The Thick Gospel

By Shannon Youell

In the prayer of Jabez, the line that I’ve oft heard prayed when church folk gather to pray, about growth, evangelism and engaging their communities is the prayer for God to bless and enlarge our territory, our areas of influence in our neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces and cities.

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As Christ followers, this cry should become part of the DNA of our new person selves and the communities we gather to worship and serve in. Though this verse is not exactly prayed in the context of sharing the good news of God’s Kingdom among us, uttering it in those prayer meetings is full of that intention. We do sincerely long to see God’s Kingdom light shine where darkness still holds people prisoner in its grasp of deception and isolation from the Creator of all things.

Where we get stuck, though, is how do we do that? Most of us would honestly acknowledge that our usual methods of evangelism are not received as good news to many in our current world.  In this fall series we want to expand our language and understanding around our concept of gospel, Kingdom and justice. These are not three separate aspects but rather intertwined within the good news story that God Himself has fulfilled in and through Jesus our Lord.  As we experience a renewed “thickening”  of the Gospel, we may be surprised how that expansion naturally leads us to activity in God’s Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven where God’s shalom, His ministry of justice, peace, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration becomes the prayer on our lips daily.

You may wonder what this has to do with church planting, since this is the church planting blog. The one word answer is EVERYTHING.  The early Christians formed communities that grew to established communities of disciples by sharing the amazing good news that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and those hearers well understood the implicit and explicit implications of that good news in their lives and circumstances. We plant new churches to receive new believers, to disciple those new believers and one another (I like the phrase “to gospel one another”), to celebrate God’s goodness to His creation and to invite others to find how their story intersects with God’s story and completes them and the community they are welcomed into.

Banff Resources
One of the resources we will have available at Banff Pastors and Spouses Conference in two weeks (if you haven’t registered yet – get on it!!), will be a bundle of primers that, though they are specifically targeted on particular aspects of gospel, kingdom and justice, have been helpful for many pastors/leaders in beginning to explore deepening our understanding and our level of engagement in the Good News. These primers are meant to be used as group discovery, utilizing story and dialogue, scripture and prayer, confession and repentance.

The Gospel Primer helps frame what is the story we should be telling, how do we tell that story in such a way that our listeners ‘hear’ it, and our own understanding of the dynamic of the Gospel in our own everyday lives and choices.   Concepts include the idea of apprenticeships that move us beyond what we know about the Gospel into greater engagement in action with the Gospel; Gospeling as an action and something faith communities do with one another and those who do not yet know God is looking for them; Gospel Fluency in which how we “speak and display the gospel…leads us to transformation and restoration; Identity as those who trust in Christ; Gospel Listening which is where we learn to actively listen to the story of others and discern what is Good News for that person in their story; and patterns and rhythms to help us move away from separation of our faith life and our world life (sacred and secular divide).

The Tangible Kingdom Primer helps our faith community view our calling to be on mission with Jesus—joining the family business, as Cailey likes to say. It takes us through such reflections as What is community; Living Out and Inviting In; What is incarnational; and What is missional. This is not a primer with a model or program of evangelism that we do to people. It is ways to create room and pathways so that the gospel touches into the real lives of people in such a way as to draw them into relationships with God and with others and restored to a community where God’s shalom—His healing, salvation, love, justice, peace are evident and active.

The Justice Primer is an eight-week guide to serving through community. It serves to build on our understanding that living a Gospel life includes action oriented towards those within our faith community and those in our neighbourhoods, schools and cities. The idea is how we “become good news” to the people in our community by living fully the mission Jesus calls each and everyone one of us to. This is not just about social justice and action but how it apprentices us to grow in Christ likeness and mission.

These will be available at the Pop-Up bookstore in the main hallway.

And one other reminder: Into the Neighbourhood with David Fitch is coming up next week in Edmonton and Vancouver. CBWC would love to help you get there, so let me know!

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Give Thanks for He is Good!

By Shannon Youell

We have so much to be thankful for. We really do.

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A large part of the work we have done in Church planting this year has been with churches that have formed and are forming around people new to Canada. It is a privilege to work with people from cultures we are not that familiar with, as we are blessed to share in their friendship, their cultures, their journeys of often unimaginable magnitude, and their rootedness in God-with-them in the midst of it all.

Often, it is these folk who remind us of the goodness of the land we live in and that we should never take our relatively comfortable and privileged existences for granted. As “old” Canadians, we have much to learn with and from our new brothers and sisters who now come to us, and share together with us the very human struggles of the trials and sorrows of life in a broken creation, finding hope through faith, in this land of plenty, and in friends new and old.

When God created all things, He looked upon them and declared that they are good, very good.  The Hebrew word “good” is translated tov. Rather than our Greco-Roman understanding of good as directed toward the subject being named “good,” tov understands goodness to being “tied together,” inter-connected, relationally dependent on those ties.  In Metalanguage in Interaction, Yael Maschler highlights that tov is “inherently relational; a word that occurs in the context of relationship” (Quoted from footnotes in The Very Good Gospel by Lisa Sharon Harper).

This understanding of good/goodness as interactive broadens my understanding of gratitude and thankfulness. The very act of being grateful and thankful connects–even richer: interconnects–us with God, with creation, with others.  Thus we find God’s goodness and faithfulness in one another as we journey together.

Poet Malcolm Guite, in his volume Sounding the Seasons, gifts us with this poem of thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving starts with thanks for mere survival,
Just to have made it through another year
With everyone still breathing. But we share
So much beyond the outer roads we travel;
Our interweavings on a deeper level,
The modes of life embodied souls can share,
The unguessed blessings of our being here,
Threads of connection no one can unravel.
So I give thanks for our deep coinherence,
Inwoven in the web of God’s own grace,
Pulling us through the grave and gate of death.
I thank him for the truth behind appearance,
I thank him for his light in every face,
I thank him for us all, with every breath.

As God’s children, we are interconnected, and for this I am ever so grateful for this Thanksgiving.  It is a gift to be ‘good’ with each and every one of you.  “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good (tov); his love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1).

May the tov of the Lord shine on us all, in us all, and through us all, for the glory and renown of our gracious God.  Happy Thanksgiving friends.

Book Review: Next Door As It Is In Heaven

By Fay Puddicombe

Next Door As It Is In Heaven is written by church strategists Lance Ford and Brad Brisco. They are part of the leadership team of Forge America Mission Training Network (ED: Southern brother of Forge Canada à la CBWC Pastor Cam Roxburgh). While their observations and ideas are geared for the US church culture, much of what they say is relevant for the Canadian scene as well.51J3vSECbxL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

The first half of the book identifies the things that have influenced the changes in our neighbourhoods. I remember well what my neighbourhood was like growing up in Saskatoon. Neighbours borrowed tools, chatted daily over the fence while hanging out laundry on Mondays, walked together to the nearest corner store.

The neighbourhood I live in now is very different.

Our “hoods” have become the place we retreat to when we want to get away from others. We enjoy our sheltered life in our well fenced back yards. When we head out we climb into our cars in the garage and might wave to a neighbour as we drive by. Would you be able to pick out your neighbour in a police lineup?

This book identifies things that influenced the change: city planning that separates retail and residential, consumerism, the dependence upon cars, our over-scheduled lives, and the impact of television.

Some themes in the book:

* Incarnation should inform our activity

* Biblical examples of God using people where they are

* Immerse, consider others, pray

* Be concerned and commit to the welfare of the city

Some of the solutions presented:

* Learn their names

* Hospitality

* Pray for them

* Watch for opportunities to cross paths and communicate

* “Behold” (intensely consider) your neighbours

* Create margin in your life so you can grasp opportunities when they come

* Rethink the use of your home

* Align with activities already happening—look at things you are already doing and invite others to join you (for example, meals)

“We all have good intentions but it does not just happen, we must make it happen.”

The authors list the interactions Jesus had with people, noting that they were most often around food. How can we connect with our neighbours around food? Having a front yard fire pit is one suggestion offered. Invite neighbours to join you around the fire. The authors suggest your most powerful evangelistic tool is your dining room table. They say, “Christians should be the most partyingest people on the street.”

The authors deal with some of our reasons/excuses why we think we can’t interact with people—don’t like their lifestyle, had an argument with him once, et cetera. Again they point us back to Jesus and the people He met with. They weren’t all upstanding “nice” people! We are reminded that everyone is made in the image of God.

The book is easy to read and has challenged me. I’ve given you a taste of it, but there is more; I recommend you read it. It might get you thinking how you too could “live out God’s Kingdom in your neighbourhood.”

Want to make your next move from “good intentions” to “making it happen”? Join us for Forge Canada’s Into The Neighbourhood conferences happening later this month in Edmonton and Vancouver. CBWC Church Planting is sponsoring some seats at each location, so talk to Shannon ASAP!

A small teaser:

Into the Neighbourhood

by Shannon Youell

“We have lost much of our capacity to invite average Canadians into the good news life we say we believe in.”

This quote from Jared Siebert’s book Gutsy, as featured on this blog last week, is the challenge we have across Canada and in fact, the Western World. We’ve addressed this challenge here before, often under the language of “we’ve lost our evangelistic impulse” or “we no longer have a mission as local, church members as missionaries ethos.” These are valid statements being proven by our own realities and by good and faithful researchers every year. But what, then, do we actually do with such statements? They don’t help us understand and grasp how we can faithfully begin to address this.

Well. we have something to help!

We’d like to invite you to join us at Forge Canada’s upcoming two day workshop events, Into the Neighbourhood, in both Edmonton and Vancouver in October. Have a read, watch the short video below from David Fitch (last year’s Banff speaker) who is one of four incredible presenters and practitioners of moving into the neighbourhood.

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Here is what it is about:

“Into the Neighbourhood: 2018”
Forge Canada Tour

Purpose
The Missional Movement begins with who God is. It helps us to discern what God is up to in context, and then encourages us to receive the invitation of Christ to follow Him into His work in the world.

Over the last number of years, many have come to see the Missional Movement as a call of Christ to become neighbours, and to join Him at work in neighbourhoods across the country. What is needed is intentionality to disciple people into learning to practice hospitality in their neighbourhoods and then to remind us that we, the Church, are sent to be a Faithful Presence in the world, bearing witness to Christ in everything we do.

Forge Canada presents Into the Neighbourhood. This 2-day event hopes to equip people with an imagination to become neighbours, and to challenge churches to look at how we measure what it means to be faithful. This event is for individuals, and even more so for churches who have understood the importance of bearing witness to God through community.

Day 1 – “Won’t You Be a Neighbour: 6 Priorities for Neighbouring”

Day one is presented by Karen Wilk and Preston Pouteaux of Forge Canada. Both of these author/teacher/practitioners lead churches that are seeking to raise up those who are learning what it means to become neighbours and to see neighbourhood transformation. Their sessions will include the following:

* Rediscovering the Commission and the Commandment
* Renewing Imagination
* Rejuvenating Senses
* Redeeming Hospitality
* Reducing Scale
* Realizing Shalom

Day 2 – “A Faithful Presence: Being the Church in the Neighbourhood”

Day two is presented by David Fitch with Cameron Roxburgh. David—as well an being an author, teacher and speaker—is a local practitioner. More than any strategy, for our country to see the transforming work of the Spirit in neighbourhoods, the people of God need to engage in practices that allow them to bear witness to the presence of God in that place. David’s wisdom and experience are a gift to those churches that desire to participate in God’s mission. The scorecard is not about how big a church grows (although we pray and long for growth) but rather about recognizing the presence of
the Kingdom.

David’s sessions will include the following:

* The cultural dislocation of the church and the restructuring of the church
* The practice of the table
* The practice of the least of these (children and poor)
* The practice of reconciliation
* Moving towards a Faithful Presence

This 2-day event is for pastors, leaders and those who take seriously the call of Jesus to follow Him. It is for all who seek to become neighbours and to see neighbourhood transformation.

As part of our emphasis on healthy churches and growing disciples who make disciples who then become active in new churches, we invite you to contact me (syouell@cbwc.ca) if you would like to attend. Pastors/leaders, you will receive this invite also from your Regional Office. If you and your church are longing to be engaged with those who do not attend church, have rejected church, or in growing percentages, never really heard of God, Jesus, church, then come.

Grab a van, pick up friends along the way and come. If you live in the Heartland region, it looks like there is the possibility of a van coming to the Edmonton workshop, so contact me for registration details and Mark Doerksen for van information.

Here’s a short piece from David Fitch to help spark your imagination:

“Success” in Church Planting

Last week, we heard from our friends from Pittsburgh Seminary on the way Jesus flips the definition of success when it comes to church planting (“Sometimes our expectations have to be crucified so that Jesus’ reign can be fully displayed.”)

Today, we continue the conversation about using Kingdom lenses to understand success in Church Planting, but this time with a Canadian perspective. Jared Siebert of the New Leaf Network shares these thoughts:

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Success for the Pioneer
Pioneers in research, in science, in social movements, and in any other disciplines make incalculable contributions to their respective communities—especially if their community is stuck or stagnated. Pioneers matter because they look for and often find a new way forward. For them, however, success is harder to come by.

Success for a pioneer is two-fold: they must not only success in what they do, but they must find a new way to do it. To succeed at one and fail at the other is not really success at all. To be a pioneer in the field of church planting is no exception. Success, for pioneer planters, not only means establishing a new church, but establishing a new kind of church.

The idea that the church in Canada is in a period of stagnation is hardly controversial—we are indeed slowly shrinking. Much of the “new growth” we see in our successful churches come from Christians moving from one church to another. This includes many of our successful “fastest growing” church plants as well.

We have lost much of our capacity to invite average Canadians into the good news life we say we believe in. This is why understanding the work of pioneer church planters is so vital. Pioneer planters not only teach us what works, in terms of sharing the good news, but they teach us what is possible. They have something unique to offer in terms of pointing the way out of our current situation.

Redefining Success
A Christian leader’s primary task is not to be successful, but to be faithful to God. This is an important starting point. The process of living out our calling in leadership—just like living out any other calling in the body of the church—is first and foremost a process of sanctification. God wants to sanctify us in our ministry. Successful use of skills will always be secondary. God’s primary concern is on deepening our character, and not simply ensuring that we’re meeting some kind of skill standards.

What if success was “being faithful to whatever it is that God asked you to do”? Here’s my logic: given the complexity of the current Canadian reality, we can safely assume we’re not all being sent out to do the same job. Some will be sent out to stabilize what already exists. Some will be sent out to repair. Some will be sent out to forge new ground. You know, different part but one Spirit kinds of stuff. So what if there wasn’t one unifying definition of success for every church in every place?

For instance, success in a conflicted church might mean a total focus on unity and conflict resolution. Numerical growth may not be part of the equation for a long time; it may even wind up being a distraction. Success in a complacent church may mean fostering holy discontent and discomfort—two things that can act as serious growth inhibitors.

What if our definition of success changed as the people and the job did?

This article is from Jared’s book Gutsy: (Mis)Adventures in Canadian Church Planting. You can find it on Amazon, or ask if you can borrow my copy next time we see each other! ~Cailey

 

 

 

 

 

Cruciform Expectations

As we carry on our series on seeing through Jesus’ right-side-up lenses in an upside-down world, let’s see how His Kingdom impacts the way we view church plant life spans. This article is reposted by permission from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary’s blog, originally published June 7, 2016.

“We need more five-year church plants,” said John Ogren. He was Skyping into our “Planting and Leading New Churches” class at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, part of the M.Div. Church Planting Emphasis, and reflecting on his experiences in a new church that started, lasted a few years, and then for a variety of reasons, didn’t continue.

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It was the first day of class, and our students who had assembled to learn how to plant a (presumably successful) church, seemed relieved to begin with a story of supposed failure. John described how ministry and mission have a “cruciforming” effect upon us. We can receive this as a grace: By following Jesus in mission, we are formed more into his likeness, including his death. Sometimes success is crucifixion and failure is preserving our lives.

It’s okay to fail.

“Failure” is not uncommon in church planting. One study suggests that only 68 percent of church plants last for four years. Two speakers coming to Pittsburgh Theological Seminary this month have been a part of new churches that didn’t continue: A church plant which Rachel Held Evans (Being Church, June 10-11) was part of failed and Mark Scandrette (Invitation to Simplicity, June 26-29) has written about his failed attempt to plant a particular kind of church in San Francisco.

The way we approach church planting can make a significant difference in how likely our new worshiping communities are to be sustainable. But there are also a host of other factors beyond our control which affect sustainability. And when for any combination of reasons a ministry has to call it quits, a ministry’s task becomes dying with faithfulness to the mission Christ gave it. So what does a faithful death look like?
Death becomes a launching point.

I like Mark Scandrette’s approach. A dozen years ago he wrote that in the wake of seeming failure, his community “needed to go back to the Gospels and rediscover the goodness and beauty of the kingdom of God. Jesus is the place where reconstruction begins.”[1] Death became a launching point. Experience of failure led Mark and his family to explore “a more primal pursuit of Jesus and his kingdom . . . practicing and imitating Jesus’ life in our neighborhoods: eating with the homeless, creating art, engaging in classic spiritual disciplines, practicing hospitality, etc. Our vision has changed from a house-church movement to an indigenous Kingdom movement.”[2]

Sometimes our expectations have to be crucified so that Jesus’ reign can be fully displayed.

Christians believe resurrection follows death. Otherwise we would be “of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:19). We’re supposed to be set free from the fear of death (Heb 2:15). So what might our ministries—new and old—look like if we didn’t fear institutional death?

Last fall, our Church Planting Initiative hosted a conference at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary about multi-cultural church planting. In one of his plenary talks, Jin Kim, founding pastor of Church of All Nations, described his church’s identity as a “high risk, low anxiety church because Jesus is Lord.” If Jesus is sovereign, we can take risks for the sake of witnessing to him, even risks that may lead to worldly “failure.” So why do we think we can add one hour to our churches’ lives by worrying about them?

My own church plant might be starting to think this way. I’m accepting a call to a church in another part of the country and will be gone in a couple months. The church we planted in Pittsburgh has dedicated and incredibly gifted leaders, but the transiency of our young demographic means we keep sending people out each year, and those losses are getting harder to replenish. As our elders imagined what could happen in the church in a couple years, one said that if it were to die, it shouldn’t be because of complacency. Rather, she said we should “take the reins and do something big” so that if we die it happens “in a blaze of glory” because we’ve remained faithful to our mission.

Amen. Jesus didn’t die because he gave up. He died because it was essential to the mission the Father had given him to bring resurrection life to the whole world.

For any church to follow that pattern will mean it takes a few risks, wades through lots of uncertainty, and experiences some suffering. But that’s what we’re called to do. The PC(U.S.A.)’s Book of Order actually says that the Church is called to be faithful in mission, “even at the risk of its own life.”

Death can be as much success as it is failure.

Death for a new church (or any other ministry) can be success as much as it can be failure. Sometimes it will be both at the same time. But a ministry’s degree of success and failure is not determined in terms of sustainability, as though sustainability is an end in itself. Rather success and failure are determined in relation to faithfulness to the mission God has given. A church or ministry can be sustainable but unfaithful. Or we can bear faithful witness to the reign of Jesus Christ and find ourselves broke and worn out. In which case do you think God’s power is more likely to be displayed?

As Romans 8:28 says, God works all things for the good of those who love him. The next verse says that we’re destined “to be conformed to the image” of Jesus. That conformity again includes both crucifixion and resurrection. The death of a ministry can be holy if it dies like Jesus: giving wholly of itself in fidelity to God’s mission in the world. Out of such deaths, the Spirit will bring new life.

The Rev. Christopher Brown moved to Pittsburgh from Colorado to pursue a master of divinity (MDiv) degree at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He currently serves as the coordinator of the Church Planting Initiative at the Seminary along with pursuing his master’s in sacred theology. Chris is the organizing co-pastor of The Upper Room Presbyterian Church, a church plant of the PC (U.S.A.) in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Chris regularly blogs at https://christopherbrown.wordpress.com and tweets at @brwnchrstpher.

[1] Mark Scandrette, “Pilgrimage Landscapes” in A Community of Kindness by Steve Sjogren & Rob Lewin (Ventura, CA: Regal 2003) p. 216

[2] Ibid.

Family Matters

By Cailey Morgan

A few weeks ago, we looked at 1 Peter, the letter Peter wrote to the scattered church to remind them of God’s right-side-up way of living in an upside-down world. The letter branded gentile Christians as the children of Abraham, stating that in God’s family, there is no barrier between the Jews and any other nationality. Peter then called out the men to disown the cultural patriarchy of the day and treat the women in their home as equals. Paul writes identically in his note to the church in Galatia: 

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Some things have changed since the apostles wrote those words, but the brokenness of  humanity remains the same. And part of that brokenness is that we idolize the world’s definition of power and strength, and by doing so miss out on the opportunity to being led by those with a different skill set, or those who are seen as not as strong from a worldly perspective. This demographic often includes female leaders.

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I’m grateful to be part of an association of churches that has been ordaining women for church leadership since 1959. But do we as the CBWC fully understand our need for women to step into these roles? And are we doing everything we can to help support the female leaders around us in our churches and new church plants?

As God’s kids and ambassadors, one purpose of our ministry of reconciliation—of helping our Father in His work to turn things right-side-right—is to live together as an example of how things should be: a foretaste of Jesus’ Kingdom (Lesslie Newbigin and 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). And until we’ve seen leaders male and female, young and old, new immigrant and aboriginal, raised up and supported in equality to build up the church the way God has equipped and called them (Ephesians 4), I have to say we’re not yet doing our job.

So, here I share an article that calls us to consider the role of women in church leadership—and church planting in particular—and some practical ways we can move forward in enacting the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.


We Need More Lydias In Church Planting

This article is shared with permission from author Tiffany Smith of the North American Mission Board. https://www.sendinstitute.org/we-need-more-lydias-in-church-planting/ 

Our current culture has manifested a heightened awareness of social justice issues which gives the church an opportunity to demonstrate and model clear and sacred responses amid the clashing secular voices.  One area where the church’s beauty is displayed is in God’s design for men and women to be partnered in ministry to advance the Gospel and plant new churches.  The North American church, currently comprised of slightly more women than men[1], has an empowered regiment of gifted women to be catalyzed on mission.

The Great Commission mandate is not gender specific; but rather, men and women are co-laborers and synergetic in community and mission.  As men and women weave their giftedness together to embrace our collective mission, the church is empowered to exponentially impact the lost world.  No matter your ecclesiology or polity today, we can celebrate how women are vital in the flourishing of the church and in church planting. This obviously plays out differently in various denominations; however, the fact that women are strategic players in the mission of God is part of God’s beautiful design.

For every significant male we see throughout the book of Acts, there is a significant female mentioned in the expansion of the Gospel and the church.  Paul himself partnered with women in his church planting efforts.  Lydia was a businesswoman who became the first European convert; she led others to be baptized and the church in Philippi was planted in her house (Acts 16).  Paul says Euodia and Syntyche “labored side by side with [him] in the gospel” (Phil. 4:3) and Phoebe helped Paul along with many others (Rom 16).  Women have always been leaders in church planting – from the very beginning.

We are at a significant moment in time where we can seek to catalyze the leadership capacity and power of women throughout the church and within the church planting arena.

Imagine the potential and possibilities of transformational impact by the church if we expanded our concept of church planting beyond the main lead church planter to include all those involved – church planting teams, administrators, mobilizers, and outreach leaders!  If everyone in the church is to be involved in Gospel expansion and multiplication, then the church as a whole has a stake in the movement and the impact is exponentially dynamic – the apostolic church unleashed!

There is a significant shift rippling through leadership circles to spur women toward various expressions of their gifts in the church planting arena.  Across denominations we see women in key roles as church planting coaches, assessment directors, church planting catalysts, demographic researchers, strategists, city or regional network coordinators, and emerging leader directors – just to name a few.

What if the doors of church planting were swung wide open for a Samaritan woman at the well, a wealthy businesswoman from Philippi, or someone who has been sitting in your church waiting for a new pioneering opportunity?

Widening Opportunities

No matter your theological conviction, there are ways to integrate women into church planting and empower the church to function and flourish in new innovative approaches.  So, how can we chart new pathways and widen the pipeline for female leaders?  How can we expand our current thinking to incorporate women more strategically in the church planting aspects of the church?

Here are a few points to consider:

  1. Forge a synergetic culture. Cultivate a culture of modeling how women are strategic in the church planting efforts of the church. Make sure to include single women and not just church planter wives. Be purposeful and repetitious in demonstrating through words and action the value of the women leaders in your church and in various areas of church planting. Highlight the beauty of the body of Christ working together in synergy.
  2. Be creative. Look for creative ways to incorporate women into the various facets of church planting. The pioneering nature of church planting inherently fosters new opportunities and pathways for women to serve in their giftedness.  Women are uniquely positioned in strategic areas of the neighborhood and marketplace to influence others for the cause of Christ. Use their platforms and relational webs for the advancement of the Kingdom.
  3. Increase visibility. Women should be visible and celebrated on stage in church leadership and in the multiplication of churches – praying, discipling, and serving.  Elevate women leaders to thrive in their giftedness; and in doing so, teach and model the unity and diversity of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12) to the church and to the watching world.
  4. Amplify giftedness. Focus upon giftedness and character without regard to gender whenever possible.  Seek out ways to open up new opportunities for women to infuse their gifts and talents throughout the ministries of the church, including church planting.
  5. Reframe. Reframe the concept of church planting to go beyond the lead planter to include teams and gifted leaders who help develop and grow the church plant; this will naturally open doors for women, but also for other leaders in the church who are not called to be the lead church planter.
  6. Purposefully Empower.  Seek out and empower women to serve in the church planting efforts or on a planting team.  This must be strategic and intentional because it has not been common practice.  Just as you would seek out and cultivate male leaders in the church, look to do the same with women and purposely consider facets of church planting.

For the sake of advancing the Kingdom of God, how do we work toward normalizing female leadership, not as the exception or rare case, but as part of God’s design for the church to be on mission together?   Tony Merida powerfully encourages women by stating, “Missional women have always played a vital role in the advancement of the gospel. The church—as the bride for whom Christ bled, died, and was raised—ought to be a place where women are loved, taught, respected, heard, and deployed for service. They should thrive as Christ’s ambassadors in the world, as they are built up in him.” [2]

This exhortation can also be applied to the various facets within the church planting arena. We need more Lydias in church planting. Let us boldly move forward together for such a time as this.

Action/Reflection:

  1. What specific words and actions can I take as a leader in the church to cultivate a healthy and encouraging environment for women to thrive in multiple leadership aspects of the church, including within the church planting arena?
  2. Are there currently women in the church that I can encourage and equip to serve in various roles in church planting efforts?
  3. How can I help to swing the door open wide for women and other leaders to be involved in the church planting efforts of the church?

 

[1] Pew Research.  “Religious Landscape Study: Evangelical Protestants.”  2014.  http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/religious-tradition/evangelical-protestant/  Accessed May 6, 2018.

[2]  Tony Merida.  “How to Train and Mobilize Women in Your Church.” April 26, 2018.  Accessed May 9, 2018.

 

The Gentle Way of Jesus

As we seek to explore the way of Jesus (His way of humility that seems upside-down in our culture of power and pride) we will inevitably have to consider Jesus’ constant invitation into loving one another as a testimony of the Father’s love. Dallas Friesen from our sister denomination CBOQ shares these words about how we as Baptists in Canada can choose the humble way of Jesus as we wrestle together through conflict and diverse perspectives. Thanks, Dallas for your words (originally posted on baptist.ca).


A Gentle Answer

By Dallas Friesen

“Christ, present in the lives of congregational members, leads them corporately to discover and obey his mind and will. Such ‘congregational government’ calls for and expresses the equality and responsibility of believers under the Lordship of Christ.” 

“Why Baptist?”, p. 13 

It has been said that if there are 80 Baptists in one room, there will be 85 opinions. We are infamous for disagreeing with one another on everything from crucial theological points to whether pews should have cushions. We can do this because we have autonomy, meaning that each church is free to make its own decisions on many subjects. While we are all people of Scripture and of conscience, it doesn’t mean we’re all the same. Though we choose to gather around the same table and share the same distinctives, we are free to express the unique flavours of our respective congregations. Sometimes it is like a glorious feast. At other times, a culinary disaster.

Before we berate ourselves too harshly, let’s remember this: even those closest to Jesus had conflict. Ten of his disciples were fairly annoyed when James and John wanted to secure their right to sit and Jesus’ right hand. (Matt. 20:20-24) Paul had strong words for Peter over his choice in dinner guests, (Gal. 2:11-14) and parted ways with Barnabas for a time over a disagreement regarding Mark’s fitness for service. (Acts 15:36-41) And who can forget poor Euodia and Syntyche, forever remembered in Scripture as the women who couldn’t get along? (Phil. 4:2-3) And that’s just the beginning!

Even when we are in the presence of Christ, we, his broken followers, will disagree. Given that, how do we do it well?

Peter Scazzero, in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, looks at how to deal with conflict—not by avoiding it as “false peacemakers,” but by responding as Jesus would respond. “Jesus’ profound, contemplative prayer life with his Father resulted in a contemplative presence with people… This ability to really listen and pay attention to people was at the very heart of his mission. It could not help but move him to compassion. In the same way, out of our contemplative time with God, we, too, are invited to be prayerfully present to people, revealing their beauty to themselves.” (p. 180)

When we are faced with conflict, it is easy to seize passionately on to the idea and forget the person from whom it comes. It is tempting to steamroll over others, hear only the points we want to hear and enjoy the temporary delights of the offended. But righteous indignation isn’t one of the fruits of the Spirit. Gentleness is. We need not compromise on what we believe to be true, but our love for Christ and our brothers and sisters in his kingdom compels us to share our ideas and opinions… gently. Christians are meant to be builders—those upon whom Christ can build his church—not bulldozers.

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Tools, like words, can be used to build or to bulldoze.

When I was in grade 5, attending a Christian school, we were required to memorize Proverbs 15:1—“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I cannot count the number of times in my life that I have returned to that piece of deep wisdom. As you go about your day, I hope you will join with me in this prayer from Scazzero’s book:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. I am aware, Lord, of how often I treat people as Its, as objects, instead of looking at them with the eyes and heart of Christ. Lord, I have unhealthy ways of relating that are deeply imbedded in me. Please change me. Make me a vessel to spread mature, steady, reliable love so that people with whom I come in contact sense your tenderness and kindness. Deliver me from false peacemaking that is driven by fear. Lord Jesus, help me love well like you. Grow me, I pray, into an emotionally mature adult through the Holy Spirit’s power. In Jesus’ name, amen.” (EHS, p. 194) 

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

1 Peter 3:15-16

 

Power Made Perfect in Weakness

There is nothing stronger in the universe than the power of God. And I am His child.

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Do you believe that statement? Do I lean on that strength? Do we decide and discern through that reality?

Last week, I mentioned how living in God’s Kingdom means learning a new way to think and to act—processing the upside-down world through His right-side-up lenses: In His Kingdom, the last shall be first. In His Kingdom, there’s a new definition of success. In His Kingdom, the way we treat people is transformed. Power is perfected in weakness.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Controlitis
Through some of my reading lately, I’ve been convicted about my own addiction to power as the world defines it—my illness of valuing my role as a leader because it gives me power for the sake of control: I’m proud to be developing a reputation for getting stuff accomplished. I can say “do this” and people do it. I’m in control. And if that’s the twisted view to which I can succumb as the part-time pastor of 15 high school students, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for more influential leaders to lean on the strength of the Father and follow the way of Jesus into humility and death of self.

I would go so far as to say we have an epidemic on our hands.

How did we get here? Church, I believe we have set our leaders up for failure by imposing kingdom-of-the-world expectations on those we simultaneously expect to lead us into the Kingdom of God. We respect and follow dynamic personalities and religious performers the same way our culture puts musicians and actors on a pedestal. Words like “new,” “strong,” “big,” “young,” “influential” have automatic positive connotations while “humble,” “established,” and even “mature” in some contexts can be seen in a negative light. In The Way of the Dragon or The Way of The Lamb, Kyle Strobel and Jamin Goggin address this sickness of power-hunger in the western church in the context of what we value in our pastoral leaders:

We are looking more for a proven professional than someone humbly called. We are looking more for a polished businessman than a seasoned shepherd. We are looking for someone who is powerful and in control.1

These sound like strong words, and in some ways they are. But the Church as a whole isn’t just to blame. We as leaders secretly—and sometimes not-so-secretly—take pleasure in the applause, take pride in the influence, take the glory for the accomplishments.

So what do we do? If we want to live like Jesus, we need to dive headlong into His lifestyle: relying completely in the power of God, eradicating the addiction to worldly power. Goggin and Strobel not only point out the symptoms of power-sickness, but provide hope of healing through various paradigm shifts and practices rooted in the life of Jesus and the history of God’s people. If I could, I’d post the entirety of their book here for your edification. Instead, I will recommend that you read it, and in the meantime I will share a couple paragraphs of their insight into three antidotes we have against “controlitis.”

1. Always Start By Praying. It Helps us Rely on God 

Beginning with prayer is not merely a tip of the hat to God. It’s not a cliché: “Don’t forget to pray first.” Rather, we begin with a posture of abiding in, and depending upon, God in the deep places of our hearts, because God is the source and goal of our power. When we open our hearts in prayerful abiding, what we first discover is that we have false beliefs residing there. Therefore, we don’t begin with prayer as a device for getting things done, but as a means of communing with God who transforms the heart and lead us in the way.

Prayer is being with God who is always with us. And “being with” necessitates honesty. We are with God in the truth of our hearts. In prayer we open our hearts to his living presence, exposing areas where unbelief reigns. Only His presence can purge these places of darkness and form them in love. …in prayer we embrace our weakness and depend upon God’s power to transform the heart. The heart is the first, but not the only, battlefield where God’s power in weakness must conquer in love (Emphasis added).2

2. Prioritize People By Choosing Weakness
Goggin and Strobel’s book takes readers into the lives of several Christians who they believe espouse Jesus’ way of living as a leader. In their conversations with Eugene Peterson, he says this:

The great temptation of power is control, and the great consequence of control is lack of relationship. The reason that intimacy is so difficult in ministry is you’re not in control—you’re in relationship, You have to enter a person’s life and they have to enter yours. The minute you start becoming obsessed with control, you lose the relationship…So I think somehow we have to find ways to cultivate a sense of nobodyness. Paul certainly did that. Weakness was his strength.3

And Strobel and Goggin continue:

[The pastor following the way of the dragon is] intoxicated by fame and power. The way of the Lamb is committed to worship, pursues God in the ordinary, and is faithful in hiddenness…Jesus invites pastors into His way of shepherding. In His way, power is found in weakness, and power is expressed in love. We don’t shepherd faithfully by simply observing his behavior in the Gospels and trying our best to copy his act, but by participating in this way by the Holy Spirit. The word Peter uses is partaker. We are invited to partake in His way….We are under-shepherds of the chief Shepherd. We serve a role of stewardship, not ownership.4

3. Dig into Self-Awareness and Humility
The questions I’m posing below, from Way of the Dragon or Way of the Lamb, are prickly. I don’t like them very much, and have personally brushed them off as “no, you’re talking about someone else” until I left the Holy Spirit put His thumb on the true pulse of my proud heart. And still I’m prone to bat His hand away, but those lessons I have managed to accept have been so helpful to me and my outlook on how I see myself, my role, and others. So I encourage you to not just glance over them and say “oh phew, not me!” but to sit in them and reflect on concrete realities in your life and ministry.

  • Do you use the church as a platform for personal fame, fortune or influence? The pastor gives their life for the sake of the church, regardless of what they gain.
  • Do you view ministry as an arena of performance, where some win and some lose?  The pastor views ministry as an arena of love and service, not winning and losing.
  • Do you see the people of your church as tools to accomplish your big dreams? The pastor embraces their congregation as people to know and love, not tools to use for other ends.
  • Do you relegate prayer and care, the heart of pastoral ministry, to ‘lower-level’ staff? The pastor views prayer and care as the centrepiece of their work rather than an interruption.
  • Do you view other local pastors primarily as competition? The pastor views other pastors as fellow shepherds on the journey, whom they need for encouragement and wisdom, and whom they are called to encourage and love

I hope you’ve read this article as permission to consider a life of leadership that’s more than a hamster wheel or gleaming stage. I hope you’ve been reminded of the pure goodness of our Shepherd, and that He wants to give us abundant life beyond what we could gain from a big crowd or a “successful” ministry. And I hope for you what Paul, Silas and Timothy hoped for their church in Thessalonika: “that our God may count you worthy of his calling (ie, persecution and suffering for His Kingdom), and that by His power He may fulfill every good purpose of your and every act prompted by your faith” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).

Or returning to Eugene Peterson, here’s the verse in the Message paraphrase:

We pray for you all the time—pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something.

If you disagree with anything I’ve written here, or have more to say on this topic that could help our readers across the CBWC, I really want to hear from you. Shoot me an email at cmorgan@cbwc.ca, comment on the blog, or leave a message at the office: 604.420.7646 and I’d love to have a conversation.

 


  1. Kyle Strobel and Jamin Goggin, The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb (Thomas Nelson, 2017): 141.
  2. Ibid: 196-197.
  3. Ibid: 136
  4. Ibid: 143

Thinking Right-Side Up

By Cailey Morgan

A New Identity
In the apostle Peter’s beautiful letter to the church scattered throughout Asia minor, he presents a sometimes-poetic, sometimes-stark picture of the diverse and persecuted people of God as the new Israel: God’s family. Christians are the new children of Abraham, the new temple, the new priesthood. It’s a new way to live—a life direction opposite to the Roman culture they lived in.

If you’ve got 8 minutes, check out this visual walk-through of 1 Peter below to see how all these Old Testament pieces fit together with Peter’s New Testament definition of the church:

We can quickly find parallels between our context in 21st-century Canada and that of the God’s people in Peter’s time, not to mention the transient and exilic days of the Israelites, as Ontario author Lee Beach writes in The Church In Exile. So as you read this verse, picture yourself, surrounded by your congregation, when you hear the word “you” in Peter’s statement here:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). 

You have been called out of darkness and into light—an absolutely opposite experience from the life you used to have. And being this holy nation together not only shows up in the language we choose to employ or the “bad things” we try not to do, although that’s part of it (as a witness to God’s glory, 1 Peter 2:11-12).

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In His Kingdom, the last shall be first. In His Kingdom, there’s a new definition of success. In His Kingdom, the way we treat people is transformed. Power is perfected in weakness.

Right-Side-Right Right Here, Right Now
Some of this right-side-right thinking will come up against global power and cultural influence: Peter calls Rome “Babylon” in his letter in recognition of the pervasive, abusive corruption of political and military power throughout history. But foremost, right now, the way of Jesus confronts insignificant me and little old you. It confronts the root of pride I carry, and that hidden anger cycle in your heart, and that nasty little “me first” impulse that pops up seemingly before we can stop it and pulls our minds into making decisions that leave us with the credit and someone else with the suffering.

Living in the way of Jesus is something we simply can’t do on our own. We can’t see rightly without His lenses; we can’t think rightly without His thoughts; we can’t live rightly without His Spirit.

When His Kingdom comes in full, we’ll finally grow into the holy and beautiful Bride Christ is inviting us to be. But until that day, we pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And when we say those words, we’re asking the Lord to flip us right around, and give us the humility and the perspective to join Him in making the world around us more like heaven.

These next articles will be a study in opposites: how the Kingdom-of-God definitions of power and congregational success and leadership and conflict resolution contrast what we see around us (and even what we see in our own hearts), but how these ways of Jesus are in fact the key to being the chosen people and holy nation that we’ve been striving to become all along. I pray that you will see your identity as God’s set-apart sons and daughters and your life’s mission to “declare the praises of Him who called you” in every situation, every day.