Summer Reading

By Shannon Youell

Ahhh, the warm, laid back days of summer. As I write this, I am looking longingly at my summer vacation reading pile, tempted everyday to delve in now but knowing I must stay on task and not be distracted! So I thought it was a good time to let you know what we’ve been reading and what some of our staff has been and will be delving into this summer.  

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We would love to have your reviews and feedback from books you have read too. You know where to find us and we encourage you to send them along to cmorgan@cbwc.ca so we can share what is impacting your heart, mind, soul and strength as we labour together with Christ in our church communities. 

  • The Patient Ferment of the Early Church by Alan Kreider: Kreider shares important characteristics of the early church that drew others to consider a life of faith: practicing patience as a virtue, living a Christian life, careful formation and teaching, and worship. This book helps us understand the shared practices, the rhythms, that helped form the early Christians and through this formation, made them distinguishable, not solely because of their testimony, but because they lived their ordinary lives in a way that was distinguishable to the norms of the culture and society in which they lived.  Looking at early church sources, Kreider develops his thoughts.  Here is a piece from his introduction:

    “The sources rarely indicate that the early Christians grew in number because they won arguments; instead they grew because their habitual behavior (rooted in patience) was distinctive and intriguing. Their habitus—a term I have learned from French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu—enabled them to address intractable problems that ordinary people faced in ways that offered hope. When challenged about their ideas, Christians pointed to their actions. They believed that their habitus, their embodied behavior, was eloquent. Their behavior said what they believed; it was an enactment of their message. And the sources indicate that it was their habitus more than their ideas that appealed to the majority of the non-Christians who came to join them.”

  •  A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together, by Scot McKnight: Several of us are reading or have read this book recently.  Here is a bit of what inside cover reveals:  

    “Author Scot McKnight believes that your local church determines what the Christian life looks like for you.  Essentially, local churches matter far more than we often know.”  

    McKnight begins by describing his own formation in what the Christian life looked like, growing up in a church where everyone basically was “the same” in colour, ethnicity, and tastes in music, worship, sermons and lifestyle.

    Delving into the theology of the early church and the practices and issues they were engaged in, McKnight, professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary, helps us see how those first Christians tackled the reality that the world is full of “differents” and how they wrestled and prayed through sharing life together “…as a new kind of family, showing the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life togther is designed by God to be.  He encourages Christians to embody belief, to be holy and loving as we attempt to follow Christ.

    I found the chapters “The Table of Connection,” “We is Bigger than Me,” and the whole of Section 4 on Holiness, very helpful and hopeful as we more and more live in a world of differents in ways that continually point to Christ and God’s kingdom gospel story of redemption, reconciliation and restoration of all things. Having said that, that takes the reader to about the half way point of the book and I anticipate there is more deeply thoughtful and grounded content to come.

 

  • Survival Guide for the Soul: How to Flourish Spiritually in a World that Pressures Us to Achieve, by Ken Shigematsu: Ken is our Banff 2019 speaker.  I have gone through this book twice and now, with a friend, going through slowly and intentionally.  He takes us on the journey of finding the ways to make space to flourish spiritually in the midst of living in a culture that acculturates us to accomplish, succeed, and be validated for the things we do.  

    “Drawing on a wide range of sources—including Scripture, church history, psychology, neuroscience, and a rich variety of stories from his own life—Shigematsu offers a fresh perspective on how certain spiritual practices help orient our lives so that our souls can flourish in a demanding and competitive world.”

    My recommendation: pick this up prior to Banff as I think there will be a rich layering as he shares with us there.

  • Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, by C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison: Another book drawing us deeper in community living as people of faith in ways that reflect God’s heart for all humans.  Here is what the authors say about Slow Church:

    “Slow Food and other Slow movements hold important lessons for the (church).  They compel us to ask ourselves tough questions about the ground our faith communities have ceded to the cult of speed.  And they invite all of us—clergy, theologians and laypeople—to start exploring and experimenting with the possibilities of Slow Church.  Not as another growth strategy, but as a way of reimagining what it means to be communities of believers gathered and rooted in particular places in a particular time….Slow Church is a call for intentionality, an awareness of our mutual interdependence with all people and all creation, and an attentiveness to the world around us and the work God is doing in our very own neighborhoods.”

 

  • Reimagine Church, by Nic Harding: If you are deeply invested in discipleship that forms disciples who make disciples who make disciples, this book is one that we are currently reading (and have passed a few around to you).  Nic directs us to understanding that “missional discipleship is not just an activity or job description, but a call to embody the message with your lifestyle, and apprentice others in the way of Jesus.”
  • If you, like me enjoy reading text books and commentaries I would like to recommend two I have been reading or 2 I will be reading. 
    1. Tremper Longman III & Scot McKnight are the editors of a commentary series called The Story of God Bible Commentary.    At my local church we have recently used the commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew and a whole separate one on the Sermon on the Mount.  I am currently going through both Philipians and Genesis in this series.  
    2. The other a classic is EP Sanders Paul and Palestinian Judaism,  the 40th anniversary edition.  

Happy Summer reading and don’t forget to send Cailey your reviews of these or other books to share with your CBWC family of readers!

Update on Emmanuel Iranian

By Shannon Youell

At Assembly in May, we welcomed into membership Emmanuel Iranian Church, a church plant in North Vancouver, and as of May 4th, a second plant in Coquitlam.

On June 23rd, EIC held a service of celebration in which BCY Regional Minister Larry Schram and his wife, and myself and Cailey as the church planting team welcomed the congregation into our CBWC family of churches, and what a celebration it was and is!

The warm and embracing welcome we received as guests was incredible and we met so many lovely people that we now consider family. It was like a family reunion where we were meeting relatives from afar for the first time, and they us. Hugs and cheek kisses were abundant as the joy of the Lord active and living in the community poured out upon us.

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As we participated in vibrant and alive worship singing (in Farsi), and in prayer for the congregation and the pastor, we were aware of the presence of the Spirit and to the church’s obedience and response to both Spirit and Word. This is a community who are fully alive in Christ and hopeful in their challenges because Christ is with them.

Larry and I both spoke, with Pastor Arash interpreting.  I warmly welcomed the community to the CBWC fellowship of churches, speaking of our shared labouring in the Gospel and commending the church as they continue in our deep and rich Baptist heritage of people who join God at his work of redemption, reconciliation and restoration of God with humans, humans with one another and with all creation itself.

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Larry spoke from Colossians 1:9-14, reminding the congregation “…since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” He then encouraged and commissioned the church to the ministry of the gospel, just as they are doing and an extended time of prayer for EIC and Pastor Arash concluded the service…..or so we thought!

As the last amen was spoken, something beautiful unfolded as one by one, twelve people stepped out of their chairs and came up to the front and declared they wanted to submit to Jesus as Savior and Lord. It was incredible!  I was standing beside Elder Kam, who was taking down names for discipleship follow-up. I asked him if this happened often. “Every week,” he responded! He looked back on the last month and counted more than 25 commitments! Twenty-five new followers of Jesus, in one month. God is present and working in this place.

Talking with people after the service, we heard stories of those who felt as though God himself had plucked them up and placed them at EIC and the obvious response was following Jesus, many for the first time. We also heard stories of personal challenges of life as new Canadians and of prayers for those who are still back home in Iran. 

And the celebration continued from there. Then there was cake! And food and an exhibition by the communities artisans. More hugs, stories, photos, kisses and joy to be a part of God’s family.

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“…thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

What a celebration. What a welcome. What an aroma!

Engaging Gospel: A Resource

By Shannon Youell

“I’ve never had someone ask me, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ But I have had many people ask me, ‘Where is God?’ As the three-tier view of the world has collapsed, people are not seeking God ‘up there’ but want to find God here and now.” ~Diane Butler Bass 

Often times when I meet up with people, they ask me what’s happening in Church Planting in CBWC. I love to tell the stories of the men and women who are engaging in the gospel in both new works and from within existing congregations. As I shared some of these stories yesterday, the people I was with were curious about why all our current plants in process and prospective are within ethnic-specific groups, to which I replied several observations. I included my often expressed observation that Canadian Baptists, in general and across our nation, haven’t continued our Baptist value of building an ethos of evangelism by discipling our people to be missional disciples who join God on mission into their everyday worlds. Evangelism, or talking about Jesus as both Lord and as Savior, is the best approach to church planting, and many of us just aren’t comfortable going there.

The result is that we don’t disciple our own folks to be local leaders and planters of new communities. Rather, we disciple people to be good Christians, which is right and true, but we leave the missional call of Jesus for us to be light of the world up to osmosis or chance or something. Jesus was never so unintentional.

It isn’t that our folk don’t believe in church planting. They do. We love to hear the stories of people coming to faith and the inspirational curiosity of new believers that re-sparks our own passion for being devoted followers of Jesus. The difficulty is that we regular, ordinary, everyday folk stumble around even articulating the gospel to which we profess has captured us. We are confused about the gospel, so we leave it to the ‘professionals’, evangelists or church planters or preachers.

And as Diane Butler points out in her statement above, we have difficulty answering our friends, family members, co-workers and neighbour when they ask questions that require more than a four-point process to salvation. What do we do with our deeper human questions about where is God in the midst of all the world’s woes and tragedies, or how can God love me when….or does God even care? The answer we often give addresses the avenue to eternal life, whilst not being able to articulate the here-on-earth part of the story of the Good News of God’s kingdom found through Jesus the King.

It is with this in mind that CBWC Executive Staff  began to work on a resource to help begin conversations that will help us have conversations about the gospel wherever we are: as ordinary everyday people in ordinary everyday realities of the human experience of life on earth.

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This resource, Engaging Gospel, has been developed as both a sermon series outline for teacher/preachers and with a follow up guide for small group discussions.

Our prayer, our hope and our invitation is that, as a family of churches, we gather in much the ways we gathered for the 77 Days of Prayer and do this together, either as your fall sermon series, or if that isn’t possible, your winter series post-Advent.

Our goal is to help bring back the incredible language of the full, rich Gospel into our imaginations again so that we are not confused by the ‘gospel’, but excited. As Larry Schram expresses in the video attached to the series, “This is indeed still good news – it is the best imaginable!”

Church planting is not a side-program of the church, but is the fruit of the Gospel being richly and fully expressed to those who are lost, least and last into God’s redemptive plan of restoring the human community and all of His creation to places of found, first and favoured.

Ethnic Churches are Sent

By Shannon Youell

Most of us love hearing stories of missionaries who have brought the Good News of Jesus as King–the King who brings the salvation of God’s kingdom now breaking into human reality to those who have followed other gods or not known God in any form or shape. The church has done a good and faithful job of bringing this news to most of the world. Stories of new faith and new communities brings us all new life and hope and energy.

When I was teaching in churches and discipleship schools in India, I had hours of “car” time with some of the pastors whose churches and schools I was teaching (Canada, quit complaining about traffic – it is insane in Mumbai!). Many of them asked why the church in Canada was declining and faithfulness to God was becoming a private pursuit when it was faithful Canadian missionaries who brought the gospel to much of India. My quip back was that perhaps their church needed to begin sending us missionaries to reignite our passion to be faithfully present where we are and to share the Gospel with our neighbours.

For years the pray-ers in Canadian churches have been praying for God to revive us, to reignite our passion for God’s mission, and to breathe new life on us. And we are seeing new life coming to us as God sends us the nations.

At Assembly 2019, CBWC welcomed into full membership four new churches: three Filipino and one Iranian church. Almost all our other plants in process are ethnically based – Cantonese, Arabic, Spanish, Karen, Kachin, African. We should take note of this….God is actually sending missionaries to Canada! And they are planting churches here.  

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Welcoming new churches into the family

There is two-fold purpose behind their plants: the first is that first generation new Canadians long to worship God in their ‘heart’ language, just as we do. The second is that when Christ followers come, they recognize there are many from their own lands that have not settled into communities of faith, are not following Christ, not engaged in a faith community and in true missionary fashion, they want to share Jesus with those folk. 

There are many conversations around what this trend means, but I think the pertinent point is that God is doing ‘something’. These communities are exciting us with their stories of folk coming to Jesus, in their devotion to gathering, to intentional missional discipleship, to sharing Jesus boldly and courageously wherever they find themselves. Perhaps they are the ‘wake-up’ call our complacent, contemplatively established churches need, to help re-excite us to the reality that Good News is still Good News for the world. 

The question is how do the second and third generations, who will be English speaking and whose culture will now be predominantly Canadian, stay engaged? How does the existing church begin to be a place where ethnic diversity truly has a place?

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, in his book Future Faith, tells us that when non-Caucasian people go to a church where all the leaders are of one ethnicity, they do not see a place for themselves. Our churches themselves are not ethnically diverse. The existing churches that are growing the most are those that have multi-ethnic staffs of both males and females. The interesting piece of his research is that the other ethnic leaders do not even have to be of the same ethnicity as the person seeking to join a church – they just have to be non-Caucasian!

The other important note I want to comment on is something that a Korean pastor of a Vancouver church said in a church catalyst meeting: multi-cultural is not the same as multi-ethnic: multi-cultural means that there is a diversity of cultures and the expressions of faith and worship of those cultures are reflected in the gathering and scattering times. Our warm welcome of all people assumes they will worship, reflect, pray, and minister like our dominant culture does, which would make us multi-ethnic but not multi-cultural.

This is an important distinction to make as our new-Canadian church plants move to the second and third generations who will be looking for multi-cultural expressions of faith to stay engaged in church life. Canada’s young people are growing up in a diverse world and they too will gravitate towards diverse expressions of faith and community. We should be right beside them opening the pathways.

I would like to say this is a near-future challenge for us and for our new churches, but we are past that. This is our challenge now and it would certainly appear as though God is sending the world to us to help us engage together in a place of all nations gathered together, worshiping and serving our God and our King.

Expressions: Underground Network

As we finish up our series based on expressions of the church, we’ll discuss another piece of Chris Morton’s article on the variety of church expressions that seem to be thriving in the United States: The Underground Network. Check out Chris’ article, or watch this clip to get a sense of what the Underground Network is up to:

We interviewed CBWC Pastor Cam Roxburgh, who shares his impressions of the Underground Network and what their success could mean for the Canadian context.

CP: Cam, as you know we are highlighting the work of the Spirit through the Underground Network. We understand that you know Executive Director Brian Sanders, and therefore we thought it might be helpful to get a few words that would help us understand from your Canadian, CBWC vantage point some of what we need to celebrate and pay attention to.

CR: It was only recently that I had the privilege of meeting Brian. I met him last fall through a Forge Canada Missional Training Network event, and then again this spring on two occasions. I brought him to Chicago to speak to leaders through work with the North American Baptists that I do, and we met again in New York only a couple of weeks ago at a leaders’ network. We hit it off, and have agreed to do some work together on a project that I think will be a very helpful tool in encouraging churches to assess where they are at missionally, and suggest some next steps in their journey.

It is really an amazing story. Brian of course is a dynamic leader, but as I have listened to him, read his work, and heard the stories, there is a lot for us to learn and to celebrate. God is clearly at work. My encouragement to all of us, is to get a copy of his book and read it. There is a lot there to chew on.

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Cam sharing at Banff Pastors Conference 2018

CP: What should we pay attention to?

CR: There is a long list, too big for this edition, but here are a few of the top ones that come to mind.

Empowering Others – the very first thing that you cannot help but notice with the Underground Network is that there is a culture of empowering others. This is not a top-down leadership model at all, but rather they look for opportunities to help others to do what God is inviting them to do. They give ministry away at every turn. I heard story after story of them simply asking people what it is that they felt God calling them to do and then as a team finding ways to help make it happen.

Paying attention to God at Work – this was another of the key components. They tried to discern with people what God was calling people to, and where they saw God at work. They spent time empowering people, but empowering people to join God on mission, not just to “do activity.”

Focus on Leadership Development – this was a very exciting element to me. I think Brian has been doing a lot of work around intentional leadership on two levels. First, there is an intentional development of practices for leaders that shape leaders around the life of Jesus (my words) instead of a CEO model. Second, there is a mentoring or coaching aspect that I think is helpful. I think as they mature as a movement, it will be even further developed in intentionality.

CP: What concerns or cautions might you have for us as we consider what this type of model could look like in Western Canada?

CR: I feel a little awkward even commenting on this. I just want to say a big YEAH! For what God is doing in them. But, there is one thing that I think I can mention gently. Brian comes from a parachurch organization – a campus ministry and this developed and grew into a “church movement.” I think this gave life to The Underground, but also injected a parachurch DNA. So, I would say that they are a ministry looking for a deeper ecclesiology, rather than a church (with rich ecclesiology) looking for greater ministry. I am looking forward to them growing in learning to reflect on how everything that they do reflects their understanding of who God is… and I think they are a little lax on this at present. We are all theologians – whether we think we are or not. And we all bear witness to who God is by the way we live together. So we must pay great attention to this in our midst.

CP: Are there Canadian examples that are similar to what is happening in the Underground Church Network?

CR: I think the closest Canadian example or illustration of God doing similar things would be the MoveIn movement. This incredible story, led by Nigel Paul, has spread across Canada into many neighbourhoods. It really is a grassroots movement of people, particularly younger people, moving intentionally into neighbourhoods (poorer usually) to be the hands and feet of Jesus in that place. I would encourage us all to Google what they are doing and then to wrestle through how our churches might be encouraged to do similar things.

CP: What encouragement would you, a CBWC Pastor, have for us in what God is doing in creating movement in the CBWC?

CR: In light of our conversation, I think the simplest couple of pieces of encouragement would be these:

  • First, reading is a good thing and there are many books out there that can encourage missional movement or foster an imagination in us. The Underground Network is a good start.
  • Second, we need to keep finding ways to help our people understand that we cannot claim to follow Jesus without recognizing that we are a sent people. Not just sent individuals, but a sent people. This means both that we each need to do our part – called by God to join Him on mission – but that we embrace the reality that we are His kids, part of His family, that bear witness to the Trinitarian nature of God as we live more deeply as community into our neighbourhoods. This is a massive paradigm shift from the way we as evangelicals have lived in the past. It is hard – but incredibly life giving.

Cam Roxburgh, DMin. Fuller Seminary, is the National Director for Forge Canada as well as the Team Leader of Southside Community Church in Vancouver, BC. He also serves as the VP for Missional Initiatives with the North American Baptists. He continues to have a passion for helping the church to join Jesus on mission in local contexts. He is the husband of Shelley and the father of four adult kids. They live in Surrey, BC.

Expressions: Blended Ecology

By Shannon Youell

“In a smaller church we sometimes look at our barriers rather than our assets.” Jill Beck, Co-Pastor, Wildwood United Methodist Church

During our Assembly workshop “Staying is the new going,”we began our conversation around the question, “What barriers do we have that hinder us from participating in local mission right where we are?”

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Jill and Michael Beck remind us that only looking at and identifying our barriers, and in particular, the barriers of being small churches or of an aging declining congregation, can negate looking at what assets we already have to overcome those barriers.

Blended Ecology is the path this congregation took that both takes care of the saints who have long and faithfully laboured and invested into the church and also sends them out right where their own lives take them.

Pastor Michael says it this way, “Our church is no longer defined by just the ‘root stock’ or just the ‘tree’ but now people in our community experience us in all these different ways – their church in the tattoo parlour, the park, the walking club.”

One of their parishioners who has gone into the neighbourhood observes “Our church is growing and a lot of the growth is coming from people accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.”

Praise God! So many new expressions are attractional to already believers and the big disappointments for many mega church plants is when they realize that though they appear successful in all the usual ways, their growth is between 96 and 98 percent transfer growth – already believers!.

Here we have a small, aging, declining community being intentional about continuing the work that God put on them in the early days and stepping outside their known understandings of traditional church and their comfort zones to engage in the community in a way that is bringing growth and flourishing to all.

Pastor Jeff concludes that in all aspects there is a bountiful and fruitful exchange that’s life giving and he credits it to “an inherited mixed economy (when) you release the mission force that’s sitting in your pews every Sunday.”

Some of our CBWC churches are leaning into blended ecology mission. Northmount Baptist Church realized their barriers and their assets and determined that to continue the legacy of the faithful who had invested themselves faithfully in the work of the church, they needed to become reacquainted with the neighbourhood in which they found themselves. You can read more of their story here.

At Wildwood, the folk of the church looked at where their own passions were, where they spent time in pursuing those passions and then began to build community in those places. You can read all about them here.

New life brings excitement and rebirth and an ecology shaped around resilience, mission and faithful presence. What might God be saying to you and your congregation? Ask the questions, be quick to listen and slow to disregard or discard out of the box ideas…you could be the next tattoo parlor ministry!

Staying is the New Going: Abundant Life Together on Mission 

By Shannon Youell

Last week at our CBWC Assembly Gathering, Cailey and I facilitated a workshop asking these and other questions of ‘what if’:

  • What if we joined Jesus into the places we already are;
  • What if, as church communities, we did this together, creating cultures of a) shared practices that reshape us and b) shared mission into our neighbourhoods by ‘living among’ in intentional, relational presence formed out of everyday rhythms with our neighbours.

Before we could explore the possibilities, we fessed up the fears, assumptions and, yes, even our own ecclesiology to determine the barriers to our ‘what ifs’.

 

Then, through interactive engagement with three examples from Scripture where we find resilience, mission and faithful practice, we had a “taste” of exploring being local missionaries where we live, work, play and pray.

We had great discussion amongst all participants and with our very limited time determined that the examples in both the passages we looked at and the example of Jesus’ own resiliency in mission, that resiliency is less about productivity and success and more about faithfulness and fruitfulness. We acknowledged that often our very metric of these things causes us to see success as failure and mediocrity as success!

Resilience in mission speaks of practices not projects. And as cultural commentarian Mark Sayers quips, often we want progress without presence.

In looking at Jeremiah 29:4-7, Luke 10:2-9, and Acts 2:42-47 we discovered ways to begin to reshape our thinking and our practices to dismantle some of our own erected and often held onto barriers.

Some of what was discovered were practices of reframing, rethinking and reimagining local mission and rhythms of:

  • How does dying to self help us live among the people around us?
  • Obedience to God’s plan – rethinking our ecclesiology from each member participates in the ‘mission of the church to church, which is the members, participates in the mission of God.
  • Invest and engage where you are
  • Enter your neighbours traditions rather than your neighbours having to do all the missionary cross cultural work
  • Making space
  • Counting the cost

There is much wealth and riches to be mined here, and we are excited to continue this conversation here on this blog, or by coming to your church to explore this together as we shape our practices and our culture to join God on mission right where we are.

God’s call is not a call to be everywhere; it’s a call to be somewhere. …It’s a call to locality. Quite simply, it’s a call to the neighbourhood. Simon Carey Holt

 

Live From The Gathering 2019!

By Shannon Youell and Cailey Morgan

We’re writing live from CBWC’s 2019 Assembly, The Gathering, hosted by High River Baptist Church in High River, Alberta. What a blessing to worship, laugh, learn, and engage in family business with friends from across Western Canada. 

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Keynote speaker Tim Schroeder has been sharing with us on resilience, and we had the privilege of facilitating a workshop on resilience in mission as local missionary disciples and what barriers to being resilient and faithfully present we encounter where we “live among.” Next week we’ll be sharing more thoughts that emerged from our discussion.

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Thursday night, we celebrated welcoming 4 churches into full affiliation with the CBWC with a Showers of Blessing party. 

As we gathered these faithful groups together in enthusiastic welcome, joy welled up within us on the shared work of enlarging the kingdom of God here all around us.

Each of these churches have embedded themselves in their communities and are growing already and new believers as missionary disciples who make disciples that make disciples.

It was a beautiful time of hearing from these new congregations and providing opportunities for the family of churches to come around our most recent new congregations and upcoming church plants. 

As we celebrate these churches, we also celebrate the planters/churches that CBWC are in conversation with and in process with. Each of these new works needs all of us, all of you, to be their “helping” churches, so that we can continue to gather together just like this and celebrate them in the years to come.

It took a village to raise these 4 churches to flourishing expressions in their communities and it takes a village (aka All of You!) to sow into and support the plants that are in various stages of growth.

Showers of Blessings is our new Church Planting Trust to do just this very thing and without all our churches participating in support of taking the Good News of Jesus to those who have yet to encounter him, they will not flourish.

Contact Shannon, or Louanne Haugan, our Director of Development, on how you and your church join God at work in these places and spaces.

Expressions: Campus and Community

In this week’s offering, we hear from Chris Morton at Missio Alliance about a campus ministry that was willing to step out of its comfort zone and reshape its mission and culture in order to reach those who aren’t interested in church.

Campus and Community: The Center for Faith and Leadership 

Among the storied forms of church and mission struggling to maintain its place in a changing culture is the denominational campus ministry center—a staple at many colleges and universities. Campus ministry groups have traditionally thrived by providing a place of connection between like-minded students with similar backgrounds. With incoming students less likely to self-identify with a specific denomination or any church at all, these groups are often forced to reimagine their identity.

In 2012 the Baptist Student Union at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia was rechristened as The Center for Faith and Leadership. Directed by Carey and Gannon Sims, they have expanded their scope to include the needs of their surrounding community. They summarize this posture by saying:

Our front door is open to the campus, and our back door opens to the community.

The result has been to create an atmosphere which encourages students and young adults to use their creativity to serve others and to seek new means to connect with their neighbors. They use the language of “research and development” to encourage an environment of experimentation.

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Some of their experiments, many of which have been instigated, designed, and led by students, include:

  • Link: A mentoring community for homeless youth.
  • Will’s Place: A local food truck and catering business that got its start during a weekly meal for students and young adults.
  • Uptick Entrepreneur: A nine-month discipleship experience and monthly meet-up that brings together local business owners and aspiring young entrepreneurs who desire to impact their community through local enterprise.

Despite all of their activity, the methodology remains relational. “The Center is a place where friendships rooted in Jesus are changing the world,” says Gannon Sims. “We’re thriving because of a constant focus on friendships rooted in Jesus, and our values of mutuality, intentionality, and hospitality in relationships reflect this.”

Luke Taylor, Ministry Associate at the Center, believes that there are many people who want nothing to do with church and others who are never going to be attracted to the sermon-centric approach to most churches. Instead, “the Center is recreating church for the way they need it. It is by no means trying to take the place of church, but it is meeting people where they’re at and inviting Jesus into that place.”

We’re not all ministering to students, but we all need to consider the “doors” that our local church communities present. What pathways have been opened for not-yet-believers in your neighbourhood to enter meaningful Christian community? Perhaps it’s through congregants living in the neighbourhood, or through partnerships with local organizations or service agencies. We’d love to hear your stories of “R&D,” so drop us a line!

Expressions: Dinner Church

Last week, Shannon asked this question about our gathered life as churches: “What things do we need to rethink and reframe to move into our particular local mission fields to be able to share the life giving way of Jesus and God’s kingdom Shalom?”

Recently, Chris Morton at Missio Alliance posted an article posing some ideas of how to begin answering that question. We’ll be sharing those ideas here, as well as adding in some of our thoughts from the CBWC perspective, and from those in Canada who might be attempting similar reframings. Thanks to Missio for sharing these ideas with us!

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Four Models of Church that are Thriving in Modern America: 1. Dinner Church

Inspired by Jesus’ table practices, the writings of Origen and the Agape Feasts of the second and third centuries, there is nothing very “new” about Dinner Church. This model, seemingly forgotten to history, has found a new life in the hyper-secularized city of Seattle.

In his book Dinner Church: Building Bridges by Breaking Bread, Verlon Fosner tells the story of how his traditional Pentecostal Church went from dying of attrition to being reborn as a network of 12 (and counting) community dinners. These communities are aimed at those who likely would never come to a Sunday gathering, either because of work schedules or the cultural, and often socioeconomic, distance.

These are generally located in what he refers to as “sore neighborhoods,” usually made up of “the lower third,” or the third of the population that earns below a middle-class income. They meet in community centers and other common gathering places.

They also noticed that the dinner church approach is often appealing to isolated people, such as people who have divorced and are separated from their families, as well as “humanitarians”—people who are passionate about serving those in need but do not (yet) identify with Jesus.

Not only do dinner churches reach different people, but compared to traditional approaches to church planting, they’re cheap! According to Fosner, one dinner church is being opened a week. Non-staffing expenses (food and rent) generally run about $1000/month.

Dinner Church is inspired by Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” As Fosner says,”The only question remaining is, ‘Who is going to set his table?’” Could it be that setting a table for sinners, seculars, and strangers to have dinner with Jesus might be one of the great callings of the church? What if when Jesus was telling Peter to “feed his sheep,” he wasn’t speaking metaphorically, but was actually directing him to a physical table?”

Connect with Dinner Church Collective:

DinnerChurch.com
CommunityDinners.com

 

We’ve seen similar dinner church initiatives within the CBWC family. Chuck Harper and FBC Vernon host Vernon Street Church, and every second week, Makarios Evangelical in New Westminster hosts a dinner for the international students at Douglas College as part of their church gatherings on Saturday evenings.

What both groups have in common with the Dinner Church Collective in Seattle is the desire to reach into the “blue ocean”—to find a way to reach those who are not likely to attend a Sunday service and draw them into their church family. Are there those in your local mission field who would find dinner church a welcoming space? What could this mean for your community? Share your thoughts and ideas with us!