Opportunities in Pluralistic Canada

By Shannon Youell

We don’t need to be at the centre of society in order to be Christ’s witness for a better way of living. John Pellowe

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Pellowe, of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, reminds us that the church didn’t start out as the centre of society and nor is it there now. Many folk bemoan this fact, yet I lean towards thinking that God is pleased we are finding our rootedness back into how we can be contributing and positive voices in the things people and communities deem important for living life together as societies. Rather than being oppositional voices to the things we don’t agree with (the overall result of that is Christians are often perceived of by what they are against over and above what they are for), we should work at being voices of proposition into the issues that society is already struggling with.

Pellowe cites many of the accomplishments of John Wesley and his propositional ideas for the healing of the oppressed, for bringing justice to the marginalized, for serving the world around us rather than expecting the world around us to serve us. In our own Baptist history, Jeremy Bell often reminds us of faithful Baptist folk who brought reforms and policies for the betterment of society as a whole, not merely one polarized segment.

It reminds me of the Jewish value tikkun olam, which is the demonstrative action of shalom and means repairing or healing the world. This value carries with it the understanding that is the responsibility, the mission, of God’s people to bring the kind of justice that delivers from oppression and slavery and restores to community relationship (the Hebrew meaning of tsedaquah, or “justice”), human to human and human to God.

Here is a large section of Pellowe’s article. Let us know your thoughts on the opportunities he presents for us:

There are several benefits to being just one of many in a pluralistic culture, and they provide the church with opportunities.

Missional vitality

When Christians were the dominant group in society, there wasn’t a lot of motivation for individuals to engage in mission because it appeared the mission was largely accomplished. It’s interesting that the cure of souls, from which we get the word curate (a priest or pastor), can be traced to the fourth century when Christianity became Rome’s state religion. There was a shift then from mission aimed at outsiders towards taking care of parishioners’ souls. In modern times, missionary zeal was largely channeled toward other parts of the world, rather than to our own neighbourhoods.

But in fact, the Christian mission wasn’t nearly as fulfilled in Canada as we thought.

Pastors, remember that God gave you to the church to equip its members to do good works.5 It is your responsibility to see that every member of your flock is productively engaged in mission, remembering that the early church’s success was mostly due to the witness of individuals working on their own. People only have so much time available, so be sure that every volunteer hour you ask for within the church is essential to the church’s mission. Otherwise, keep your parishioners free to be Christ’s witnesses elsewhere.

Individually, we need to permeate society and be excellent in whatever God has given us: our work, our relationships, our community involvement, and so on. Every Christian should be the best thing that ever happened in whatever context they find themselves.

Corporately, we need the boldness, vision, and radical tolerance for risk that led John Wesley to :

  • hire a surgeon and a pharmacist to provide medical care for the poor in London
  • open the first free pharmacy in London
  • teach people to read
  • start a bank which lent money to the newly literate poor to help them start businesses

What might the church do today that is just as creative, leading edge, and impactful?

We can use our voice

In a pluralist society, Christians are as much entitled as anyone else to contribute their ideas, which should be attractive based on their non-religious merits. The theological basis or religious motivation doesn’t matter to non-Christians. All that matters is that non-Christians can see the idea’s benefits. We can share good ideas for the environment, social justice, the economy, commerce, and so on.

Those who oppose religion are already trying to shut us down and keep us out of public debate. But history and research show that a minority can cause the majority to change its mind, although their strategy must be different from the majority’s.

  • The majority usually relies on coercion to force public compliance with their programs. What people privately believe doesn’t matter as long as there is public compliance.
  • Minorities can’t coerce. All they can do is convert people through persuasion. They do this by presenting new information or new ideas which cause the majority to re-evaluate their position. The most dramatic example of this conversion happening in recent history is the gay rights movement. An example from fifty years ago would be the 40 year campaign against smoking in public, and from a century ago, the women’s suffragette movement in the UK.

We want to persuade people that for society to flourish there must be a concern for community welfare. We want people to support policies and behaviours that:

  • build strong families
  • help people to redeem themselves from the messes they get in
  • promote justice and equity
  • care for the marginalized and integrates them into society

Leverage our inclusivity

The church is the most multicultural society on the planet. It was an incredible experience for me when I worshipped in churches in Australia, Thailand, India, Kenya, Malawi, England, and Scotland while on my round the world sabbatical trip. I felt right at home in all of them! Whatever ethnic group I was with, I knew I shared a common faith with them. Whether I understood the language or not, the worship was meaningful and very moving. I know what it is like to be in a foreign country and find a welcoming place.

Being such a multicultural, global body as we are, and living in as cosmopolitan a country as we do, we have a special capability of welcoming immigrants to Canada. We should excel at helping newcomers acclimate to their new home. Non-ethnic churches should support ethnic churches as much as they can so that in turn they can welcome their own ethnicities to Canada.

Conclusion

We have to be very wise regarding the forces that oppose religious participation in society, but even with their opposition, there is much that the church can do to advance its mission.

 

The Missionary Nature of God and the Church

By Cailey Morgan

In my previous article, I explained how Brad Brisco, Director of Bivocational Church Planting for the North American Mission Board, suggests that until we truly understand the why of our life as God’s people, we won’t have eyes to see how God is trying to shape our what and how. Brisco gives several paradigm shifts in our why thinking, the first being the missionary nature of God and therefore of the church.

CC Kevin T. Houle

Kevin T Houle

God is a Missionary and God is Missionary
When someone says the word missionary, what image comes to mind? Often, the picture is of an individual passionate about bringing the restorative work of God to a group of people far away. They’re so passionate, in fact, that they are willing to move into a new and uncomfortable context, learn a new language, incarnate into the daily life of those people, and in many cases (Jim Elliot and his colleagues come to mind), missionaries are even willing to be killed by the very people to whom they have come bringing hope. When described in that sense, I’m comfortable considering God as a missionary, especially as seen in the life of Christ.

However, when we say He is a missionary God, we are not only saying that He is a missionary, but that He is missionary: mission-focused, mission-like. His person is one of mission. Being missionary is one of His attributes.

From Genesis’ creation narrative to the promise of Christ’s recreative work in Revelation, the grand story of Scripture is about God and His mission. He is at work in the world. His nature is missionary.

God’s Called and Sent Ones
What does God’s missionary nature mean for us, then? As His people, following in His footsteps, we are to be a called and sent people. This paradigm shift helps us see the church not primarily as a mechanism for sending missionaries. Indeed, as Brisco says, “the church is missionary! We are individually and collectively the sent people of God.”

The language in Scripture is almost overwhelming on this point. The prophetic books are stories and words of people sent by God to participate in His redeeming mission and redemptive deeds. Jesus refers to Himself as the sent One over 3 dozen times in the book of John.

God’s people are called to Him and then sent as part of His mission. And this cycle of calling and sending is to be reflected in the rhythm of God’s people as it was in the book of Acts. We are to be a gathered and scattered people, called and sent, as it were, daily, weekly, yearly.

A Gather-Scatter People
Becoming missional does not mean abandoning everything about our present structures. Take, for example, a typical weekly church routine. Rather than a Sunday service being the main missional activity of our week—the program we bring our friends to so they hear about Jesus—what if this service was the calling, the gathering of a people who have been sent into their streets and schools and workplaces to share the gospel in every moment? The service becomes a celebration of God’s transformative work in the lives of us and our friends, and a time of equipping in order to again be scattered into spheres of influence for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

In this upward spiral of gathered and scattered, weeknight home groups become evenings of intercession and of vision: how do we support each other as we search for God’s action in our neighbourhoods and step out in faith to follow Him there? Bible studies become more vital than ever as we hide God’s Word so richly in our hearts that it not only changes us but begins to spill over into our daily interactions, bringing hope to those who don’t yet know Christ.

Let the Holy Spirit guide your imagination. Are there other elements of your congregational life that need to be steeped in the missionary nature of God? Is Jesus inviting your family into a new way of following His footsteps? Or a renewed understanding of your call and your sentness?

Next time, we’ll look deeper into God’s calling for us, and how it could be that His exhortation “Go!” in fact means “Stay!”

For more from Brad Brisco on these issues, check out these video sessions with Brad, made available for free from our friends at Forge Canada Missional Training Network.

Why, Oh Why?

By Cailey Morgan

Have you ever researched the meaning of life? I recently asked Siri about that very topic, and her response was “chocolate.” Thanks Apple.

Why? CCSA Katie Sayer

Our church, as a Body—God’s people in a place—needs to be asking these kinds of questions. Why are we here? How do we view the church in the context of the world? What is the church’s purpose? Why does our local congregation exist? These are questions not so quickly solved by a conversation with an iPhone.

Perhaps your mind runs to the weekly church service, the sending of international missionaries, the provision of tradition around cultural milestones such as Christmas, weddings and funerals. Perhaps home groups, visiting the sick, potlucks, and youth programs round out your experience of church.

But these activities in and of themselves do not explain why God’s church exists. Each of these elements are biblical and often helpful manifestations of God’s people in the world, but they are only the how, not the why.

In some circles, there has been a backlash against traditional elements of congregational life like these. And in most cases, I agree with the prophets who are crying out “something’s missing!” But all our attempts to change the how—offering sermon podcasts, meeting in a funky warehouse, improving the coffee served during the service, or even exchanging “Sunday morning seeker-sensitivity” for grassroots missional neighbourhood outreach—will not change the reality that perhaps it is the why that we have backwards. (Although I must ask if there’s anything less pleasing to God or humanity than coffee so weak it comes out of the urn looking like tea!)

I would argue that if we are able to interpret ourselves, our world, and most importantly, our God correctly (the why), then the modus operandi (the how) will become of secondary importance. When our people are inspired by God’s good why, the how becomes a point of healthy discussion and relational depth, rather than a reason for dissension.

So What is the Why?
What is Christ calling us to? Who are we to be? I believe both these questions can be answered through prayer and the study of our context, once the primary issue—what is our purpose?—has been answered.

Brad Brisco, church planting advocate and co-author of Missional Essentials and Next Door As It Is In Heaven, points out several paradigm shifts he thinks today’s church needs to make, in view of Scripture’s description of our purpose. Here are two that I think are especially relevant for us:

  1. The Nature of God and of the Church is Missionary.
  2. The Church is to be an Incarnational Presence.

In the articles that follow in the coming weeks, I will elaborate on both paradigm shifts. My hope is that some of the traditions of your church will be validated as you see them from a new perspective, and that some parts of your congregational expression will be challenged as your why is again brought front-of-mind.

If you’d rather hear from Brad Brisco on these topics than me, check out Missional Essentials, a brilliant and down-to-earth 12-week curriculum (available in Spanish and English) to help your small groups or leadership team explore these and several other biblical directives.

Whatever Happened to Talking about Jesus?

By Shannon Youell

And we’re here today bringing you good news: the Message that what God promised the fathers has come true for the children—for us! (Acts 32:13-The Message)

I wonder if we’ve lost the ability to explain the “good news” part of the Good News? Is that why we are so afraid to talk to people about this Good News outside of our Christian circles (where, supposedly, we all understand it completely and don’t need it explained to us)?

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To be frank, the number of times I hear the Gospel preached, and indeed, preach it myself, to those who have already heard it, really causes me to lean into the concern that we’ve lost the ability to truly convey what amazingly, marvelously Good News the Kingdom of God present here on earth is to those who do not yet know there is such Good News.

All Called to Be Sharers
Some of us exempt ourselves from this conversation by saying that we do not have the gift of evangelism. But are not all of us convicted and called by Jesus to “go and make disciples?” To be fair, there are those folk among us who are wonderfully gifted in communicating the Good News. Often it is from a public platform, or by placing themselves strategically within communities where darkness still prevails and the Kingdom is groaning to advance. They are particularly and uniquely set apart by their giftedness to engage this way, and we need to celebrate and support these evangelists in our midst.

But that does not exempt me, or you, or us. As I stated in my previous article, I haven’t really been able to find an exemption for myself in Jesus’ teaching. Or for that matter in the Story at all. It appears that those who worship our Father in heaven, who are professed disciples of Jesus, who are empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit to do good the work of the Father, are sharers of Jesus. They communicate (evangelize) to others the great Story of God and help them find their place in the Great Story within the story of their own lives.

So why are we so darned afraid? And how did we, the ekklesia of God, get that way?

Taking Steps Forward
Friends, I think these are some of questions we need to start asking ourselves and our communities of gathered believers. I am pretty confident that were one to ask a faith community if we are to share Jesus, they would mostly agree that as an absolute. Yet we do tend to leave it to others to do so, while sighing with relief that indeed there are those who ‘like’ to share Jesus with others.

Can we engage in the evangelism conversation again? Can we imagine being a people set apart by God to herald the Grand News that God, through Jesus, has come to earth with the rule and reign of His Kingdom that brings us justice, liberty, hope, love, peace, joy and salvation from the corrupt and oppressive rulers of the kingdoms of this world? And the wonderful news that we are invited to join Him in living it and sharing it?

We’d love for this to be a dialogue as we explore and share together to attempt to answer, frame new questions and reimagine how we can create of culture of communicating the Good news of the kingdom of God for the sake of the world.

For those who will be at the Banff Pastors and Spouses Conference next week, come and join in a round table discussion around this very topic: Mission—Impossible? Can we re-engage evangelism? We will discuss three questions to frame our conversation together and begin to face the evangelism vacuum so common in our Baptist culture.

Join us there, and here on this blog as we listen and learn from one another to pray, equip and share Jesus in the spaces where we live, work, play and pray!

Road Trip Remembrances

After all these months of sabbatical and a busy start to fall, we’re happy to announce there’s been an official Joell sighting! He didn’t get lost in Manitoba’s backcountry during his Heartland road trip after all, so we’re glad to share his reflections about his journeys and the people he connected with along the way:

So, start a sabbatical by driving 3000+ kms through Saskatchewan and Manitoba, visiting as many of our Heartland CBWC churches as possible… and drum up support for church planting.

That seems to long ago… but that’s what I tasked myself with back in May and it was a great time for me to get to see the “lay of the land” and connect with most (sorry, I missed some) of you. Of our churches. Here’s a few of observations from my journey.

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  1. The Heartland is open and willing to consider involvement in church planting. As I chatted with laypeople and pastors I came away with keen sense that everyone understands the importance of church planting. There is a recognition that planting churches (of various kinds) is healthy and worth investing in.
  2. Most churches are strapped for energy and resources to embark on planting. Yes, we all know it’s true. It’s hard to focus on “having babies” when the parent is having a hard time making ends meet.
  3. Cooperation is alive and…well, not quite doing well but it is a favourable consideration. When asked if a church would be willing to cooperate with other churches in church planting the answer was always a resounding “yes.”
  4. Exposure to current church plants is minimal. Sadly, having our active church plants be visible in the Heartland congregations isn’t an easy task (due to distance) but it was deemed very important by our churches.
  5. There is a heart for Heartland planting. Many church leaders shared a burden they had for a particular community (usually nearby) that they felt needed a new expression of Christian community. This is great stuff!

So, there’s a few musings. Thanks to all who allowed me to visit and I hope to connect with the rest of you very soon.

Joell Haugan
Heartland Church Planting Director

Join the Moment Part 5: The Me Factor

By Shannon Youell

We have been talking about five ways of joining God’s momentum at work in our churches and neighbourhoods.

Way #1 was looking at joining as bringing two or more things together. Of pooling and sharing our resources, energy, wisdom and expertise bringing collective “we-impact” and the faithful presence of our Father into the places where hope is fleeting.

Momentum Element #2 invites us into one of those practices by way of Venture Partnerships. Financially supporting church plants dramatically increases their success rate and their long term sustainability. When we can provide the best training, coaching and mentoring along with resources to actually do the work, we can change our North American statistic of a 30% church plant success rate to a much higher rate. But it does, as the article points out, take a village to do so. At CBWC we are committed in finding ways to partner so resources are well-utilized.

Momentum #3 invites us to be “ears on the ground” wherever God has placed us. God has given each of us an area of stewardship of all He has created, which includes land and natural resources, but also people! When we are gospel listeners, listening both to the Holy Spirit and to the voices in our individual and corporate lands of stewardship, we may hear stories of existing independent churches who long for belonging to a tribe for collective impact. We may also hear of new expressions, or existing groups beginning to listen to where God would call them to join Him at work in neighbourhoods. These ministries could use the coaching and training available through CBWC and partner church planting groups. Since we all have ears to hear and eyes to see and we all have stewardship, we invite you to connect with those folk and then connect with us to work with you and them to see God’s Kingdom expand.

Numero quatro (#4), challenges our math skills and our theological and missional thinking. As sent ones into the world to be salt and light and witnesses of Jesus, how are you and I intentionally building an ethos of multiplication (making disciples of not-yet believers who then make disciples of not-yet/new-believers) into our faith communities and churches. Our challenge to us all is ask God to show you where He would have you join Him and then, when He impresses you with His heart, call us to explore what it could mean for your church.

Which brings us to the grand finale – Momentum number five.

This is the scariest one. This is the one we don’t really want to talk about because it points all the laser eyes at me and you, our own personal selves.

When we set aside the books, the conferences, the conversations, the models, methods and metrics, church planting momentum is basically one thing and one thing only: you and me telling people about Jesus and guiding them to discover new life in Him. And as far as I can tell from my Bible, we’re all to be a part of this work.

Sadly, our North American church track record is that approximately 90 percent of us have rarely talked about Jesus with our friends, family and co-workers. And when we do, it is with great fear and trembling and awkward attempts to explain good news that doesn’t seem so good by time we’re finished with it!

Or we’re so determined and pushy that our priority is how many notches we have in our belt for getting folk to say the ‘sinner’s prayer’ (rather like closing a sales deal). Should our priority not be to introduce our friends and neighbours to a relationship of discipleship where Christ is revealed as we go?

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give (Matthew 10:7-8).

Nick Kenrick CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Over the course of the next several months, we at CBWC Church Planting will be exploring our embedded cultural norm of exempting me, you, and us from Christ’s command to proclaim the Kingdom of God as we go in all the places we live, work, play and pray.

We’d love your thoughts, stories, comments on this topic as we go on this journey together with you.

Church Planting Update

By Shannon Youell, Church Planting Coordinator and Cailey Morgan, Assistant to the Director of Church Planting

This article appeared first in CBWC’s newsletter Making Connections. Subscribe to Making Connections here.

We received some interesting research recently from Lifeway Research and Ed Stetzer. The research is the first Church Planting Survey to explore the Canadian context, and draws for us an overview of current church planting trends and practices. The study found that three broad patterns—praying, equipping, and sharing Jesus—are foundational to greater church planting success in Canada.

Praying

The study found that church plants who regularly prayer-walk are more likely to have a majority-unchurched congregation, and church plants with regular prayer meetings are more likely to reach financial sustainability. While financial stability may not be the most spiritual sounding measure of church plant growth, it is certainly a factor and reminds us of Jesus’ promise: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

Will you join us in praying for our new church plants, and commit to intentional, enduring, heart-changing prayer for God’s children in your congregation to catch the passion of God’s heart?  Will you join us across Western Canada as we pray with fervency for those to whom the Kingdom of God has not yet been revealed?  This is what Jesus taught us to pray for!

Equipping

Stetzer’s research indicates that both denominational support and peer-to-peer equipping have an impact on the chance of a church plants success.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,  while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (1 Corinthians 12:21-26).

Part of what we do as a family of churches is to provide denominational resources for existing and future church plants, as well as facilitating partnerships between congregations. Some of our member plants need more support in the fragile first years of life, and certainly our existing churches can learn and be stretched by the new ideas and vigour our church planters bring to the table.

You will be hearing more over the coming months, of various ways your church can a) be equipped to multiply in the coming years and b) help to equip and encourage our new church plants. Please consider how you can play a part in the equipping of the Body of Christ in Western Canada.

Sharing Jesus

The study found that church plants conducting outreach Bible studies, and those making regular evangelistic visits, have a higher percentage of unchurched folks making commitments. This research should not be surprising, as Paul writes in Romans 10:14, “how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

If new churches are to come into existence, and if our own churches are to grow in numbers of new believers, we must find ways to join God in this work, without the stigma that the word “evangelism” has for many of us. Over the coming months, the Church Planting team will be exploring the theme of sharing Jesus on our blog, churchplantingatcbwc.wordpress.com, as well as facilitating a roundtable discussion on this topic at the coming Banff Pastors and Spouses Conference in November.

We hope you will join the conversation online and in person!

The CBWC Church Planting team is exploring new ways to pray, equip, encourage, inspire and catalyze you to participate in the sending mission of God. If you want to find out more about Church Planting, email Shannon Youell at syouell@cbwc.ca.

Join the Momentum Part 4: Multiplication

By Shannon Youell

Does your church have a vision of multiplying? More often than not, we find ourselves (wishfully, on the back burners of our minds) thinking that planting a church would be great, but we don’t have any intentionality towards it. Yet Jesus called us to be “senders” from within to with-out. Unless we begin to examine why we should plant outwards, we will never cultivate the ethos of multiplication as part of our discipleship process within.

Multiply: Dandelion — Kenneth Spencer CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Some Tough Questions
So though we say we are called on mission with God, we often find ourselves asking: Why plant? Doesn’t that just diminish what we already have? Won’t it stretch our limited resources beyond sustainability? What is our mission anyways and to whom should our missional focus be toward? Are we here for sake of maintaining the local church or for the community—the parish that is all around us? Does God place us in particular places to be His proclaimers of the gospel of the Kingdom of God?

These are questions worth spending time wrestling over. Often we can’t imagine our church even imagining planting a new church community that might “compete” with what faithful practices we engage in. Yet statistically, new churches actually renew community interest to those who are de-churched or unchurched and brings renewed excitement to our existing congregations as they partner in new life. Because after a while, folk in our communities don’t even notice our presence anymore. A new church can generate curiosity in a community.

Recently our local news carried a story about a large household products store closing out and a new Save-On Foods grocery moving in. There were some reactionary expressions from established independent grocers that this large chain will ‘steal’ their customer base and eventually squeeze them out. Just this year a new grocery store opened and another announced they would be the anchor in a new commercial development, so a third mega store seemed overkill. Yet after a few days of reflection some of those same grocers spoke positively and welcoming of the new stores. It causes their customers to take another look around at what their shopping needs are and they shift to that which meets their needs or become more loyal to where they already shop.

Just within the last few weeks a new church plant launched in my smallish, yet rapidly growing community on Vancouver Island. Their first Sunday saw eight hundred people come out to two services. Some initial reactions are that this new, more dynamic expression of gathering together will “steal” some folk from the already established and numerically struggling churches.

Yet a renewed interest in seeking God can actually benefit the existing churches. As curious already-Christians and not-yet-believers explore the new plant, some will stay, some return to whence they came, and others, who taste and see that the Lord is good, will discover places where they find belonging. Often that is in the new plant, but frequently they begin to explore the other area churches until they find their place of home and faith.

Multiplication or Cloning?
Another misconception we can have about planting is that it can only really be church if it looks like us…as though we are cloning rather than multiplying. Creating a new gathering that looks like us has and will continue to be a way to plant churches, but it can’t be our only way. We must always consider our context and culture and what God is already doing in the places where He is preparing for harvest. Multiplying can take on many expressions that won’t necessarily look like our particular culture, yet brings the presence of the ministry of reconciliation into the places and spaces around us.

Here are some ways that some of our CBWC folk are pursuing joining God on His multiplying mission:

  • Existing congregations who recognize they are primarily in the upper age group and perhaps declining in numbers yet long to see the legacy of the good work they spent their lives laboring at continue into the younger generations. Some of these faithful folk are the catalysts of prayer, resourcing and mentoring a second service with a completely different expression than they practice so that the faithful presence of God at work in their neighbourhood flourishes.

“TO EXPAND IN THIS MULTICONGREGATIONAL WAY MAY BE THE MOST RESPONSIBLE, COMMUNITY-RELEVANT WAY TO GROW.” (KEVIN MANNOIA – CHURCH PLANTING: THE NEXT GENERATION). MANNOIA GOES ON TO CLARIFY THAT HE IS NOT SUGGESTING HAVING MULTIPLE SERVICES DUE TO FACILITY CONSTRAINTS BUT OF HAVING “INTENTIONAL EFFORTS TO REACH DIFFERENT PEOPLE WITH THE SAME MESSAGE AND DEVELOP A NEW CONGREGATION WITH ITS OWN IDENTITY AND CHARACTERISTICS.”

  • Neighbourhood focuses are a great way to bring God’s faithful presence through the already-believers in the hood to others who have yet to encounter Jesus. Some of our CBWC churches are focusing their missional impulses on the neighbourhoods in which their constituents live, building genuine bridges between people who live next to other, yet are strangers. They welcome the stranger and the alien and love them with Christ’s healing, restorative love, discipling folk in the Jesus Way before they even introduce them to Him. Church plants like this birth new churches out of sharing Jesus from within community rather than planting a church and then doing outreach in a neighbourhood. It’s more like in-reach!
  • What about joining with other CBWC churches in your area to share in starting a new community of faith in a neighbourhood where one is not yet there? Sharing this work in energy and resources builds strong relationships broadly and local specific building up both the body and the kingdom. Bob Roberts Jr. says that church planting should be thought of more as community development than building a place for already believers to gather; he calls them “community faith engagers” rather than church planters.

These are but a few of the ways we can begin to cultivate the ethos of multiplication within our church communities. The key is getting involved somehow, someway–stepping outside our known practices to discover the Holy Spirit at work all around us in unexpected ways.

How about You?
CBWC is here to coach, mentor, train and resource you on whatever the multiplication path may look like for you. Contact us to explore how you and your folk can lean into the legacy of the past to propel the legacy of the next generations!

 

Book Review: Seed Falling on Good Soil

Gord King is a beloved CBWC member with an impressive resumé: he has taught theology in Bolivia, served in the refugee determination process in Canada, worked for World Vision Canada, and directed The Sharing Way (the international development program of Canadian Baptist Ministries). He has served as a board member of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, El Centro de Estudios Teologicos Interdisciplinarios, and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. And he’s now author of the book Seed Falling on Good Soil: Rooting Our Lives in the Parables of Jesus (from Wipf and Stock). We are thrilled to re-post this guest book review from Annabel Robinson, originally posted on Scot McKnight’s blog. Thank you to Gord for your book, and Annabel for the review!

Here is a book that will challenge you to the core. When I picked it up I thought I was reading an exegesis of the parables of Luke. It is indeed that. But what I had in my hands was the outpouring of a soul as he heard the words of Jesus speaking to the downtrodden people in other parts of the world. Gordon King has worked for both secular and Christian agencies in many places: El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Rwanda, Kenya, Angola, Malawi, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, the Middle East and Canada. He has listened to the cries from these places, and hears them in the people for whom Jesus first told these stories. He urges us to enter the social world of first century Palestine before we attempt to interpret the parables for our world of today.

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The result will haunt you. These are “deeply challenging and dissident messages” that will change our lives. The book is written for two groups of people: those who have called to live their lives in difficult places—community workers, educators and pastoral workers—who know discouragement and despair, and those who are disillusioned and disappointed by what the church at home has to offer.

The parables are read against two backgrounds.

One is the stories of people whom Gordon has met in different places and left a lasting impression on him. The book is alive with them.

The other background is taken from secular writers in the social sciences and anthropology, who offer principles of understanding our world.

He cites Arthur Frank, who describes how we all develop an “inner library” of stories that have particular meaning for us. The parables are just such stories. This “inner library” can “ambush” us by invading our thinking when we are unprepared. Frank describes stories like this as “dangerous companions.”

He also builds on James C. Scott’s observation that a repressive regime will promulgate what Scott calls a “public transcript”—a way of seeing the world that serves their own ends. Against this, dissidents develop a “private transcript.” Jesus’ parables address the private transcript of the oppressed people of Palestine. They are far from simple, cosy stories. Too easily we accommodate them to the world with which we are familiar. But King writes, “Personal loyalty to Jesus’ message and mission requires a . . . commitment to critique and reverse the public transcripts that maintain the oppressive world order.”

To do this we need to cultivate the strength of character to remain faithful in times of fatigue and discouragement. We can’t do it in the midst of frenetic activity. It requires “solitude, patience, humour, prayer, and a stubborn commitment to face the truth about the world and our own lives.”

Against these backgrounds Gordon King offers a reading of a number of Jesus’ parables which will jar with more familiar interpretations. In particular, I would single out his reading of the parable of the talents. When I first read it I had to put the book aside. The next day I realized that it was my familiarity with the usual interpretation that was getting in the way. By the end of the day, I was convinced. Jesus, as C.S.Lewis observed, is not a tame lion.

But if the book is challenging, it is also encouraging. It is “the Spirit who hovers over us, and whispers in our ears the good and fruitful story of God, who is inviting us to participate in the work of healing and transforming the world.” We may be led to repentance. We may feel overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness. We will be inspired to imagine a world that can be called the new creation of a loving God.

Whether you know discouragement and despair from living in difficult places, or are dissatisfied with the church at home, read this book. You will hear Jesus afresh.

Greenhills Christian Fellowship Calgary Update

This article by Pastor Allan Santos can be found originally published in CBWC’s monthly enewsletter Making Connections. Subscribe here.

We are grateful to the Lord for how He is moving and working in the lives of His children here in GCF Calgary. One of the primary thanksgivings that we have is our ministry towards the young professionals or the millennials of today. We are so blessed to see them serving the Lord wholeheartedly. Our primary commitment to the leadership of our young professionals is to disciple each one of them so they will grow spiritually and be equipped with God’s word as they do God’s work.  Quarterly meetings are being held with the leaders to talk about Jesus’ strategy on how to make disciples who can make disciples.  Now, our young professionals have four groups who are meeting faithfully each week to study God’s word and fellowship.  IMG_2884.jpg

Another ministry that we are continually pursuing is our basketball outreach.  Early this year, we had our basketball tournament and we had six teams that participated in this event.  We praise God for the opportunity to meet and share God’s Word to the players.  Two players accepted the Lord Jesus Christ in their lives and followed water baptism.  Indeed, the Lord is making a move for people to know and follow Him.

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We also praise the Lord for the men and women’s fellowship that were held every month starting early this year. The leadership of the church prayed and aimed to strengthen these particular groups because we desire to see the men and women in our church to have their own support group as they face everyday challenges and opportunities unique to their varied life roles. By God’s grace, both of these fellowship activities are increasing in attendance and consequently, closer relationships are being built and established.

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The work of the Lord here in Calgary is both challenging and exciting. It is challenging because the church needs to think of ways on how to reach out to people who are busy with their own lives pursuing wealth and personal success. On the other hand, it is exciting because we are seeing the need for them to know Jesus because He is the only One who can give a life that is complete and fulfilling.

May our good Lord be glorified, as we desire to reach out people for Him. His name be forever praised!

We’re so glad to hear how God is at work at GCF, and we want to share your stories too! Email Cailey (cmorgan@cbwc.ca) with your story to encourage our family of churches across western Canada.