contacted by Larry Gaiters with an offer to provide $5,000 monthly in funding, the volunteer staff and members were ecstatic.

But at an event scheduled for the purpose of meeting Gaiters and receiving his donation, he never showed.    Twice.   And then he asked them for money.

The story is contained in this story online at Christian Week, Canada’s Christian news source.

Gaiters seems to be targeting churches and organizations in the Toronto area, including First Baptist Church.

As sad as this story is, my take on it, having attended a joint service at Abilities mentioned in the March blog post,  is that if it somehow brings more awareness of the unique ministry Abilities Church is providing in Toronto, that’s not a bad thing.   God can take this story and redeem it.

In the meantime, if you’re in ministry, and a mysterious donor seems to good to be true, do some research.

June 11, 2010

Canada’s Largest City Shutting Down

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:57 am

I don’t stray from my blog focus often — this may even be a first — but some of you know I live about an hour outside Toronto and you’ve heard reports about the coming G8 and G20 conference of world leaders, and I thought I’d give you an impression of how things look a little closer to the action.    (There will also be a regular blog post later today.)

Toronto is preparing to become a city under siege.   More than a billion dollars is being spent on placing the city in lockdown when the leaders of the twenty largest industrialized countries arrive here at the end of June.   But that doesn’t tell the story of at least another billion being lost by businesses located inside the security perimeter.

A lot of money to spend on what is, at best, a giant photo-op.

Furthermore, the delegations from the various countries won’t get to see Toronto as they’ve seen it in travel brochures or even on Google-images.   What they will see is kilometres (or miles) of concrete barriers and wire fences.   Not to mention sidewalks devoid of actual human beings.   Perhaps the visitors will assume the people have all gone underground as though some giant air raid warning is in progress.

What was Canada thinking?

The original plan was to hold the G20 where the G8 is happening the day before, in Huntsville, Ontario, a quiet scenic town in the heart of what we call “cottage country.”  (U.S. readers, think “cabin country.”)   Instead it’s being held in what is:

  • Canada’s largest city
  • Canada’s commercial center
  • Canada’s sports/entertainment center

An entire Major League Baseball series has been rescheduled as away games instead of home games.    All manner of businesses and tourist attractions are being shut down, some of which are shuttering as early as June 18th.   Security passes are needed to enter the “red zone,” and as the day approaches we’re told everything from

  • cell phone calls will be jammed,
  • overhead air traffic will be restricted,

to

  • you will not be able to fly a kite.

Despite this, they still aren’t sure who it was who recently purchased a massive quantity of fertilizer; enough to make an explosive comparative to what happened at the Morrow Building in Oklahoma City.    They just know there was some falsification of identification.    Ooops!

But organizers of the event say the Canadian government’s security efforts are “over the top.”    The spending on this could really cripple the image of the federal Conservative party and Prime Minister in the days to come.

I’ll update this again in another week.   In the meanwhile, if you’re searching online and you want the local perspective, try The Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail, The National Post or The Toronto Sun.   (That’s right, while other cities’ newspapers are now mothballed, Toronto still supports four of them.)

I’d write more, but I need to go fly my kite while it’s still legal.

May 16, 2010

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Two of my favorite pastors together in the same service!

Bruxy Cavey

Today we drove to Oakville, Ontario where Bruxy Cavey, teaching pastor of The Meeting House — Canada’s largest and fastest growing church movement —  welcomed Greg Boyd, senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis.    It was the sixth and final week of a series on the New Testament message of pacifism.

Early in the message Boyd stated — and Bruxy, not knowing this, repeated it to me in a conversation between services — that of all that megachurches in North America, he only knows of two that are taking the time to highlight what The Meeting House and Woodland Hills see as a prominent them in scripture.

What neither said, but what is implicit in the comment, is that most North American churches subscribe to what is generally called “Just War” theory; or perhaps “Just War” theology.

Bruxy devoted week five to considering the objections people have to this, those “But What About…?” questions that led him to call the message “But What About? Sunday.”   He often records an appendix to the sermons called “The Drive Home” and in this instance the supplement was actually longer than the sermon itself.    You can find the series online by going to The Meeting House and clicking on “Teaching” and then clicking on the series “Inglorious Pastors.”  (Yeah, they really called it that.)   You’ll see the “Drive Home” messages available there as well for listening live or downloading.

Greg Boyd

Boyd was in excellent form, and didn’t seem to miss a beat — or lack any energy — moving from the platform to handling individual questions  between the three services.   The audio portion of this morning’s teaching is also already uploaded, and a quick scan of the nearly two decades of sermons archived at the Woodland Hills site may help you find messages where he’s covered this back at home.

I got to shake Boyd’s hand tell him I was one of his “podrishioners,” his term for people who are part of the church’s vast podcast family.   Then I added — since Bruxy was standing nearby — that I was also one of Bruxy’s “podrishioners” as well.

I wish both of them well in proclaiming this aspect of Jesus’ teachings that is relatively absent from our churches; it’s gotta feel like swimming upstream sometimes.

…For my local readers, after leaving TMH, we drove across almost the entire stretch of Dundas Street, cutting through a variety of ethnic neighborhoods in Toronto, considered one of the world’s most diverse cities.   We ended up at Gerrard and Coxwell in an area specializing in Indian and Pakistani food, making somewhat random choices from a menu we didn’t fully comprehend and enjoying it all not knowing exactly what it all was.

Starting on Friday (5/21) you can catch a one-hour radio interview with Boyd and Cavey broadcast on Saturday (5/15)  on the Drew Marshall Show.

March 4, 2010

Homeless Teens: Life on the Street

I stood beside her coffin.  She looked she was sleeping.  I suppressed the urge to reach out and touch her.  I wanted to talk to her just once more.

But she was dead — found in a construction site, in suspicious circumstances, of unknown causes.  She was poor; she was aboriginal; she was a street kid; there would be no further police investigation.

I looked at her young face and remember the times we had share, times when I had hugged her, telling her I loved her.  She had come from a troubled and violent home.  Incest was a way of life for her.  Three months ago, she had given birth to a baby girl.

Once she came to Evergreen particularly distressed.  She cleared a table with a sweep of her arm and grabbed a pen.  Then, with deliberate strokes, she put her heart on paper:  a striking scene of two friends sitting together on a bench.  When she left, she smiled and said, ‘This is the best time I’ve had in a long time.’

She had come to Evergreen the day she died.  Now she was gone forever.

How very hard and short life is for some; how essential is the need to minister the Kingdom of God every moment, because that moment could be the last.

I looked at her once more and through my tears, I said, ‘Good-bye.’

She was only 14 years old.

~from Prayer for the City, a quarterly publication of Yonge Street Mission and the Evergreen Centre in downtown Toronto, Canada.   Pray for the young people at Evergreen for whom life is hard and sometimes very short.  To learn more about YSM, click here.

February 20, 2010

My Day With Tiger Woods and Benny Hinn

I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them.

I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me. I brought this shame on myself. ~ from the text of Tiger Woods comments at 11 AM EST, 19/02/10

At this point we don’t know any of the particulars surrounding the announcement on Thursday that Suzanne Hinn, wife of Benny Hinn was filing for divorce.    So please don’t think I am inferring any — absolutely any — parallels between Tiger Woods and Benny.

However, I did not check the “religious news wire” before heading out of town on Friday, so it was against the backdrop of the Tiger Woods press conference that I read the news about Benny and Suzanne Hinn around suppertime.

Benny Hinn and I are not friends or even true acquaintances, but our paths did cross many years ago.   The original crusades he conducted in Toronto, Canada were held in the church that was the base for the mail order business I operated.   The Joyful Noise Record Club had customers across Canada, and later became Searchlight Music, a company I still own in another form.

The head of another ministry based in the building was about to be married, and people from various ministries operating in the Toronto church were invited to the wedding.   Some of us apparently were invited at the last minute.   I had no date for the wedding, and as I remember it, neither did Benny Hinn.   We talked briefly waiting for the door for the reception to open, but I was terrified he would suddenly lay hands on me, cause me to fall over, or announce to everyone some great secret sin — probably lust — that I was harboring at the time.

Fortunately, we were seated at different tables.

Benny’s ministry in Toronto was somewhat high profile — at least among Charismatics — but nothing compared to the size and scope of it when he moved to Orlando and married the daughter of Charismatic pastor Roy Harthern.   The website Precious Daily Devotions tells the story:

In the summer of 1978, on a flight returning from a conference in Singapore, Benny Hinn met Roy Harthern, an Englishman who was pastoring the Calvary Assembly of God in Orlando, Florida. They got to know one another on the long flight. Roy showed Benny pictures of his family. When he came to the photo of Roy’s daughter, Suzanne, Benny heard a voice inside him saying, “She’s going to be your wife.”

Roy Harthern invited Pastor Benny Hinn to come to his home for Christmas, he accepted. When he met Suzanne, Benny remembers jokingly, “I looked into her beautiful bluish-green eyes and my knees became weak”. When his friend Maxine LaDuke met Suzanne, she took Benny aside and confirmed that this was his wife.

Benny knew she was the one. He took Pauline Harthern aside to “ask her something.” Pauline thought he wanted to ask her permission to date Suzanne, but instead, he said “I want to marry Suzanne; I am in love with her.” “Well, well,” Pauline replied, “you really need to speak to her father.” When Roy gave his approval, Benny Hinn immediately went to find Suzanne. Suzanne accepted and Pastor Benny Hinn and Suzanne tied the knot on August 4, 1979.

The rest, as they say, is history.   Hinn catapulted to fame and infamy, as Wikipedia reminds us:

By far the most controversial aspect of Hinn’s ministry is his claim to have the “anointing”, the special power given to him by God to heal the sick. At Hinn’s Miracle Crusades, he has allegedly healed attendees of blindness, deafness, cancer, AIDS, and severe physical injuries. Since 1993, however, investigative news reports by programs such as Inside Edition, Dateline NBC, the Australian edition of 60 Minutes, and several network affiliates in the United States have called these claims into question.

Hinn made a number of unfulfilled (religious) prophecies for the 90s, such as God destroying America’s homosexual community in 1995, the death of Fidel Castro, the election of the first female president of the USA, the East Coast of the United States being devastated by earthquakes, etc., all before the third millennium. Hinn also appeared on the Trinity Broadcasting Network in October 1999 to claim that God had given him a vision that thousands of dead people would be resurrected after watching the network—laying out a scenario of people placing their dead loved ones’ hands on TV screens tuned into the station—and that TBN would be “an extension of Heaven to Earth.”

Again, I have no reason to link the divorce announcement to anything to do with Tiger Woods except to say that it was against that context that I heard the news.   But maybe that’s not it at all, maybe I’m also reading into this story against the backdrop of the post I wrote last week about Todd Bentley.  (But again, there’s been no inference of infidelity, the grounds for divorce filed are irreconcilable differences.)   Another celebrity.  Another Charismatic evangelist.   Another divorce.

There are two sides to every story, and Hinn’s people have allegedly already started going into damage control mode, and not everyone is buying it.

It’s all so very sad.

To those of you who are just starting out in your journey of faith, or building a ministry, remember:  You are responsible for the depth of your ministry; God is responsible for the breadth of your ministry.   Don’t aim for crowds, respect, praise or what some would consider success.     Because success and praise always come at a cost; the adulation of the crowds always comes at a price; and then, if you fail, you take down all the people who worshiped you.

Additional sources USAToday; Bene Diction Blogs On. Picture:  The Daily Show. Update: Confirmation at Benny Hinn Ministries website.

February 7, 2009

There Probably Is No Bus Ad Like This One

Filed under: Christianity, Humor — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:42 pm

With atheist bus advertising slogans now appearing in Toronto, the Canadian blog Pilgrim Scribblings challenged readers to create their own bus ad, using a generator linked in the blog post.

Here’s our contribution:

bus-ad1

…and it’s true; nothing clears a room or ends a religious debate faster than when you bring Jesus into it…

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