Prototyping Churches

By Cailey Morgan

I was recently listening to the Thom Rainer Leadership Podcast. Their guest was Jimmy Scroggins, a pastor from Florida who tells the story of his church, which moved from a mega-church mentality, rebooting into a neighbourhood-centric church and eventually planting into a network of these smaller local congregations.

His story caught me, partially because of his attitude toward success. He had stopped worrying about how big or how fast the church was growing, and how fantastic their facilities were, and started thinking in terms of reaching everyone in their city.

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In our Western Canadian context, as much as we’d all agree that our churches want to reach everyone, my guess is that we find most of our growth through lateral movement–that is, Christians moving to our church. We don’t see a high ratio of people coming to faith, and when they do, they have often come from a background that was already familiar with Christianity, or saw the Church in a favourable light.

Prototyping
Jimmy Scroggins’ outlook on the church is that it should look like the neighbourhood. They have diversified into smaller neighbourhood congregations in order to reach the specific type of people that live in each community. This type of multiplication also has the added benefit of being accessible to various types of leaders and removes the pressure of having to conform to certain expectations of what church should be. As he says, anyone can do it:

“Just start. Start with one. You can’t sit around waiting for everything to line up, and get your whole plan together. I am a big believer in prototyping–and anybody can do it.”

We’re doing a decent job at reaching some people with our present forms of church and evangelism, and I celebrate the vibrancy we are seeing in so many of our congregations across the CBWC. But to reach the unchurched and the totally unreached in our neighbourhoods, something’s going to have to change (check out Mike Frost’s brief video on this topic).

Our Turn
Would you be willing to consider participating in some R&D, initiating a “prototype” in your area? Think about your neighbourhood. What does is look like? What does it need? What does it have to offer the greater community? Who isn’t being reached?

And what about your existing church? What do your people have to offer? Who can you train into leadership? What other congregations in the area could you partner with to offer something new to a demographic or neighbourhood that isn’t presently being reached?

“Start something, and try it! If it doesn’t work the way you want, tweak it or change it, or try something different. But every pastor in every neighbourhood–rural, urban, suburban, ex-urban–everybody can be training leaders and trying to figure out how can we start new congregations to reach new populations of people in our area that are not being reached.”

Shannon, Joell and I really do believe that every church is called to and capable of multiplication in some form. That’s why we’re here to pray for, evoke, resource, and support you on that journey to health and growth. Talk to us today!

Find us at The Gathering this weekend in Calgary to chat about what could be next for you and your congregation. We’ll have some resources for you, and would love to collect some stories of life and growth in your area that we can share here on the blog.

Sent or Stuck on Self?

By Joell Haugan

“Missional” is a bit of a buzzword these days in Christian thinking circles, as churches struggle with what it means to be “the Church” in the 21st century. For sure, Christ wasn’t mincing words when He spoke the Great Commission just before He ascended to heaven. Fulfilling this job is the primary work of the Church. Sentness: Six Postures of Missional Christians by Kim Hammond and Darren Cronshaw picks up on the “missional” theme emphasizing that all Christians need to see themselves as sent into the world to share and live out the Gospel…thus, “sentness.” This rather pointed quote highlights the need to retain “Great Commission” priorities for the sake of the the Kingdom:

People who have lost their sentness expect their church to deliver on its promises to meet their needs, to care for them, to make them feel good. Pastors who have lost their sentness see their primary responsibilities as organizing services and meeting the needs of the people who are paying the bills. People who have lost their sentness gauge the success of their pastors according to metrics related to sales: more customers, more money and, ideally, a more fancy showroom. In other words, we measure church success by building, butts on seats and bucks in the offering (pg 33).

This quote comes in the “Beyond Consumerism” chapter at the beginning of the book.  I admit, I like the quote.

I also hate this quote.

I like this quote because it really does shine a mirror on how we in the western church have allowed consumerism to creep into our church life. It echoes 2 Timothy 4:3-4 which warns about “tickling ears.”

We may very well be becoming more self-centred, individualistic and, perhaps even narcissistic. I often find the need to help our folks focus on others: others in the church, others in the community and others in the world. Granted, this isn’t exactly a new problem. But it does seem to be worsening as our culture becomes more individualistic.

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When we accidentally shift our “church focus” from others to ourselves we begin seeking answers to the wrong questions. The wrong questions include: “What is in this for me?” or “How did I like the church service today?” or “Was I comfortable today?”

A “sent” mentality starts asking “How can I serve others?” or “Where is God at work in my neighbourhood?” or “What areas of discomfort is God asking me to explore?”

As a pastor I often get asked “how big is your church?” I now usually answer with “we average around 169 pounds.” I then get blank stares. Really, though, it is a consumeristic question.

I hate this quote because I find myself worried about the very things listed: numbers, funds, and Sunday service performance. Is it because I was trained that way? Am I “missionally immature” for worrying about that stuff? These are questions that gnaw at me at times.

I don’t like being gnawed.

Focusing on our “sentness,” while not being the magic bullet, is a step in the right direction, for both pastors and churches.

[Mis]managing Risk

By Dr. Scott Hagley

I didn’t recognize the risk when I first strolled out of Home Depot with several eight-foot cedar boards and posts over my shoulder. I neglected to consider the possibility of failure when I started digging up my front yard. But when the cedar boards had been cut and built into an 8’x4’ box, and made into a raised garden bed in my front yard, my wife and I suddenly realized the public nature of our experiment in gardening. A neighbor watched us work all morning. After the box was put together and the front lawn dug up, he strolled across the street to wonder out loud why we would put a garden where everyone can see it, from which children can steal produce, and perfect strangers can pass judgment.

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Gardening with an Audience

To be honest, we had not considered these possibilities when we began. We previously lived in a condo on the West coast, where yards were the luxury of the wealthy. The narrow strip of sun-bathed lawn out our front door looked like an ideal place for a garden. But our neighbor was right. The plants could be damaged by neighborhood kids looking for trouble. We might, in the end, only display our dismal gardening skills for the entire neighborhood. Perhaps we could have started smaller, in pots on our back porch. But we tried that for years living in a condo in Vancouver. And, living in a temperate rain forest, we managed to kill everything we ever planted. Our enthusiasm carried the day. We plunged ahead, our first foray in urban gardening.

As we filled the raised bed with soil, other neighbors and several strangers – on their way to grab coffee or walk their dogs in the park – stopped to reflect with us on our new venture. Several people offered advice; a few neighbors and strangers gave us seeds and starter plants. Over the course of the summer, a number of elderly folks made weekly trips to our front yard to offer advice, critique, and dispense decades of hard-earned gardening wisdom. We listened, asked questions, sometimes nodded without understanding what people said to us . . . but we continued to work the soil expectantly. Some crops were failures and some seeds didn’t take. But others grew so abundantly that we gave away produce for weeks: collard greens and kale, anyone? Seriously. Anyone?

Planting Safely

It seems to me that participation in God’s mission in post-Christendom North America looks a lot like our garden experiment. While many in our congregations recognize the need to engage new initiatives—participate in church planting or discover new ways to build community in their neighborhood—we tend to minimize risk, protect our reputation, and plant little safe experiments in our back yard. We tweak an existing program. We get crazy and serve coffee before Sunday worship. And, like gardening on our condo balcony in Vancouver, we tend to reap minimal benefits from playing it safe and saving our reputations.

Encountering God

I think the reason these safe experiments fail is because they keep our knowledge in-house, they simply work with what we already know and what we already believe to be true. They are an attempt to participate in God’s mission without the risk and disruption that comes from unexpected learning. But what if we decided to make our ignorance and uncertainty about mission in post-Christendom public? What if we decided to cultivate intentional spaces within our neighborhoods where we —the congregation or the church planter or the missional community leader—invite our neighbors to instruct us, to dispense wisdom, to share their gifts with us? Is it possible that God might lead and shape us through the gifts, wisdom, and concerns of our neighbors? Is it possible that we might be surprised where we encounter God?

In the book of Acts, the Spirit puts strangers together for the sake of mutual discovery. Cornelius discovers God’s grace in Jesus Christ, and Peter discovers God’s acceptance of Gentiles. An Ethiopian official discovers new depths to Isaiah’s prophecies and Philip discovers the boundary-breaking grace of God. Perhaps it is time we dig up the dirt in our front yards without a full consideration of the risks it entails. Seriously . . . collards . . . anyone?

“[Mis]managing Risk,” written by Dr. Scott Hagley, assistant professor of missiology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, first appeared on the Seminary’s blog March 16, 2017. The Seminary offers multiple programs for those interesting in church planting including the Graduate Certificate in Church Planting and Revitalization, Master of Divinity with Church Planting Emphasis, and the Church Planting Initiative. Learn more about these programs online.

Kids and Kingdom Growth

By Sherry Bennett, Children and Families Ministry Director, CBWC

You’ve heard the numbers—the ones relating to the stage of life when most people first make a decision to follow Jesus. Most people make this life-changing decision before they leave their teen years. That’s amazing to me, and an obvious indicator for the need for ministry focused on kids and youth in our neighbourhoods.

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Yet for many of our churches, our budgets and ministry efforts reflect a focus on adult-oriented worship and discipleship. While we don’t want to value one generation over another, neither do we want to ignore the reality that those who are in their early years of life are particularly soft to the things of God (“let the children come to me”…Jesus said that!) and are so impressionable and moldable (“faith like a child”…He said that, too!). So what do we do with this?

The Time is Now
It’s time for our churches to appropriately respond to the reality that the younger generations are not just the church of tomorrow; they are the church of today – right now! If we are not seriously engaging children and youth, guiding them into the path of Jesus, discipling them and helping them grow their gifts and skills, we will fail to see kingdom work be carried on into the future and our churches will surely fade out.

We want to care for parents and other adults. And the more mature amongst us are valuable and necessary for the work of the church. But we must not undervalue the time and dollars spent on and with children and youth. We are currently in a time when, for the first time ever, the majority of the children and youth in Canada have little or no experience of the church and God’s people. For many, there is not even a curiosity towards the things of God because they have never even been exposed to Christ and His body. This should sound an alarm that we must rethink how we approach the work of the church.

Kids and Church Planting
What about children and youth in the context of church planting? Are the needed resources for reaching out to children and their families and engaging them in the life of the church better used somewhere else? Aren’t we further ahead if we invest our finances and time into adults? While focusing on adults is often the default work of the church, perhaps we need to consider flipping that on its head!

Imagine adults and kids together praying for a new work, walking a neighbourhood and asking God what he wants to do there. Picture families connecting with other families and inviting them to participate in life together in communities of peace. What could it look like to care for families in our neighbourhoods and equip them for spiritual growth and mission?

Good Work in Our Midst
Is it possible that focusing on kids could be one of the best ways to plant a church?

Southside Community Church thinks so. They began a work in Albania over a decade ago focusing on children – day camps, art and music lessons, sports. Yes, there are classes for adults as well but the way into the community was (and still is) through the children. Now, many years later, the very kids who first heard about Jesus when they were 6 or 8 or 10 are loving Jesus and serving their community as young adults.

A church is being established where the majority of those gathering and serving are under 21. Imagine the excitement when the first of these young people graduated from Bible College recently! Passion for Christ grows, as a dozen young people are about to take part in baptism classes and continue to be discipled and equipped. This Albanian church plant has effectively raised up a new generation of leaders.

Awaken, in the Bowness area of Calgary, understands the importance of intergenerational action. They intentionally involve kids in the life of the church, and not just when they gather on Sundays. One way they regularly bless their neighbourhood is to serve a monthly community meal where people of all ages are working alongside each other in preparing, serving and interacting with guests.

“The kids are great means of building bridges between us as hosts and the guests. The kids have an opportunity to know people outside their usual spheres,” says Pastor Bill Christieson.

It is through this type of action that kids are introduced to serving others and begin developing their own passions and gifting. Some of these same kids go on to engage in intentional discipleship and leadership training through working alongside adults in their church and participating in Gull Lake’s Leadership Training program.

Summerland Baptist has embraced a strategy called “Orange.” They use the resources and curriculum provided to disciple children, to equip parents to help their families deepen their faith and encourage them all to worship, learn, serve and be on mission together in their homes and in the larger church body.

Our churches and neighbourhoods benefit from the intentional interaction between generations and focused discipleship and equipping of our families.

Here to Help
The Children and Family Ministry of the CBWC advocates for the engagement of children and families in the life of our churches. We work to offer resources, network churches with each other, equip leaders to challenge generations in the local church to worship, learn and serve together.

If you would like to talk to someone about helpful resources, strategies for equipping all ages, or issues such as abuse prevention, please contact me at sbennett@cbwc.ca.

What is a Real Disciple?

By Shannon Youell

“First, we’re asking the question, “What is a real disciple?” And we’re making a distinction between a convert and a disciple…..We need to ask the question and define it together as a body. If that definition does not end up looking like one who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and committed to the mission of Jesus, then our definition has holes in it. The bottom line is that a mature disciple of Jesus is defined by relationship. We are known for our love for God and one another.” Jim Putnam

In my last blog, I started with a statement from a quote from J.D. Payne. You will note that this blog entry also starts with a quote.

In our current series of blogs we are looking at some smart things that smart people have already said and trying to find our place in them. No need to reinvent the wheel by reframing things so we look smart! I am grateful to all the people out there who are smarter than me and have said great things for us to reflect on, consider and learn from.

All Church Planters?
In our last entry we were left with the idea that disciples of Jesus plant churches. Nothing new there…of course disciples of Jesus are the people who plant churches!

We were also left with the idea that since we are disciples of Jesus, then we are all also, ultimately, church planters. Now that’s a statement that many, if not most, of us would like to disclaim! But as Jim Putnam states, a disciple is “…one who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and committed to the mission of Jesus…”.

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I like the observations that a disciple is both following and being changed by Jesus, but we get into all sorts of tangled understandings of what is the mission we are to be committed to as disciples of Jesus. If we hold to J.D. Payne’s quote from last time, then we would define what Jesus did as making disciples who then made disciples and so on.

Living it Out
What did those disciples do? They told people about the good news of the in-breaking kingdom of God among them; of the work of the cross so that all may join God in His work; of being delivers of God’s righteous justice, mercy, grace, healing, love, and shalom; equipped and released those people to go do likewise in their own places and spaces. And they gathered and told stories of when, having believed, people were changed by the faithful presence of Jesus in their lives, of God at work, and of the faithful presence of the followers around them. And the new disciples did the same. And churches were birthed.

What they didn’t do was start a Sunday meeting and teach new forms of worshiping God. Worshiping God looked like changed lives, living out of and into God’s redemptive, reconciliatory, restorative kingdom that brings shalom and this gathered people together to praise and bring worship and remember the God who sent Jesus to usher it all in and make it all possible for you and for me and for our neighbors.

In my own journey in following Jesus, the more I followed and obeyed what Jesus did as He dwelled among us, the more I was changed in my thinking, my grace and love towards others and my understanding of God’s mission for the gathered ekklesia (the called out people who pray for and seek the welfare of the city) and scattered church, eikons (image-bearers of).

So if what we are doing in our current discipling practices isn’t moving people from self-focus (what’s best for me) to Christ-focus (what’s best for the world God so loves) which looks something like what Putnam described: “looking like one who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and committed to the mission of Jesus, then our definition has holes in it. Because the ones doing the looking are the ones who Christ has placed in our area of influence where we live, work, play and pray.

 

Ministry and Marriage: Authentic and Fulfilling

By Randy Hamm

My colleague was burning out. Ministry had been his life, with countless hours poured into the lives of others. He had a powerful and effective ministry, serving so many alongside his ministry-minded wife. What I didn’t realize was that the ministry wasn’t all he was burning out of. Their marriage was also dead.

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This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard a story like this. It wasn’t my first time either. Though it was a lot closer to me this time. Close enough that I might have been able to speak into the situation and offer the everlasting life that Jesus proclaims for us.

If I could go back, what would I say?

What could they do differently as they started into ministry?

What is needed for a marriage to thrive in the midst of ministry?

First thing I’d say is this: Conflict is a Gift

When I asked a group of workshop participants what the difference between an authentic marriage and a Christian marriage was, I received some interesting answers. The temptation we, especially pastors, fall into is to believe that a Christian marriage is one with minimal conflict, close to perfect intimacy (spiritual, physical and emotional) and abounding in selfless love. We are all on a journey toward these ideals. Though we have to admit, even as Christians, we are not near as far along that journey as we’d like to be.

When we said our vows, we really had no idea what challenges would lie ahead as we wrestled with the tensions of joy and struggle as we seek to live and love authentically.

Mike Mason, in The Mystery of Marriage, says “To keep a vow means not to keep from breaking it, but rather to devote the rest of one’s life to discovering what the vow means, and to be willing to change and to grow accordingly.”

If we are willing to say, “wow, I’m not getting this marriage thing right, I have a lot to learn,” two things happen.

  1. We offer an incredible gift to our churches. As they struggle with their marriages, they no longer feel alone. They realize that even the pastor and their spouse have these struggles and need to rely on God. In my work with couples, I’ll mention something that I learned when we saw our counselor recently and they will stop me confused: “Wait, aren’t you the one we are learning from?”

    And I’ll respond, “aren’t you glad that I’m continuing to learn too?” If we can learn to live humbly before our congregations, what an example  we offer them. Instead of perpetuating the lie that they too can have the perfect marriage like we do, we can offer them a much more realistic view of marriage.

  2. When we are humble, we truly rely on God and are willing to learn, change and grow. If we can get past the lie that we don’t need help, that we shouldn’t need help, then we can actually get the help we need. We can turn a good marriage into a great marriage. We can face hidden conflict with the help of a district supervisor or counselor. We can ask for prayer from our deacons and friends. We can request to go on a marriage retreat. And more than anything, we can talk with our spouses about the reality of our marriage and seek God’s wholeness together.

Psychologist and author Dr. John Gottman has learned that 69% of the conflict we experience in marriage is perpetual. The majority of differences originating from our family of origin, personality and preferences cannot be merely resolved. We must learn to love each other in the midst of these particular tensions and conflicts, mutually submitting as Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:21. Though this research can initially cause much frustration and discouragement, in the end it leads to freedom, growth and joy. We no longer have to strive for that perfect conflict free marriage, but can learn instead what God is doing in us through it.

This leads me to the second thing I’d suggest: Don’t Expect Your Spouse to Make You Happy

I love officiating weddings. The highlight of every wedding is when the couple offers vows to each other. Unfortunately, more often than not, couples are commenting on how the other fulfills them or offering to fulfill the other. We often fall into the trap that this person will be the one who fills up the emptiness within us. When they inevitably do not, we are confused, hurt, frustrated and can get quite angry.

As a child, I remember watching the film Love is a Decision by Smalley and Trent (also a great book). The image of a cup with water being poured into it came on the screen. They teach how we can often look to our spouse as the one to fill our cup. Yet, through their little or big actions and lack of fulfilling our expectations, they often end up drilling holes in our cup. They go on to talk about our hope that kids will fill us up. Of course, they can drill even bigger holes.

My people have committed a compound sin:
they’ve walked out on me, the fountain
Of fresh flowing waters, and then dug cisterns—
cisterns that leak, cisterns that are no better than sieves (Jeremiah 2:13)

I’m not encouraging you to call your marriage a broken cistern, not on a date night anyway! But remember that there is only One who truly fills us. God calls us to live an authentic life of seeking that fulfillment in Him. Of course, that could mean some hard honesty here as well, admitting that we are dry, confused, empty and asking for help. I’ve found that having a Spiritual Director helps so much: one who encourages me to look at what God is doing through all areas of my life. The more we learn to receive our identity and love from the One who can truly give it to us, the more we can offer that to the one we love, instead of expecting it from them.

Finally, See All of Your Marriage as a Gift From God

Of course, we all believed this when we got married. That was when we were overjoyed that this person loved ME! Tim Keller tells us, “The reason you get a thrill, it’s your ego. Someone I like is responding to me. That’s not love. It’s ego….When someone you admire, admires you, the praise of the praiseworthy is the most satisfying of all. It’s sexy.”

I’m sure that you still see your spouse as a gift to some degree, but perhaps some of what they offer you’d rather not receive. Perhaps some of that sexiness has worn off.

There is a wonderful complexity to marriage that is often messy and confusing. We see our spouse as a gift to us but do not realize that this gift includes disappointment, frustration and hurt. If we are to truly live a fulfilled life, we need to learn to receive the gift of journeying alongside someone who is fallible, broken and learning to love. In the midst of our shared hurts and failed expectations, we may find that we are also accepting each other as we are, and learning to love without the conditions we first brought to our marriage. This not only mirrors God’s love for us (true covenant), but it enables us to become more like God, to be more whole and holy.

How the two of you work together in ministry will often include balancing out your own weaknesses with the other’s strengths. Of course, we must be willing to admit them first. In no other relationship do we have the pressure of being with someone 24/7. We thought that was the gift of continual loving companionship and support, and though we do receive that, we also come up against the frustration of our egos, when we are not loved the way we think we should be. In ministry this can even be worse, when they are not supporting us like we think they should. If we are open to see what God is doing in us through that frustration, we might be able to see what God is truly doing in our spouse.

This work is deep, but can be done in us through the gift of our marriage, if we are only willing to receive it. As Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage, likes to say, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

Expecting Conflict, Not Expecting Our Spouse to Make Us Happy , and Seeing Our Marriage as a Gift From God, will enable us to continue in ministry as an authentic partnership with our spouse. Yes, I do believe these tools are helpful in saving marriages, as well as thriving in sustainable ministry. Much more than that, I believe that viewing our marriages this way opens us up to God’s wholeness in amazing ways and allows us to live out the Kingdom of God more fully.

The Bible doesn’t say “plant churches” ?!?

By Shannon Youell

“The Bible does not tell us to plant churches.”

Say What?
If you read this quote and–confused–scrolled up to indeed verify you are on the Church Planting Blog, have no fear. You are! If we look at the thing Jesus commissioned His newly minted Church, His “ekklesia” to do, it was disciplemaking, not church planting.

The above statement from J.D. Payne’s book Apostolic Church Planting, continues thus:

“Throughout the Bible, we read of the birth of churches–after disciples are made. Biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches. Another way to consider this concept is that it is evangelism that results in new disciples, who then gather together and self-identify as the local expression of the universal body of Christ. Churches are supposed to be birthed from disciple making.” ( p.17-18).

Though I may be totally wrong, I suspect that there would be little disagreement with Payne’s statement; “biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches.” And I am equally as certain that most of us would say a hearty “amen” that churches are “to be birthed from disciple making.” But what may get some pushback is in the defining of what is disciple making.

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Defining a Disciple
Often, we define a disciple as one who has decided to convert to Christianity by confessing their sins past and by professing their faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord of their lives for their futures. That is certainly the crucial initial step to being a disciple and we should more accurately say that person had a conversion experience that brought them into saving knowledge of Jesus.

There seemed to be many of those folk woven into the gospel stories. People who encountered Jesus, recognized Jesus as Saviour Messiah, perhaps experienced dramatic healing and/or deliverance through that encounter and professed Him as from God, the Son of Man, the One who saves. Paul addresses several of these groups when he is consternated that they are still infants needing milk when they should have been matured to chew on meat. They are converts but not necessarily disciples.

In the gospels, we see a disciple of Jesus as someone who was taught all about Jesus and then lived it out; disciples obey everything they are taught. Jesus schooled them to be disciple-makers. And the task He gave them was to be disciple-makers who make disciple-makers who make disciple-makers. And as more disciple-makers were made, communities were formed, churches were birthed.

An Upward Spiral in the Grand Story
This model is one that assembled people together to be gospeled–to hear and celebrate and remember the Grand Story together–as the telos, the goal of the Story. The commission was towards the telos of becoming disciples so that we could make disciples who tell and enliven the Grand Story to those who have not yet heard or entered into the Story. And the upward spiral continues over and over and over again.

The outflow or result of following what Jesus called the early disciples to do was that, out of necessity, new communities were required to accommodate and facilitate the new disciples who were now being trained to become disciple-makers. And once a week or more, those new local communities would gather to hear, to celebrate, to remember the richness of the Grand Story, the glory and goodness of God who so loved the world He entered into human form to capture our hearts to love the world the way He does. A circular mission of disciples making disciples who gather in local neighborhoods to make more disciples.

So to go back to Payne’s quote, we see that telling the people we encounter in our lives the Grand Story and inviting them to see themselves into the Story and showing them the entrance point, creates a need for new churches to disciple them so that they can tell their story to others.

“… church planting is evangelism that results in new churches.”

 The conclusion we can draw from that is that church planting is something disciples of Jesus do. So what does that mean for you, for us? Let’s explore that next.

Seven-Day Missional Living

By Cid Latty, Congregational Development Associate for the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec

Everyone seems to be telling us to be more mission minded but few give us practical ways to do it in the midst of our busy lives. This week, why not try the Missional Challenge? We have based it on a monastic weekly schedule that includes prayer, scripture, manual labour, service and hospitality. Our prayer this week is that together we might “live up to what we have attained” in Christ (Philippians 3:16).

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Day 1—Start the week with God

To spend time with God is not a waste of time but the fuel for our missional activity. Spend time with God in a way that may be new to you today. You could search for a scripture, poem, hymn or sacred song to give focus. Take a walk and pray as you worship God.

Day 2—Live simply

Give away something that is valuable to you. Other ideas: pay for someone’s cup of coffee, get the next person’s food, gas, etc.

Day 3—Service

Recall what inspired you to become a Christian. Give the people who come to mind a call or send an email to say thank you. Look to serve someone today in what we might call the mundane things of life. Who do you know who needs Jesus? Spend time with them today. Pray for an opportunity to share faith with them.

Day 4—Believe

We have been taught to say ‘In Christ’ but rarely have we been taught to say ‘I can,’ Let us memorize the whole verse today: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ Philippians 4:13.

Day 5—Hospitality

Send a friend or family member a word of encouragement today. Make or buy cakes to leave in the kitchen at work for people to take for free. Find a way to offer your skill set today. Take someone for lunch or find a way to use your home to host someone you know. Intentionally speak words of encouragement today.

Day 6—Love

Ask God to show you someone you can be a person of peace towards. Find a food bank that you can serve in some way.

Day 7—Pray for the world

Take one issue from the news today and pray about it. Remember to pray for those who are being persecuted. For more details about praying for the persecuted church see www.idop.ca.

See also CBM prayer line:

http://www.cbmin.org/prayerline

If you take Cid up on his Missional Challenge, let us know how it goes! What did God teach you? What did you see?

Book Review: The Barbarian Way

Mark Archibald reviews Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way, Community and Worship (Nelson Books, 2005).

Most of us need to read this book.

For many of us, our experiences with church and faith can be defined by the word “safe”. In The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus pushes us away from safety and domestication to a life of wild trust and abandon.

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Much of this writing is based on the life, ministry, doubts and faith of John the Baptist. McManus is present-day John the Baptist in writing us this book. McManus lives like the barbarians he describes in this book.  He lives on the moment, on the edge, and experimentally.

In a romanticized mindset, I wish that I, too, could live like McManus. I know, however, that that’s not me. I know anytime I have tried to live in the manner that McManus describes from his own life, the results have been reckless and more destructive than helpful. If I pattern my life after McManus, the results will be at best inconsistent; at worst divisive and damaging.

This will be the biggest barrier for people reading this book – reading the examples from Erwin’s life and saying, “I can’t possibly do that”. There will be those of us who will read parts of this book – the time he gave his son permission to jump off their roof, for example – and throw out the entire message.

Avoid this temptation! Erwin McManus is the John the Baptist voice that most of us need to heed and hear. While we may not live in the manner he emulates, most of us need to take those steps away from the security that is predictable religion, and step towards the Jesus that taught unsafe, uncommon, unreligious things. This book is the voice in the wilderness we need to hear.

This short book is an easy-to-read 141 pages, but it is at the same time a difficult read. Difficult because it hits close to home for those of us who have let faith become too tame and too safe. These words were a punch in the gut on page 59:

Jesus lived in a time when Judaism had been domesticated, institutionalized, and civilized; it was only a hollow shell of what God intended. John didn’t fit into the organized religion of his time because God didn’t fit either. Jesus Himself, the Messiah of Israel, remained an outsider even to His death.

We are left with the haunting question: have I/we made Jesus an outsider of the faith He founded?

Amazingly, this safety we think that will just make us complacent does far more than that – it actually makes us hostile to God. “We discover the painful reality that even God’s people, when we become civilized, are more than willing to crucify God. When we choose a civilized faith, God becomes, at the very least, an irritant and, at worst, an enemy to our faith.” (p. 112)

Erwin reminds us that when we make church and Jesus too safe, we drive away the best and brightest among us. “This may be the most extraordinary mark of the Spirit of God within the heart of humanity: the freedom to live out dreams greater than ourselves. Yet if we were honest with ourselves, the church would be the last place most people would go to have their dreams nurtured, developed and unleashed”. (p.102) Ouch.

As much as most of us need to read this book, and as much as most of us need this John-the-Baptist-styled kick in the rear end, there are probably those of us out there who should not read this book. People that already tend toward chaos, recklessness and extreme spontaneity don’t need this fuel added to their barely-contained fire. There are people that I know to whom I would say “This book is not for you” based on their current practice of faith.

However, to those already-barbarians McManus does offer this easy-to-miss yet vital principle: “One barbarian wandering through civilization can be discarded as nothing more than an oddity. But when members of the barbarian tribe line up across the battlefield, side by side, something amazing begins to happen…Whenever barbarians of Christ pass through civilization, the oppressed and forgotten are soon found dancing in the streets.” (p.134) We have all seen solo barbarians create havoc, thinking they are doing good. But barbarians running side by side together? That may be a sight many of us have yet to see. May we see it soon and see it often.

The encouragement is clear from The Barbarian Way: step away from the complacency and safety we trend towards and truly abandon yourselves to the Kingdom of God. The warning is even clearer: “Two thousand years ago God started a revolt against the religion he started. So don’t ever put it past God to cause a groundswell movement against churches and Christian institutions that bear His name.” (p. 114)

Mark Archibald
Pastor of Spiritual Formation
First Baptist Church, Lethbridge AB