Church Plants Re-Missioning in COVID-19 Context

By Shannon Youell

Earlier this summer, during an interview with Pastor Tim Dickau for the Church Planting Blog, Tim asked me how the new church plants were managing with all the current challenges. I answered that, surprisingly, most of the plants seem to be finding, even within the same difficulties, deeper discipleship, relationships and new faith.  

Tim asked why I thought that was. I concluded that a significant part was that young churches still seem to have a sense of adventure, of excitement. Church plants can pivot faster as they are less embedded in how they do things as they are still discerning and growing in who they are as disciples and as local missionaries. They see God at work in the new believers that they are engaged with and are more fluid in the things they do. Thus, church plants may be less reactive against change because change is a normal part of their reality. 

GCF Winnipeg East continues to build deeper community among their core group of planters and new people alike, growing slowly but steadily.

GCF Winnipeg-East has found that starting a church plant in a season where we can’t eat and party together (in true Filipino style) has been challenging! The food fellowship is integral to how this group evangelizes, yet they are finding their way and are thrilled to recently be able to gather on a Sunday within the Manitoba restrictions. Despite the COVID restrictions, this group has grown to about 50 regular disciples, including 80% participation in the Life Groups, which now meet via Zoom! PRAY with them as they plan to officially launch in November of this year. As well, the building they meet in for services is undergoing renovations for the next six months, so pray for a suitable temporary location for the church. 

Hope Church of Calgary is struggling with not meeting together, some pushing to meet anyways. The people, who are Arabic, are finding the same difficulties as GCF W-E: community is paramount for how they share the gospel with one another. The group is small but committed and there is some good potential leadership to continue the church if Pastor Mouner ends up training missionaries overseas as he is feeling called towards. PRAY that the Spirit of God will encourage this church in the midst of all the challenges and changes of the present and future. 

Emmanuel Baptist Church Fellowship of Calgary is a flourishing Spanish-speaking community. Formally doing ministry under the umbrella of First Baptist Calgary, they discerned it was time to launch out on their own. One of the main reasons was the realization that almost their entire congregation and the community they were reaching out to live within a five-minute drive of one another, across town from the FBC campus! Connections were made and partnership has been established with Bonavista Baptist Church, which brings the church facility much closer to their neighbourhoods. They are currently working on affiliating as a new church with CBWC. PRAY for a speedy acceptance of their Charitable Status and that their faithful presence in their neighbourhood continues to bear much fruit that lasts. 

Emmanuel Iranian Church’s August baptism service.
EIC has baptized one hundred and thirty new believers this summer.

In the midst of COVID-19, Emmanuel Iranian Church (North Vancouver & Coquitlam) brought on board a new co-pastor, Ali Hosseinzaden, to share the immense work alongside Pastor Arash Azad in the discipleship of hundreds of new believers in Jesus Christ. EIC has been meeting in the restricted groups of 50, which means Pastor Arash is preaching 3 or 4 times each Sunday as well as his continued discipleship of several churches in Turkey. PRAY for more leaders/pastors for EIC to augment and share the teaching, discipleship and preaching with Arash and Ali. Pray for times of refreshment for them both. Pray for creative ways to engage their young people virtually.   

Makarios Evangelical Church (New Westminster) has four young adults from their college ministry, and one adult, preparing for baptism. Intentional discipleship and formation are central to the ministry and Pastor Jessica notes that during this time of challenge, more people are being brave and willing to talk about deep things in their lives. The church had several outreach ministries that were just beginning or soon to launch at the time of the shutdown. However, the church has pivoted quickly to adapt to doing outreach differently and is seeing God’s goodness shine through. PRAY for increased creativity and innovation on how to serve both the MEC congregation and the college students to whom they are building relationships with. Pray for creativity as today’s plans have to adjust to tomorrow’s new reality. 

Our plants and planters are finding both fruit and joy in their ministry as well as experiencing the same challenges our established churches have around our new reality in a pandemic world. 

I wonder whether this has something to say to all our churches in this time. Barna research has shown that more than one third of church attenders have stopped attending, now that services have been online for several months. My first thought was that those who are challenged with using computers may be part of that one third. However, the research shows that, “Among millennials, it’s even higher: Half of those who used to go to church have stopped since the pandemic started.” 

As restrictions continue or become even more stringent, how might our churches re-mission to both create community and reconnect community that is used to being community in a church building? How might they continue to minister to one another but also to those who, not in “church life,” are feeling all the same angst, anxiety and uncertainty in their own places and spaces? How might we engage Gospel in a time such as this? What might it look like to utilize house-church-type meeting that still honors the health authority restrictions? How do we continue to establish new communities of faith? What might it look like if some of our churches become “church plants?”  

These are questions worthy of wrestling with as CBWC continues to care for and support our plants and our long-established church communities. These are also good questions for all of us who are CBWC. 

September Resources

Welcome to September! Wow. As the summer slips by and we set our gaze again on the ministry ahead, here are a few equipping resources you may find of help in the coming weeks:

  • As we mentioned previously, Dr. Tim Dickau is spearheading a new Certificate in Missional Leadership for congregational teams (available hybrid – in person and online) beginning September 2020 through St. Andrews Hall. The three-year program has the overall focus of “Forming and Reforming Communities of Christ in a Secular Age” with the first year specifically exploring “Missional foundations during COVID and Beyond.”

  • Our friends at Forge Canada continue to offer helpful, timely conversations; their next online series is “Into the Neighbourhood: Practicing Hospitality, Presence and Mutuality”  and starts September 8.

  • Beth Anne Fisher and the Wellness Project at Wycliffe have been exploring satisfaction and stress in vocational ministry life. Her 5+ years of research, combined with qualitative data on 35+ interviews with multivocational ministers across Canada came together as the Canadian Bivocational Multivocational Ministry Project The entire (fascinating and telling!) research project can be downloaded at canadianmultivocationalministry.ca. You can also check out these video snippets from the New Leaf Learning Centre webinar with Beth Anne Fisher and Jared Seibert that can help frame some ponderings for us.

  • Speaking of New Leaf, they’re offering several new streams, including a COVID-aware redesign, of their Church Plant Design Shop, this fall. Here’s what they have to say about it:

    As a leader, if you’re feeling like the decisions you are currently facing are complicated, you’re not alone. In the wake of COVID, church leaders across Canada are struggling with how best to maintain their church’s identity, mission, and connection in this time of isolation and uncertainty.

    In the midst of this current crisis also lies a unique opportunity to rethink and redesign your church communities. Every church is a “church plant” as we collectively emerge from COVID. Now may be the right time to move your church from their regular routines and into a more vibrant, missional and engaged practice of their faith.

Whether or not you find the mental space to engage some of these great opportunities this fall, we pray that your September is seasoned with grace and the Spirit-led imagination that comes from seeing glimpses of God at work in you and those around you.

~Shannon and Cailey

Re-missioning in Pandemic Times: An Interview with Andy Lambkin 

By Cailey Morgan and Shannon Youell

Last month we introduced Andy Lambkin and simplechurches. Today, we have the honor of sharing an interview with some of Andy’s thoughts around the challenges and opportunities COVID-19 affords us. 

CBWC: What questions should pastors be asking themselves in this season 

Andy Lambkin: What buttons are being pushed in you personally? When you find yourself filled with fear, what is it that is driving that fear? When you find yourself “scrambling” as you think and plan into the future, what motivates the thinking and planning? What does this reveal? What is the Holy Spirit telling you about yourself, your ministry, and the things he may want to strip away? 

What are the “shadow values” that drive your pastoral ministry? In my life, I find three: Ego—my insecure heart that desires recognition and affirmation from those I lead; Technique—a desire to look toward ministry techniques to grow my ministry to feed my ego; Control—an impulse to control people which I assume is for their good but is often for my protection.  

CBWC: Wow—important self-reflections! On a corporate or community level, what should churches be asking themselves?  

How can we align our structures with the things that God values? To put that another way, do our structures prohibit us from living out God’s values? Are we spending our time trying to fight for our structures when God might be opening us to another way of serving and being? 

Here’s a video from Andy on this topic of values and structures: 


CBWC: What one change would see as a significant first step towards changing how we view the gathered community? 

Andy:  I think the local church needs to look critically at how it uses money. In most cases, a simple and honest audit quickly reveals that the vast majority of our money is used toward staffing and internal programming. These funds enable us to continue to support and even entrench ourselves in a particular approach to the gathered community.  

In Matthew 6, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This tells me two things:  

  1. If we look at our money, we will see what it is we truly treasure.
  2. If we discover that what we treasure is not good or pleasing or helpful, we need to reassign our money toward the things God wants us to treasure. Doing this will force the necessary changes to our hearts. 

Follow the money. It’s the canary in the coal mine and often the only way we force change upon ourselves.  

CBWC: Have you found patterns of things that people are afraid of as they approach change that they really shouldn’t worry about? Why not?  

Andy: I’ve never thought about this question before! I think the dominant fear is a fear of failure and all the things that come with this: embarrassment, shame, hurt, financial decline, pain. And the truth is, all of these might be part of our experience. We can’t protect ourselves from these things if we are going to venture into change.  

As I write these words, the Bruce Cockburn song, “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” plays through my mind: “nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.” Perhaps we might alter this somewhat, “nothing worth having comes without some kind of pain.”   

CBWC: Along those lines, what would you say to an existing congregation who is considering changing decades-engrained rhythms of gathering?  

Andy: Funny enough, in most cases, I advise against rapid wholesale change unless there is an overwhelming consensus toward the change. Or unless there is little chance of anything surviving without a change. In my observation, the church (especially older churches) tend to be made up primarily of people who are change-resistant. The reason why the church remains the same over many years (and I’m not talking about those fundamental building blocks which shouldn’t change, I’m talking about the programs and the bulletins and the annual calendar of events etc.) is that the people who make up the majority (including most pastors) prefer the consistent, predictable patterns. They tend to be the late adopters as the early adopters often get frustrated and move on or join a church plant. Making abrupt changes with this group of people can create more pain and trouble than what is helpful. 

When we started our churches, the people that came with us all volunteered for the work. They were, by nature, people that sat on the front-side of that change continuum. They were the early adopters. And yet, even with this group, the biggest hurdle we faced in our first years was those deeply ingrained rhythms and the desire for people to return to those cherished and familiar traditions.  

Instead of making a wide-sweeping change to an entire community, I would suggest sending the willing out as an experimental project. Many significant organizations have branches which are known as “skunkworks.” Skunkworks are parts of a corporation that are set up as distinct from the main corporation and are provided resources (with few strings) to experiment and try new things.  

This seems an interesting approach to the church, where we release the willing and eager to step out into new environments and try to create new rhythms. 

For more on how simplechurches structure themselves and their rhythms, check out this video:  

 

What further questions do Andy’s thoughtful responses elicit for you? How have you been helped by his comments? Let us know! 

I’ve been thinking…

By Shannon Youell

I’ve been thinking about exile.  

Not specifically being displaced and exiled from our homeland, but exile in the sense of the disruption and dissolving of the structures and systems in which we currently have placed our trust, our hope, our sense of safety and identity. These include our religious institutions to be sure, but also our political and socio-economic structures. All of these contribute weightily to what it means to be a particular people in a particular place. When the structures which support our identity markers seem to be crumbling right out from under us, we can find ourselves asking questions of who we are without those familiar structures. Where is God found in the midst of it all? 

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These are great questions. In thinking of exile narratives in the Biblical text, I am immediately drawn to the Babylonian exile, particularly as recorded by Jeremiah and Ezekiel. In Jeremiah 29, the prophet sends a letter to those exiled in Babylon and encourages themrather than stay in the puddle of their despair, mourning and yearning to get back to the way things were beforeto settle and lean-in to the new normal, to begin to build anew, to flourish, and to seek the peace and prosperity within the place of exile.   

Imagine how difficult this would have been! Nothing was the way it once was; not the least, they couldn’t worship Yahweh in the familiar practice and tradition, in the temple where His presence was known to dwell.   

I can imagine those voices from the past and their protests after hearing the prophets letter read to them. I imagine some of those same protestations are ones we ourselves have heard or are voicing ourselves during this time of restrictions on public gatherings. People are yearning to go to the place where the gathered people of God worship, connect, commune and find God. There is anxiety and fear that the church structure may not survive, that people will wander away and not come back, that we can’t pay staff and building costsall very real and present concerns. Many in our congregations are wondering where they will find God and their own peace and encouragement in the faith without a service of gathering in their familiar spaces with familiar patterns and liturgies.  

In Babylon meanwhile, God, speaking through the prophet, assures exiled people that when they call on Him and pray to Him, He is listening, not only in the temple, but in exiled places tooSeek me, he says, and you will find me, even in the place of unfamiliarity where it was assumed God couldn’t possibly be. The encouragement is to seek the shalom and prosperity of the place of exile for in its prospering, the exiles, too, will prosper. In their relocation, they are called to dwell there, sow there, settle there, become a part of the community in which they are exiled, and watch for God, who is right there with the exiled people, in unexpected ways. 

Biblical scholar Janina M. Hiebel writes: “The Babylonian Exile (597/587–539 BCE) in particular is commonly recognised as perhaps the most profound, yet also the most fruitful crisis of Old Testament times...it led to significant theological progress, laying the foundations for both Judaism and Christianity. 

Hiebel’s assertion that, “Hope in (the book of) Ezekiel is, therefore, not a matter of restoration in the literal sense of returning to the past state of affairs,” andthe hope found in Ezekiel,points towards the creation of a new reality that does not exist and has never existed in the author’s experience but that can be brought about by divine intervention, should make us stop and think.  Ezekiel’s hope lies within the place of exile, not in a future escape from it, just as Jeremiah writes. 

In our current state of various expressions of the “exiled” church, might God, by His divine intervention, be grabbing our attention in such a way that we must stop and notice to where He is pointing?   

Let’s consider again those good pruning questions we’ve been asking ourselves about reassessing our values or incorporating new discovered value practices we’d neglected in the routine luxury of meeting corporately in buildings. But this time, in considering those questions, in pondering them, in setting them into prayers and laments, let’s ask ourselves, what if God is relocating the church for a time? What if, in this time of COVID-19 exile, God is pointing us to a new awareness of meeting and being church (the people) in ways that has not existed in our own current traditional experience of a worshiping, missional community?   What if, out of this exile, an abundance of fruit emerges for the flourishing of God’s people and the community to whom we are witnesses of faithful presence toAre we actually looking for fruit in the brambles or merely looking back to get ourselves out of the prickly uncomfortableness we find ourselves in.  

In my Bible, on a sticky note stuck to the page of Jeremiah 29, I have four summary statements from a sermon my friend Steve Littler once preached: learn to live your life now; learn to bless where you are; learn to discover God’s plan; learn to find God despite the circumstances (or in our case the crisis). Let it be so, Lord, with us. 

Re-missioning: A Conversation with Tim Dickau

By Shannon Youell

In this timely series of imagining re-missioning of our church communities, we have been blessed to interact with two seasoned catalysts and innovators in both planting new church communities and re-missioning existing ones. Regardless of whether you or your church are thinking about these things, we should all be thinking, praying and discerning what God is saying to the church today and how we are being called to be the faithful presence of the gospel in our current reality and into a post-Christendom structure future.

This week’s interview is with someone many of us are familiar with as the past pastor of Grandview Church in Vancouver. I admit being a fan of the depth and breadth of ministry this small community has accomplished right in their own neighbourhood community through intentional faith presence over decades of living, working, playing in proximity to where they also worship and pray.

CBWC: Tell us a little about your new adventure in ministry and who will benefit.  

Tim Dickau: I am excited to be stepping into two new roles after 30 years as the lead pastor at Grandview. First, I will be directing the Certificate in Missional Leadership being offered through the Center for Missional Leadership on the UBC campus. See our website for more details for this course, which begins in September, being taught both online and in-person. Along with Darrell Guder, Ross Lockhart and Andrea Perrett, we will be inviting church leadership teams to use the course as a visioning opportunity to reposition their church for the future. I hope that some churches from the CBWC across Western Canada will take of advantage of this opportunity. The content of the course comes in part from my forthcoming book Humility and Hope: Forming Christian Communities in a Secular Age. In the book, I seek to help us understand how we ended up in the sort of secular society we find ourselves and then ask what sort of communities will bear witness to the gospel in this context.

The second role I am taking up is as the new director of Citygate Leadership Forum. My role there is to consult with churches individually to help them take up a parish, holistic kingdom vision. I’ll also be assisting the Christian community in addressing systemic issues like affordable housing, poverty and reconciliation.

CBWC: And we hope some of our CBWC churches take advantage of this too! (if you are reading this and are a CBWC church, please consider this for your Leadership Teams, boards, deacons, lay leaders and staff! 

Tim, you talked about the parish church concept. Alan Roxburgh recently spoke on the same thing. What do you mean by that?

Tim: Taking parish seriously for me is first about letting God choose our friends. We have found so many meaningful friendships with people that at first glance seemed quite different from us culturally, ethnically or just in terms of life situation or experience. This is what happens when you learn to love and be loved by those right around you. Second, taking parish seriously is caring not just about the people in a neighbourhood but about the parks, the businesses, the civic efforts, the hidden or marginalized and the beauty of a place. I find it hard to imagine living into the fullness of God’s transforming vision for the kingdom if we don’t inhabit a place.

CBWC: What encouragement do you have for church planters in terms of parish vision? 

Tim: Clearly, taking up a parish vision takes time. I had the privilege of being part of a cohort exploring the future of Christian Community in North America a few years ago. One church planting coach (from Texas no less) told us that they think of church plants as taking 10 years to get established (instead of the 3-year model they used to operate with). What they have found, however, is that churches that take this long view and go deeper into a neighbourhood become significant, sustainable, transforming communities.

CBWC: What questions should churches be asking themselves in this season? Asking their communities? Asking the Holy Spirit?  

Tim: COVID has all of us asking questions about how to be the church. That’s good. I would encourage us to also begin to think wider during this time: to ask what it means to be the church after Christendom. Since so many of our models of church were formed and shaped by Christendom, I believe we should be asking what new forms our communities might take in order to be faithful to the gospel in this age, both during COVID and beyond.

CBWC: What would you say to an existing congregation who is considering changing decades-engrained rhythms of gathering?     

Tim: I have three things to say arising out of our three decades at Grandview:

1. Theological vision matters. In our North American culture of pragmatism (which has some strengths), the default position for many of us is to ask how our churches can survive and get bigger. I believe that we need to give more focus to the questions underneath those pragmatic questions–questions about the nature of the gospel, about how we can participate in the action of God, and about the type of communities that the Spirit desires to form among us. I believe that one key characteristic of communities the Spirit is forming is that God intends them to be for the world’s healing and good. If we aim to become these kind of communities, our churches will start to look different.

2. Change is incremental for most of us, which is why it takes time to form a new culture in our communities. In our experience at Grandview, taking up common practices like hospitality, justice and confession over time formed us so that we are better able to take part in God’s mission.

3. Love and forgive one another. The daily and hard work of loving and forgiving one another is what builds trust. Trust in the Triune God and one another is what encourages us to take the risks required of us to live into God’s restoring vision for our lives and the world.

CBWC: What do we do with the fear that appears as we approach change?  

Tim: Fears drive so much of our human behavior. Thus, it is important to name these fears before God and with each other. Naming them begins to take away their power and re-situates us in the power of the crucified and risen Christ.

CBWC: What one change would see as a significant first step towards changing how we view the gathered community?  

Tim: One of the key shifts we made at Grandview was to situate ourselves closer to one another so that we took up a shared life in the regular rhythms of our lives. So we moved into the same neighbourhood, or the same city block, or the same apartment, or the same house, or we built a housing complex over top of our parking lot to welcome our friends in need of housing.

Proximity allowed us to take up a common life and common practices during meals, conversations on the way to the store, or prayers of compline at the end of the day. What’s more, this shared life we developed became more porous and abundant so that we had more energy and opportunity to welcome our neighbours into the way of Christ. This model of church not only holds promise during times like COVID, but it also conceives of evangelism and discipleship as a way of life rather than a program.

CBWC: Share a story where God surprised you.  

Tim: A few years ago, a woman deeply involved in our local neighbourhood showed up on a Sunday morning because she had met a number of people from our church who shared her passion for our neighbourhood’s flourishing. She said she was coming for the community support but she was an atheist. She asked if we were okay with that. About a year later, she told me that she realized that the God she was getting to know was different that the God she didn’t believe in. When I met her downtown one day where she worked, she introduced me as her pastor and thanked me for walking with her on her journey. I am always joyfully surprised by the transforming work of the Spirit–and grateful!

CBWC: Thank you so much Tim, for your willingness to share your heart, experience and discernment with us! We look forward to hearing more in the future and to connecting with our CBWC churches who journey with the Center for Missional Leadership course.   

Exploring Re-Missioning

By Shannon Youell

“During this time we have an incredible opportunity to rethink, reimagine and remission ourselves.”

Last week, as I was switching cell phone service providers, I had a conversation with the support tech around our new work-from-home reality. It was a conversation that was becoming quite familiar: people and families are awakening to a new dynamic of living that many are finding less stressful, happier, less costly and overall, more satisfactory, as they transition from commuting to workplaces to working from the home office. The dynamic is causing much rethinking and reimagining on how people want to live their life—their mission, so to speak—after the world returns to regular safe activities.

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As churches we have the opportunity, as this blog explored, to rethink the way we gather and scatter. We have a window in which to reimagine what it means to be the church, the ecclesia, the ones called out as citizens of the kingdom of God to influence the world as people of Shalom.

Specifically, as we are thinking about meeting together in common spaces again, what kinds of hybrids might God be communicating to us? What new rhythms should we not discard once we can have “regular” life again?

To get you thinking, we’d like to re-introduce you to Andy Lambkin. The last time we shared Andy’s insights on the blog was in 2013! Andy works within church planting with the Alliance organization and has a network of churches in the Vancouver area that have already been on a twelve-year journey of rethinking, re-imagining and re-missioning.

Simplechurches is a network of house churches that are still very connected with one another. They have presence in multiple neighbourhoods, extending the Presence, grace and mission of God right where they live, work and play.

Of course, simplechurches was a church planting mission from the beginning. This gave them latitude to shift their cultural expectations of how the gathered church should look, even before they put the structures in place to do so. For the majority of us who meet in buildings together, there is a more complicated journey to re-missioning ourselves.

Our existing preconceptions and presumptions of what church gatherings must incorporate can often hinder us to imagine we can change anything and still have meaningful worship together. For many of us, we are finding that for some, it just “isn’t church,” if we don’t spend one or two hours singing together, praying and listening to teachings in a single location. Yet, our current reality has imposed upon us an opportunity to discover (and perhaps to be introspective) of what it is we value most and allowing ourselves to ask those hard questions, as posed in the previous blog, and be attentive to what God is communicating through all this and what it is we should be paying attention to.

It may be a time to pray, think, brainstorm and discern a hybrid type of gathering. It may mean rethinking what our small groups do, utilizing deeper discipleship with Shared Practices that all groups do together. The emphasis here is on the discipling of one another within the whole and for the benefit of the local neighbourhoods and for the larger gatherings of celebration together (PS: check out this incredible 3-part series on Practices, Postures and Leadership from Forge Canada).

What might it look like to gather together for fellowship, the breaking of bread, the Apostles’ teaching and prayer in homes on a Sunday, with every fourth Sunday all gathering together to celebrate God-With-Us in song, prayer, testimony, preaching? What might it look like if we did that with two or three other networks to share the building space and costs? How might these shifts end up changing how we are church in the world?

This is just one possible hybrid to explore, but it should get us started on our re-missioning journeys.

I encourage you to watch these two short videos, in which Andy shares the amazing way the simplechurches community discerned God calling them to rethink, reimagine and remission. Ponder, pray and give yourselves permission to rethink. 

Video 1: In the Beginning

 

Video 2: God’s Going to Tamper with the Water Systems

Reading and Resources: Summer 2020

By Cailey Morgan

My church, Southside, is hosting a series of online and hybrid kids’ day camps under the banner “A Summer Like No Other.” I can’t think of a more fitting way to characterize the season we find ourselves in! Let’s take advantage of the opportunities being presented to us to engage in growth, discipleship and introspection this summer. 

Here are a few books that Larry, Shannon and I thought might be helpful, and online resource ideas to help fuel your summer development:

Books

BTW.jpgBy the Way by Derek Vreeland
We’ve mentioned this book before, but we think it bears repeating in this very different season we find ourselves in. Vreeland gives us tools to us refocus on what discipleship is meant to be, re-introducing the ways of Jesus with the type of tangible, straightforward approach that we should all be taking. What new imagination can we glean as we journey alongside those we disciple towards Christ? ~Cailey Morgan 

 

BolsingerIt Takes a Church to Raise a Christian by Tod Bolsinger
“…there is a considerable chasm separating us from who we are—I mean “we” as a corporate people, we as the indivisible body of Christ—and who we are to become. While we may be saved from hell and assured that we’ll never be separated from God, we aren’t living the manner of life we were built for, we aren’t making the difference that we could make together, and we’re not drawing people to the form of life-giving fellowship that they and we crave.” 

With these words in mind, Bolsinger takes the pastor/leaders of the local church through a spiritual theology of “being” church.  His push-back on our culture of individual pursuit that has infected our own understanding of being church, reminds us that the formation of followers of Jesus who are distinguishable to the world happens only within a community “…in which God mystically transforms believers together into the likeness of Christ as the primary means of reaching a lost world.” 

If you and your community are yearning for seeing transformed lives within your community that shine beyond your community, this book is a must read. ~Shannon Youell

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With by Skye Jethani
After demolishing four substitute messages, Life From God, Life Over God, Life Under God and Life for God,  Skye fleshes out his vision of “Life With God,” using the triad of Faith, Hope and Love. Where does the book fall short? It focuses almost exclusively on the individual without recognizing that we are part of a community of faith. Why read it? My early faith walk was filled with the clear message of live my life for God and I cannot ever recall hearing any mention of the possibility of a life with God.

I found this book to be both freeing and inspiring. ~Larry Schram 

 

Online Resources 

  • Our friends at New Leaf Network are hosting a book club starting July 9 to engage Joel Theissen and Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme’s new book None of the Above: Nonreligious Identity in the US and Canada. About the Book: “Almost a quarter of American and Canadian adults are nonreligious, while teens and young adults are even less likely to identify religiously. None of the Above explores the growing phenomenon of ‘religious nones’ in North America. Who are the religious nones? Why, and where, is this population growing?”
  • Speaking of relevant Canadian content, you won’t want to miss Missional Commons’ summer webinar series (July 7, 14, 21)  featuring David Fitch, Ruth Padilla-DeBorst, Cam Roxburgh and more.
  • Fuller Formation is offering a whole range of content as a free trial until September, including Tod Bolsinger’s new course “Guiding Your Church Through the Pandemic.” While these courses are based on American content, we believe you will find yourself stretched, equipped and encouraged by the content Fuller Formation is offering.  

What’s on your summer reading list? Have you discovered new podcasts or online resources to share? Leave a comment here!

The COVID-Effect: Resources for Pastors

By Shannon Youell

We all need pastoral care; yet, often pastors tend to be giving of themselves caring for others but not as quick about receiving care.

During this unprecedented time of being separated from others, pastoral care of those in our church communities has increased many-fold.  And many of us are feeling the effects of caring for so many in uncertain times and ensuring we still have some form of gathering together for fellowship, for prayer, for teaching, for breaking of bread and for worship in our new virtual reality.

We’ve all had to be willing to pivot and change and accept those changes as good and profitable to our mission.  Our church planting communities face their own unique challenges as they are still establishing themselves and yet have been cut off from the very neighbourhoods they have been moving into with the presence of God.

I’ve spoken with many pastors and leaders, and am one myself, so I know how drained and emptied many of us are finding ourselves.

That’s why CBWC is bringing you this fantastic opportunity to walk through some of the ways we can find pathways to care for ourselves to increase our coping skills and resiliency:

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The COVID-Effect: Pastoring the Pastor

A 90-minute session supporting mental wellness for CBWC Pastors.

We would like to invite you to a 90-minute zoom session offered across all 4 provinces featuring local, faith-based psychologists and hosted by your CBWC Regional Minister. Come listen and then, via a facilitated Q & A, explore resources and coping tools for mental wellness offered specifically for you as you continue to live into your vocation of pastoral ministry during these extraordinary times.

This online event is free for CBWC Pastors. Please register to receive the zoom link to be a part of this important conversation in support of your well being.

Dates & Times

BC & Y | Wednesday July 15 | 9:30am PDT | Dr. Hillary McBride | REGISTER
AB & NWT | Tuesday July 14 | 3:00pm MST | REGISTER
SK/MB | Wednesday July 8 | 3:00pm SK/4:00pm MB | Dr. Todd Sellick | REGISTER

We do not know how long we will be in this fluid situation, but we do know that our family of faith will walk with us in love, in care and in support.

Rest and Abide

By Shannon Youell

I have been profoundly struck by something we are reading in our monthly CBWC Church Planters Cohort. We’ve been loosely going through Mike Breens book, Building a Discipleship Culture, as a source of learning ways to help people in our churches have reproducible tools to disciple one another.   

What struck me was this statement from Breen: 

We need to have times of pruning in our churches, times when most, if not all, activity ceases. Times of rest and abiding. This runs contrary to principles taught in most church growth courses and seminars. How can one grow a church larger by shutting down for a season? Yet that is exactly what happens at many of the churches we have discipled. We encourage them to stop all small groups and to drastically scale back the worship service.” 

Of course when Breen wrote this, he most certainly couldn’t have imagined a time in the future when churches would be closed down due to a pandemic! But what struck me is his assertion that these times are necessary and crucial for the people of God to rest, abide and, I would add, consider what God is trying to say to us so that we can prune off what is good and verdant, but not necessarily producing new fruit. 

We have all been on a steep learning curve to pivot and refocus our gathering together aspect of the worshiping church.  We have met the challenges of technology, demographics, Zoom fatigue, working harder and longer to get it all together for the Sunday gathering in a variety of innovative and creative ways. We have done the best we can within the current situation. 

Many are anxious to restart again, missing the gathered aspect of being together in a common space. Others are also asking some good questions about the season we’re in and what that means for how we were gathering and scattering as the church. 

In the midst of all the challenges many churches discovered opportunities they would not have considered.  Some have connected (often accidentally) with the broader community in creative ways beyond the Sunday morning Webcast or Zoom Church.  Some have discovered ways to work with other churches to share the work of production for online services and have benefited from those new partnerships (check out CBWC’s COVID-19 Resources page).

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Others have created or invested more deeply in small group Zoom gatherings for formation, discipleship, worship and prayer mid-week and discovered people growing in their faith and maturity even while staying away from physical gatherings. All the indicators suggest that until a vaccine is widely available, indoor public gatherings will continue to be limited and the protocols to facilitate them require more work to maintain than usual.   

So what if while we are thinking about procedures and protocols to reopen our worship serves, we slow it down a little? Ask ourselves some really deep questions about the activities that meet our missional mandates and we want to continue and the activities that actually sap our missional mandates or replace them, no matter how good the activity is.    

Pruning, though painful, is always necessary. This agrarian metaphor does not presuppose that the tree is not growing.  But it does point out that lush green growth on a plant doesn’t necessary equate to it bearing fruit.  I am a gardener who has had to learn that lesson over and over again.  A fig tree or a rose bush that grows lush and full gives me hope for lots of fruit or masses of fragrant blooms, but more often than not I am disappointed.  In those seasons when I pruned hard, the next season bore both new growth on new branches and the abundance of fruit or blooms.   

Each year, I become more confident and courageous to prune even harder and each spring I anxiously wait and watch, and watch and wait, to see if the hardpruned plant will come back.  There have been a few times when I thought for sure I’d pruned too hard because nothing was happening and suddenly green buds break the bark and life flourishes. 

During this time of shut down, most of us have increased our activity and busyness just to do the pivoting needed to foster community in a time when people need it more than ever.  It is certainly not ideal, but it is an opportunity to pause and discern what God is saying to us as His church.  Before going back to new-normal type of activities, can we ask ourselves some good hard pruning questions? 

What have we gained that we don’t want to lose?  What does that mean as we look at re-opening? 

What have we lost that we realize we hadn’t been focusing on when we were meeting together?  How might we remission ourselves to refocus that? 

Do we want things to go back to the same?  Why or why not? 

What might a hybrid look like so that we meet Health Authority Guidelines and the emotional and social needs of our community?   

These are just a few starting questions and there are many more of course.  During this time we have an incredible opportunity to rethink, reimagine and remission ourselves.  Let’s not be so quick to get back to normal that we miss what our God-With-Us in our reality is saying and revealing about joining him on mission in our ever-changing current context. 

 

Remissioning: Adaptive Leadership and Facing the Unknown

By Shannon Youell

“Adaptive leadership is called for when you are facing something you have never faced before. A term made famous by Ronald Heifetz and his colleagues at Harvard, adaptive leadership begins the moment you find yourself without expertise, and when you are truly facing the unknown.” 

This quote from  Tod Bolsinger, vice president for vocation and formation and teacher of practical theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, is certainly our new reality. As I’ve heard others quote “we’ve never been this way before.” At least in our lifetime and in our context. 

How then, do we begin to face the future of the unknown as churches who value our gathered times and the things we do while together in a worship service? 

For the most part, from the stories we are hearing, most churches have adapted their gatherings into some kind of temporary stop gap. But what if the stop gap is longer than what we envisioned the stop gap to be? What ways do we need to begin to rethink and reimagine what it means for a scattered community to be the witness to the world of God’s presence among us, in word and deed, that we are called to?  

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We are so conditioned to view the gathered community as the “way of witness” that we may have difficulty imagining how we are to be salt and light as the scattered community.  Yet, this was exactly how the earliest of church witnessed – as scattered communities.  

Read Tod’s article here and ask the Spirit to guide you to what questions you should ask yourself, your leaders and your community.

We are quite literally in a time of learning as we go.  Will we be open to learning what may challenge our own embedded thinking?  Will we be open to God leading us to different ways of fulfilling our role as his missionaries here in our neighbourhoods and cities?   

There may be tweaks and small adjustments to be made, or perhaps God’s calling us to consider a bigger-picture reframing or remissioning in this time of forced change. Will we be open? 

As Tod challenges us to stare straight on: 

“What if you thought about this present moment and asked, “What could we be doing now that would help us become the best version of our community after the pandemic?” 

We’d love your thoughts, ideas and ways you are adapting to this new normal of being the people of God who is with us in the midst of all the strangeness of this current reality. 

BTW, I was first introduced to Tod via his book Canoeing the Mountains. It’s a great read on leadership and very different to the corporate model of leadership expertise that is available to help us.