Learning from The Canopy

Everyone likes to read the “success” stories. Successful ministry initiatives, successful church plants, successful events. As a culture we celebrate our “successes” and try to forget our “failures,” or to phrase it in a way more palatable to us, those initiatives that “didn’t meet our expected outcomes.” Notwithstanding that our metric of “success” or “failure” is subjective, we often can miss what we learn from the things that didn’t go the way we hoped.

The irony is that most things that we determine are a success grew out of the collective experience of things that didn’t quite go the way we planned. We have much wisdom to glean from those experiences and today we will look at one such story.

Pastor Eric Brooks is currently a pastor at Strathcona Baptist Church in Edmonton. He and I sat down together for coffee and donuts a while back and among other things talked about his experience as a church planter. He shared with me that though the plant closed after seven years, he came to realize one very important element was missing. ~Shannon Youell

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GUEST WRITER – ERIC BROOKS:

The Canopy Christian Community was an NAB church plant in south Edmonton. We were located on Gateway Boulevard, in the basement of CKER radio (in a space that at one time had been The City Media Club, but had sat vacant for several years). We started in 2001, and closed the doors in 2008.

When we planted the Canopy, I believe we had a very compelling and well articulated vision. In fact, not only did our team feel that way, we had feedback to that effect from several quarters. We were also convinced that if we communicated a compelling vision in a compelling way, people would join us. But three things were missing:

1. What we realized later was that something significant was missing: an effective strategy for facilitating community. While we were calling people to something meaningful, we failed to help them build good relationships with one another. I think in the end we realized that vision will bring people, but community will keep them around.

2. We intentionally established our meeting place outside of a residential community (we had a great meeting space in an industrial area), and in retrospect, it could have been beneficial to have intentionally been in a residential community.

3. We had good financial support: we were being supported by 5 churches. We also had good formal support in the form of church planting training, a coach, etc. What was missing was a sense of personal connection to another church: prayer support, personal connection and mentoring for our planting team… while we received invaluable financial support, that was the extent of the connection that we had.

As I write these three things, the common thread of missing significant community connections seems obvious. The irony that we were “The Canopy Christian Community” is pretty thick.

 

There is much for us all the consider in Eric’s reflection on his time with The Canopy. He highlights the crucial aspect of building rich relational equity–within our worship and discipling community, within the surrounding community and with other partners, supporters and mentors.

The Canopy had all the criteria to be a successful plant based on a particular metric and model: a compelling vision, a great space to gather, excellent coaching, training, financial and prayer support. And yet, the community felt a sense of disconnect from one another, from their surrounding neighborhood and even from those who were enthusiastic supporters of the ministry they envisioned.

What can we learn about our own context from Eric’s story? Are there ways we might re-imagine the shaping of what a successful plant requires? What about in our existing congregations? Is our relational equity formed solely around our weekly gathering in the building we meet in? Or is there a richness of relational discipleship happening outside of those times? What about in the area in which our meeting place is located? And the places where the congregants spend their everyday time? Are we intentionally building relational equity in our communities beyond ourselves in a manner where trust is built with those who do not yet know Christ as their Lord and Saviour?

These are some of the pieces that come to my mind as I consider Eric’s message. Let us know what comes to your mind too! In this way we can build relationship here–listening and hearing from one another, sharing our places where we experience success and the wisdom we’ve gained where we experience failures–both in our initiatives and in our vision of flourishing and renewal in our existing congregations. ~ Shannon

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Stillwaters Counselling

Our next story comes from Summerland, BC, where church and marketplace meet to provide important care for the community. As Tracey says below, “With the changing culture in which we live, it is important to think outside of the ‘church box.'” How can your congregation think outside the box to bring hope into the lives of a new demographic in your neighbourhood? ~Cailey Morgan

Stillwaters Counselling
by Tracey Bennett

Stillwaters Counselling is a faith based counselling centre located in the heart of Summerland, BC. It was created in response to the expressed needs of individuals who resided in the local area.

After delivering a seminar on grief, a local Christian counselor identified a gap in service provision, with a particular focus on faith based counselling.

After much prayer and some initial research, Summerland Baptist Church was approached and consulted with as it was identified as one of the main active churches involved in the community. Counselling had indeed been on their agenda for a period of time, so with the vision and expressed need, a process of consultation began.

The senior pastors, deacons and church community were unanimous in their support of a faith-based counselling centre. A steering committee was formed. Prayer was core and collaboration with other agencies took place, as well as with members of the community. A successful pioneering model was taken and molded to suit the community in which the counselling centre was to be based. The steering committee discussed and formulated a business plan, identifying an empty business property on the local high street to rent. Summerland Baptist raised the core finances to fund the refurbishment of the counselling centre and created a subsidy fund to enable counselling to be accessible to all who were not covered by insurance companies or who could not financially afford it. A team of part-time master’s level counselors were recruited and a Clinical Director was appointed.

The counselling centre was advertised and launched in March 2017, and by the end of the year, many people had accessed care. The financial model was sustainable and a much needed service was being accessed by all. Christians and non-Christians were referred and self-referred by Pastors and various health care providers.

Stillwaters is an example of pioneer mission. With the changing culture in which we live, it is important to think outside of the “church box.” Using the leading of the Lord through prayer and scripture, the skill and expertise of various individuals, a low cost, self-sustaining ministry has been created.

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Joyce Oxnard and Betty Milne Anderson – Church planters: Part 2

Our previous post told the story of Betty Milne Anderson and Joyce Oxnard, two faithful women who were called to church planting. We hear of their faithful, difficult work in the far north. Their ministry didn’t end when leaving Inuvik, however. This part of the story shares how Joyce and Betty served in many places on behalf of our denomination—sometimes drawn by passion, other times by need. ~Cailey

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After Inuvik, Joyce and Betty went to Fort McMurray as interim pastors for 9 months. There had been a church split and they came to work with the remnant. Betty and Joyce held them together and did a lot of healing during that time. The church didn’t really grow, though there were some encouraging things.

A building was built while they were there, but that was the downfall of the church because they built too soon, too small, and too cheaply—it wasn’t a place that was appealing or functional. They were not allowed to have any input into that decision or design, because some capable people in the congregation took over but lacked the needed vision of what would grow a congregation.

Starting from the Ground Up
In 1979 they were moved to Grand Center to start a new congregation from scratch. They were given an initial salary that was weaned off as the church got stronger. They began by visiting house-to-house, sending out invitations in community and started with a Sunday school. Some Baptist families came on board fairly quickly. They joined “The Concerned Citizen for the Community” group in order to get to know people.

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Photo credit: Heartland Regional Minister Mark Doerksen.

One woman asked if there was a women’s Bible study, and so they said they would start one. They started with the three of them, then a fourth joined who was from Cherry Grove (outside of Grand Center). She said there are families there where kids had nothing to do and no activities, and so Joyce and Betty started a Sunday school in Cherry Grove that really thrived.

Some of those people started coming to the church, which met in the town hall. They also drew families from the forces base at Cold Lake, but that also meant a transient congregation. This was the most successful work they were involved with, in establishing a church that has continued on.

Betty only had schooling in Bible from BLTS, but they took some courses and went to the Billy Graham school of evangelism and received Stephen’s Ministry training. Joyce and Betty alternated preaching unless they took a series. The one who didn’t preach cooked the Sunday meal and did Sunday school. They were in Grand Center for five years.

 

Serving Across the Prairies
From there, they went to Medicine Hat to an established church that needed a “blood transfusion.” The pastor at the time lacked some people skills and he needed some support in his ministry. The denomination still supplemented their salary because it was a very discouraged church. There wouldn’t be a lot of male pastors that would accept such help from two women, but this pastor accepted their help for a year which brought some warmth and healing.

The BUWC felt there needed to be another church in Edmonton, and so some demographic studies were done and Castle Downs was identified as the area, so after a year in Medicine Hat, Joyce and Betty followed the call to Castle Downs. Unfortunately, the other BUWC (CBWC) churches were not involved in the planning and seemed to feel that a new work wasn’t needed. There wasn’t a mother church—it was a cold plant. The work was especially difficult without much support from other area churches, and Joyce and Betty would never recommend that strategy again.

“We tried to develop a partner approach with the churches and to have teams from each church come out and offer music, child care, to add to the numbers involved, but it wasn’t what they felt equipped for in that situation.”

They tried for three years but it never really got off the ground.

After Edmonton, they were encouraged to rebirth a church in Swift Current after our BUWC church had closed its doors. Jim Wells, pastor of Westhill Park in Regina, had a vision for that community and urged them on. It was a hard city to find a place to meet that was suitable.

It was the one calling that Betty and Joyce really questioned whether God was really leading them to for ministry. They felt more pushed into it rather than a true sense of calling—the BUWC was desperate and they were it! However, the plant had support of other churches from the Baptist Union, and has continued on since that time:

“Though our time there was not overly successful, Ricky Williams followed up our fledgling start and there is a thriving church there today.”

Argyle Road in Regina was Joyce and Betty’s last posting. They came to serve there because the pastor was ill, and they stayed 16 months until the church called a new pastor, Ron Phillips.

Final Thoughts
Joyce and Betty were asked and encouraged to be ordained if they would take a year of seminary, but they never wanted to stop the ministry they were doing in order to go to school. It was financially challenging since they shared one salary the whole time.

They never really experienced face-to-face opposition or were challenged about being women, or untrained. Once, however, they were called to a small northern community in Ontario and were excited to go—everything was arranged and their bags were packed. But in a meeting the night before an influential man that said he didn’t want any women leading his church, and though the Regional Minister still wanted them to come, they decided not to go.

Thanks again to Faye Reynolds for sharing these stories, and to Betty and Joyce for their inspiring lives of ministry! There are many lessons we could learn from Joyce and Betty’s experiences—ones that I hope all of us will take to heart.

We need each other, and God often answers our prayers through each other. Where may He be calling you?

New church plants often draw people back to God, or to God for the first time. They tend to reach new demographics existing churches haven’t reached, and can energize the other congregations around them. Until everyone in a place surrenders to Jesus as Lord, there is always room for another expression of God’s family there.

How will your church encourage new works in your area? Who of your best leaders could you send to help water a new seedling? What greater flourishing of your area, which seems impossible for a single group, could you imagine when the synergy of multiple congregations is offered as a platform for the Holy Spirit to work? I know these are pointed questions, but it’s easy to fall into territorialism–something that can’t keep happening if we  to see God’s Kingdom come and His will be done in Western Canada.

Do you have other stories of servants of God that have inspired you? Do you have a bone to pick about my use of the word “territorialism?” Do you want to hear more about how to partner with the CBWC in establishing a new missional work or congregation? Please get in touch. Leave a comment here, or take it up with my boss! Shannon’s available at syouell@cbwc.ca, or you can contact me directly at cmorgan@cbwc.ca. ~Cailey Morgan

PS: Listen to a message from Joyce and Betty’s 2014 visit to Argyle Road here!

Joyce Oxnard and Betty Milne Anderson – Church planters

I’ve been having so much fun with our current blog series of stories from our family of churches and beyond. The next story is not only an important and inspirational piece of our CBWC heritage, it also carries with it convicting questions for all of us about trusting God, and how we listen for and respond to His call. Thanks to CBWC’s Director of Ministries Faye Reynolds for this article based on her interview with Joyce and Betty. ~Cailey

In the early 1970s, Joyce Oxnard and Betty Milne were both working with the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON). Joyce was Betty’s boss, but they were friends and attended the Argyle Road Baptist Church in Regina, Saskatchewan. Their pastor Basil Medgett mentioned that the Baptist Union (BUWC, now CBWC) was interested in planting three churches: one in Inuvik, one near Cold Lake and another in Fort McMurray. Rather lightly, Betty said to Joyce that she had always wanted to nurse up north and wouldn’t mind going to Inuvik, but not the other locations. That quiet nudging created a door for the Holy Spirit to work.

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Hearing the Call

It wasn’t long before an opportunity opened up in Yellowknife for Betty to start a nursing program. Joyce also felt a strong calling to go north, but struggled to leave her well-paying job to go into the public health sector. In the end, both continued to feel the call to move north and so by faith in 1973 they headed up to Yellowknife on one year’s leave of absence from the VON.

Joyce quickly delved into ministries in the church with the young adults. There had recently been an evangelistic campaign in the area and a number of young adults had come to the Lord, so Joyce and Betty quickly filled the need for leading in Bible studies and discipleship.

Early that spring, BUWC Executive Minister Dr. Harry Renfrew came to visit the church and the two asked him about the BUWC plans for Inuvik. He said that so far there was no one willing to come up into that region but it was certainly something that the two could do. Joyce and Betty were very excited about the potential and decided to take a month to separately pray about it. They agreed not to talk about it, but simply pray and write down their thoughts to share at the end of the season of prayer, while Dr. Renfrew took the idea to the BUWC Board. Their writings revealed that they were both eager to go and had a clear sense of God’s calling.

When they left Edmonton to fly up for the first time, they were met at the airport by BUWC leadership of Dr. Renfrew, Dick Standerwick and Jack Farr, who handed them a film strip projector, prayed for them and sent them off. They arrived on December 5, 1973, and the arrangement was that there would be a little house available for lodging.

However, when the women arrived, the house wasn’t ready. A fellow from Yellowknife knew they were coming and gave them his apartment until the house was ready.

The day after their arrival, they were walking around town and saw a woman gazing at the horizon. They asked what she was looking at. “I’m looking at the sun–it is the last day we will see it for a month.” What a reminder that they were entering a new land and life!

Inuvik Ministry
To begin their ministry, Joyce and Betty put a sign on the post office notice board that they were starting Sunday school in their home for any children who would like to come. They didn’t exactly know what to call themselves; were they missionaries? But that term had some baggage attached to it, and so they settled on the term “pastors.” Three couples that were Baptist and attending other churches connected with Betty and Joyce right away, so a Bible study was formed with the adults and a Sunday school with the kids. On January 6 their first worship service included 17 people in the corner of a large gymnasium, with no music available.

The BUWC provided one full-time salary for the two of them, and they anticipated working part-time at the hospital, but there were no local openings for nurses at that time. Available work meant flying into outlying settlements–but that would mean being gone 3 days at a time, which wasn’t conducive to their planting mission. They never did have other income. They received a lot of support from Al McPhedran and the Yellowknife Church–he was a real resource for them.

God always provided for their needs. An Alberta family once sent them up a whole box of frozen beef, which was better cuts of meat than they had eaten as nurses! At the time Al warned the Alberta Area that this was going to be a very expensive venture and would never become self supporting so not to go in if they were not prepared to pay for the long run.

They never really encountered any difficulties being women, although they don’t really know if some didn’t attend their church because it was lead by women. They simply lived into the calling God had placed upon them and never really gave it a thought. Once, they went to BLTS (the Baptist Leadership Training School) to meet the student body to tell them about their work; and one student asked why the BUWC wasn’t sending a man, to which they responded, “Because no men were willing to go!”

They held a gym night every night for youth, offering a snack and devotional and some were quite rough and tough characters with colorful language. If they came for the games, they had to stay for the devotional and then they’d get the snack. Some of the youth themselves would defend Joyce and Betty and warn any of the other kids not to be disrespectful with their talk.

Joyce and Betty initially thought that their mission activities would be more with the native population but that didn’t end up to be the case. The indigenous youth came to the gym night but not to the church. Their church services ministered primarily to the white population that didn’t fit with the long-standing Anglican or the Pentecostal churches and the indigenous Christians went to those churches as they were long-standing. They drew from the forces base but people came and went. Some young fellows from the church came up from the south to build a beautiful building funded by the triennium project. The congregation at that time was around 30-40 people.

Al McGee became the first pastor called to Inuvik after Joyce and Betty left. The Potters came after McGees, then Cordell Lind, working part time. The mission was cost-prohibitive because it could never be a self-supporting work, and somehow the vision of its potential became lost. The leadership in the church itself also did not seem to have the vision and commitment.

“It would be better defined as mission than church planting. Church planting today feels like a foreign language from what we did.”

Joyce and Betty returned to visit in 1996, but saw that the people had lost faith that the work would continue. They ended up filling in when they were without a pastor and stayed the year. Joyce started having terrible asthma attacks so felt that we couldn’t stay so they left in June ’97. They never found another pastor willing to go.

Take note of the type of work that these two ladies did, and the interesting statement that they considered it “better defined as mission than church planting.” What pops into your mind when you hear the phrase “church planting?” Is it defined by a particular model? Our opinion here at CBWC Church Planting would be that the work Betty and Joyce did was clearly one method of church planting, but that there are many ways to plant new congregations!

Betty and Joyce were willing to go where others thought it was “too hard,” without guaranteed income, having the willingness to be bivocational. They remind us that we as a family of churches need to accept the reality that birthing new churches is hard, that new groups that reach new demographics are unlikely to ever be self-sustaining, and that we’ll need to partner with them long-term for the work to continue. We can no longer view church planting like the franchising of a business that will soon be able to stand on its own two legs. Church planting is by nature mission, and to reach the breadth and depth of the Canadian population, we will need to dig into hard soil that will take many years of sowing prayer, time, money, and energy before seeing the fruit. But could there be any more important and rewarding work? ~Cailey and Shannon

READ PART 2 OF THEIR STORY.

Rethinking Success

With Guest Blogger, Alberta Regional Minister Dennis Stone

There are a multitude of voices and assumptions, both historical and cultural, on what constitutes a successful church plant. In today’s blog, we hear from Alberta Regional Minister Dennis Stone and his gained wisdom in the metrics we use to determine a “successful” new community or church plant. ~Shannon

Everyone is behind Church Planting, but as the Alberta Regional Minister I’d like to put a twist on our perception of it. Usually we think of Church Planting as an effort to have a ministry group form, develop finance and worship structures, support a pastor, gain a church building and become fully independent. Those elements are often how successful church planting is perceived.

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Dennis.

In Alberta at the present time we are working with several worshipping congregations that are far from being independent as listed above. These are, however, vibrant congregations hungry for the Word of God, discipling and evangelizing … all on a level that would be outstanding for any of our established churches. In Alberta at the present time we have groups meeting for worship intentionally seeking association with the CBWC (not just meeting in CBWC buildings) in the following languages: Birundi, Karen, KaChin, and Haitian/Creole (Bonnie Doon-Edm). These situations do not include already affiliated groups that serve immigrant communities such a Premiere Eglise d’Expression Francaise de Calgary (PEEEFC) a Haitian group, or Greenhills Christian Fellowship that effectively ministers to those from the Philippines, nor does it include the efforts of FBC Calgary in providing ministry for Spanish and Ethiopian ministries or Westview Baptist in providing ministry for Japanese, Arabic and Deaf (sign language) ministries.

In the new year it looks like we may have another Spanish congregation to work with in Edmonton. Our Calgary Korean church is an exception–independent and healthy, effectively ministering for decades in the Korean language.

These congregations almost always work on a shoestring budget while renting facilities. They usually have pastors who serve out of the goodness of their heart with little financial return for their efforts. Few of these worshipping congregations will ever be fully independent or successful church plants in the traditional sense, but the CBWC cannot stop helping these ministries that do evangelism, immigrant integration, worship in a known language, and intentional mission work within our Canadian borders.

Shannon’s note: Consider how you might join where God is working in some of our new ethnic specific churches as they struggle financially. CBWC and Church Planting are committed to these groups as they do the good work of sharing faith and worship as they gather and as they scatter. Contact us to become a Venture Partner to encourage our brothers and sisters who need the body of Christ so they do not become discouraged in their labour. The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 8, commends the Macedonian church, who even in the midst of their own financial lack, pleaded to share with other saints who were also doing the work of the kingdom of God. And along with Paul, I praise God that we have and can have the privilege of seeing generosity extended among our family of churches.

Evangelical Emmanuel Fellowship Church

By Shannon Youell

Imagine a church that is an enthusiastic worshipping community, a family dependent on prayer, and a “home away from home” for those new to a city and culture. Evangelical Emmanuel Fellowship Church is all of this and more. Pastor Elie Pierre and the male and female leaders who are part of his team are pursuing spiritual renewal in Edmonton’s Haitian community.

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“It takes a village to raise a child.”
This African (Igbo & Yoruba) proverb, which exists in varying forms captures the shared responsibility of everyone in a community, both immediate and extended, to nurture and develop young ones and comes from the African worldview that “children are a blessing from God for the whole community.”

In the same way, it takes a village to support, plant and grow churches. There are many ways a new church needs support and the joy of sharing with these new works makes me think of the apostle Paul’s statement about his joy being complete when those he discipled, mentored, and supported continued the work of the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

A few years ago CBWC was introduced to a lovely group of Haitian believers by our Alberta Regional Minister, Dennis Stone. They had been gathering as a church for a time and desired to be part of a larger family of churches. Their hearts for gathering together and for the people in their neighbourhood are evident and contagious. One of our first tasks in supporting them was in their provincial registration as they are mostly French speaking. Dennis engaged a member of Bonnie Doon Baptist Church in Edmonton to help with translation.

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Pastor Elie

A while later, I had the wonderful honour to meet with them and then we introduced them to our wider Edmonton family at a Celebration Dinner.

They felt so very welcome by all. Pastor Elie attended Banff Pastors’ and Spouses’ Conference that year.

Though I was concerned about the language barrier and how he and his wife, Clertude, would be able to engage, on the very first night, Colin Godwin from Carey Theological College happened to be seated with them and engaged them in French!

As we worked towards affiliation, this group continued to move out into the neighbourhood from their rented facility. Early this past spring, they were delivered the news that their rent would be increased to an amount that was out of reach for them. Staff at the Alberta Regional Office began to seek the possibility of sharing space in one of our other Edmonton congregations.

The Circle of Church Life
Around this same time, one of our well established faithful congregations were considering the possibility of closing the church, as their congregation was aging. Bonnie Doon Baptist Church was a plant out of Strathcona Baptist Church in Edmonton in 1913. Sam Breakey reports that the church had a long history of investing in next generation leadership. Many fine CBWC pastors and leaders came from that ethos. Their forward-thinking nature led naturally to Dennis Stone’s encouragement to entrust the building to CBWC so that another congregation could come to life in that community.

A high percentage of French speaking people reside in Bonnie Doon around Faculté St. Jean (University of Alberta) and a newly built French elementary/high school. Thus began the discussion that perhaps God was leading our new Haitian church plant out of their soon-to-be unaffordable space into a new ministry context in a more affordable and strategic location.

Dennis and Sam facilitated meetings between the two groups and they both had growing excitement at the possibilities of new life flourishing in the beloved building and neighbourhood. With the help of our head office and some folk in other Edmonton CBWC churches who provided on the ground assessments and advice on both the building itself and the community, we began to move towards this great opportunity. There was much work to do in assisting with some necessary building upgrades, official motions, and paperwork updating; many hands were involved!

In early June Evangelical Emmanuel Fellowship Church held their first service in the Bonnie Doon facilities. With representation from Bonnie Doon Baptist, they celebrated in worship and thanksgiving for how God made provision in ways beyond anything they could have imagined for both congregations. Much joy was shared and I wonder, as tears were present, if some felt their joy had been made complete.

Written with assistance from Sam Breakey (see, it really does take a village!)

Community Engagement

I love stories! I love to tell them (and I always seem to have one, much to the eye-rolling of some who graciously wait for the point of a discussion while I tell it); but I equally love to hear them. I love to hear the ways God is working through people and communities and neighbourhoods all through the CBWC. Stories inspire me, bring me to raucous laughter and tears of compassion, empathy and delight. I remember stories because I’ve connected with them. This month we are featuring some of the stories we’ve been hearing that have inspired us and others. Hopefully they will inspire you as well and cause you to celebrate along with us how God uses ordinary people in ordinary places in extraordinary ways as we join Him on His mission.

Our first story comes from Victoria, BC, and we highlight it as it demonstrates what can happen when we take the time to invest in what is important to those who live, work and play in the communities beyond our church spaces and join them. Our modernist approach has mainly concentrated on inviting people to come see what is important to us, yet—as the story shows—when we engage in what is important to others, relational trust is established and doors are opened for engaging together. ~ Shannon Youell

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David Dawson & fire Chaplain Ken Gill

Community Engagement
by Pastor David Dawson, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Victoria BC

Often, church members do not live in the immediate neighbourhood of their church building. At Emmanuel Baptist in Victoria, people travel from many locations to attend church services and events. Yet when a church is grounded to a particular location through a building, it is important for the church to be connected to the more immediate community. This responsibility often falls upon church staff and the volunteers.

At Emmanuel we have a long history of reaching out to students because we are located near the University of Victoria. More recently, we have been making more of an effort to connect with our neighbourhood and municipality. In the last few years a couple of doors opened for us through the use of our building.

In connection with the Oak Bay fire chaplain ,who attends the Peninsula Mission Church, we have been able to host a couple of appreciation dinners for local police and fire personnel. We have used our building and hospitality skills to bless our emergency personnel with a first-class banquet. This has also allowed us to connect with our mayor and council, who attend these banquets as well.

Another door was opened for us as local neighbourhood groups have asked to host events at our church building. These town hall meetings on such things as urban development and emergency planning have been ways in which I, as lead pastor, have been able to meet people in our community.

On one such occasion, we were planning to host an event which had to be cancelled on short notice because of a power outage. A few people from the immediate neighbourhood still came out to the event and hung around for conversation. Out of this conversation, a local neighbourhood association was born and Emmanuel was able to support this group through printing their newsletter and offering free space to hold meetings and luncheons. Through these connections some of our neighbours have even begun to volunteer time gardening and helping with our student dinners.

It is been a pleasure to build relationships with those in the church’s immediate neighbourhood. We have been able to create positive connections through providing rooms, a few pots of soup and the use of our photocopier.

In an age where community members are not making it a strong priority to attend church, we have found a way to make connections through simple involvement in community activities. We hope that God will use our physical assets to build friendships and help us to create a good reputation in our community.

Where We’ve Been and What’s Ahead

By Shannon Youell

As we look back on the fullness of the work we’ve been involved in this past year, Cailey, Joell and I are keenly aware that as we’ve paused to pray and discern in the 77 Days of Prayer initiative, the daily 10:02 prayer for workers of the harvest, and our several articles and resources on prayer and on neighbourhood prayer walking, God continues to be at work all around us. The challenge in all that He is doing, is for us to continue the discipline of praying and listening to where God invites us to focus and join Him in this season.

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Listening may mean a change of direction or rethinking some of the pillars we’ve been relying on, as God calls us to rely on Him more and more in our changing cultural landscape and increasing population of those who identify as having no religious affiliation whatsoever. Many who identify this way, when surveyed by researchers, report they have deep and meaningful relationships; find purpose and meaning in their life; are generally happy and fulfilled.What does this mean to us, the Church, as we attempt to engage them? How do our own ideas of “what they need” have to change? These are deeper questions to explore in prayer and discernment. God is re-igniting the desire of the Church for those who don’t know Jesus the King, so He’s preparing us as workers for the harvest, but perhaps we need to retool some of our methods as we harvest a different kind of crop.

We are excited and encouraged by where we are seeing God preparing you and me and all our congregations–His workers–for harvest. We have had more folk talk to us about missional innovations, engaging neighbourhoods, replants, new churches and revitalizing existing churches to join God on mission in 2017 than the previous three years! So we’ve been praying and waiting. Praying for God’s kingdom, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Praying for planters, pastors, lay leaders and all the local missionaries in our pews who are discerning the call of God to reimagine evangelism, church and mission. Praying for God’s wisdom and provision as our CBWC tribe partners with these works.

Will you pray? Will you pray and listen to where God is at work? There are several new churches preparing and discerning beginning something new, whether a new location, new plant or renewed vision of local missionaries. Some are brand new initiatives; others are folk who have been meeting together and desire to join our CBWC family; others are new immigrant churches as God brings believers from other nations to establish refuges of faith for new Canadians. Each of these cannot do the work on their own, nor are they meant to. As they pray and discern, we also pray and discern for provision, for trust, for God’s Kingdom to be revealed through each one.

We see in Acts and in Paul’s writings that the churches collected money to send to those churches who were struggling and those who were planting: churches supporting churches as they stepped out in the mission of sharing Jesus with the world God so loves. In John 17, Jesus prays that all of us would have that same love for the world as Jesus has for us and that God has for Jesus. Think about that! We are to love with the same generosity and sacrifice of God, who loves so much so He sent His one and only Son that none may perish and all could find the salvation of God’s Kingdom through the love of God revealed in Jesus.

As this year closes and so does our collective season of making space to pray, listen and discern, the next year opens full of the possibilities of how, then, we shall respond. How then shall the good and faithful folk in our approximately 168 churches respond to the call of the Spirit as we engage our world for Christ? One of my practices as each year closes is to take time to pray and ask God two things: Have I been faithful? And have I been obedient? Faithful means I have given, I have blessed, I have served–it’s something based on my metric of that generosity. But I always then ask the second question as I also need to be obedient to God’s metric in my faithfulness.

A HUGE THANK YOU to the faithful and obedient Joell Haugan, who has worked alongside Cailey and I for the past few years as director in the Heartland Region.  Joell brought with him an understanding and love for church planting, particularly in the rural context, and a huge heart of grace and generosity.  He has often hopped in his car and travelled from Swift Current where he pastors, to the towns and cities dotting the Heartland Region to encourage churches in engaging in and partnering in new and existing plants.  He has joined us in hosting CP initiatives at retreats, Assembly and Banff Pastors Conferences, Celebration Dinners and ministerials.

At church planting we have been praying and discerning the best way to cover this vast territory and Joell has gifted us with his insight based on his experience. Though Joell will no longer be the official director of Heartland Region, he will still share his gifts and insight in what is reshaped in the future.  Please drop Joell a big thank you or buy him a Timmy’s if you see him.  He has been and continues to be a huge blessing to our CBWC family!

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Joell roadtripping last year.

We have the wonderful privilege of joining God where He is working and expanding His Kingdom around us. May our prayer and our response in 2018 be “Your Kingdom come and Your will be done” in us and through us as we are faithful and obedient to God’s missional calling to our CBWC family.

Blessed Is She Who Has Believed

 

By Cailey Morgan

Advent reflection started early for me this year.

My husband and I had escaped for a couple days away in early November. I was sitting alone in the Selman Cottage on Keats Island, sipping tea while Kyson was out taking pictures of the fall scenery. I had determined I would read through the whole book of Luke to get a refresher on the ways and work and words of Jesus in the midst of a season in which I was using Jesus’ words to conveniently give permission for my own hurried ways and self-reliant work.

I sat on that futon for two hours, but never got past Luke 1. My realignment to a truer understanding of the person of Christ and to the life He offers came from the part of the story where He wasn’t even born into humanity yet, through the joyful cry of an impossibly-pregnant octogenarian to her equally-impossibly-pregnant teenaged cousin:

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said will be accomplished.

That one line gripped me. I couldn’t keep reading until I had wrestled through the questions of whether I could be that kind of woman. And frankly, two months later I’m still stuck, here on verse 45. Do I believe? Do I hear the Lord’s words? Do I look for the accomplishment of His works in this world?

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Do I believe that God performed those incredible, intimate supernatural actions in Elizabeth and Mary’s bodies? That maybe the Holy Spirit knows my limitations and might even be willing to touch me personally to overcome them as I open myself to being His servant? More than that, do I believe and live into the blessing of the empire-shaking, darkness-shattering Gospel Kingdom that those two miracle baby boys inaugurated?

At the risk of reducing one of the most epic moments of history into a object lesson, I want you to consider this question with me: “What has the Lord said will be accomplished, that I need to believe will be accomplished?”

For me, the answer came quickly. I’m a bit loath to tell you, because this blog is meant to inspire us to pray, equip leaders, and share Jesus. What gives me the right to write about these things if my own witness is impotent and life in the Spirit is in infancy? But I hope that sharing some of my struggles and conversations with God will encourage you in your journey and invite you to share how you’ve been growing as well.

What has the Lord said will be accomplished, that I need to believe will be accomplished? Jesus said this: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:9).

But I don’t believe it yet. I love Jesus, and I love my neighbours. I long for my community to be transformed by the hope of Christ. But I don’t really believe that I’m a Spirit-filled witness.

I don’t.

If I did, I would act like a Spirit-filled witness!

I’m like Mary or Elizabeth before the angel showed up–in a place where new birth is just not on the radar as something that would or could really take place. My limitations make spiritual pregnancy and birth (aka disciple-making) a nice–but practically impossible–thought.

But then, what happened to these women? I’m sure neither Elizabeth nor Mary could even imagine the prophecies before they were spoken:

“You will give birth to a Son, and you will call His name Jesus,” says the angel to Mary (verse 31).

“How will this be, for I am a virgin?” responds Mary (verse 34). She’s asking a legitimate question. “I am physically not able to complete your request! Wrong stage of life! No experience! So, how will you make this happen Lord? What do I do now?”

How does the angel respond? “You’re right. You can’t do it alone. But the Holy Spirit will come on you and take care of all the tricky business. You will become who He’s asking you to be, for His glory, through His power” (verse 35, my paraphrase).

Sounds a lot like Acts 1:9! And how about Elizabeth?

“Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God” (verse 36).

Elizabeth prayed and waited for a child for decades. But as time marched on, she probably looked at Zechariah and said, “Honey, this isn’t going to happen. We missed our window. ”

There are two women who I’ve been praying for, for over half of my life. One I haven’t seen in 10 years; the other I run into maybe twice a year. When I made these friends as a teenager, my prayers were fervent and frequent: “Lord, draw her to Yourself. Lord, what do You want me to say? Lord, what do I need to do?” These days, when I don’t even see these people any more, it’s easy to skip praying, and just look in the mirror and say, “Honey, this ain’t gonna happen. We missed our window.”

I know that many of you have similar stories of faithful prayers that seem to go unheard. Maybe you don’t feel ready yet to have spiritual kids, or maybe you’ve been waiting for so long you don’t think God really wants to use you in that way. And I don’t really have a good answer to this, other than to look at what happened to Mary and Elizabeth, and ask the Lord for His Spirit to come in power and overcome our lack of patience, faith, and imagination, for nothing is impossible with God.

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said will be accomplished.

I hope that Luke 1 becomes a year-round reflection for you, as it is becoming for me. Rather than a story to remind our children about the true meaning of Christmas, it’s a call to follow the great King whose Kingdom will never end (verse 32-33), and to open our eyes to the eternal Spirit-filled life that this King offers us, starting now!

Overcoming White Sheet Barriers

By Shannon Youell

A few weeks ago I wrote about the non-negotiable of prayer and listening, specifically in regards to opening up avenues to share Jesus with others who live, work and play where we do.

One of my favorite accounts in Acts is the story of Peter and Cornelius. There are many important teachings in this account, but the emphasis I’d like to share today is in regards to prayer and listening.

The sequence of events in this story has always amazed me:

  1. Peter is praying.
  2. God SPEAKS/shows him things
  3. God sends him out.
  4. Peter goes because he was praying.
  5. He prays and he hears where it is he is to go.
  6. Cornelius was praying.
  7. God SPEAKS/shows him things.
  8. He sends for one who can open up the gospel because Cornelius was praying and God showed him where to go.
  9. And God, whose presence was already at work ahead of them, falls on them, and all commit themselves to be disciples of Jesus in His kingdom.

GOD SPEAKING happened because there was praying and there was listening.

GOD’S KINGDOM happened among humanity because the one who listened, who was called to be sent, went….even when it was not where he expected (house of Gentiles).

After years of prayer-walking and listening in my neighbourhood, one of the first challenges I had when God began to show me His strategy for engaging my neighbourhood, was who to invite to the “meet-the-neighbours” party. Across from us there is a house that hosted drive-by guests all night long. A police presence there was not unexpected. The people who lived there were rude, crude and vocally abusive to neighbours who tried to ask them to curtail their noise levels. I dubbed it the “crack house” and had no intention of inviting them to my party…errr God’s party.

But because I kept praying and God kept working on me, I did. I invited them. They didn’t come, much to both my relief and my disappointment. But the invitation was an act of obedience and God was continuing my journey of discipleship through it.

Peter experienced something similar here. He was praying and listening when God showed him a large sheet filled with unclean things to eat and tells him to go, kill and eat. Peter was appalled and exclaimed, “never!” Peter had a White Sheet Barrier and God was breaking it down.

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Peter’s vision painted by Domenico Fetti.

That house across the street was a White Sheet Barrier for me. Would I, could I–claiming that I loved God and neighbour, the world God so loves–decide whom I would invite to my home? After all, it is my home, my sanctuary, my refuge from the world. Or is it?

When Jesus sent out the disciples in Luke 10, He informed them He was sending them out like lambs among the wolves. For me, and for Peter, our White Sheet Barriers would have been acts of disobedience to join God at what he is up to. We tend to decide how we will share God’s invitation to restoration of relationships with Himself and with others. We tend to limit God’s ability to work in even the least and the worse of these. We tend to want to play it safe and comfortable, arguing that surely God would never ask certain things of us.

I still invite the folk across the street. Every time. And I wait in expectation that one day, because I persisted and because God is God, they just might show up and I will see that God was at work all along. It hasn’t happened yet, but what has happened is that they have become a little more respectful. It could be the multiple police visits from complaints, or it could be, might be, God at work in my neighbourhood as I pray, listen and attempt to live as sent.