By Shannon Youell
“I’ve never had someone ask me, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ But I have had many people ask me, ‘Where is God?’ As the three-tier view of the world has collapsed, people are not seeking God ‘up there’ but want to find God here and now.” ~Diane Butler Bass
Often times when I meet up with people, they ask me what’s happening in Church Planting in CBWC. I love to tell the stories of the men and women who are engaging in the gospel in both new works and from within existing congregations. As I shared some of these stories yesterday, the people I was with were curious about why all our current plants in process and prospective are within ethnic-specific groups, to which I replied several observations. I included my often expressed observation that Canadian Baptists, in general and across our nation, haven’t continued our Baptist value of building an ethos of evangelism by discipling our people to be missional disciples who join God on mission into their everyday worlds. Evangelism, or talking about Jesus as both Lord and as Savior, is the best approach to church planting, and many of us just aren’t comfortable going there.
The result is that we don’t disciple our own folks to be local leaders and planters of new communities. Rather, we disciple people to be good Christians, which is right and true, but we leave the missional call of Jesus for us to be light of the world up to osmosis or chance or something. Jesus was never so unintentional.
It isn’t that our folk don’t believe in church planting. They do. We love to hear the stories of people coming to faith and the inspirational curiosity of new believers that re-sparks our own passion for being devoted followers of Jesus. The difficulty is that we regular, ordinary, everyday folk stumble around even articulating the gospel to which we profess has captured us. We are confused about the gospel, so we leave it to the ‘professionals’, evangelists or church planters or preachers.
And as Diane Butler points out in her statement above, we have difficulty answering our friends, family members, co-workers and neighbour when they ask questions that require more than a four-point process to salvation. What do we do with our deeper human questions about where is God in the midst of all the world’s woes and tragedies, or how can God love me when….or does God even care? The answer we often give addresses the avenue to eternal life, whilst not being able to articulate the here-on-earth part of the story of the Good News of God’s kingdom found through Jesus the King.
It is with this in mind that CBWC Executive Staff began to work on a resource to help begin conversations that will help us have conversations about the gospel wherever we are: as ordinary everyday people in ordinary everyday realities of the human experience of life on earth.
This resource, Engaging Gospel, has been developed as both a sermon series outline for teacher/preachers and with a follow up guide for small group discussions.
Our prayer, our hope and our invitation is that, as a family of churches, we gather in much the ways we gathered for the 77 Days of Prayer and do this together, either as your fall sermon series, or if that isn’t possible, your winter series post-Advent.
Our goal is to help bring back the incredible language of the full, rich Gospel into our imaginations again so that we are not confused by the ‘gospel’, but excited. As Larry Schram expresses in the video attached to the series, “This is indeed still good news – it is the best imaginable!”
Church planting is not a side-program of the church, but is the fruit of the Gospel being richly and fully expressed to those who are lost, least and last into God’s redemptive plan of restoring the human community and all of His creation to places of found, first and favoured.