Book Review: Seed Falling on Good Soil

Gord King is a beloved CBWC member with an impressive resumé: he has taught theology in Bolivia, served in the refugee determination process in Canada, worked for World Vision Canada, and directed The Sharing Way (the international development program of Canadian Baptist Ministries). He has served as a board member of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, El Centro de Estudios Teologicos Interdisciplinarios, and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. And he’s now author of the book Seed Falling on Good Soil: Rooting Our Lives in the Parables of Jesus (from Wipf and Stock). We are thrilled to re-post this guest book review from Annabel Robinson, originally posted on Scot McKnight’s blog. Thank you to Gord for your book, and Annabel for the review!

Here is a book that will challenge you to the core. When I picked it up I thought I was reading an exegesis of the parables of Luke. It is indeed that. But what I had in my hands was the outpouring of a soul as he heard the words of Jesus speaking to the downtrodden people in other parts of the world. Gordon King has worked for both secular and Christian agencies in many places: El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Rwanda, Kenya, Angola, Malawi, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, the Middle East and Canada. He has listened to the cries from these places, and hears them in the people for whom Jesus first told these stories. He urges us to enter the social world of first century Palestine before we attempt to interpret the parables for our world of today.

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The result will haunt you. These are “deeply challenging and dissident messages” that will change our lives. The book is written for two groups of people: those who have called to live their lives in difficult places—community workers, educators and pastoral workers—who know discouragement and despair, and those who are disillusioned and disappointed by what the church at home has to offer.

The parables are read against two backgrounds.

One is the stories of people whom Gordon has met in different places and left a lasting impression on him. The book is alive with them.

The other background is taken from secular writers in the social sciences and anthropology, who offer principles of understanding our world.

He cites Arthur Frank, who describes how we all develop an “inner library” of stories that have particular meaning for us. The parables are just such stories. This “inner library” can “ambush” us by invading our thinking when we are unprepared. Frank describes stories like this as “dangerous companions.”

He also builds on James C. Scott’s observation that a repressive regime will promulgate what Scott calls a “public transcript”—a way of seeing the world that serves their own ends. Against this, dissidents develop a “private transcript.” Jesus’ parables address the private transcript of the oppressed people of Palestine. They are far from simple, cosy stories. Too easily we accommodate them to the world with which we are familiar. But King writes, “Personal loyalty to Jesus’ message and mission requires a . . . commitment to critique and reverse the public transcripts that maintain the oppressive world order.”

To do this we need to cultivate the strength of character to remain faithful in times of fatigue and discouragement. We can’t do it in the midst of frenetic activity. It requires “solitude, patience, humour, prayer, and a stubborn commitment to face the truth about the world and our own lives.”

Against these backgrounds Gordon King offers a reading of a number of Jesus’ parables which will jar with more familiar interpretations. In particular, I would single out his reading of the parable of the talents. When I first read it I had to put the book aside. The next day I realized that it was my familiarity with the usual interpretation that was getting in the way. By the end of the day, I was convinced. Jesus, as C.S.Lewis observed, is not a tame lion.

But if the book is challenging, it is also encouraging. It is “the Spirit who hovers over us, and whispers in our ears the good and fruitful story of God, who is inviting us to participate in the work of healing and transforming the world.” We may be led to repentance. We may feel overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness. We will be inspired to imagine a world that can be called the new creation of a loving God.

Whether you know discouragement and despair from living in difficult places, or are dissatisfied with the church at home, read this book. You will hear Jesus afresh.

Greenhills Christian Fellowship Calgary Update

This article by Pastor Allan Santos can be found originally published in CBWC’s monthly enewsletter Making Connections. Subscribe here.

We are grateful to the Lord for how He is moving and working in the lives of His children here in GCF Calgary. One of the primary thanksgivings that we have is our ministry towards the young professionals or the millennials of today. We are so blessed to see them serving the Lord wholeheartedly. Our primary commitment to the leadership of our young professionals is to disciple each one of them so they will grow spiritually and be equipped with God’s word as they do God’s work.  Quarterly meetings are being held with the leaders to talk about Jesus’ strategy on how to make disciples who can make disciples.  Now, our young professionals have four groups who are meeting faithfully each week to study God’s word and fellowship.  IMG_2884.jpg

Another ministry that we are continually pursuing is our basketball outreach.  Early this year, we had our basketball tournament and we had six teams that participated in this event.  We praise God for the opportunity to meet and share God’s Word to the players.  Two players accepted the Lord Jesus Christ in their lives and followed water baptism.  Indeed, the Lord is making a move for people to know and follow Him.

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We also praise the Lord for the men and women’s fellowship that were held every month starting early this year. The leadership of the church prayed and aimed to strengthen these particular groups because we desire to see the men and women in our church to have their own support group as they face everyday challenges and opportunities unique to their varied life roles. By God’s grace, both of these fellowship activities are increasing in attendance and consequently, closer relationships are being built and established.

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The work of the Lord here in Calgary is both challenging and exciting. It is challenging because the church needs to think of ways on how to reach out to people who are busy with their own lives pursuing wealth and personal success. On the other hand, it is exciting because we are seeing the need for them to know Jesus because He is the only One who can give a life that is complete and fulfilling.

May our good Lord be glorified, as we desire to reach out people for Him. His name be forever praised!

We’re so glad to hear how God is at work at GCF, and we want to share your stories too! Email Cailey (cmorgan@cbwc.ca) with your story to encourage our family of churches across western Canada.

Join the Momentum Part 3

By Shannon Youell

It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I had an encounter with God that catapulted me into the adventure of life as a follower of Jesus. With minimal exposure to church  to that point (someone did backyard Bible camps in our neighborhood a few times and the occasional visit to a Sunday school on an overnighter with a friend), it took me a number of years and experiences in theological and organizational dynamics to truly understand and value why a congregation benefits from sharing the work of the kingdom with a larger and broader association of the faithful.

Honestly, I didn’t see the merit of denominationalism or associated bodies, until I served for five years in an independent church as worship director and there launched into worship and speaking ministry in a variety of church expressions and associations.

The independent churches I ministered in (including my then home church) were missing the longing and blessing of shared work, resources, continuing education, theological reflection, camps, missions among many other benefits that families of churches have access to.

Anything they did they had to do on their own–reinventing the proverbial wheel so to speak. Good work to be sure, but difficult. Independence also means when they have need of encouragement, accountability, wise counsel, correction, or succession few know where to turn.

There are faithful folk gathering in congregations all around us who may be praying for a larger group to connect with, to be relational with, to share in the amazing work that God has called us all to in seeing the kingdom of God expanded and flourishing.

They worship on other languages, other styles, other cultures, as do we, yet share in the statements of the Apostles Creed and the passion of seeing Christ revealed in the crowds, in the curious and in the committed. Sounds like the early church doesn’t it! And like the early church, who supported the churches near and far in prayers, in counsel, in resources, in need, our shared work as CBWC does this, near and far.

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What churches around are on their own and perhaps would welcome an invitation to be enfolded in a family of folk who labour and long together in God’s mission among us?  Talk to them or ask them to talk to Shannon, Cailey or Joell about how we can resource and encourage them: how we can be family with them.

Friends, we are a family of amazing people sharing God’s faithfulness to us with one another, with other labourers and with the world around us at home and beyond.  Gifts and resourcing and talents and ideas that are not for us, but for God’s glory!

Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.  Psalm 115:1

Free Workshop: A Day with Brad Brisco

As we at the CBWC work with you to grow your communities and witness people encountering Jesus, we want to bring you resources that will help frame our thinking about local mission and the tools to practice and disciple others.

Brad Brisco is offering a Mission Essentials clinic on October 12 in Leduc, AB, and October 13 in Surrey, BC.

We are so convinced that this workshop could be a game changer for your congregation that CBWC Church Planting is covering the cost for as many of you and your church folk and leaders to come as possible. Just register each attendee here for Leduc or here for Surrey.

 

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Brad is an author, church planter, teacher and catalyzer. One of the gifts that he has brought to the church in the past few years is his ability to take deep theological truths and make them understandable for normal people who love Jesus. This day with Brad will help churches to chart a course of action for understanding the mission of God and then helping us imagine how God wants us to engage in our neighbourhoods. This workshop is for everyone who is a follower of Jesus.

Please, please, please make these two sessions a priority for your church’s members and leadership team, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions at syouell@cbwc.ca.

Shannon Youell, CBWC Church Plant Coordinator

It Takes a Village

By Shannon Youell

This article describes the second of five ways to join the momentum and participate in what God is doing in new and existing communities around us.

It takes a village to raise a child.

This Igbo and Yoruba (Nigeria) proverb exists in different forms in many African languages. The basic meaning is that child upbringing is a communal effort. The responsibility for raising a child is shared with the larger family (sometimes called the extended family). Everyone in the family participates especially the older children, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and even cousins. It is not unusual for African children to stay for long periods with their grandparents or aunts or uncles. Even the wider community gets involved such as neighbors and friends. Children are considered a blessing from God for the whole community.

In general this Nigerian proverb conveys the African worldview that emphasizes the values of family relationships, parental care, self-sacrificing concern for others, sharing, and even hospitality. This is very close to the Biblical worldview as seen in scripture texts related to unity and cooperation.i

In part one of Joining the Momentum, I used the comparison of creeks merging together to form rivers that carry collective we-impact. This African proverb goes to the relational aspect….none of us really can, nor should, grow alone. Church planting should not be an individualistic activity but rather a communal effort for the best chances of healthy development and further fruitfulness. The responsibility is too big and is meant to be shared as new believers and new communities of faith are indeed “a blessing from God for the whole community.”

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Some years ago, one of the families in our church were required to go to Southern California for the survival of their unborn child. They had six children, a home, and a business to run and the very thought of being away for several months of unknown duration was devastating emotionally and financially. So our church community began to strategize how to help. My idea to add to the other fundraising efforts was to ask our church community and the extended community around us to commit to monthly contributions to be deposited into the family’s bank account to cover their expenses here while they were away (the David Foster Foundation was covering their Southern California expenses).  I asked for any amount, from $10.00 a month to whatever folk were led to give, and then I asked for post-dated cheques so that the funds were regularly available and the parents didn’t have to keep seeing if there was enough for their home expenses.

The campaign was a great success and the gratitude and peace of mind of not having to worry about what was happening back home helped that family emotionally in tremendous ways. Most of the contributions were sacrifices by the folk who gave them, but all said it was a journey of faith for them as well, as God continued to provide for their needs even as they gave away some of their own needed resources to join in the life of this child and family. All were blessed in the communal effort of ushering in new life.

In our tribe, CBWC, shared work and communal effort are a core value. In church planting, the birthing of new communities of faith requires a village. One of the ways we do this is through Venture Partnerships that are exactly what our local community participated in for our friends. Imagine: if all 170-plus of our churches joined forces with a new community in Western Canada at only $100 per month, we would have an additional $204,000 to bring Christ where He is yet unknown.

But Venture Partnership is more than just giving much needed funding, it is also a relationship with the new community.  A commitment to pray, to mentor, to be a part of what they are doing near and far.

Recently one of our church planters met, for the first time, the pastor from the church who had Ventured with the new church when it first began. A connection was made right away from the common bond of sharing in this work both in the past and in the future.  They now had a shared experience and joy!

I think if we truly believe that God invites us to participate with Him on mission that must be a part of our ethos, much like the early church who supported one another for the advancement of the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

i.  http://www.afriprov.org/african-proverb-of-the-month/23-1998proverbs/137-november-1998-proverb.html

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.