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.   

Creative Restraints 

By Shannon Youell and Cailey Morgan

Cailey
My husband Kyson is a fantastic photographer. He loves to capture the vastness of the ocean at sunrise, the intensity of colour in a flower petal, and the diversity of culture and personality in our community. During Lent, he took weekly prayer-photo-walks around the neighbourhood. For two of those weeks, he set his camera to only shoot in a 1:1 square ratio, in black and white, with a 35mm prime lens. No zoom. No colour. No cropping. 

These creative restraints forced Kyson to see the street that we’ve lived on for 6 years in a whole new light.

He found beauty, symmetry and life in places that had seemed barren at first glance. And the bright, shiny characters that usually drew his attention lost some of their luster when seen through the equalizing glass of the black and white viewfinder. By narrowing his field of view, he broadened his perspective.

My hope for each of usand for each of our churchesis that the creative restraint of a social-distancing world will help us broaden our vision of what church is meant to be, and what that means explicitly for me and you and the Body of Christ right now in our specific ministry contexts.  

What is God inviting your congregation into, in this very moment, in your tiny piece of the planet?  

This is a question we should consistently be asking, whether we are gathered face-to-face in our communities or making eye contact with our webcams as we practice discipleship over Zoom 

Shannon
A few weeks ago in a commentary in my city’s newspaper, a Bishop from the U.K was reflecting upon his hope that this time in our world of needing to stay home and socially distance from one another is a good time to rediscover things in our lives that we’ve ignored or disregarded due to the pace of life and expectations of that paceAs best as I can recall he said we can all reflect on “being who we’re really meant to be because the other things that have captured our attention aren’t available to us right now. 

I wonder how often, as followers of Jesus, we take the time to examine if we are living, acting, demonstrating and communicating who we’re really meant to be in every arena we are present in. We are so conditioned by the culture around us that has shaped our worldview, that we often reflect the same biases, judgments, and perspectives as all those other things that capture our attention–at the great cost of looking more like ourselves and less like those who love God with everything we are and love others likewise.   

Perhaps this is a just the time to reflect on our own motivations and desires. Do they align with the teaching of Jesus that announces the kingdom of God is among us and which we are to embody? 

As we reflect, can we rethink? Can we reframe this resurrection life we’ve been raised into with Christ, and honestly assess areas where we can imagine remissioning ourselves to be the collective light of the world Jesus call us to? This is who we were always meant to be, his witnesses, in both the demonstrating and the telling of the grand story of God’s love for us all. 

Cailey and Shannon
Over the coming weeks we will be hearing from several sources around the idea of expanding our perspectives. This may mean remissioning in an existing church, clarifying direction of a new church plant, or introspecting about the example of mission we are setting through our lives and leadership, in the midst and aftermath of this pandemic as well as in our future patterns.

We hope you’ll join us on the journey!

Wind

This article from was first posted on the New Leaf Network Blog.

My son and I went on a mini bike trip last summer. We pedalled about 250 km from Saskatoon to Moose Jaw over three days. It was a fun little summertime adventure. Over those three days, I really learned to respect the wind and the way it can affect life on a bike. On day one, with the wind slightly at our backs, we managed to do 110 km and averaged speeds in the high 20s and low 30s. On day two, the wind blew across us and we made it about 80 km and averaged speeds in the high teens and low 20s. On the third day, we faced headwinds that gusted to up to 60km/hr. We travelled only 70 km and struggled to keep our speed in the double digits. Day three was gruelling, exhausting, and honestly one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. The temptation to quit was ever-present.

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It’s no secret that the church in Canada is currently facing some strong social headwinds. The bottom is dropping out of our collective speedometer. We are expending tons of energy for only half the expected results. What’s going on?

To put it rather bluntly, Canada has changed and the church is struggling to deal with it. Political and social conditions in the western world have been a wind at our backs for centuries.  During that time we got used to operating from a centred and privileged position in society. We shaped public policy and education. Social institutions looked to us for guidance. For all intents and purposes, to be a good Canadian was synonymous with being a good Christian. Canadians practically rolled downhill and through the front doors of our churches. It’s hard not to get used to an arrangement like that. Which is all fine and good, provided the winds don’t change.

Here are a couple of tips, from a prairie-wind-warrior, to keep your wheels turning:

  1. Stop fixating on your speedometer. In a headwind, your numbers can be depressing. Weirdly, headwinds tend to also make you fixated on them. Logically cyclists know that headwinds affect speed. Double the wind speed means quadruple the drag. Logically cyclists know that the speedometer doesn’t tell the whole story of effort. As a cyclist, you know all of this but sometimes you can’t help staring and despairing at what your speedometer is telling you. We know this truth all too well in the church too. It’s hardly controversial in church circles to say that Sunday morning worship attendance isn’t the final word on “health and growth.” We know attendance numbers don’t tell the whole story. We know that it’s easier to grow by attracting other Christians than it is to grow by making new ones. We know all of this but haven’t found a way to stop fixating on attendance. Fixation can lead to depression and hopelessness. Fixation distracts from the issues of ineffective evangelism, discipleship, and community engagement. Fixation can cause premature shutdowns of church plants because they aren’t “successful” fast enough. Fixation kills.
  2. Start celebrating forward motion. Stop looking at numbers and start looking at your environment. Learn to see the signs of progress around you. Celebrate that your tires are still turning, celebrate that you are still eating up the road, and celebrate that you haven’t given up yet. This is also true in the church. If we are going to survive the Great Canadian Headwind we need to be willing to do the hard work of finding new ways to measure progress. If we want to give ourselves space relearn how to speak truths and live lives that are intelligible, credible, and authoritative in the Canada mission field we may need to be willing to take a numbers hit.
  3. The principle of your butt, legs, and resolve. The main resources a rider has to spend when fighting a headwind are their butt, legs, and resolve. Your butt determines how long you can ride. Your legs determine how fast you go. Your resolve determines whether or not you’ll finish. You need to spend these resources wisely and in a balanced way. Push your legs too far and you will burn yourself out and wind up in the saddle longer. Spend too little energy and your sore butt will end your ride. Fail to manage your resolve and you will quit too early. The church faces a similar challenge. Our resources of time, money, assets, people, energy, hope, and focus need to be spent on the things that matter. These resources are interrelated and exhaustible. I have watched church plants close with more people, money and assets than they started with. All because they exhausted their energy, hope, and focus. Even in fair weather managing your resources matters. When you add in a headwind, the task becomes existentially vital.
  4. If you can’t ride in the wind you can’t ride on the prairies. I had to remind myself of this constantly. It can be easy to get mad at your environment. I did. I got mad at the wind. I got mad that I chose riding days with the wind coming from the “wrong” direction. I got mad at trucks as they added drag and instability to an already tough ride. Getting mad at the world didn’t help me go faster. It only sapped my energy. The truth is wind comes with cycling on the prairies. If you can’t take the wind then you can’t ride out here. Managing anger and disappointment can be a struggle for churches too. Churches spend needless energy getting mad at the world. We get mad at politicians. We get mad at our culture. We get mad at the internet, or hockey schedules, or shift work economies, or summer vacations, etc… It’s easy to fall prey to “name it and blame it” theology and thinking. The simple reality is getting mad doesn’t change anything. It only saps our energy. If we nurture the belief that we can only be the church in fair weather, then we may find we can’t be the church at all.

Why are things so tough for the church right now? It is because we have built our expectations, our systems, and our thinking around a world where the wind is at our backs? Is it because we aren’t used to riding into the wind? The good news is that this is nothing new for the global church. Lots of us over the centuries know how to keep moving forward when social, cultural, and political winds are against us. Lots of us, despite the wind coming from the wrong direction, are still willing to get on our bikes and ride.

Will you join us? 

Faithfully Present

By Shannon Youell

My inbox is overflowing with emails from every business, organization, missional group and thinker around our changed pace during the current world crisis we have found ourselves in. Each one has methods and helpful guidelines on how we will make it through this by working together and thoughts about where opportunities lie in potentially changing how we work, live, play and pray. 

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I’ve heard people saying the church will never be the same and others saying here are the five (or seven or twelve) things to do to grow your church during this time through online presence. Where some are lamenting, others are seeing potential and opportunity to tell the Jesus storyall good things to be considering. 

Yet, from the beginning, I have been praying for God’s discernment to see what He is doing in the midst of this. Rather than being fearful, or making plans to ‘grow’ a Sunday gathering, I’ve been very aware of God’s presence and work in the neighbourhoods around us. I live on a steep mountain road that I punish myself by walking down regularly (the punishment is never the going down part….). I usually pray, think, reflect while on these walks, at the same time as observing the neighbourhoods that branch off this road where many new subdivisions have gone in over the last 10 years. I rarely, and I mean rarely, encounter another human on these walks (unless they are in cars passing me by). No neighbours chatting over driveways and, amazingly, no children playing in the cul de sacs and roads. Lately that has changed dramatically.  

People are out and about. Children are riding bikes or playing hockey with siblings and parents on the driveways. People are walking more and so I get to have safedistanced conversations with those who have been nameless and faceless people in my community. What I have seen is life erupting out of the desert of houses with empty faces staring out at the world. There is life in the neighbourhoods and people are discovering it, perhaps for the first time for some in the current consume/produce culture we are all enslaved to.  

The Gospel has always been about relationships, with God, with self, with others and neighbours. Here, in this time, is the opportunity to actually build some of those relationships, to discover there is indeed life in the neighbourhood, that God is present and working in neighbourhoods. The question, then, is how do I, how do you, lean into being faithfully present there as well. Here, I ponder, are where we can find the opportunities for the church to grow – growing into the places where there is not always access to building relationships that can lead to sharing life, faith, hope, lament, grief and joy together.  

Here are a couple of blog articles, both by David Fitch, as he muses on the same things:

There are some interesting ideas of things he and his family have been doing in their neighbourhood at this time. One warning, the first was written prior to the total safe-distancing orders. Keep in mind, as you will see in the second blog, that he is not advocating gathering in homes whilst ignoring the order.  

 

People of Resurrection – a Reflection

By Shannon Youell

As we are moving through Holy Week towards the cross and the resurrection, I have begun to wonder at how we, followers of Christ, can often move through these days, get to the end of Sunday and then live our lives in the same way we were prior to Holy Week. How can this be? When the most glorious event in human history has occurred, how is it we observe it, celebrate it and then off we go again into our everyday lives? 

I ponder it because it is exactly what the early Christians did not do. For them, something happened here that changed everyday life for them and continued to do so. Decades later Paul still writes of the cross and resurrection as the pivotal hinge in the world at the time.  

We can often become so accustomed to the long game  “…to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ, that we miss the short game of already participating in the resurrection through Christ, “…(who) made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressionsit is by grace you have been saved.” 

The long game is, of course, that in the final end of the age, all things will be completely renewed, a new heaven and earth and new resurrected bodies finally restored to God’s beautiful plan for his creation and created.  But in the age between the old and the new, we find ourselves often wondering what the resurrection means for us and how it must inform and shape how we live into the kingdom of God among us message Jesus spoke of in his ministry. 

Tom Wright, in his commentary Matthew for Everyone, explains it this way: “And what God is doing is not just an extraordinary miracle, a display of supernatural power for its own sake, or a special favour to Jesus.  What God is doing is starting something new, beginning the new world promised long ago, sending the disciples to Galilee in the first place, but then, as we shall see, on to the ends of the earth and the close of the age with the news of what has happened.  A whole new world was opening up in front of them.”

When the old is gone and the new has come, how do we live that out as God’s ambassadors on earth? Jesus tells his disciples, “as the Father sent me, so I send you…” and then breathed on them.

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Those first witnesses to the resurrected Christ not only understood fully that Jesus is indeed the Messiahan incredible revelation indeedbut their actions were also changed in the process. Jesus reshaped their worldview of how to view the otherand how to live as God’s children participating in the power of that same resurrection by telling the story over and over again and demonstrating and teaching others to live the kind of life that Jesus expounded on throughout his teaching ministry.  

Which brings me to my pondering.  In this time of identity politics and increasingly divisive polarities, how are our worldviews being reshaped by the Easter Story?  Are they in a continual process of transformation towards increasingly loving God, his creation and his created and desiring to participate more fully in the power of resurrection that brings new life and hope into a world (including our ‘religious’ world) often lost in rhetoric, politics, power structures, oppressive and unjust behaviors and marginalization?  We are people who love God, love Jesus, but not often truly love the other, defaulting to our own worldview rather than this gloriously resurrected view of the created world that God himself has – a people being transformed to be the fullness of humanity.  

Those first witnesses were forever changed by the resurrection in ways that compelled them to engage differently with God, with one another and with others in the way of Jesus.  It wasn’t easy as we see in Acts and in the letters, yet centuries later, the ever present Spirit of God with Us, continues to invite us to live and engage in the world as a people resurrected to God’s new and unfolding age so that others may know the power of the cross that defeated the power of evil and death and the Resurrection of Hope for all peoples. 

My prayer is this Easter, this celebration, even in the midst of world crisis, we will all know Christ and the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”  God is at work making everything right again and we, as we allow our hearts, minds, souls and strength to be transformed by the liberty of the cross and the work of the Holy Spirit breathing life into us, are invited by the Great Commission of our Resurrected Lord, to join him in this very Good News.    

Let us celebrate this victory this weekend and embody it deeper, fuller, with grace and mercy, in the days, weeks, years beyond.   

He is risen indeed! 

Shared Practices in the Midst of Self Isolation

By Shannon Youell

How then, shall we, the church, respond? 

Over the last few weeks weve been taking a look at Mike Frost’s BELLS approach to Shared Practices: Bless, Eat, Learn, Listen, Be Sent. However, in our present global reality, how do we engage shared practices? As Bruxy Cavey reminds us, love is wise and it is nimble...We may, in certain situations, love well by actually keeping our distance from people, by staying away. So what now?

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We’ve taken another look at these 5 shared practices and want to share some stories and resources with you about how we can continue to show God’s love to each other and the world even in the midst of self-isolation: 

Bless 

Times of crisis can turn even the most kind of us into Mr. Hyde! We’ve seen this in the buying out of common needed items and groceries in our stores in the past weeks – empty shelves facing those who only were buying what they needed for that week and for those who lack the resources to buy a months worth of food/products at a time.   

I faced those empty shelves for the sixth day in a row, looking for just one package of toilet paper as we were down to our last couple of rolls (yes this is, sadly, a toilet paper story – but it has a good ending!) 

On day six, four 8roll packages remained on the shelf of the local grocery store. And it was only eight in the morning!  I bought one, praying that three more people could buy the others. I also discovered that there were a dozen or so containers of disinfecting wipes miraculously on an otherwise empty shelf, so I bought two of those.  

The next morning, one of my sons dropped by to leave his young child here so as to get his shopping for the week.  Same store.  No toilet paper, no wipes, no soup, no pasta.  So I gave him my package of toilet paper and a package of wipes.  All will be well, I thought.  

Next morning someone in our community stuck her head in my driveway gate to drop off a piece of frozen salmon she wanted me to have.  Standing at a safe distance from one another, I asked why it took two bags to hold one piece of fish.  “Other stuff.” she said.  Looking in one of the bags I laughed out loud. There was an 8roll pack of toilet paper and a baggie of wipes that she packed from her container of wipes she has at home.  She had no idea I had just given mine away to someone else!  She said it must have been some kind of “God radar. 

Can we all put up our “God Radar” on how we can bless those in our neighbourhood and extended communities during this time?  Take the time to look out your window and see who you can be a blessing to.  

Eat
It’s difficult these days—but not impossible—to make mealtimes a hospitable activity. One family in Cailey’s Mission Group gathers together daily at 3:30pm for coffee and snacks. This routine was in place long before COVID-19 came on the scene, but has become an even more important connect point for them in these times.   

This family—comprising parents, two adult kids living at home and a third in high school—has even taken “Coffee Time” to the next level in the past couple of weeks by inviting other families “over” via FaceTime. For 30 minutes to an hour, the two families share in conversation online while enjoying hot drinks in their own homes. Why not try to share your meal or snack time with another person or family, even once a week? 

Learn
In some ways, this one’s easy—has there ever been a season with more educational resources available at our fingertips? However, when Michael Frost says “Learn,” what he’s saying is learn Jesus for the sake of becoming like Jesus. This practice means more than buzzing in and out of webinars and Reddit.

Frost goes as far as calling us to “marinate our minds and souls in the story of Jesus Through biblical study, theological reading and even the viewing of films (no matter how limited each of them might be), we slowly but surely orient our lives toward the things of Christ, and we become deeply familiar with His story so we can share it whenever anyone asks us for the reason for the hope we have in Him” (Five Habits of Highly Missional People p34).

Listen 
Remember, it’s still Lent! It might look different with kids around or your spouse trying to work from home in the living room, but try to find a way for fasting, solitude, and meditating on Scripture to help you hear what the Holy Spirit wants to say to you and your community.  

Be Sent
I was talking with another pastor yesterday of the minute by minute evolution of our ‘new notnormalsin the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.  He, like so many of us is scrambling to figure out how to keep the congregation connected when we can no longer gather in our buildings and homes.  He mentioned how this seems to be dominating the minds of every pastor he has also been speaking with.  He is also self-isolating and is unwell, so he’s been stressed about that as well. 

In his accounting, yesterday morning, after being confined to home and having his every waking moment dominated by getting the church service online and his own health concerns, he looked out his window to the neighbourhood outside his walls.   

That’s when it hit him – he had been so focused on ensuring his own safety and well-being and that of the congregation that he forgot about his neighbours – in fact, he realized, he hadn’t seen any movement whatsoever in the home across the street where an older couple lived.  

Many churches have adopted the missional language of “being church.” Here, then is an opportunity to do just that, though in ways we haven’t even thought of as we navigate our way back to ‘normal’.   For my pastor friend, the Spirit reminded him of the calling of the church is both to be gathered and scattered.   

Here is the time, scattered as we are in the confines of our homes, to shine.  

David Fitch offers this simple but open-postured example of a note they’ve been leaving in their neighbours’ mailboxes: 

Hi neighbors, 

It’s Dave and Rae Ann Fitch. In light of the fact that some of us are likely to get sick from COVID-19 in the next little while and will need to stay home in isolation, we just wanted you to have our number and email address. If you run out of supplies like toilet paper or need someone to pick up groceries and drop them off at your door—we’re happy to help out as much as we can. 

Sincerely, 

The Fitchs” 

You can check out his whole blog article Faithful Presence During a Pandemic here.

 As I was praying the other day, I was prompted by the Spirit to move from prayers of “God, where are you?” to “God, where are you at work right now and how can I join you?” We pray that all of us in this time will be able to notice and join the good work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, homes and communities. 

BELLS Video #5: SENT

As part of our series on Shared Practices, we’re sharing Mike Frost’s brief videos about the 5 Shared Practices that his missional community practices together: the BELLS method of Bless, Eat, Learn, Listen, Be Sent.

This 3-minute clip wraps up the series as Mike Frost asks about how we live as sent ones in the world. Did the people you encounter throughout the day see Jesus reflected in you in a way that strengthened them, engaged them in conversation with you and heard Jesus’ love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness through you?

We encourage you to try out the practice yourself. Does it come naturally to you, or is it a stretch?

How did you mirror God’s word in your world today? How can your community of faith engage this practice together?

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