BC Folks: Workshop with Forge Canada

Forge - Forge Day.jpg

Throughout history, there have been moments when God’s people have been called to live as a faithful presence, even if they have been marginalized. Discipleship is crucial and in the midst of this post-Christian era. How do we help people to live out their faith in ways that bear witness to God and His work in the world?

 

 

 

 

 

Join the Momentum

By Shannon Youell

This past spring Heartland Area Church Planting Director Joell Haugan went on a road trip posing five ways to join the momentum and participate in what God is doing in new and existing communities around us.

I am going to tackle those five vehicles so our whole tribe can share in the fun! Today we will discuss the first: Joining with Others.

Joining with Others

Joining is one of those words that speaks of two or more things coming together. Here’s one dictionary’s definition:

  1. To put or bring together so as to make continuous or form a unit
  2. To put or bring into close association or relationship:  join forces.
  3. To meet and merge with: where the creek joins the river.
  4. To become a part or member of
  5. To come into the company of: joined the group.
  6. To participate with in an act or activity
  7. To adjoin: where the garage joins the house.
  8. To engage in; enter into

Church planting can be a lonely endeavor! But it shouldn’t be. It should be something every one of us who consider ourselves devoted followers of Jesus joins in to. We are a tribe together (after all one or two don’t really make a tribe) and by that alone we are joined and in so doing we have joined forces to have greater we-impact in the places and spaces where Christ has not yet been revealed in people’s lives and in our communities. We join with Christ in this work and in many areas our work is continuous as we do the same work inviting faith, acting in mercy and cultivating leaders.

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In definition number three, to meet and merge, the example is that place where the creek joins the river. The smaller creeks flow down into the larger body of water and that body of water has more power and strength because of it. Each one of our trickles feed rivers when we join together and support the work of the kingdom of God.  Those rivers can only become deeper and wider and further because of the joining of all the smaller creeks.

When the creeks dry up, the river becomes shallow and unable to support the life that is dependent along its shores and in its depths.

For many of our churches, the very idea of active participation in multiplying is overwhelming due to their size and resources, but if several of us joined forces and merged resources together, then our gospel imaginations are our only limitation!

We are a family of various-sized congregations across Western Canada.  Pray and ask God to reveal where He would like you and your congregation to join the flow of opening up the dams to the living waters offered by Jesus.

The Unexpected Guest Part 2

By Shannon Youell

Several weeks ago, I challenged us to look through our Sunday spaces and gatherings through the lens of the unexpected, unchurched or marginally churched person to observe and recognize what barriers we may have that keep folk from feeling they are in a safe place to explore their spiritual curiosity.

In our church, we have a long way to go in this, but here are a few of the practices we have been doing and are leaning into doing more.

  • From the start, we explain everything. From what’s going to happen, to the room layout, to our “amenities”—which include fresh bread to take, coffee bar, children’s activities—to facilitated and explained open communion and prayer throughout the service, we walk people through our gathering every time.
  • We offer connect cards for folk to put name, prayer requests, and if they would like to be contacted.
  • We’ve scheduled a ten minute coffee break mid-point to move and meet people around you,  Our folk are strongly encouraged to connect with guests and begin to move them from stranger to friend.
  • We facilitate a question/thought-sharing time after the sermon, where we encourage people to ask us to explain something they didn’t understand or always wondered about, followed up with a mid-week Dialogue Circle where anything is open for discussion, though we start off around what was talked about the past Sunday.
  • We strongly encourage folk to invite someone to have lunch with them after church.  This summer we are taking it one step further and have several people hosting planned after church picnics at their homes or parks.  These events are easy on the hosts, because everyone brings their picnic lunch with a little extra for unexpected guests (or those who just forgot to pack a lunch!).

These are but a few things and I hope you will all post here things you do to honor and welcome and include the unexpected guest.

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We have had several lately. One new couple came because they were invited by their waiter in a downtown restaurant, only to show up and the waiter had been unexpectedly called into work that morning and wasn’t even there! I can imagine how uncomfortable it must have been to show up and their host was not there! But they stayed and then came back the next week.  Why?  They knew it was okay to ask questions of the pastor if you didn’t understand what was being said.  They were greeted and spoken to by several people and felt very welcomed and  included, and most revealing, the fellow’s brother is a pastor and they have never been invited to church by him and when they had questions he would just tell them how they should believe but didn’t give them the space to discover why.

Friends, these are the people God has called you and I to welcome with radical hospitality, to wash their feet, to honour.  The alien, the stranger, the left-out-of-the-secret handshake folk.  We should be places of refuge, of shalom where folk are welcomed because they are there.  Not because of how they look, or believe or even don’t believe, but because they are seeking to see Jesus revealed around them in ways that are demonstrated by welcome, by grace, by mercy, by healing and by acceptance.

The hospitality Jesus demonstrated was pre-dominantly other focused.  Is ours?

 

Rural Realities

Over the past couple weeks on the blog, we’ve been celebrating the beautiful diversity of Western Canada and some of the ways to move forward in church planting in rural, urban and suburban settings. Here’s an interesting piece from Joyce Sasse of the Canadian Rural Church Network on some of the particular opportunities for spiritual development we may find in rural areas. ~ Cailey

The Spiritual Values of Rural People

By Joyce Sasse, CRCN– CiRCLe M Newsletter

While rural people would not readily be able to enumerate the following, my studies in the Rural Church Movement have led me to believe these values are held in common by rural people around the world.

Awareness of the Presence of God
Creation is recognized as a gift from God by those who feel they work as co-partners with God. This is so integral to their lives, “God-talk” for many grassroots people is not seen to be necessary.

Respect for land and landscape
It is as if one is connected to the Creation by an umbilical cord. When the land suffers from drought or pollution (or some other degradation), the pain is felt in the people. When the brilliant colors of an autumn sky burst forth, the beauty is contagious. In the face of nature’s destructive powers, the inclination is to look for glimmers of hope.

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Centrality of Community
“[The rural church’s] strength is in knowing we exist for the community, and the community values our existence.”1

In the extended community beyond church buildings and denominational labels, many community members try to tend the needs of each-other. Given insightful leadership, they have the capacity to reach across what were once religious, age, gender, sex and ethnic biases.

Paradox: Being Independent, but Aware of the Need for Interdependence
The request is to respect my privacy, but when there is a major emergency everyone gives of what they can to help the people in crisis. When a home burns or a farmer is injured at harvest time, the amount of support offered is incredible.

Awareness of the Prevalence of Pain in Our Midst
“Be kinder than usual for everyone is fighting some kind of battle.”2
Laments and ways of acknowledging and expressing grief, prayer support and funding are much appreciated. Letting others know about pain experienced by members of the community is a delicate but important matter.

Diversity is Essential (socially as in agriculture)
It is recognized that the input of “others” is necessary if the community is to garner fresh vitality. Consider finding a place for the new daughter-in-law, the newcomer from the city or from another country. Great generosity is extended to the “new minister” as the community finds a place for him/her in their midst.

Believe in a Strong Work Ethic
In the past it was often noted that urban leaders came from a rural background where they had learned leadership within the community. Through programs such as 4-H, leadership skills are taught at an early age. A heritage-gift for children in small communities is helping instill in them the desire to “do well”.

Story-telling is the Primary Means of Communication
“Telling our story helps us make sense of our lives.”3

As one gains fluency in expressing their stories, these cultural values are more easily passed on to succeeding generations and to new-comers. In the rural church context a budget presentation that tells the story of the congregation’s values and aspirations trumps any presentation made via charts and graphs.

Alright, friends in rural Canada, Do you agree with Sasse’s assessment of rural life? Are there other assets you can think of when it comes to church planting in a rural context? Share your thoughts on this blog or email cmorgan@cbwc.ca

1 Robyn McPhail, New Zealand
2 Source Anonymous
3 Source Anonymous

Churches in Cities

Last week, I shared a resource with some tips for suburban life for God’s Kingdom. This week, let’s talk about the importance of church planting in the city! ~ Cailey

9 Reasons We Must Connect our Churches with Cities

By Chuck Lawless

Even if you have no interest in urban settings and ministries, I plead with you to continue to read this post. We are called to get the gospel to all peoples of the world (Matt. 28:18-20), and we will not do that if we shy away from the world’s cities. Please read on, and pray about how your church might tackle a city – then encourage others to read this post as well.

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  1. The smallest church can reach out to a city. To be honest, it’s simple – find a ministry in a city, and partner with them. Whether your church is itself urban or rural, with 10 members or 10,000, you can do something in the city. The needs are so great that opportunities are there for everybody.
  2. People are in the cities. This reason is basic, but not insignificant. The world has been more urban than rural for at least seven years now. The ten most populated cities in the U.S. have 25 million people in the actual city boundaries, with 95 million people in the ten largest metropolitan areas. The church needs to be where people are.
  3. Evangelicals aren’t always in our cities. Though this picture is rightly changing, evangelicals have not been strong in cities. We have emphasized evangelism but have been cautious about engaging some of the most obvious mission fields in the world. Gospel-witness voids still remain.
  4. The nations are in the cities. Years ago, I was privileged to minister in a Vietnamese village in Moscow, Russia. I’ve been with Hispanics in South Asia and Europeans in Southeast Asia. If the Lord would allow me, I would live in the middle of New York City – an urban setting where more than 800 languages are spoken. If we want to reach the world’s people groups, the city is the place to go.
  5. World influencers are in the city. Think about the potential of influencing the world if we reach leaders in New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, or Mumbai. The worlds of the arts, literature, politics, sports, media, etc. are there – what would happen if the gospel influences them?
  6. The needy are in the city. Poverty in the city offers significant opportunity for the church to minister. The combined stresses of poverty and urban life often threaten families, foster division, and invite crime. The church has the answer to all of these issues – if the church is there.
  7. Job opportunities are often there. That’s not to say that everyone will find a job, but the sheer size of cities often provides employment opportunities. Here’s the reason this point matters: believers can move to cities to be a light in the darkness, trusting that finding a job will not be an impossibility.
  8. Reaching the city requires partnerships. No single church can reach millions of people, even with multi-site approaches. City reaching requires us to push beyond our differences to work together. That unity is what Jesus prayed for in John 17, and it wouldn’t hurt us to work together for the Great Commission task.
  9. The job is too big for us. Who can reach 22 million+ in greater New York or the 37 million+ in Tokyo? Who would even know where to start? God does, and He requires us to seek Him and His wisdom. If the city drives us to our knees, that’s a good place to be.

What other reasons would you add?

Be sure to check out Dr. Lawless’ daily blog posts at www.chucklawless.com. Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

Urban Suburban

Have you ever seen the show Urban Suburban? On each episode, a Canadian family trying to decide where to settle down is taken on a whirlwind real estate adventure to help make up their minds. The show’s two hosts argue the benefits of each kind of lifestyle–comfort, affordability, luxury, walkability and so forth, until the family finally makes a decision, which, of course, starts out being a compromise but ends up being a dream home made for happily ever afters.

In God’s paradigm, when we ask the question of urban or suburban, the answer is “YES!” We need missional communities in city centres, in sprawling suburbs, and in rural outposts. God’s Kingdom is advancing into every nook and cranny of our nation, and we have the opportunity to join in. 

Over the next couple weeks, we’re going to share some articles from various sources that can help us explore what church planting could look like, and what ongoing church life could look like, in each of these contexts. Western Canada’s geography gives us an amazing opportunity to express God’s love in so many different and beautiful ways, so I hope you are encouraged by these articles and find helpful encouragement. For this first week, here’s a look at suburban missional life. ~Cailey

7 Practical Tips for Missional Communities in the Suburbs

by Jon Dansby. This article reposted from the Verge Network.

First, let me say that the suburbs are a great place for a community on mission. Usually, the mission to declare and demonstrate the gospel is the missing link that ties MCs together, but suburbs are great for mission!

Suburbs Christopher Chappelear

There are lots of reasons that this is so:

  • Suburbs are broken up into neighborhoods.

Both community and mission happen more naturally in a defined neighborhood. This may seem obvious, but sadly it’s not. You can shoehorn your calendar to make it work far away, but you’ll run out of steam eventually. It’s hard to get focused and passionate about reaching an undefined group of people like “all our friends at different jobs” or “people from all our different neighborhoods.”

For the same reason, people don’t move overseas to reach Afghanistan and then all live in different countries. Our MC’s explicit mission is “to make disciples in the Brushy Creek neighborhood.” We are all praying for the same faces and names. This has been life for our MC!

  • Suburbs usually have several entry points. 

Besides just being neighborly, most suburbs have several coordinated things going on. Our biggest break was when my wife began attending Bunco (also called “drunko” by the ladies) with a bunch of other neighbors. Then these saucy ladies invited her onto the Yard of the Month committee.

Suburbs do all kinds of things where you can join in (HOA, basketball, Bunco, Xmas parties, block parties, Halloween, parks, sports, pools, your own parties, etc.). As we’ve gotten in deeper friendships, we have a policy to never say ‘no’ to a neighbor.

  • Suburbs allow you to know people well enough to serve them.

Suburbs allow you to know people well enough to serve them. There are people with needs right around you. Rather than serving at some organization over 20 minutes away, you can get to know your neighbors and serve them. We had a single mom living across the street and as we got to know her, I saw that her yard was a constant struggle for her. I told her that her yard was now our responsibility. So our entire MC showed up and worked. She sat in our driveway sharing a drink with my wife and was blown away, unable to comprehend why we would do this.

So, get to know people. Is there a couple who hasn’t had a date in over a year because they need a babysitter? A mom who needs English lessons? An elderly recluse who needs a friend? Some neighbors who are looking for a regular central hangout?

Practical Tips for Suburban Missional Community

Let me talk about a few crucial practical elements have been a huge part of my MC.

1. Pray. I know, I know. This sounds like one of the Sunday school answers: “Jesus…Bible…God…pray!” But it’s not. Missional Community is truly a work of the Spirit. The Spirit alone makes our testimony about Jesus effective to the world. Jesus rebuked the disciples for their prayerlessness in working for Him against Satan’s kingdom (Mk 9:29).

No less for us when we’re laboring to win people out of Satan’s kingdom. We must pray in a way that believes, “you do not have because you do not ask!” Ask often with names and faces in mind.

2. Do things differently on purpose. This is crucial. Somebody smart once said, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” You and your people won’t drift toward mission any more than you naturally drift towards any other kind of difficult obedience. In past groups, we assumed that studying the right thing would move us to obey it. It never really worked. So, we had to even talk about our MC differently from the beginning.

3. Cultivate community while doing mission. Obviously, there are at least 2 parts to missional community: mission and community (duh). So, that means that you’ll have to keep your eye on both. Your community needs mission and your mission needs community. A community without mission is self-focused (and disobedient).

A mission without community is hamstrung without the community apologetic. In our MC, we spent time in my home gathering for meals from the very beginning. At these meals, sometimes my neighbors would come by, sometimes they wouldn’t. Cultivating mission and cultivating community isn’t either/or, rather it’s necessarily both/and.

4. Mission takes years, not weeks. Adjust your expectations. If you’re going to make a difference, you need to be in it for the long haul. This is where doing MC in the suburbs really shines because your neighbors have to ask the bank before they can go somewhere else. You really want your unbelieving neighbors to find true friendship with your MC. That takes time!

5. Move your 3rd Place to your home. This is something that is unique to suburbs. A Third Place needs to be neutral, natural, and regular. Your home isn’t neutral or natural if you’re trying to reach those at your work. In this case, a restaurant, a pub, or something else is more appropriate. However, a home is completely neutral and natural for unbelieving neighbors. We meet in my home at least twice a month for our 3rd Place meal and it has been incredibly fruitful. We’ve basically fused our Third Place and our Family Meal.

6. Invest in hospitality! Spend time and spend money to get to know your neighbors. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21). In the same way that you don’t really care about a stock price until you invest in it, you won’t care about hospitality until you put some time and money into it. If you invest in this, you will want to see it flourish. Hospitality is certainly the most overlooked evangelistic discipline. Hospitality aids proclamation. Over time we’ve bought folding chairs, large folding tables, outdoor light strings, speakers for music, lots of different beverages, more plates, etc.

7. Don’t forget to be a community. I’ve talked a lot about mission, but you’ll need to invest some time with people who’ve joined your MC. Quality time requires quantity time. Do stuff on the weekends. Go eat wings, fix each other’s homes up, read the same books, take care of each other’s kids, be friends.

The Unexpected Guest

By Shannon Youell

One of our values at my home church is to try to see everything we are and do through the eyes of the unexpected guest. The unexpected guest is the one who just randomly shows up. They haven’t been encouraged to visit by someone already a part of the church community so they don’t even have a briefing of what to expect and a familiar face to explain the lay of the land. I know several recent stories of this happening both in our church and around the city. If the doorcrasher has had previous church experience, then at least the foreign land has some familiar fare—though it may be prepared differently. For the unchurched but curious seekers, it’s all alien. Often their preconceived notions from media and culture help navigate the landscape no more than pictures in a travel magazine prepares us for a visit to a foreign country!

CC Jason Morrison

It is easy for us to shape our space and gatherings around what is most comfortable for us with no purposeful thought into how that translates to someone who is unchurched. Since the unchurched and the disenfranchised are our mission field, this should be a considered priority wherever the people of God gather.

I remember vividly, as a seventeen-year-old exchange student, going to a little country Catholic church in the hills of Quebec. I was not raised in the church, so for the most part, any type of service would be foreign to me, but the observations I made there very loudly told me I did not belong. I would have been somewhat able to catch the drift had the service been conducted in French, but, as was the practice in some Catholic churches, the service was conducted almost entirely in Latin. So I had no idea at all what was being said! Though I was there with my host family of two parents and eight children, they did not feel a need to explain anything to me and hushed me when I tried to ask. I guess they thought, as so often do we, that our unexpected guests will eventually pick everything up; assuming they even return after such an experience! Imagine my horror when all the congregation stood, something that had occurred several times already, and began to shuffle to the front. I was just following the crowd only to be refused communion (which I didn’t want anyways as I had no idea what it was). I exited quickly and not so discreetly and vowed to never shadow the door of a church again.

Before we get too smug because we tend to conduct services in the common language of the folk, think about the language we do use in Sunday services. Theology, communion, propitiation, blood, blood and blood just to name a very few. Even referring in sermons to stories we assume folk all know can cause a visitor to be lost in a strange land. Imagine a day like this where the service is focused on Communion; all the songs talk about blood, the sermon is about taking up our cross like Jesus did and dying; then we take, eat and drink reciting Jesus’ words, “this is my body and my blood.” Then the service is over and everyone goes on their way. Imagine how a stranger navigates that! How might we guide folk into not being totally freaked out, without losing the rooted meaning of our practices?

Are the spaces that we are so comfortable in becoming barriers to our unexpected guests? Next Sunday, enter your space through the eyes of the unexpected, unchurched, or disenfranchised guest. Be a stranger from the parking lot to departure. What do you immediately note as a possible barrier? Why? How could that barrier become an invitation?

It’s a hard exercise since we are familiar with the rhythms, but it is crucial for us to go through this activity. Are we saying non-verbally to our guests “it’s nice to have you here, but if you don’t return that’s fine too?”

In Jesus day, the guest was given the seat of honor. Do we do that? Do we treat that guest as though everything we do is to serve them and not us?

Next time let’s look at these together. In the meantime, take a few moments to send us your observations and ideas: what barriers does your church struggle to break down? How has your congregation grown in becoming welcoming? Shoot us an email (cmorgan@cbwc.ca), or leave a comment here on the blog.

Book Review: The Way of the Heart

Craig Bosnick reviews Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God through Prayer, Wisdom and Silence (Ballantine Books Revised and ed. edition,  2003).

Henri Nouwen looks back to the practices of the desert fathers when a number of Christians fled to the desert to preserve the way of Jesus in the midst of Christianity becoming the religion of the Roman Empire. They fled to embrace what they understood to be truer, more holy practices and become be a voice of witness to the age of Roman Christendom.

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We can see parallels in our time as we talk about church and culture, centre and margins and where the place of the church is. Nouwen offers three practices that the desert fathers embrace that will help us today connect with God and be a witness to our world. Those practices are solitude, silence and prayer.

Solitude
Nouwen rightly critiques the practice of solitude today as a practice that seeks personal refreshment, time for myself, alone time, respite or to gather new strength. He equates this more with a practice of personal privacy than a spiritual practice that renews our soul.

Nouwen suggests that true solitude is a furnace of transformation and connects us deeply with the person of Jesus. It is a place where we die to ourselves and receive the life of Christ. Nouwen rightly reminds us that sound spiritual practices are concrete and specific and not vague or general. He encourages us to set apart specific times and places of this practice of removing ourselves from the “world” and being transformed by Jesus.

I think there is another side of our transformation that happens in community and with
God’s people.  As inspiring and tempting as this practice of literal solitude is, I think that the “furnace of transformation” can also exist (or I might argue exist more) in the midst of community and living in—but not of—the world. Yes, I think we need to visit places of solitude at times, but I also think the Spirit dwells in us constantly and there is always a place of “solitude in our soul” we can visit in community, in the world and in the noise.

Nouwen specifically names two enemies of our world that solitude helps us fight against: anger and greed. These keep us from ministering with compassion and generosity and are definitely good issues to deal with in our practice of solitude.

Silence
Henri Nouwen’s section of silence can feel mystical or philosophical, but I wonder if this practice of silence has much to say to us, especially in our day of social networking.

Nouwen describes his world at the time as “overly chatty” and full of advertising and promotional rhetoric from all directions. If he thought the world was chatty then I wonder what he would think of it now?

Jesus Himself teaches us that it is hard to speak without sinning. Our words come from our
hearts, and our hearts are divided and deceitful. Nouwen invites us into a practice of silence so that when we do speak our words call forth the goodness of God. The goal of silence is not only self-control but more so a life of honouring God with our minds and reflecting that in our words.

Silence at times can help guard our heart, help us to consider our words our actions just one last time before we speak or act. Silence creates a quality in our hearts where can can become good listeners and good watchers of God at work in our world. When we are good listeners and good watchers, then we become good storytellers of God’s work in our world.

I wonder if Nouwen were writing today what spiritual practices he would encourage is towards with all our smart devices and social media. We are bombarded with promotional material and information. Our words easily become preoccupied with this information or worse, they turn into self promotion.

We would be wise to guard ourselves against how we contribute to the noise of words and
chatter in our world.

Prayer
Finally Nouwen reflects on prayer and that solitude and silence are both for prayer. Solitude is not being alone but being with God. Silence is not not speaking but rather listening to God.

Nouwen first reflects on the shallowness of prayer when it is simply a monologue, a series or requests to be answered or simply an exercise of the mind that simply thinks or muses about God with words. Prayer for Nouwen is a much more holistic practices and as he encourages us to practice prayer of the heart he is both talking about out desires and emotions and the place of  our will and where we make good decisions. It is prayer that takes us into a deep encounter and rest with God so that we are compelled to live faithfully, make good decisions, love God and love others.

Nouwen gives us three characteristics of prayer that help foster this discipline:
1. The prayer of the heart is nurtured by short simple prayers
2. The prayer of the heart is unceasing
3. The prayer of the heart is all-inclusive

The first two characteristics simply mean what they mean. The third is a reminder that we need to share with God in prayer all of our life, all of our concerns and all of our world. It is an encouragement to continually expand our prayer vocabulary and our prayer focuses. We will not grow in prayer if we pray easy or familiar prayers but we will grow as we struggle in prayer with Jesus.

Nouwen argues that these three practices will help us to stand firm, to speak words of salvation and to approach the future with hope, courage and confidence. He is probably right, but this book falls short in the way that is is lived out in community and with the church. Nouwen’s core concern seems to be that we are constantly remodelled into living witnesses of Christ and these are three of the practices that will help us become that.

Craig Bosnick,
Southside Community Church

 

Dave

One of my dad’s best friends is a guy named Dave.

When we were growing up, my brothers and I called him “Uncle-Daddy-Mommy Dave,” because he would take care of us while my parents were on vacation.

Dave loves Jesus, and is a legitimately fantastic person whose list of merits would probably break the Internet if I were to write them all here. As we got older, Uncle-Daddy-Mommy Dave would let us host parties at his place, lend us his car, and was always teaching one of us to drive stick-shift or play drums or master those labyrinth games where you try to keep the ball from falling in the holes.

CC Rosmarie Voegtli

Fast forward 15 years. On the surface, Dave and I don’t really have much in common. We have different hobbies, we grew up in different generations, and to be honest, he’s a little bit old school.

But Dave is now not only one of my dad’s best friends; but one of mine.

Why am I talking about Dave? Well, Dave and his wife May are in my small group. There’s been a lot of discussion lately (such as here, here, and here) about whether there’s still a benefit of having small groups in churches. The obvious danger for all of us that we may become insular affinity friendship gatherings, or groups that meet to study scripture without ever leaving the safety of the living room to act on what we’ve been talking about.

I get it. I understand that temptations of navel-gazing, gossip, and inactivity are real and can cause lasting damage in a faith community. But I don’t think we should give up on the small group thing. Instead, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:23-25).

In my experience, when small groups are a) on mission together and b) part of the larger story of spiritual growth within a congregation, they are a real and beautiful expression of  God at work in His people and in the world.

Last week Dave and May popped by for dinner and to help us distribute flyers for our upcoming Canada Day party. Our Mission Group is working together to host the event at our place again this year. Dave and May are there to support Kyson and me—day in and day out as well as with these big events—as we seek to see our neighbours’ hearts and lives transformed by God’s power. And we offer that same support to them.

Dave didn’t become “Friend-Brother-Colabourer Dave” by accident. It took incredible intention by leadership to set up a church built on geography-based, neighbour-focused Covenant Mission Groups. It takes a daily choice by each member to walk in the ways of Jesus. It takes planning and tough decision-making to order entire family life rhythms around shared mission and growth. And it takes humility to admit failure, to accept leadership from people who do things differently, and to speak the truth in love.

The beautiful thing is that we didn’t even necessarily like each other in the beginning, but God grew us into a community that loves each other for the sake of our city: a young guy studying to be a dentist, a family full of teenagers, a middle-aged single woman, a 31-year-old commercial transport mechanic. It’s not age or affinity that draws us together, but the Holy Spirit and the winsome life and mission He has invited us into.

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate?

Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose (Philippians 2:1-2).

History of Compassion

This article by Gordon King is from the blog of our brothers and sisters at the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec. Thanks CBOQ!

Hunger and access to food during times of crisis are a threat to global stability and the well-being of millions of people. Four numbers illustrate some of the dimensions of this humanitarian challenge.

9 – One out of every nine people in the world suffers from hunger or under-nutrition.

70 – Seventy percent of hungry people live in rural areas where food is produced.

80 – Eighty percent of the food consumed in Africa and Asia comes from family farms of less than two hectares.  Increasing the production of these farms is a key to addressing rural hunger and feeding the growing population of the world.

30 – Over the past 30 years foreign aid to agriculture has declined.

By Marc Di Luzio

Canadian Baptists have a long history of compassion for people that suffer from hunger. During the Great Depression, meals were provided in church halls and the homes of families. The government of Canada donated food to hungry populations following the Second World War. The Sharing Way was established to care for people threatened by hunger, disease, and poverty. Ethiopia was shaken by an immense famine in the early 1980s. Farmers from Baptist churches in the prairie provinces sent their crops to care for the starving. Bruce Neal and Arnold Epp were leaders in the founding of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Today Canadian Baptists continue this tradition with an instinctive understanding that witness in our communities and our world requires us to respond to the needs of hungry. This mission is enacted in creative ways:

  • Community gardens.
  • Support for food banks
  • Classes on cooking and nutrition.
  • Sustainable agriculture projects in East Africa and India.
  • Food relief programs for families displaced by the Syrian civil war.
  • Advocacy to the Government of Canada to increase the percentage of international aid offered to farmers with small landholdings in the Global South.

“When I was hungry you gave me food” is a phrase from the final parable of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus goes on to say that we show our love for him when we care for the needs of those who are weak and vulnerable.

What are some of the other ways you’ve seen Canadian Baptists showing compassion for Canada and the world? Share your thoughts here.